.Such as It Was: Top Torn Tickets 2020

’Tis the time for critics of all ilks to release their “end of year” lists. For almost 20 years, this publication has presented a “Top Torn Tickets” list featuring the year’s best North Bay theatrical productions. 

Those years, however, had the advantage of having an entire calendar year’s worth of shows to consider. With the pandemic-necessitated shut-downs and closures initiated in mid-March, there were but a fraction of shows produced live in 2020 upon which to look back.

But look back I did, and I want to give the fine work of local theater artists their due. Adhering to the belief that that it’s “quality, not quantity”, here—in alphabetical order—is my truncated list of the best and/or most interesting stage work done in the North Bay in the past year:

Enchanted April–Sonoma Arts Live  The North Bay is gifted with many fine theatrical designers, but it’s rare for a stage design to receive its own applause. Such was the case when the curtain opened on ACT II of this production to reveal Carl Jordan’s breathtaking scenic and lighting design for an Italian villa. Bravo!

Five Course Love–Lucky Penny Productions  Short, sweet and incredibly silly, this is the kind of show we are all going to desperately need when we’re past this current mess.

Ghosts of Bogotá–Alter Theater  Ghosts haunted a vacant San Rafael storefront in this very interesting production that was both gut-busting and gut-wrenching.

Mary’s Wedding–Main Stage West  This incredibly effective, dream-like piece was part memory play, part fantasy and part Ken Burns PBS documentary-influenced World War I drama.

Ripcord–Cinnabar Theater  A terrific cast brought the funny to this look at a couple of mis-matched Senior Center roommates.  

Silent Sky–Ross Valley Players  This well-mounted production of Lauren Gunderson’s look at America’s first female astronomers was a healthy reminder that there was a time in this country when the pursuit of truth through science was something to be respected.

The Wolves–Raven Players  Whenever this company goes “outside the box” (and converts their cavernous theater into a black box), they do really interesting work. A fine, young ensemble brought the sting of accuracy to the conversations among the members of a girls’ soccer team.

With no “opening” date for theaters in sight, many local companies have turned to streaming while others just continue to hold their breath. Here’s to 2021 giving us all the chance to gather safely and breathe again.

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