Playbill has just shared the titles of last season's 10 most-produced plays in more than 400 of America's regional theaters (courtesy of the Theatre Communications Group, which keeps track of such things). Nine of them should look very familiar to South Florida theater fans: They've been here, we've seen 'em. (The public-domain works of William Shakespeare and Charles Dickens' change-of-heart holiday tale, A Christmas Carol, aren't counted; if they were, they'd dominate the list.)
Remember Mark Nelson in Doug Wright's Pulitzer Prize-winning I Am My Own Wife at the Coconut Grove Playhouse in January 2006? That's Nelson (who won a best actor Carbonell Award/roadshow division for his performance as an East German transvestite who survived both the Nazis and the Communists) at left in the modest dress, headscarf and tasteful pearls. That play is No. 1 on the list -- and was, in the now-shuttered theater's 50th anniversary season, its finest play.
No. 2 is Martin McDonagh's The Pillowman, which was produced at GableStage in Coral Gables' Biltmore Hotel in August 2006, winning the regional Carbonells for best play, best director (Joseph Adler) and best actor (Antonio Amadeo). That's Amadeo (who played the author of morbid children's stories that inspired real-life murders) at right, being tormented by Paul Tei as a humorless cop in a totalitarian state.
At No. 3 is director Joe Mantello's adaptation of David Sedaris' The Santaland Diaries, about his misadventures working as a holiday elf at Macy's. That one visited the Broward Center in 2002.
No. 4 is the only title not yet produced in South Florida: August Wilson's Gem of the Ocean. Florida Memorial University in Miami Gardens included a selection from the play in its celebration of Wilson's work last November, but for a full production, we'll have to wait for North Miami's M Ensemble to get to it, as the company works its way through all 10 of the late playwright's dramas chronicling African-American lives in each decade of the 20th Century.
Lynn Nottage's Intimate Apparel, about the difficult life and the hopeful dreams of a black seamstress in New York in 1905, comes in at No. 5. GableStage did the play in March 2006, with Dorothy Morrison (standing) as the landlady to Kameshia Duncan's Esther.
Next is Moonlight and Magnolias, Ron Hutchinson's imaginative farce about the writing -- actually, the interminable rewriting -- of the script for Gone With the Wind. The No. 6 play was produced at Actors' Playhouse in Coral Gables last October.
At No. 7 is Rabbit Hole, David Lindsay-Abaire's play about parents struggling to cope with the accidental death of their young son. Produced last November by Plantation's Mosaic Theatre, the play featured Ken Clement and Wendy Michaels (right) as the grieving parents. And though it wasn't one of three challenging works recommended by the jury that culled the best new scripts from last season, the play won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for drama -- probably, in part, as a nod to Lindsay-Abaire's body of work and to its more traditional structure.
Moliere's classic farce Tartuffe, which has been produced by both professional theaters and colleges in South Florida, ranked No. 8. Mitch Albom and Jeffrey Hatcher's Tuesdays With Morrie, based on Albom's huge best-seller about the wisdom imparted by his dying ex-professor, ranked No. 9. It was also part of that star-crossed 50th anniversary Coconut Grove Playhouse season, in September 2005. Finally,another farce: Steve Martin's The Underpants, produced by Actors' Playhouse way back in May 2004.
The good news in all of this? Great plays do get done in South Florida -- increasingly, not long after they make a splash in New York.