CAREER PLANS Asher Lev (Jeremy Kahn, seated) contemplates parental advice from his mother (Danielle Levin) and father (David Sinaiko) during a performance of the play 'My Name is Asher Lev,' at The 222 in Healdsburg. (Photo by Paul Mahder)

By Harry Duke  

While musicals may be the bread and butter of local theater, much can be learned about a community through the plays programmed in a company’s season. Comedies seemed few and far between this year, which may be a reflection of our local and perhaps national feelings of unease with what’s going on in our schools and neighborhoods, our nation and the world.

As much as we might need to laugh right now, it may be tough to get people to laugh when we don’t feel much like laughing ourselves.

Here, in alphabetical order, are my “Top Torn Tickets” for the best and/or most interesting plays produced in the North Bay in 2023:

The Dutchman (Revolving Theatre Co.) – Kudos to the Arlene Francis Center’s hosting of this powder keg of a show produced by a tiny company founded by a local artist of color. Definitely not your standard North Bay theatrical fare.

SURVIVORS The cast of ‘If I Don’t Make It, I Love You’ gets in character for the searing drama at the Raven Theater, March 24-April 9. (Photo courtesy of R. Mabry Photography)

If I Don’t Make It, I Love You (Raven Players) – An original adaptation of the same-named anthology, this dramatization of the stories of victims and survivors of school shootings made for a very uncomfortable evening of theater. And it should be.

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (6th Street Playhouse) – This one-man show based on the Washington Irving story was a breath of fresh, atmospheric air to the standard Halloween-season offerings.

My Name is Asher Lev (The 222) – This look at a young Hasidic Jew’s struggle with self-expression and faith was the most moving theatrical experience I’ve had in years.

Mary Jane (Left Edge Theatre) – This look at the challenges of motherhood, the raising of a special needs child and the adjoining issues of self-sacrifice, guilt and faith rang very, very true.

A Raisin in the Sun (6th Street Playhouse) – Companies seem to be making good-faith efforts to tell the stories of traditionally marginalized communities. They are not easy to cast in this area, and attracting an audience can be challenging. Audiences who attended this production of the Lorraine Hansberry classic about a Black American family might have been surprised by their ability to empathize with many—but not all—of the challenges faced by that community.

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