So, what did you think was going to happen in the theatre in the days between Christmas and New Year's? Nothing? Well, you got that right.
Samuel Barnett in The History Boys.
Samuel Barnett in The History Boys. Photo by Joan Marcus

Producers were on holiday. So were some press agents. And actors (the employed ones) were just busy doing what they've been doing all fall on the stages of New York and elsewhere. The critics? Well, they actually were busy, tapping out their requisite "best of" lists for 2006.

This practice has always struck me as a strange one, since, as anyone knows, the theatre pledges allegiance not to the Julian calendar, but a seasonal one that properly begins in the fall and runs until the late spring. Labor Day to Memorial Day; that, roughly, is the theatre year. And yet, these "best of" lists come out annually at the mid-point of the theatre season, telling us some of the best things from the season past and some of the best things from the new season not yet completed. The effect is like your waiter recommending a few of today's specials—and a few of yesterday's as well. But who ever said things in the theatre had to make sense?

Anyway, topping these lists were the predictable: The History Boys, Grey Gardens, Stuff Happens, Spring Awakening and [title of show].

Some critics seemed to be holding off on listing Tom Stoppard's The Coast of Utopia until all three parts of the trilogy had opened. (2006 saw only two of the openings.) So, will that play go on the lists the come out in June at the end of the season, or the lists that print in December? Maybe both.

*** Folks who want to bone up their drama theory but don't care to crack a book might want to take The Argument, a new play by David Greenspeen that was announced as part of the upcoming season at the Off-Broadway troupe Target Margin Theatre. The play is based on Aristotle's "Poetics," one of the first known works in Western literature to attempt to ascertain was drama is or should be. No doubt, Greenspan will have some opinions about the old Greek's opinions.


Otherwise, there was a little bit of déjà vu north of the border. Toronto's CanStage canceled its production of My Name is Rachel Corrie, the controversial play about the real-life 23-year-old American who was killed by an Israeli Army bulldozer while protesting the razing of a Palestinian house. Corrie was dodged by New York Theatre Workshop last year, igniting a firestorm of criticism.

The explanation behind the cancellation, however, had a refreshing air to it. If you believe Martin Bragg, the company's artistic producer, he canceled the play for reasons of merit, not for its political content. Bragg originally read the play and scheduled it for CanStage's 2007-08 season. But he changed his mind after seeing the New York premiere, which began previews Oct. 5 and closed Dec. 17 at the Minetta Lane Theater.

Not doing a play based on reason of merit? What an idea.

(Robert Simonson is's senior correspondent. He can be reached at

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