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Posted at 2:22 PM ET, 12/31/2008

On Stage in 2008

By Stephanie Merry

As the year comes to a close, I'm adding in my two cents -- along with theater critic Peter Marks -- on this year's standout performances. While it would be hard to dispute Marks's choice for top spot (the absurdly wonderful "Jerry Springer: The Musical"), there are a number of other performances that deserve a shout out.

Carrie Fisher had the audience rolling in the aisles during her one-woman show "Wishful Drinking." (Kevin Berne)

Two of my favorite performances of the year happened to be monologues, the first of which was performed by none other than Carrie Fisher (though she'll always be Leia to me). In "Wishful Drinking" at Lincoln Theatre, Fisher poked fun at her famous parents (Eddie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds), Hollywood in general and, of course, herself. The possibilities were endless, from a brief history of her wacky marriage to a gay man to a convoluted family tree in which every family member had been married and divorced at least three times.

Another notable monologue was Mike Daisey's "If You See Something Say Something" at Woolly Mammoth. Daisey enlightened the audience about the often unbelievable history of homeland security. Luckily for those who missed Daisey's animated tirade, he's coming back to Woolly to take on the rise and fall of American theater.

Also in the comedy realm was the election-themed "POTUS Among Us" from Washington Improv Theatre at Source. Every night was a different performance as audience members decided which of the quick-witted comedians (pretending to be over-the-top politicians) should go head-to-head in a mock campaign.

More wacky characters emerged at Studio theater in the musical "Grey Gardens." Though they seem unlikely to win over hearts, two cat ladies with an impressive Bouvier lineage compel a touching story as the pair sinks deeper into their own solitude.

Another interesting story was unveiled as Synetic Theatre scrapped its plans to perform season opener, "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari," after war broke out in Georgia. The group instead opted to revisit an older work, "Host and Guest," which spoke to the horrors that come from old grudges and warfare, all while employing the company's trademark dance-like movements.

Folger Theatre stood out with its blood-soaked performance of "Macbeth," but also wowed audiences with the less well-known "Henry IV, Part I." The play was superbly acted, and Falstaff provided the necessary comic relief from the drama that unfolded when Prince Harry opted to stop carousing and defend his father's throne.

Along more offbeat lines, Fringe Festival provided an endless array of oddities. Among my favorites was "Dorks on the Loose: It I Awkward," a two-woman sketch show that triumphantly lived up to its name. While not part of Fringe, but certainly along the same experimental lines, Rorschach Theatre put on "Dream Sailors," an episodic play in four parts. The surreal thriller included the kind of cliffhangers that would keep an audience coming back, leaving me to wonder if this could be the wave of the future.

Any other favorites of 2008? Let us know in the comments.

-- Stephanie

By Stephanie Merry  | December 31, 2008; 2:22 PM ET
Categories:  Theater  
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