Topham’s Top 10: Best Plays of 4th Qtr 2017

It’s that time of year when critics create sometimes arbitrary “Top 10” lists, and (being a bit of a list nerd) I feel like adding my own to the ever-growing mix. However, I have a bit of a problem: 2017 was the year in which I launched this site, and it only launched at the start of October, which means we missed most of the year. That’s a bit of a conundrum to deal with for a theatre critic, especially considering that, under the best of circumstances, we might see a tenth of the shows that are available to be seen in this theatre-rich city. (Consider that when reading all of those lists, folks.) So what’s a girl to do when she still wants to get in on the end-of-year fun? Simple: I saw and reviewed over sixty plays in the last three months of 2017 (a ridiculous rate that once or twice saw me doing seven or even eight shows in a single week!) and I will draw from among those to create a Top 10 Chicago Area Plays of the 4th Quarter of 2017 list.

Yes, it’s absurdly reductive. Yes, it’s completely silly. So what? No one would complain had I spread those sixty shows over the whole year. I think I have a totally justifiable situation here. If you don’t agree, ignore me. 🙂 Here are my ten favorite shows from the 4th quarter of 2017 (in alphabetical order, as naming a best show of the 4th quarter WOULD be utterly arbitrary):

Alias Grace

Rivendell Theatre’s interpretation of Margaret Atwood’s novel of an infamous late 19th Century double murderer was a riveting, intense psychological drama.

Billy Elliot

Porchlight Theatre’s first production in its new space at the Ruth Page Theatre was a winner, leaving audiences singing and heartbeats pumping. The choreography on this one was Jeff-worthy.


Steppenwolf Theatre hit every note perfectly with this hilarious comedy about the lives of four twenty-something black women living in New York. Brilliant performances, gifted direction, and an unusual and fascinating set and lighting design come together to make it work.


Interrobang Theatre’s show was an impeccable production with an impeccable cast that told a tense, tightly written story whose symbolic focus is the truth that is out there but that too many are unwilling to we.

Fun Home

Victory Gardens’ downsized production of the Tony Award-winning musical featured memorable performances from every one of its actors along with strong staging and direction. It was among the first shows I reviewed back in October and one of the finest.


For some reason known only to them, the Jeff Awards Committee did not deem Firebrand Theatre’s production worthy; I think that is a huge oversight: this first-time company sizzled with a little-known product and earned every one of the many accolades they have received.

Marie Christine

Boho Theatre’s production grabbed you, slithered under your skin, and wouldn’t let go. This operatic, intense musical telling a horrifyingly visceral Medea-like tale stayed with me long after I had left the theatre.

Significant Other

About Face and Theatre Wit teamed up on this production of a brilliantly acted play about friendship and love and relationships that is at once hilarious and poignant.

The Audience 

Timeline’s production featured a tour de force performance by Janet Ulrich Brooks as Queen Elizabeth as we watch seventy years of audiences with her prime ministers.

The Book of Will

Maybe it was the English teacher in me, but Northlight Theatre’s play about the publication of Shakespeare’s First Folio just worked on every level. Is was well acted, well-directed, very funny, and even a pretty good history lesson.


Here are some other 4th Quarter productions I found worthy of mention as well:

Bonnie and Clyde

Elf the Musical

Evening at the Talkhouse

I Saw My Neighbor on the Train and I Didn’t Even Smile

In the Next Room (or The Vibrator Play)


Last Days of Judas Iscariot

Lysistrata Jones

Shakin’ the Mess Outta Misery


Yasmina’s Necklace


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