The year that almost ate China, or after the deluge
The Walworth Farce at UC Berkeley's Zellerbach. Leading Irish playwright Enda Walsh's darkly hilarious, structurally ingenious, and all-around exhilarating play was more like farcical tragedy, or tragical farcity, which is to say something very fresh and gripping. Druid Ireland matched it perfectly in their incredibly deft and intelligent production.
On the right side:
SF Mime Troupe's Too Big to Fail. "Right" isn't the best adjective to stick in front of the Mime Troupe, but as free-theater-in-the-park hell-raisers for 50 years and counting you know whose side they're on. Anniversary events continue through the New Year (sfmt.org).
On the tight side:
Fat Pig at Aurora Theatre. Aurora's production of Neil LaBute's play had a very strong ensemble going for it. There were others too this year, some of the most memorable including casts of Jack Goes Boating (also at Aurora), In the Next Room, or the vibrator play (Berkeley Rep), The Model Apartment (Traveling Jewish Theater), This World in a Woman's Hands (Shotgun Players); Old Times (TheatreFIRST), and two exceptional ensembles courtesy of Off-Broadway West in The Homecoming and A View from the Bridge, respectively.
On the hype side:
American Idiot at Berkeley Rep. Actual satisfaction with Michael Mayer (Spring Awakening) and Green Day's Broadway-bound behemoth proved inversely proportional to the hype. (Among new musicals about American 20-somethings, the real McCoy was up the hill at UC Berkeley in the premiere of Joe Goode's Dead Boys.)
Also, Spamalot. Rhymed with everything but laughed-a-lot.
On the south side:
Ghosts of the River at Brava. The second collaboration between playwright Octavio Solis and director Larry Reed's Shadowlight Productions, a set of immigrant ghost tales set along the Rio Grande, was as aesthetically unique and engaging as it was humane and thought provoking.
Also from the Mission District: Theatre Rhinoceros vacated its space on 16th Street after god knows how long to wander itinerant for a while. They are still very much around and active, though (therhino.org).
And from Intersection for the Arts came word of the tragic loss of a large and unique talent: actor and Campo Santo cofounder Luis Saguar, gone at 52. Saguar was an integral and always fascinating part of some exceptional theater history, and you never saw another actor quite like him. To help the family he leaves behind, donations are being accepted through Intersection for the Arts (www.theintersection.org/luis/).