Best Shows of 2011 Razzed Mormons, Spies, Nerds: Jeremy Gerard

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Photographer: T. Charles Erickson/Philip Rinaldi Publicity via Bloomberg

Jeremy Davidson, Gabriel Ruiz and Jefferson Mays in "Blood and Gifts" in New York, directed by Bartlett Sher.

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Photographer: T. Charles Erickson/Philip Rinaldi Publicity via Bloomberg

Jeremy Davidson, Gabriel Ruiz and Jefferson Mays in "Blood and Gifts" in New York, directed by Bartlett Sher. Close

Jeremy Davidson, Gabriel Ruiz and Jefferson Mays in "Blood and Gifts" in New York, directed by Bartlett Sher.

Photographer: Michael McCabe/Jeffrey Richards Assoc. via Bloomberg

Stephen Pucci and Jennifer Lim in "Chinglish," the new comedy by David Henry Hwang. Close

Stephen Pucci and Jennifer Lim in "Chinglish," the new comedy by David Henry Hwang.

Photographer: Joan Marcus/Publicity Office via Bloomberg

Aubrey Dollar and Karl Miller in "Completeness," at Playwrights Horizons. Close

Aubrey Dollar and Karl Miller in "Completeness," at Playwrights Horizons.

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Mark Rylance in "Jerusalem." Close

Mark Rylance in "Jerusalem."

Photographer: Joan Marcus/Philip Rinaldi Publicity via Bloomberg

Rachel Griffiths and Thomas Sadoski in "Other Desert Cities." Close

Rachel Griffiths and Thomas Sadoski in "Other Desert Cities."

Photographer: Richard Termine/Boneau/Bryan-Brown via Bloomberg

Mekhi Phifer, Rosie Bentonn, Tracie Thoms and Dule Hill in "Stick Fly," by Broadway newcomer Lydia R. Diamond. Close

Mekhi Phifer, Rosie Bentonn, Tracie Thoms and Dule Hill in "Stick Fly," by Broadway newcomer Lydia R. Diamond.

Photographer: Joan Marcus/Public Theater via Bloomberg

Jay O. Sanders, Jon DeVries and Laila Robins in "Sweet and Sad." The play, written and directed by Richard Nelson, runs through Sept. 25 at The Public Theater. Close

Jay O. Sanders, Jon DeVries and Laila Robins in "Sweet and Sad." The play, written and directed by Richard Nelson,... Read More

Photographer: Ari Mintz/Hartman Group via Bloomberg

Marc Kudisch in "The Blue Flower," a new musical by Jim Bauer and Ruth Bauer. The show, directed by Will Pomerantz, is running in New York at the Second Stage. Close

Marc Kudisch in "The Blue Flower," a new musical by Jim Bauer and Ruth Bauer. The show, directed by Will Pomerantz,... Read More

Photographer: Joan Marcus/Boneau/Bryan-Brown via Bloomberg

"The Book of Mormon" at the Eugene O' Neill Theatre. The satirical show won nine Tony Awards, including best musical, and is virtually sold out through the rest of 2011. Close

"The Book of Mormon" at the Eugene O' Neill Theatre. The satirical show won nine Tony Awards, including best musical,... Read More

Photographer: Joan Marcus/Boneau/Bryan-Brown via Bloomberg

Nina Arianda and Hugh Dancy in "Venus in Fur" in New York. The play is directed by Walter Bobbie. Close

Nina Arianda and Hugh Dancy in "Venus in Fur" in New York. The play is directed by Walter Bobbie.

New York theater in 2011 was dominated by scary headlines for “Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark” and awards for “The Book of Mormon,” both well- deserved. And there were many notable revivals, the best among them “The Normal Heart” and “Follies,” not to mention a folio’s worth of Bill Shakespeare. As many memorable shows were presented off-Broadway as on. The best of the year, in alphabetical order:

“Blood and Gifts”

Peripatetic author J.T. Rogers offered the rare play as absorbed with politics (in this case, U.S. covert operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan in the 1980s) as with personal relationships. The line between them is effectively -- and unforgettably -- blurred in this tale of spooks, warlords and weaponry. (Mitzi E. Newhouse)

“Chinglish”

David Henry Hwang’s comedy finds a U.S. businessman learning, mostly through trial and hilarious error, how to do business in booming China. (Longacre)

“Completeness”

Like Tom Stoppard (and Shaw, for that matter), playwright Itamar Moses can get tangled up in his own cleverness. “Completeness” was a smart comedy about nerdy grad students grappling with identity, computer science, molecular biology and sex. Rarely in that order. (Closed)

“Jerusalem”

Jez Butterworth’s joyride of a play featured Mark Rylance’s unforgettable performance as “Rooster” Byron, former daredevil and current substance-abusing civic gadfly with a soft spot for wayward teens. (Closed)

“Other Desert Cities”

Jon Robin Baitz’s funny, intense look at a Southern California family torn apart by the suicide of an elder son moved from off-Broadway to the Booth, in the process supplying a smashing Broadway debut for Rachel Griffiths. (Booth)

“Stick Fly”

Broadway newcomer Lydia R. Diamond’s family drama neatly counterbalanced the Baitz play with a look at a black upper- class family whose secrets unfurl during a long, rollicking weekend at the matriarchal manse on Martha’s Vineyard. (Cort)

“Sweet and Sad”

Few playwrights have dealt with 9/11 and its aftermath as subtly and movingly as Richard Nelson. Set on the 10th anniversary of the attacks, “Sweet and Sad” presented a family gathering in New York’s Hudson Valley -- removed, but not really, from the events downriver a decade before. (Closed)

“The Blue Flower”

I called this enthralling show the best new American musical since “Spring Awakening.” It told the story of Max, based on the German artist Max Beckmann, and three other interconnected people, beginning in pre-WWI Berlin and ending on Central Park West in the 1950s. Jim Bauer’s eclectic score was lush and memorable, as was Will Pomerantz’s ingenious production at Second Stage. (Closed)

“The Book of Mormon”

Tuneful, brash and blithely blasphemous, this musical from the creators of “South Park” and the composer of “Avenue Q” puts Mormonism and “The Lion King” through the meat grinder. Book now for 2015. (Eugene O’Neill)

“Venus in Fur”

The prolific David Ives finds comedy in the oddest places; in this case, a grim rehearsal studio where a young actress has come to audition for the role of a head-tripping, aristocratic dominatrix. Roles reverse enough times to keep your head spinning -- except that you won’t be able to take your eyes off Nina Arianda, delivering the bravura performance of the season. (Friedman thru Dec. 18; Lyceum beginning Feb. 7.)

(Jeremy Gerard is the chief U.S. drama critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)

To contact the writer of this column: Jeremy Gerard in New York at jgerard2@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.

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