Cherry Cherry Lemon, written and directed by Keri Healey (Fringe Festival/Annex Theatre/Re-bar)--Script, performances (by Amy Augustine and Keira McDonald), and live music (by Aaron Loidhamer), all fluid and vital.
Cymbeline, by Shakespeare, directed by Bartlett Sher (Intiman Theatre)--Not all of it worked, but those cowboy ballads and the inventive abundance of images were dazzling.
The Laramie Project, written by the Tectonic Theater Project, directed by Chay Yew (The Empty Space)--Clean, simple, and compellingly acted by a superb ensemble.
The Servant of Two Masters by Carlo Goldoni, directed by Bartlett Sher (Intiman Theatre)--A rigorous recreation of commedia dell'arte, rescued from being merely academic by Sher's sharp eye and an excellent cast.
Sideways Stories from Wayside School, adapted by John Olive from the book by Louis Sachar, directed by Jeff Steitzer (Seattle Children's Theatre)--Sneaky, subversive, and pure fun; everything theater should be, for children or adults.
Sweet Thursday adapted by Dan Harray from the novel by John Steinbeck, directed by Myra Platt (Book-It)--A lyrical evocation of an earlier time, done with taste and commitment.
Outstanding New Plays:
Burt (Or When I Was Five I Killed Myself) adapted by Teddi Yaeger from the novel by Howard Buten, directed by Susanna Wilson (Fringe Fest/Theater Babylon)--A vital depiction of childhood: Emotionally raw, subject to the whims of adults, flush with sexual confusion.
Stray by Heidi Schreck (Printer's Devil Theatre)--This delicate script etched out a compelling tension between the families we're born into and the families we try to create for ourselves.
Brian Culver in Burt (Or When I Was Five I Killed Myself) (Fringe Festival/Theatre Babylon)--Confused, helpless, and richly moving.
Audrey Freudenberg, Philip Giesy, and Kevin Moore in Shadowlands (Fat Yeti Productions)--A tightly knit ensemble within a larger cast; wonderfully intelligent and sensitive performances.
Shannon Kipp and Charles Legget in The Provok'd Wife (A Theatre Under the Influence)--A pair of fantastically realized comic performances.
Bhama Roget in The Erotica Project (Left Coast Theatre)--In a nutshell: funny, sexy, smart.
Brad Cook's set for The Racket (A Theatre Under the Influence)--A dense, smoky environment for hard-boiled dicks and dames, put together on the slimmest of budgets.
Etta Lilienthal's set for The Red Room (Richard Hugo House)--Panels of clear plastic and some furniture became a Southern gothic mansion. Abstract and gorgeously theatrical.
Kathryn Rathke's sets for Dear Diane (On the Boards) and Egguus (ConWorks)--Bold, witty, superb use of color and texture; sets that were an event unto themselves and skillfully served the shows.
The team of Walt Spangler (set), Anita Yavish (costumes), and Michael Chybowski (lighting) on Charles Mee's Big Love (A Contemporary Theatre)--Simply luscious. A stunning example of teamwork.
Chooze Your Own Adventure: The Cavern of Time (the Union Garage)--Rapid-fire nuttiness; Evan Mosher and Yusef Lambert were impressively mercurial.
Gate 17 (the Union Garage)--High-concept goofiness from the Disgruntled Bit Players.
The Habit (Annex Theatre/Greenlake Bathhouse)--The most consistent comedy troupe in town.
Herbert Matthews Goes to the Sierra, written and composed by Herbert Bergel, directed by Kristin Palmer (Printer's Devil Theatre)--Slacker operetta. Goofy, slapdash in feel but not in execution, simultaneously underachieving, yet with a strange kind of expansiveness. Bonus points for casting the excellent (and blond) David Gehrman as a young Fidel Castro.
Dear Diane, written by the Typing Explosion, directed by Jamie Hook (On the Boards)--Delightful poetry and songs strung together with a vague meta-narrative of secretaries rebelling against their boss. Plus, they paraded around in their underwear.
Promises of Greatness:
Temple, written by Sylvia Peto, music by Norman Durkee, directed by Gabriel Barre (Seattle Repertory Theatre)--If this musical about Dr. Temple Grandin, an autistic woman who designs more humane slaughterhouses, hasn't been neutered by the workshop process, it's going to be a complex and emotionally riveting piece of work.
The Liberty Deli--Since deli owner Tom Ansart took over production of the shows in his space, the results have been notably more intriguing; both What Happened Was... and The Hothouse drew raves from our critics. Looks like a whole new world of dinner theater.
Scot Augustson--Between Why? Why? Why? (Consolidated Works), his ongoing Sgt. Rigsby & His Amazing Silhouettes work (Annex Theatre and elsewhere), and A Very Lesbian Nutcracker (Northwest Asian American Theatre), Augustson has set the benchmark for high silliness that occasionally sucker-punches you with sorrow.
Wayne Rawley and the cast of Money & Run (Theater Schmeater)--Not only did the new episodes of this transcendent late-night homage to '80s trash television live up to its forebears, but an all-new cast remounted the first episode. Though the new cast's work was strong (despite living in the shadow of an amazing regular ensemble), what became clear was that Rawley's gift for over-the-top metaphor and full-throttle plotting is rock-solid.
Rebecca Brown, Stacey Levine, Sean Nelson, Tamara Paris, Adrian Ryan, and Tom Spurgeon contributed to this article.