Did 2020 have memorable stage moments? Sure, if you expand the definition of the stage. I went back through the year and I found something almost comparable — call them theatrical expressions.
There was, top row, the expression William Jackson Harper and his dog gave each other in Stephen Adly Guirgis’ Don’t Look Back, a play just several minutes long that was part of 24 Hour Plays’ Viral Monologues; Stephen Sondheim singing Andrew Lloyd Webber Happy Birthday while washing his hands, a savvy pandemic-period joke, as part of the one-night-only return of The Rosie O’Donnell Show in March, a week after all theaters shut down — the first of the many mass gatherings of entertainers as fundraisers for The Actors Fund this year; Rachel Dratch in A Story of Survival by David Lindsay-Abaire, also in Viral Monologues; Meryl Streep as one-third of the tipsy triumvirate in “Ladies Who Lunch” (alongside Audra McDonald and Christine Baranski, part of Take Me To The World: Sondheim’s 90th Birthday Concert;
Second row: Michael Urie in Buyer and Cellar, Celia Bolger-Keenan as Sally in an early Zoom reading of Lips Together, Teeth Apart shortly after the death of its playwright Terrence McNally, when, in response to another character saying ” I think these are terrible times to be a parent in,” Sally says: “I think these are terrible times to be anything in.”; Gideon Glick in the Zoom reading of Joshua Harmon’s Significant Other, which he had portrayed on Broadway, finding hilarious ways to translate his character’s comical anxiety, from the neck up; Jake Gyllenhaal looking longingly at the unattainable neighbor in lockdown in the four-minute musical Across the Way.
Third row: Judith Light as a woman going crazy with regrets in All The Old Familiar Places by Jon Robin Baitz, as part of The Homeland Project; Alison Pill as one of the seven stressed-out frontline New York City medical workers in The Line, by Jessica Blank and Eric Jensen, based on interviews with actual stressed-out medical workers; Mia Katigbak as her character in Russian Troll Farm tells the story of her life from heartless childhood to bloodless apparatchik; Kara Young equal parts innocent and fierce as the 18-year-old orphaned title character in Bulrusher, a production by Paula Vogel, one of many theater artists who stepped up to this moment in history.