I have a strong suspicion that the most important piece of theater this year was one I missed: Richard Nelson’s three-part “The Gabriels: Election Year in the Life of One Family,” at the Public Theater. His previous masterpiece, the “Apple Family Plays,” written in near real-time, was a richly novelistic examination of a liberal family in Rhinebeck, New York, on four signal dates of the Obama years. The new series focused on a nearby family that felt inexorably downwardly mobile, like the country wasn’t working for them anymore, and that’s the reality that drove a not-quite-majority of the country to take a flier on Donald Trump. I would have liked to see Nelson’s humane, sympathetic insights. Instead, I’m left with the thing I did see that most affected me: Ivo van Hove’s especially bleak revival of “The Crucible.” If I’d like Nelson to help me understand how we got to where we are, Arthur Miller’s classic reminds us of what can happen when righteously vindictive people take hold of the machinery of government. It was chilling in the spring; recalling it now is even scarier.
Jesse Oxfeld has written about theater for New York Magazine and Entertainment Weekly.