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12. HURT VILLAGE (closed) Katori Hall, a very
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12. HURT VILLAGE (closed) Katori Hall, a very worthy object of the Signature Theatre's attention, split open the old-fashioned black-family melodrama into a rich, audacious play-with-music-and-dance that turned potential cliches about gentrification hell into something close to tribal psychological touchstones. The play introduced a gifted young actress named Joaquina Kalukango as the scary-wise 13-year-old and let us marvel at the versatility of Tonya Pinkins in one of her many impressive performances this year.(Credit: Joan Marcus)

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Best plays of 2012

In my annual list of favorite theater, a few awkward questions pop out. First, what does it say about the season's staying power that only three productions are still running? What does it say about new musicals that only one -- "Once" -- makes the list? And how about a year when, unquestionably, the best theater came from previous work from the masters -- Edward Albee, Arthur Miller, Anton Chekhov, Athol Fugard, August Wilson, Clifford Odets?

On the brighter side -- and there is, in fact, a bright side -- eight of my picks are American playwrights in a category long dominated by the English. Better yet, five are actually alive. --LINDA WINER, linda.winer@newsday.com