The major companies in town all boasted at least one show this year demonstrating the measureless life left in the theater. But the Coterie stands tallest for the simplest of reasons: From stagecraft to acting, from writing to costumes, from high seriousness to the most shameless horseplay, every production delighted in almost every particular. The Coterie also sponsors classes, involves kids in the theater and generally labors for causes too noble for words. But none of that matters here. We're just interested in the shows. Colorful, imaginative and always lovingly handcrafted, they're not just shows for kids, as some have sniffed. They're shows for childhood, the wonder of which Artistic Director Jeff Church catches like a glowbug in a jar. Moreover, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, The Watsons Go to Birmingham and The Search for Odysseus captured the light of youth without sacrificing its shadows (or those gathering in the real world around it). Presenting kids honestly, as riots of confused feelings and apprehensions, Church brings full-bodied drama to the field-trip set and the lucky grown-ups in on the secret. No other theater so deftly mixed joy with truth; no other theater told us more about what matters in American life now.