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The Year in Theater

by James Yeara on January 3, 2013

 

Best of 2012

Stageworks/Hudson's Tomorrow in the Battle

1. Tomorrow in the Battle

Stageworks/Hudson

The world-premiere production of Tomorrow in the Battle was an experience to revel in. Playwright Kieron Barry presented conflicts, crises, and climaxes for his characters that engaged both intellectually and aurally; the sound of his words suited the sense of his scenes. As a playwright, Barry not only challenged actors, but audiences, with a syntax and diction that were not dumbed-down.

2. Black Pearl Sings!

Capital Repertory Theatre

Keith Higgens’ Black Pearl Sings! earned its exclamation point not only song by song, but also story by story, layered and contrasted by the two-person cast under the sound direction of Virginia Stage Company director Patrick Mullins. The characters’ entwined stories were filled with as much laughter and pathos as the songs. It was a worthy show in what turned out to be one of Capital Rep’s best seasons ever.

3. See How They Run

Barrington Stage Company

Filled with misprisions and non sequiturs, a dash of the Alienation Effect, a twist of Bergson’s Bionics, Philip King’s See How They Run was stirred just right to make the perfect comic cocktail. Barrington Stage Company ended its summer with the funniest show of the season, one that earned its laughs the old-fashioned way: good writing, sure direction, smart production, fantastic physicality, and spot-on timing.

4. Satchmo at the Waldorf

Shakespeare & Company

As created by playwright Terry Teachout, director Gordon Edelstein, and, with all the sweat, spit, and soul one could hope for, actor John Douglas Thompson, Satchmo at the Waldorf was as entertaining as it was intelligent and cutting. This was not the “juke box” hagiography that attracts folks with sanitized music, but a play that filled the theater with its frank look at musical genius living in a world full of strutting and fretting.

5. The Sisters Rosensweig

Capital Repertory Theatre

As one of the characters confessed in his last line, “I think I have a crush on all the Sisters Rosensweig.” After seeing Capital Repertory Theatre’s production, you would have to have a cold heart and a dim brain indeed if you didn’t, too. Unique in the region’s theaters, artistic director Maggie Mancinelli-Cahill offered yet again another production that plumbed the female soul, and shined.

6. Lungs

Barrington Stage Company

Having a legitimate “regional premiere” at BSC, Duncan Macmillian’s 2011 two-character play followed a GenX couple in a thoughtful dialogue through the trials and tribulations of conception, with all the twists, turns, and near-penetration a sperm encounters connecting with an ovum. It made for a smartly entertaining hour and a half.

7. Play by Play: Rendezvous

Stageworks/Hudson

The annual Play by Play festival of new one act plays at Stageworks/Hudson always has something to please almost everyone, and this year the eight one-acts, the performances, and the staging were uniformly excellent. Centering mostly on two-character scenes, Rendezvous was a theater buffet for everyone.

8. The Learned Ladies

Shakespeare & Company

As director Tina Packer stated in the post-show Q&A, “Moliere needs terrific energy and young actors have that; they have energy, commitment, and they can go to extremes.” Truer words were never spoken, as her cast captured the verve and wit of the rhyming couplets, causing frequent laughter and spontaneous applause from the audience.

9. The Mound Builders

StageWorks/Hudson

Lanford Wilson’s play is about digging ever deeper into the dirt, and the secrets the past reluctantly yields. This was reflected in the set, with the open, irregular weave of the beige erosion cloth languidly framed for the walls created both warmth when lit from the front of the house, and ominous shadows when lighted from above. The upstage projections included an eerie picture of two skeletons buried in the white earth, the bones contrasting with the black of the grave. This startling image began and ended Kaliyuna Arts’ inaugural production at Stageworks/Hudson.

10. New Act! New Play Summit

Upstate Equity Actors Association and Capital Repertory Theatre at Proctors

Perhaps it’s cheating, but Upstate Equity Actors Association and Capital Repertory Theatre’s three-day confab of stage readings of new plays was a local highlight of what’s great about theater even when the plays aren’t uniformly so great. The New Act! New Play Summit brought in new plays for a try out with local professions before an engaged, critiquing amateur audience. The olive in the martini of the program was the emotional staged reading of Suzanne Bradbeer’s political thriller The God Game, which deserves a full staging featuring the same three-actor cast of Yvonne Perry, Tony Crane, and David Andrew Macdonald.