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The Year in Review 2010

Best Productions of 2010

Critic: James Yeara

1. A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Williamstown Theatre Festival

Under Jessica Stone’s direction, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum at WTF was a constellation, and the cast its stars, each with his own brilliance (an all-male cast that did, amazingly, put the focus on the comedy, not the flesh). Stone’s show achieved that hoped-for theatrical rarity: actual people on stage honestly sharing their humanity in all its quirks and glory.

2. The Winter’s Tale, Shakespeare and Company

The magnificent concluding scene under Coleman’s deft direction showed that this difficult late work wasn’t two separate plays joined together only by program notes, but a subtle work of art and nature harmonized into a melding of laughter and tears. No acting troupe works as well and fully with an audience as Shakespeare and Company does, and the audience heartily applauded even as members wiped away a few tears.

3. Play by Play: Blue Moons, Stageworks/Hudson

Seven plays plus four actors times 16 characters equaled 90 minutes of excellent theater. Always one of the bravest and best theatrical events of the year, the addition this year of virtuoso actors Jonathan Epstein and Tod Randolph made Blue Moons not just a rarity but a wonder.

4. The Life and Death of King Richard III, Shakespeare and Company

In a bravura turn, the famous opening monologue, “Now is the winter of our discontent,” was done with the peerless John Douglas Thompson flat on his back, the top of his head facing the audience. We heard the words ring out in their honeyed menace, in their declaration of intent. Filled with more excellent performances and scenes than could fit into a single review, Shakespeare and Company’s The Life and Death of King Richard III was a must-see.

5. The Crucible, Barrington Stage Company

The final act of this excellent production showed how far the honest and God-loving can fall to the demagogues and God-fearing. This Elizabeth and John were the first Proctor couple I’ve seen on stage who knew what lips were for, and as Proctor, Innvar’s struggle to find words, to remember how to speak, especially the lies Judge Danforth demanded, was one of the finest acting moments I’ve seen this extraordinary talent create. This was a Crucible worth the visit both for the timeliness of the play and the excellence of the performances.

6. The Guardsman, Berkshire Theatre Festival

“The Actress” (Jayne Atkinson) and “The Actor” (Michel Gill) argued when the curtain opened for director John Rando’s briskly paced production of this seldom-seen 1910 comic gem. That the curtain closed on almost an identical moment underscored how tight and grandly affected The Guardsman is. This was a comedy in a grand style, an exercise in manners, gestures, accents, and affection that created frequent laughter from the audience and also hinted at the theme weaving more gently through this genial farce: Is there anything you can’t believe, if necessary?

Shakespeare and Company’s Mengleberg and Mahler.

Photo: Kevin Sprague

7. Mengleberg and Mahler, Shakespeare and Company

Director Klein used the Bernstein Theatre well, with huge black-and-white historic photos and movies of the principal settings and people of Mengleberg and Mahler. That Mengleberg’s banishment came from his declaration to the Nazis justifying playing Mahler’s music—“not Jewish music or German music, there’s only good music and bad music”—made his punishment, a six-year ban from conducting in his homeland, all the more poignant given that Mengleberg dies in 1951 just as the ban ends. This one-actor play made for remarkable entertainment, especially being so close to Tanglewood, and to contemporary dilemmas.

8. Freud’s Last Session, Barrington Stage Company

As with previous Mark St. Germain debut productions over the years at Barrington Stage Company, Freud’s Last Session posited polemics that sought to make the audience think and feel. Grounding his plays in some historical fact, St. Germain introduced a possible chance occurrence, and the clash of ideas were off and running all the way to an off-Broadway run. The invented metaphysical visit between atheist Freud and devout Catholic C.S. Lewis stayed with you both intellectually and emotionally long after the stage lights darkened, making the possible plausible.

9. A Christmas Carol, the New York State Theatre Institute

The venerable classic A Christmas Carol showed the venerable New York State Theatre Institute at its best: stripped down to the bare bones production featuring lots of children and focused on the story and the acting.

10. Annie Get Your Gun, Park Playhouse

The best rebooting of a local theater institution, this thoughtful production was one of the better ones in Park Playhouse’s venerated 21-year history, and Annie Get Your Gun showed the value of rebooting leadership by creating one of the best community theater free outdoor productions in the region.

 

WTF’s A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.

Photo: T. Charles Erickson

Best Performances of 2010

1. Christopher Fitzgerald, Bryce Pinkham, David Turner, David Costabile, Graham Rowat, Jeremy Shamos , Josh Griesetti, Chivas Michael , Paul Castree, Zackary Grady, Adam Lerman, Jon Patrick Walker, Joe Aaron Reid, and Kevin Cahoon; cast of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Williamstown Theatre Festival.

2. John Douglas Thompson, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, The Life and Death of Richard III, Shakespeare and Company.

3. Christopher Innvar, John Proctor, The Crucible, Barrington Stage Company

4. Tod Randolph, various characters, Blue Moons, StageWorks/Hudson

5. Jonathan Epstein, various characters, Blue Moons, StageWorks/Hudson

6. Mark H. Dold, C.S. Lewis, Freud’s Last Session, Barrington Stage Company

7. Rocco Sisto, Octavio in The Taster, Shakespeare and Company

8. Angela Rauscher, Aphra Bein in Or, Stageworks/Hudson

9. Campbell Scott, Stage Manager in Our Town, Williamstown Theatre Festival

10. Bethany Caputo, Emily Webb in Our Town, Walking the Dog Theater

 


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