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Best Productions of 2002
Critic: James Yeara

1. Brutal Imagination

One of the most relevant productions presented in the region in this or any year, especially given the recent outing of Trent Lott. Well-acted and well-staged, Brutal Imagination showed what an Equity troupe can do when they challenge themselves and an audience.

2. Golda’s Balcony
Shakespeare & Company

William Gibson’s new play was astounding theater, a play that actually deserved its standing ovation and rave reviews. It achieved wonders in 95 minutes, and thrilled those struggling to understand the Middle East imbroglios.

3. Guys on Ice
Adirondack Theatre Festival

Five months after seeing Guys on Ice, my daughter can still sing “Fish is the Miracle Food,” a sort of Monty Python-meets-Prairie-Home-Companion paean to the wonders of fish, including a hilarious moment when Jesus cures a one-armed man using a perch sandwich. The songs were silly, and dallied with the innocence of love (to borrow from Shakespeare). This was musical sketch comedy full of sly little moments.

4. 1776
Mac-Haydn Theatre

Seeing 1776 on a hot Fourth of July matinee was one of the highlights of my time reviewing, and the show had the marvelous effect of making me feel proud to be an American and glad that there were a few voices 226 years ago that spoke out against tyranny and the moneyed class. 1776 showed that the true American spirit is one of protest.

5. A Saint She Ain’t
Berkshire Theatre Festival

In a summer of pretenders, this was the real deal: a genuine tap-dancing, feel-good parody of 1940s-era Hollywood musicals that made you remember that even in the worst of times you can have the best of laughs. It made its audience laugh and smile, and made their hearts lighter than their wallets, and that’s just about as good a deal as you can get in show business.

6. There and Not There
Time & Space Limited

The most efficient and engaging version of Hamlet that anyone but a purist could ask for. This was hypnotic: The acts were rearranged, the soliloquies chopped up and shared, but the center held. And any version of the play that has Gertrude saying “Hamlet, don’t fuck around” has captured the essence of Shakespeare’s longest and most famous play.

7. Fully Committed
Capital Repertory Theatre

The best holiday fare Capital Rep has produced. As much fun to watch as it must have been to perform, this was surprisingly engaging theater that tiptoed across the theatrical divide: How many in the audience identified with the set-upon protagonist, Sam, versus how many would be identified as the pretentious poseurs setting upon the defenseless worker?

8. Magna Carta
New York State Theater Institute

This new musical was like a historical Camelot minus the magic. It was a fast-paced, marvelously produced show tracing the politics leading to the ur-text of the Declaration of Independence.

9. Woody Guthrie’s American Song
Capital Rep

By transferring a little of the soul and sound of Altamont’s Old Songs Festival, Capital Rep brought a little grit, some dusky sunlight, and a hint of campfire smell to downtown Albany. The production made a case for “This Land Is Your Land” as the national anthem.

10. Henry V
S & C

Smartly staged, continually entertaining, unusually funny, and occasionally thought-provoking, Henry V memorably wedded red-clown-nose to Shakespeare’s version of history.

Thank the gods: Actors’ Collaborative Inc.’s A Perfect Ganesh.

Best Performances:
Critic: James Yeara

1. Oliver Wadsworth
Fully Committed (Capital Rep)

2. Annette Miller
Golda’s Balcony (S & C)

3 Danielle Skraastad
Brutal Imagination (StageWorks)

4. Harrison Lee
Brutal Imagination

5. Rocky Bonsal
A Perfect Ganesh (Actors’ Collaborative Inc.)

6. Marin Hinkle
Miss Julie (BTF)

7. P.J. Benjamin
A Saint She Ain’t (BTF)

8. Lynnie Godrey
Ladies of Song (NYSTI)

9. Dan McCleary
Macbeth (S & C)

Simply for keeping his dignity in the Battleship: Earth of the 2002 season.

Best Productions of 2002
Critic: Ralph Hammann

1. Miss Julie
Berkshire Theatre Festival

A revelation as directed by Anders Cato and performed by Marin Hinkle, who is a genius. After seeing her triumph with the near-impossible part of Miss Julie, I want to see her play every great role in the theater.

Lost and found: WTF’s Where’s Charlie?

2. Where’s Charley?
Williamstown Theatre Festival

A lost musical gem, lovingly restored by Nicholas Martin and a winning cast headed by the irrepressible Christopher Fitzgerald.

3. God of Vengeance

Another lost treasure thrillingly revived with the Williamstown Theatre Festival’s stunning production values, powerful cast (Diane Venora and Marin Hinkle being standouts) and astute direction of Gordon Edelstein.

4. The Foreigner

One of the funniest plays of contemporary theater, it was given an all-stops-out production that left one giddy from laughter and smiling at the play’s humanistic core.

5. Lackawanna Blues

Lacking nothing, Ruben Santiago Hudson defined tour-de-force as he single-handedly peopled the stage with unforgettable characters in this delicate and gutsy tribute to the woman who brought him up.

6. Dimetos

True to the mission of the Unicorn Theatre, Peter Wallace’s production was a rich, complex tragedy that demanded much and rewarded more. Eric Hill was devastatingly dynamic.

7. Quartet

In retrospect, Ronald Harwood’s new play had some flaws, but they were small prices to pay for the play’s good humor, worthy subject and delightful performances of Robert Vaughn and Kaye Ballard.

8. Holiday Memories

Proof of what miracles can be done with a handful of talented actors, clever direction (E. Gray Simons) and good writing on a near-bare stage.

9. Brownstone

This high-energy production of a little-seen chamber-sized pop opera about life in the four small apartments of a New York City brownstone ended up being a touching tribute to common folks’ survival and the great city.

10. Without Walls

Written and acted with dignity and truthfulness, the best production on the otherwise lackluster Nikos stage was about the expression of pure love and tearing down walls.

Worst Productions
Critic: Ralph Hammann

1. Macbeth
Shakespeare & Company

A titanic, drably mounted bore alleviated only by the jaw-dropping inanity of the concept, direction and actors’ “moments”—as when Macbeth, that mighty warrior, whimpers and whines like Minnie Beth.

2. No Cure in Sight
Oldcastle Theatre Company

There actually was a cure for this, the nadir of Oldcastle’s abysmal anniversary season: euthanasia. Smelled of a vanity production all the way.

3. A Complete History of America (abridged)

The thing about these small-cast- playing-multiple-roles comedies is that they have to be quick, versatile and inspired—not slow, infantile and perspired. Humor would also help.

4. The Apple Tree

Witnessing the wretched leads wend their ways through different playlets and characters was the dramatic equivalent of watching worms wriggle out of rotten apples to be periodically devoured by squawking birds.

5. For the Pleasure of Her Company

Not even the Williamstown Theatre Festival’s dismal A Distant Country Called Youth could compete in patience-testing with this claptrap, which in harridan Olympia Dukakis’ hands and mouth seemed like garbage being spewed from an overloaded kitchen-sink disposal.

Best Performances
Critic: Ralph Hammann

1. Marin Hinkle
Miss Julie (BTF)

Seeing her excel in this formidable role would have satisfied all my theatrical cravings for the entire season.

2. Ruben Santiago Hudson
Lackawanna Blues (WTF)

3. Diane Venora
God of Vengeance (WTF)

4. Christopher Fitzgerald
Where’s Charley? (WTF)

5. Eric Hill
Dimetos (BTF)

6. Tara Franklin
Dimetos (BTF)

7. Mark Feuerstein
Miss Julie (BTF)

8. Marin Hinkle
God of Vengeance (WTF)

9. Peter Scolari
The Foreigner (BTF)

10. Charles Keating
Loot (WTF)

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