Productions of 2003
Every summer there is one must-see show, and this Sondheimesque
musical version of Les Liaisons Dangereuses was it.
The Game was like a boudoir filled with erotic Wedgwood
A fantastic fantasy full of sound characters and furious actions,
Lebensraum was a rare show, finding humor in the Holocaust
yet constantly needling the complacent and the compliant.
Director Laura Margolis and StageWorks showed once again that
the best theater entertains as it educates.
from top: Coullet, Ehlinger, Bessett and Murfitt in
The Blue Room
Simply the most powerful and aesthetically perfect show Capital
Rep has produced during artistic director Maggie Mancinelli-Cahill’s
Eric Hill and BTF show that children’s theater doesn’t have
to be dumbed down and hammy, nor does it have to be just for
children. Thrilling and yet full of heartache, this was a
Peter Pan that didn’t need cartoon colors to sparkle.
Much Ado About Nothing
Much more than excellent, filled with stellar performances
and almost cinematic stagepictures. This should have been
called My Big Fat Italian Wedding or The Talented
It Goes Without Saying
This one-man show from master mimer Bill Bowers made one man’s
journey from the rural wilds of the West to the wild whirl
of Broadway personal, funny, and trenchant. This was a show
that deserves to be seen by a wider audience.
Adirondack Theatre Festival are masters of the art of producing
real musicals for real people. This first-rate regional premiere
of a musical centered on the lives and loves of the working
class, treating the characters with dignity and integrity.
York State Theatre Institute
Yesterday was the most mature and relevant production
NYSTI has done in years. The politically idealistic bent of
the play pleases, and the performances created people, not
C-R Productions seems to have lost its way, but its inaugural
show wisely used the charms of a neglected Capital Region
gem, the haunted Cohoes Musical Hall. Staged simply, costumed
richly and sung divinely, this non-Andrew Lloyd Webber Phantom
was a must-see for anyone who loves words and notes sung with
a sterling clarity and an unadorned beauty.
Driving Miss Daisy
This 1988 Pulitzer Prize-winning play earned the applause:
There was an honesty and a simplicity at work here that achieved
that earthy sweetness of pumpkin pie.
Lettice and Lovage, Shakespeare
Cowgirls, Capital Repertory Company
The Fly-Bottle, Shakespeare & Company
Robert Ian Mackenzie
Drawer Boy, StageWorks
Dan Cordle and Amy Landecker
Blue Room, Capital Rep
on a Beatle, Barrington Stage Company
on a Beatle, BSC
Jennifer Bills, Pip Lilly, Nicky Margolis, Lori McClain, Kevin
McGeehan, Craig Uhlir
City Touring Company, The Egg
Ado About Nothing, Shakespeare & Company
Productions of 2003
Gregory Boyd directed Tom Stoppard’s grand, rattling experience
that left one happily exhausted from laughter, thought ,and
more laughter. Audacious, playful, anarchic, overwhelming,
stimulating, overstimulating: This was as good as theater
gets. A travesty, or collection of travesties, of the highest
Enemy of the People
In the festival’s season-closer, Gerald Freedman guided Henrik
Ibsen’s skillfully wielded sledgehammer to the failures of
capitalism and even democracy. Mandy Patinkin was brilliant
as the quintessential outcast in this essential play about
the individual’s stand against corrupt society.
Directed by that Napoleon of creativity, Eric Hill, it was
a fabulous flight of imagination that never subsided. Hill’s
vigorous staging invited viewers to collaborate with actors
and designers in bringing exquisite life to the remote worlds
of Victorian England’s Bloomsbury and Neverland. The journey
was lovely, comical and touching in a manner both sentimental
and rueful, revelatory and darkly poignant.
The Threepenny Opera
Director Peter Hunt returned victorious to the WTF and created
the perfect atmosphere for Brecht’s condemnation of his pre-World
War II decadent society and our post-Enron, pre-God-knows-what
Playwright A.R. Gurney continued his seven-year WTF relationship
with one of the best plays of his remarkable career, a study
of the life and legend of tennis star William Tilden. Big
Bill was a big hit and is slated to transfer to Lincoln
Center. Mark Lamos directed.
The Stillborn Lover
Directed by Martin Rabbett, Timothy Findley’s play was the
dramatic equivalent of the thrillers and espionage novels
of Graham Greene and John Le Carré, which interweave the profession
of deception with the process by which one deceives oneself—and
the toll exacted. Highlighted by Richard Chamberlain’s dignified,
eloquent, deeply moving performance.
The Tiger Lillies
Strictly speaking, it may be a cabaret, but it was more theatrically
electrifying than much else. Unique, disturbing, hysterical
and weirdly touching in unexpected places, it was material
such as Kurt Weill might write if he were crossed with Edward
Gorey and the Marquis de Sade. And the deeply idiosyncratic
performances might have come out of an insane asylum for the
Berkshire Village Idiot
Michael Isaac Connor’s mostly autobiographical one-man show,
in which he played various denizens of a tiny, rustic neighborhood.
Connor’s poetic voice rang with clarity under Barry Edelstein’s
imaginative direction, which beautifully exploited every square
foot of the set.
A staged reading, actually, but as acted by Austin Pendleton
and Kate Burton something of a revelation. A reminder of how
Chekhov should and can be done.
Mark Twain’s The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg
An act of literary corruption perpetrated by Steve Gillette,
Cindy Mangson and writer-director Eric Peterson, who may have
called this Mark Twain’s, but never the twain did meet.
A sense of malaise attended this lethargic production, gracelessly
written and directed by Dennis Krausnick. The sort of wooden-clogged
show that could give Edith Wharton, from whose novella it
was burgled, a bad name.
3. Landscape of the Body
Michael Greif continued his unexplainable existence as a favored
director at WTF with this dried-up landscape from John Guare,
who is becoming as much a chore as Greif.
The Dinner Party
Some party. Of all the wonderful plays Neil Simon has written,
why Oldcastle sought out this forgettable third-rate sitcom
material is a moot question. Rather than a repast it remained
a mere indigestible morsel, capable of inducing acid reflux.
Mother of Invention
While I am not convinced that this play is entirely necessary
or that the entirety of the play is necessary, it could never
realize its potential with Estelle Parsons, who daftly dithered
about with an annoying voice that resided somewhere between
a drone and a whine.
Scott Schwartz directed with an overboiled borscht-belt humor
suitable for dulled palates. Burdened with a lame concept
and a limp lead. Exit Crying would have been a better
Advertised as a black comedy (the only way most of it could
work), instead, it came across too clinically contrived, as
if the director, Timothy Douglas, were afraid of offending
anyone. Lacking conviction and focus, he shot blanks.
It had heart, but this was less theater than an unusual fairground
event that was best attended with hot dogs and a good deal
of beer. Badly miked actors tried to communicate across a
wide gulf and through a foul-ball screen. Foul.
The Real Inspector Hound
The critic barked. The loyal, myopic and undiscerning howled.
And Stoppard got stoppered. But things are looking up—it was
the least offensive of the worst.
John Michael Higgins
Kate Jennings Grant