There's a beautiful humanity in the QC Theatre Workshop's production of How I Learned to Drive, which presents playwright Paula Vogel's pedophilic tale with realistic characters rather than caricatures clearly defined as "good" and "evil."
There was no lack of spectacular work done in area theatre this year, and the following list is hardly exhaustive. But if you were fortunate, you caught at least a few of these 12 performances in 2008; whether taking on a leading role, a supporting role, or (in one case here) the only role, these gifted artists commanded the stage. And, hopefully, your attention.
After six seasons of reverse-gender casting, anachronistic details, audience interaction, and unapologetic tweaking and trimming of classical works, the happily untraditional Prenzie Players have, with their production of Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, moved in a truly subversive direction: They've gone traditional. Sort of.
So enough of my opinions already. The following are reflections by Derek Bertelsen, Tyson Danner, Kristofer Eitrheim, Kimberly Furness, Jennifer Kingry, Mandy Landreth, J.C. Luxton, Jackie Madunic, Angela Rathman, Jalayne Reiwerts, Susan Simosky, and Doug Tschopp - local-theatre artisans who enjoyed a memorable 2007.
I've seen plenty of stage sitcoms over the years, but based on Over the Tavern and its sequel, King o' the Moon - currently playing at the Richmond Hill Barn Theatre - Tom Dudzick appears to be that rare stage-sitcom creator with soul.
Tennessee Williams' Cat on a Hot Tin Roof opened at the Richmond Hill Barn Theatre last Thursday, and I may as well preface by admitting that, before the show started, I couldn't have been more excited, as this classic has long been one of my absolute favorite plays.
Jeremy Mahr may be our area's most effortlessly relaxed performer. There isn't even a trace of actor's phoniness in his line readings or physicality; there's so little artifice in Mahr's portrayals that he can easily fool you into thinking he's not acting at all. Mahr has a beautiful hangdog expression - he looks as if he's endured continual disappointment, and is prepared to endure more - and his focus is concentrated and imploring. Yet when he smiles, the warmth that exudes from him is a little overpowering; he acts like a man embarrassed to be receiving the happiness he deserves. Mahr is a supremely empathetic performer - I've now seen him in three productions since August, and for the life of me, I can't figure out how he manages to do so much while appearing to do so little.
At Friday's nearly sold-out performance of Over the Tavern at Richmond Hill's Barn Theatre, I found myself seated next to a charming couple who engaged me in conversation. I asked whether they had heard of the play previously, as Tom Dudzick's comedy was unfamiliar to me. The gentleman responded that he'd read a little bit about it, but his wife said, "Not me. I like being surprised."
It's impossible to guess the content of Roger Karshner's The Man with the Plastic Sandwich by its title. Is the setting a cooking show? Is the "man" a toy-maker creating plastic food for those miniature ovens lining the aisles of local toy stores? One certainly won't expect the play to be about a man suffering through a midlife crisis brought on by being fired from his job after 20 years of loyal service.
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