Sunday, December 29, 2013

5 Top Local Plays and Musicals This Year

Posted By on Sun, Dec 29, 2013 at 9:53 PM

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Paige Blend, Roy Bumgarner, Twyla Lamont in Roads Courageous at The Playhouse. We asked our theater critics, Thomas Jenkins and Steven G. Kellman, for their top picks from the theater scene in 2013. Beyond the productions, Jenkins also noted the considerable movement—both physical and conceptual—at some of the city’s top companies, which started this year and will continue into 2014. “The Playhouse mounted its first original main stage musical in recent memory—Roads Courageous—while populating its Cellar with recent New York hits (RedWittenberg),” said Jenkins, “and big changes are afoot at three of the city’s most established theaters: the Jump-Start and the Classic Theatre have found new homes—in Beacon Hill and the Deco District, respectively—while the AtticRep joins the new Tobin Center as its resident theater company in 2014.”
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Courtesy Photo   A Streetcar Named Desire – Klose/Seal Productions “I don’t want realism,” proclaims Blanche DuBois, “I want magic.” Last September and October, director Carol Lee Klose’s production of A Streetcar Named Desire delivered both. Chris Sauter’s set design transformed the intimate space of the Little Carver Theatre into two scruffy rooms in New Orleans’ raffishly vibrant French Quarter 60 years ago. Though Tennessee Williams’ drama is one of the most familiar plays in the American repertoire, Klose managed to turn an old chestnut into luscious Louisiana pralines. Sam Carter Gilliam’s magisterial, multi-layered and mesmerizing performance as Blanche almost eclipsed Rick Frederick’s turn as surly, slovenly and savage Stanley Kowalski. No illusion survived their primal clash of beauty and the beast. —Steven G. Kellman (A Streetcar Named Desire: Stellar Stella Brought Down to Earth)  
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Courtesy Photo   Wittenberg — The Playhouse David Davalos is a man of astonishing talents as a playwright and as an actor. They converged in the November production of Wittenberg directed by Bill Gundry at The Playhouse’s Cellar Theater. Set in the German university town in 1517, the play, a prequel to Hamlet, has the zest and pith of a Platonic dialogue translated by S.J. Perelman. Sam Mandelbaum’s earnest undergraduate Hamlet was torn between two professors, Davalos’ Dr. Faustus and Martin Luther, played by Andrew Thornton  (whose impersonation of Jackson Pollack in the Cellar Theater’s production of Red in January was another stand-out performance of the year). In the contest between skepticism and piety, wit and art came out ahead. —SK

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  Book of Mormon—Broadway Across America The theatrical event of the year in SA must surely have been The Book of Mormon, the outrageous satire that landed downtown for a two week run in September: The city was simply abuzz, not only because the musical was clever and polished, but because South Texas might seem a hard sell for a potty-mouthed demolition of organized religion. (Rarely, for instance, have lyrics so exquisitely limned the butt-fucking proclivities of the Almighty.) —Thomas Jenkins (Book of Mormon: A Heaven-Sent Satire) HONORABLE MENTIONS
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Courtesy Photo The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari—Overtime Theatre A sleeper hit with a delightfully creepy design by Abigail Entsminger. —TJ            
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Courtesy Photo HellCab—Attic Rep Impressively kaleidoscopic, with an innovative, rainbow-flecked look by conceptual artist Andrea Caillouet. —TJ ('Hellcab' at AtticRep)

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