Hair, Seafarer among Top 10 Tampa Bay theater offerings in 2010

[image-1]. Sarah Ruhl’s lovely poem of a play, a meditation on death and memory, featured the stunning Dahlia Legault in the title role, and new face Dayton Sinkia as an Orpheus ready to search Hell for his lost beloved. Beautifully directed by Karla Hartley, this Stageworks production was as lyrical and elusive as a Chopin ballade. And who needs realism when you can have a doorway that rains?

Shipwrecked! With only three actors and a slew of unlikely props to work with, Gorilla Theatre director Bridget Bean convinced us that we were watching a crowd of news-hungry Londoners, a loving sheepdog, a herd of jellyfish, violent aborigines, the Royal Geographical Society, and a beautiful, submerged paradise. Donald Margulies’ play makes a thousand demands, and La Bean solved every one. Is there anything she can’t do?

[image-2]. Utilizing theater, mime and dance, a Jobsite Theater troupe of five women and four men brought us Albert Einstein’s dreamworld — wherein time moved backwards, became “sticky,” became visible, turned in circles, came to an end and split into three alternatives. Staged lovingly by Kari Goetz, this adaptation of Alan Lightman’s work was impressionistic and hypnotic, fantastical and graceful.

As Bees in Honey Drown. At its core, Douglas Carter Beane’s play is about the American fixation on groundless celebrity. When record producer Alexa offers to turn novelist Eric into a tabloid superstar, he can’t dismiss the opportunity. But as played by Heather Krueger, Alexa wasn’t what she appeared; and as played by Nick Horan, Eric was surprisingly resilient. Ubiquitous director Karla Hartley put together this Stageworks production. Hard realities rise and fall, but weightless bubbles are forever.

Agnes of God. What can you say about a naïve young nun who secretly has a baby, murders it, and then claims to remember nothing? That she was stunningly impersonated by Dahlia Legault? That she provided an opportunity for Hersha Parady and Eileen Koteles, as a Mother Superior and a court-appointed psychiatrist, to swing at each other like two battered but unbowed prizefighters? Stageworks’ version of John Pielmeier’s play was elemental and shattering. There were better productions, but few as powerful.

[image-3]Forbidden Broadway. The Straz Center’s “Greatest Hits” edition of this perennial New York favorite was a hilarious reminder of what’s up, what’s down and what’s probably immortal in the land of the $200 ticket. Utilizing only four gifted actors — Lauren Gemilli, Heather Krueger, Derek Baxter and Justin Lore — Gerard Alessandrini’s revue showed us everything ridiculous on Broadway from West Side Story to The Lion King: “Can you feel the strain tonight/As your deltoids throb?” Love it or sue it.

Opus. On Michael Newton Brown’s elegant set — a raised mahogany platform shaped to resemble a violin — five classical musicians showed us how chamber music can be created in the midst of willfulness, petulance, sexual feeling, personal ordeals, perfection and mental debility. Michael Hollinger’s play was consistently surprising and the American Stage production was tiptop.

Mindgame. Hooray for the return of Brian Shea! And Hooray to Jobsite Theater for bringing us this brain-twisting puzzler of a psychological thriller! David M. Jenkins directed Anthony Horowitz’s unusually intelligent comedy with abandon. And nothing was as it seemed.

And that’s it. Have a great 2011. And may all your dramas be romantic comedies.

It was a very good year for theater in the Tampa Bay area. The established stages turned in some of their best work ever, and the new kids on the block — freeFall, Revolve, St. Petersburg Shakespeare Company and New American Theatre — helped jumpstart a more vibrant and various local theater culture. The following were the cream of a robust crop:

Hair. American Stage’s musical-in-the-park was a rousing, emotionally potent look back to the youth culture of the ’60s, with its ethic of love, acceptance of racial diversity, rejection of money-fever, search for sexual sanity and hatred of war and militarism. Eric Davis’ inspired direction unapologetically returned us to the Age of Aquarius, and begged us, without irony, to Let the Sunshine In. The singer/actors were superb, and Cynthia Hennessy’s choreography was extraordinarily exciting. Groovy.

The Seafarer. Tampa-based actor Richard Coppinger played epically disheveled Richard Harkin with something like genius, Christopher Swan was typically splendid as his deeply flawed brother Sharky, and Tom Nowicki, as the Devil come to win Sharky’s soul, was as cold and implacable as a County Clare winter. Brilliantly directed by Todd Olson, this American Stage production brought to wonderful life Conor McPherson’s unpredictable, fascinating tale of sin and redemption.

Scroll to read more Local Arts articles


Join Creative Loafing Tampa Bay Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.