3. ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD (Jobsite Theater, 2008). Tom Stoppards famous comedy, about Hamlet as experienced by two minor characters, was brilliantly presented by a Jobsite troupe led by David M. Jenkins and Shawn Paonessa as the titular R. and G. Jenkins was the sillier one, finding humor in existential angst, but Paonessa was the crucial other side of the coin, sorely troubled by his inability to know the meaning of his suffering. Challenging them both was the incomparable Paul Potenza as the depraved, flamboyant head Player, an expert at performing death. A production to savor.
[image-1]4. THE GOAT, OR WHO IS SYLVIA? (Jobsite Theater, 2006). Martin Gray is happily married, gets on well with his gay adolescent son, is a celebrated architect and is having an affair with a goat. Yes, a sexual affair (though he loves his furry friend, too). Is he insane? Are we free to judge? As infatuated, misunderstood Martin, Steven Clark Pachosa (in photo) gave the performance of a lifetime, and as his outraged wife Stevie, Monica Merryman (also pictured) was impeccable. Karla Hartley directed with the utmost seriousness thus bringing out the comedy and made sure that Edward Albees play provoked a review of our deepest principles. Whats at the core of things: law or anarchy? If you didnt ask yourself, you werent watching.
5. PROOF (American Stage, 2005). Theres a beauty in ensemble acting, when each performer shines but the collective shines even more brightly. And this was the great virtue of American Stages Proof, a drama about mathematics, madness and trust. Four dazzlingly inspired actors Katherine Michelle Tanner, Brian Shea, Julie Rowe and Tom Nowicki worked together seamlessly, illuminating David Auburns Pulitzer Prize-winning text, and reminding us that our most dangerous prejudices are the ones we dont know we have. The play was intelligent but the acting was genius.
[image-2]6. ANNA IN THE TROPICS (American Stage, 2004). Artistic Director Todd Olson had been at American Stage little more than a year when he brought Anna, set in Ybor City, to the stage with an astonishing realism. Cuban-American author Nilo Cruz may have been writing about the 1920s, but Olsons staging was so immediate, you could smell the tobacco (in Jeff Deans set of a small cigar factory), the sweat and the lust. An Ybor love triangle, a novel by Tolstoy, the sultry Tampa climate
We might have been on Seventh Avenue 80 steamy years ago. (Photo: Karen Garcia and Joe Masi)
7. A MOON FOR THE MISBEGOTTEN (American Stage, 2003). Eugene ONeills classic play, about the doomed and haunted James Tyrone and the woman who loves him, Josie Hogan, was wonderfully performed by Ned Averill-Snell and the amazingly versatile Julie Rowe. What Hogan wanted, we saw, was love, spiritual and sexual; what Tyrone needed instead was forgiveness, and to spend the night in the arms of a virgin Madonna. With Averill-Snells and Hogans help, we watched these two characters clumsily struggle for their desires, and we witnessed Hogans self-sacrificing decision to grant Tyrone his desperate wish. What a duet! The theater doesnt get more poignant.
8. SIX DEGREES OF SEPARATION (Gorilla Theatre, 2008). The real subject of John Guares beautiful play is the need for human connection to belong, to be respected, appreciated, loved. When the character Paul comes into the lives of Louisa and Flanders Kittredge, they rush to his assistance because hes a friend of their children and a son of Sidney Poitier. Then they find out that hes scammed them; but instead of being insulted, Louisa realizes that Pauls case requires empathy and pity. Nancy Cole directed brilliantly, and Ami Sallee Corley stood out in a large and talented cast.
9. SHINING CITY (Stageworks, 2009). In Conor McPhersons deeply moving work, Richard Coppinger was superb as a middle-aged man drowning in a sea of quiet desperation. As played by the fearless Coppinger, John was Everyman and -woman, every confused, uncertain human who ever fumbled a grand occasion, failed to accomplish a dream, aimed for satisfaction but only managed foolishness. Working with him were the skillful Glenn Gover, Dahlia Legault and Slake Counts. But even with their help, this was Coppingers show and further evidence of his capacious talent.
10. THE CHAIRS (Stageworks/Gorilla Theatre, 2005). The theme of the play, said Ionesco in a letter, is nothingness. And in fact, The Chairs is the ultimate modernist drama, all about the impossibility of speaking, of listening, and therefore of theater. Anna Brennen incisively directed her actors to show an almost microscopic command of detail, and R. T. Williams cockeyed set could have been conceived by Picasso. Seldom has an artist been so skeptical about art as was Ionesco; and too seldom have local theaters brought us work by the Head Absurdist. This show was masterful.
And thats it for the decade. I dont know why, but I have a feeling that the next ten years will be even better. Support local theater! And Ill see you inside.