The 1999 Okies!

Introducing our nominees for the years best theater!

DIRECTION

David Chambers, Tartuffe, SCR. You can disagree with Chambers' dark, sinister take on Molière's comedy, but you can't fault his bold, masterful staging, which made everyone take a fresh look at an often-produced play. (JB)

Dean Hess, Six Degrees of Separation, CSUF. Hess had everyone tuned to the same frequency in this extraordinary mounting of what will certainly go down as one of the great plays of the 1990s. (BS)

Kelly Flynn, White Trash Privit Lives, Hunger Artists. Sure, he writes for us, but damn it, this deserves to be remembered. Flynn's outrageous tweaking of Noel Coward's Private Lives uncovered some of the inherent cruelty embedded, but rarely revealed, in Sir Noel's play. (JB)

Erin Saporito, Blue Window, Vanguard Theatre Ensemble. In Saporito's sensitive hands, Craig Lucas' 1984 bittersweet play was a deeply moving piece of theater. She expertly guided her talented ensemble through the hazardous waters of their characters' emotional isolation and unhappiness. (JB)

Joann Yarrow, The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, UC Irvine. Yarrow created some of the most stirring theatrical images of the year: the cast stripping down and marching into concentration-camp showers still haunts me. (DB)

COLLEGE PRODUCTION

Deviant Craft, CSUF. Flawed, brilliant, chaotic and vulnerable, this Terry Walcutt-directed production of W. David Hancock's passionate exploration of the fragile yet resilient nature of the human spirit was unrivaled in maximizing the unique power of live theater. (BS) Oklahoma!, UCI. Robert Cohen directed this visually vibrant version of Rodgers and Hammerstein's darkly hued American musical. (DB) The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, UCI. An enthusiastically performed rendition of Bertolt Brecht's anti-Nazi parable, set in gangland Chicago. One of the most ambitious, imaginative and relevant productions of the year. (DB) Six Degrees of Separation, CSUF. A finely polished comic sheen is only one layer of several working simultaneously in John Guare's resonant examination of the social, racial and monetary relationships that both bind and separate us. (BS) The Venitian Physician's Magician, UCI. A smutty, uproarious comedy for people who appreciate humor with their theater history. (DB)

BEST PRODUCTION

Orphans, International City Theatre. Sure, it's Long Beach, but someone's got to applaud this intense production of Lyle Kessler's dark 1983 comedy. Director Elina deSantos and three extraordinarily talented actors lifted this play to the level of the sublime. (JB) Saint Genet, Language of the Wall, Empire Theater. Arthur Hanket's one-man show was a great example of all that can be good about solo performance but so often isn't. Funny, thought-provoking, but above all real, Hanket offered a fresh perspective on both the artist and his art. (KF) Tartuffe, SCR. In staging, costume and character, the standard Tartuffe equation was stood on its head in this bizarre, provocative mounting, easily the soberest Tartuffe in recent memory. (JB) Twelfth Dog Night, Troubadour Theatre Company, Grove Theatre Center. A 10-foot man? A 350-pound woman? The music of Three Dog Night? And Shakespeare's Twelfth Night? Somehow, it all worked perfectly, proving once again that you can't take this many liberties with Shakespeare unless you've got your dramatic shit together. (KF) Two Sisters and a Piano, SCR. Nilo Cruz's new play was brought to vibrant life by a remarkable cast that found rich veins of passion, eroticism and genuine pathos in the playwright's story of repression in Castro's Cuba. (KF)
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