Arguably the most important attribute of a director is his or her ability to cast well. On that point, Martin Benson's staging of Arthur Miller's drama about hypocrisy and ghosts from the past was superlative. But just as important when dealing with a recognized classic is a director's ability to make a play we've all seen, read or heard about feel as vibrant and compelling today as when first performed. This production's honesty and emotional energy forced the audience into a re-examination both of this play and of this country's collective history.
BEST PRODUCTIONAll My Sons, South Coast Repertory
It was tempting to give this award to one of the four other nominees, all of them produced by theaters that don't have the firepower or reputation of South Coast Repertory and all of which mounted fantastic shows: the Vanguard Theatre Ensemble, Rude Guerrilla, Huntington Beach Playhouse or 6 Chairs and a Couple of Artists. But though we tried very hard, our conscience would not allow us, for all the reasons listed above.
How ambitious was the decision to stage Robert Schenkkan's epic play cycle? It spans 200 years and comprises nine one-acts that must be produced in two separate three-hour chunks. Somehow, co-directors Robert Jensen and Daniel Lemieux managed to wrestle all that into a play that was comprehensible and engaging while guiding their very young and very capable actors to mature, fully realized performances. The ultimate compliment? At play's end, our reviewer was ready for six more hours.