If theater truly is dead, then there was one hell of a wake Monday night at South Coast Repertory: the eighth annual OC Weekly Theater Awards. Approximately 200 folks jammed into SCR's jewel box of a theater, the Julianne Argyros stage, and clapped, laughed and drooled during the award ceremony. Then they got drunk.
This Rita Renee-directed play about the effects of the Vietnam War on six women took on added resonance since it was staged right as the U.S. was blowing through Iraq. One year later, we're still there, and you have to wonder how many young men and women are deep into the same scarring transformations as the characters in Shirley Lauro's play.
Beane, who played a handful of roles in the Hunger Artists' updating of Gogol's The Inspector General, threw herself headlong into each, particularly her Bible-thumping director of schools, whose libidinous subtext reeked of Ashcroftian censorship and sexual repression.
Best Performance, Musical
Mark Palkoner, Sweeney Todd
As the eponymous Barber of Fleet Street in the Hunger Artists' production of Stephen Sondheim's bloodthirsty musical, Palkoner was both tragically sympathetic and deliciously evil—and he warbled like one big-ass canary as well.
Couldn't choose one, so we opted for two. Barton's much praised Rude Guerrilla production of Mark Ravenhill's gritty piece was a fitting culmination for the wholly visceral course he's charted for his company. Shannon C.M. Flynn's direction of Sweeney Todd turned the Hunger Artist's small industrial park space into a pungent slice of 19th century England.
In our original review of the Laguna Playhouse's production of this comedy, we called Thomas' performance of Marion Davies, an actor and William Randolph Hearst's mistress, "absolutely terrific." Nothing since then has convinced us otherwise.
Most compelling about Beane's portrayal of Beckett's comic tramp Estragon in the Insurgo Theater Movement's Waiting for Godotwas his ability to convey earnest hopelessness; as much as his character might want to hang up his boots and plod into nihilism, Beane showed an endearingly optimistic core.
See Best New Production for our take on Jones' exquisitely crafted play.
Sweeney Todd, The Hunger Artists
Haven't we raved enough about this one?
The Taming of the Shrew, Insurgo Theater Movement
Russ Marchand's clowned-up take on Shakespeare's immortal battle between the sexes required actors who could wrap their mouths around the Bard's words—and their bodies around the production's demanding physicality. He got both in one of the funniest shows to grace a local stage last year.
The Intelligent Design of Jenny Chow, South Coast Repertory
Helped immensely by David Chamber's usually brilliant direction, Rolin Jones' intricately composed and sharply written play received a production that was every bit as worthy. It was a deliriously giddy comedy on one hand but also a knock-you-on-your-ass domestic drama on the other. It was painfully, poignantly real and bizarrely surreal. It was also the most entertaining, as well as thought-provoking, play of the year.
Chance Theater, The Angel and The Fiend
Our award for the biggest set of collective theater balls this year went to the Chance Theater for The Angel and The Fiend, Anthony Penrose's play about Lee Miller, the muse of the Surrealist movement. Chance co-founder Erika Ceporius Miller played Miller—who was her grand-aunt. Meanwhile, Miller's real-life husband, Oanh Nguyen, directed the piece. The play was a hit, and last time we checked, Miller and Nguyen were still married.
stepped into the breach numerous times last year, serving as last-minute replacements for actors who were either hospitalized, suffered personal tragedies or just dropped out of shows, which, last time we checked, must go on.
For 25 years, Laffoon's interactive theater company has visited tens of thousands of people, ranging from terminally ill children to battered women, while his drama-therapy workshops and plays are devoted to issues from peer pressure to abusive relationships. Our hats are off.