We explored trends in indie crafting and took a look at examples of handmade items featuring such favorites as wood grain, moustaches and bacon.

Look forward to lots more artsy-fartsy shenanigans in 2010; with literally thousands of crafters to meet on Etsy.com, I’ll never be short on material. (Steph Calvert)

In February, Rude Guerrilla Theater Co., the politically charged Santa Ana troupe that made my life a touch more exciting the past 12 years, announced it was closing. Cue sad music. But, in December, a phoenix rose from the ashes: The Monkey Wrench Collective, consisting of some of the more prominent former guerrillas—notably my Weekly colleague Dave Barton—signed a lease at a storefront on Harbor Boulevard in downtown Fullerton. It produces its first show, Mark Ravenhill’s Pool: (no water), in late January.

The Chris Hawk paddle-out on Nov. 1
John Gilhooley
The Chris Hawk paddle-out on Nov. 1

But even though there was a dearth of sexually depraved and intellectually charged material this year with Rude Guerrilla’s absence, there were plenty of things on local stages to crow about.

Great productions: The Seagull at the Chance Theater; Around the World in 80 Days at the Laguna Playhouse; Reefer Madness at the Maverick Theater; The Merchant of Venice by Shakespeare Orange County; and Noises Off and You, Nero at South Coast Repertory.

Fantastic performances: Melanie Gable in The Seagull; Brenda Kenworthy in Love and Money (Rude Guerrilla); Brian Kojac in Richard III (STAGEStheatre); Jennifer Lyon in Noises Off; Mike Martin in Reefer Madness; Ryan Miller in One Flea Spare (Hunger Artists); Michael Nehring in Merchant of Venice; and Nick Ullett in Saturn Returns (SCR).

But the greatest achievement in local theater in the final year of the aughts was on the boards of a space not even located in the county, but pretty damn close: California Repertory Co.’s (the graduate program of Cal State Long Beach State) spellbinding take on Festen, David Eldridge’s mother (and father) of all incest plays. Director Joanne Gordon’s staging was as fine as these eyes have seen in 15 years of observing local theater. It was a masterful debut in the troupe’s new space aboard the Queen Mary. (Joel Beers)

Want to escape the dreariness for art’s mind-emptying tranquility? Good luck.

Even the briefest survey of shows that I reviewed over the past year tells us the zeitgeist is a poltergeist.

As the Second Law of Thermodynamics moves us toward oblivion, all of these artists and galleries—for all the bleakness of much of the subject matter—made life just a bit more bearable: Hibbleton Gallery’s “Charming Decay” set the tone for the year, and it’s been gloriously downhill from there. UC Irvine’s Beall Center for Art and Technology encouraged my distrust of technology, as monsters and their human variations ruled at Muzeo. World of Warcraft hacked and slashed its way through Laguna Beach; the Orange County Museum of Art sat us passively in front of provocative screens large (and small), while Carlos Amorales’ webs waited to snare us. Revolutionary death was alternately mourned and exalted at Grand Central Art Center, and even trees are threatening in Keith Noordzy’s work at the Box Gallery.

Steve Elkins’ humanist photographs spot beauty where you’d least expect it at Hibbleton, while Arthur Taussig exposed Middle America’s idiocy at Irvine Fine Arts Center. Tattoo artists showed their sensitive sides at the Light Gallery. The sham of “fine art” got bitch-slapped at Grand Central, and Rembrandt urged us to spare that dime for the poor at the Bowers Museum. Then, at the Box, Jophen Stein dove into the surreal without leaving social concerns behind. (Dave Barton)

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