Best of OC

Best Of 2010


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Best Of :: Arts & Entertainment

Best Place to See a Play at Night
The Festival Amphitheatre

This is home to Orange County's lone classically based theater troupe, Shakespeare Orange County, which, as the name implies, is all about the Bard. So it's fitting that artistic director Thomas F. Bradac and his dedicated troupe of longtime company members and constant influx of talent from Chapman University (where Bradac is an associate professor of theater) possess the most bucolic venue in the county to strut their stuff. The 500-seat theater, surrounded by towering sycamore and ponderosa pines, opened in 1981. In 2004, Shakespeare OC moved in and has produced some 15 shows there, along with special events. It's also used by a few community organizations. But it's when the company is hosting one of Shakespeare's plays that it feels most alive. Which makes sense, at least to Bradac. "Well, Will's plays were written for the outdoors, except for a few at the end of his career, and the language and theatricality of the plays just work wonders outside. They're not as stuffy and pretentious as people think Shakespeare 'should' be—especially when you're wearing shorts and enjoying libations or having a picnic."

12762 Main St., Garden Grove, 92840
Best Book About to Be an Oliver Stone Movie

A former private eye, Winslow is a prolific writer, and with Savages, his fast-moving screenplay posing as a novel, it's easy to see why. You can whip through this Laguna Beach tale of love, pot and murder in just a few hours, and it's not hard to imagine Winslow wrote the thing in a day or so—with maybe a couple of caffeine breaks along the way. Once you get past the idiosyncratic introduction—the narrative temporarily bogs down when Winslow explains the etymology of a series of weird nicknames for his protagonists—the story steams along at breakneck speed. The fun begins when our heroes, an idealistic entrepreneur of high-grade marijuana and his ex-Navy SEAL partner (both of whom are in love with a disaffected, diminutive surfer chick), receive an e-mail from Mexico showing the decapitated heads of several dealers who refused to sell their business to the cartel. The book's title hints at a violent ending, but the twists along the way will keep you guessing.

Best Local Anthology

The latest in Akashic Book's geographically specific crime noir series, Orange County Noir contains some of the most sublimely paced, suspenseful, often-hilarious crime writing to come out of this county. The book starts strong with "Bee Canyon," Susan Straight's mythical tale of a rock-throwing vagrant who haunts motorists in the foothills near Santa Ana. There's an amusing story of a theme-park worker dismissed for stalking a young girl who then puts his gumshoe skills to work for the supervisor who fired him. The job: spying on the ex-boss' cheating wife. Or, at least, that's the narrator's story, and he's sticking to it. Like any good noir collection, the book is heavy with double and triple crosses involving crooked judges; dirty cops; con artists; washed-up, paranoid rock stars; and, of course, jazz musicians. For local readers, the book is even more of a hoot, thanks to all the timely hooks and authentic details—OC Weekly even makes a cameo.

Best Indie Film Theater
UltraStar's Ultraluxe

Surely you've encountered a film that, within the first 10 minutes, has made you think, "Jeepers, this would be so much better if I were drunk." (You haven't experienced the full potential of Twilight until you've watched it while double-fisting.) At UltraStar's 14-screen theater tucked in the back of the GardenWalk retail-and-entertainment complex near the Disneyland Resort, you can turn that wish into a reality. The cinema includes a lounge that serves beer and wine and screenings that are 21-and-over. That's right: No crying kids while you get your drink on in the theater's comfy leather recliners. You can also relax between flicks in the lounge, which offers board games that can be great icebreakers on frosty first dates. If you slide in there around 9:30 p.m., you can snuggle up to your date before a faint glimpse of the Disneyland fireworks through the panoramic windows. Until August, the theater space had been operated as CinemaFusion by Newport Beach-based Sanborn Theatres, but that location went bust. UltraStar, a San Diego-based chain with 131 screens in Arizona and Southern California, came to the rescue, bringing with it Pure Digital Cinema technology, "the most-advanced motion-picture-projection technology available." On the way are D-BOX motion seats that use codes specifically programmed for each film to synchronize seat movement with onscreen action, "creating an immersive moviegoing experience." Whoa, a couple of brews, a box of Mike and Ikes, and a shaky chair—what more could you possibly want? UltraStar is also out to attract more than drinkers, with discount days (movies cost $6 all day on Tuesdays and Thursdays), Parent Movie Morning, Baby's Night Out, Kidtoon films and more. The theater is also the site of the inaugural Anaheim International Film Festival (running Oct. 13 to 17).

321 W. Katella Ave., Anaheim, 92802
4245 Campus Dr., Irvine, 92612
Best Freeway Banner

While a previous generation of Orange Countians had Rock 'n' Rollen Stewart (a.k.a. the guy in the rainbow wig holding a sign reading, "John 3:16"), our most prominent folk-evangelical statement is that one cargo container in a group parked in a lot on the side of the 55 freeway south, between the Edinger and Warner avenues, exits. You've seen it before: The banners draping the cargo container change throughout the year—Harvest Crusade, Crystal Cathedral events, Calvary Chapel happenings, or a simple "JESUS SAVES"—but the Christian outreach is always clear (although most commuters probably doubt the existence of the Almighty when they take the 55 North later in the afternoon).

Best Play
<i>The Producers</i>, Maverick Theater

Okay, so, no, this mounting of the ridiculously popular musical based on Mel Brooks' 1968 film that wowed them on Broadway and all over the country in a nationally touring production wasn't profound, meaningful, important or relevant. But while snooty theatrical purists—and even people who just really like really good musicals (which this one really isn't)—can roll their eyes all they want: Director Brian Newell and his sensationally talented cast and stellar production crew staged a frenetically entertaining ride. The energetic cast was spot-on from the leads and main supporting characters to the ensemble, and the production values were top-notch. Newell and his theater have staked a unique niche in Southern California for their screen-to-stage adaptations, many of which incorporate cinematic flourishes such as videos. This one was a straightforward production of a big-scale musical and showed that even conventional theater is well within the Maverick's wheelhouse.

110 E. Walnut, Fullerton, 92832

Best Place to See a Play at Night: The Festival Amphitheatre


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