January 6, 2011 | 12:23pm
Back in the days when water was clean, love was worth it and nothing but unlimited promise beckoned on the horizon, OC Weekly used to host an annual OC Weekly Theater Awards. Launched in 1997 in order to celebrate the best theatrical accomplishments of the previous year, the affair evolved from a modest group of people celebrating at a Laguna Beach restaurant into a huge party (free food! free booze!) that drew some 200 thespians (and thespian-lovers) to South Coast Repertory's Mainstage Theater in 2006.
But that was then--this is now. And the best we can do for the Year In Theater 2010 is a cyber-post that applauds those souls and productions that were able for even an instant to draw the blue from the most cynical of a theater critic's eyes (thanks to Ellis Paul for that line).
Note: This list is comprised of shows only witnessed by the eyes attached to these fingers. For another Best of 2010 list, check out LA/OC Arts Examiner Jordan R. Young's post here.
Julia Cho's The Language Archives
But the play with the most substance? Hell, all of the ones listed were two to three hours well- spent. But there were two that absolutely floored me. And perhaps its no surprise that I see relationships as a minefield, with love as a concept by which we measure our pain. Both plays were inextricably linked to the most powerful and mysterious of human emotions. You can take a look at my reviews below:
The Language Archive, South Coast Repertory
"Even more remarkable is that [playwright Julia] Cho chooses the vast and impenetrable, but wholly ubiquitous, canvas of love to craft her tale. For The Language Archive is as much about love as it is about words. Every character is either falling in or out of love, wrestling with how to communicate that love or spiraling into despair or soaring in glory over love.
This isn't some sappily romantic puppy-love story, however. There is an undeniable pragmatism to the piece: As exciting and electrifying as love can be, it's also fraught with fear and longing. What truly elevates Cho's play is that her characters don't represent just one aspect of love's spectrum; each of them instead embodies multiple aspects, making them as complicated, confused, joyous and fearful as the participants in any love affair, anywhere, any time.
Ultimately, what Cho seems to say is that love does possess its own language, a language as difficult to master as any. It must be learned, honed and practiced, otherwise it grows stagnant and expires, like any other. But unlike a solely spoken language, love carries with it an unspoken quotient. It's felt as much as expressed. And while words have been used since time immemorial to champion and trumpet love, as well as the express its unfathomable pain, they're still not enough to fully capture the feeling of being in, or falling out, of love." (From the April 8 review in OC Weekly)
True Love Lies, Monkey Wrench Collective
"True Love Lies doesn't say anything new about human relationships, sexual or otherwise. They're just hard. Always have been, always will be, whether that relationship is between two lovers, a husband and wife, or parents and children. Like anything meant to last, they must be built brick by brick and worked on to prevent from collapsing. But when those bricks are built on a suspect foundation, as they are in the marriage in True Love Lies, it doesn't take much to topple them.
There are no black hats or whites in this play, just people struggling for something authentic in a world filled with disappointments and distractions. People who choose, for whatever reason, to play certain roles at certain times because they desperately need to reconcile their private passions with social norms. Decisions are chosen, compromises made and, on some level, fingers are crossed in hopes that the latest costume is the one that will fit the best for the longest time.
A key line illustrating that comes early in the play, when the job-seeking Madison tells her mother she's changing her top for her latest interview. Her mother asks why, and Madison replies, "Adulthood involves way too many different outfits."
For sure. (From the July 22 review in OC Weekly)