WOT SENGA’s production of Women of Troy.

Local theater at its best in 2012

By Jenny Lower 12/27/2012

Lists are fun, and dare we say, the best lists are Best Of lists. Here are the shows and performances this year that kept us thinking long past final curtain call.

Skyway Playhouse’s Assassins impressed us with costume design spanning two centuries, from faithful period pieces to delicious retro throwbacks. Elite’s Woman in Black took the cake for best lighting with its eerie blackouts, and High Street’s The Music Man captured River City tranquility with set design featuring streetlamps, storefronts and a snowy-white gazebo.

The Rubicon’s first Spanish-language production, Arístides Vargas’ La Razón Blindada, pushed boundaries on two fronts: it showcased characters whose humanity transcended the language barrier, and it redefined dynamic, vibrant staging by keeping its actors seated throughout.

The young cast of David Ralphe’s Spring Awakening at Simi Valley ARTS blew us away with their foot-stomping energy, raucous rock anthems and lyrical ballads, earning our props for best musical direction, choreography and ensemble.

SENGA’s Women of Troy showcased some of the season’s best female dramatic performances, with standouts from Adrian Bailey as the grief-stricken Hecuba and MiMi Alain as tough-as-nails Andromache. In the kooky musical Assassins, Julie Bermel did an outstanding comic turn as Ford’s scatter-brained, wannabe killer Sara Jane Moore.

Two of the season’s strongest featured male performances appeared in Santa Paula Theater Center’s Elephant’s Graveyard. Taylor Kasch broke our hearts as Big Mary’s handler turned executioner, while Dan Tullis’ deadpan delivery as the town’s Greek chorus raised goosebumps. On the lighter side, John Medeiros united humor and pathos as the awkward childhood friend in Ojai ACT’s Brooklyn Boy.

Our favorite female leads included two very weary spouses, both in Transport productions: Vivien Latham as a gentlewoman wed to a lout in The Provoked Wife, and Linda Livingston as a woman renegotiating delicate marital terrain in Pinter’s The Lover. Ron Feltner, as a conflicted hit man in Transport’s other Pinter play, The Dumb Waiter, and Ronald Rezac, playing a playwright, doctor, and host of other characters in Skyway’s The Laramie Project, were our picks for male leads.

John Vanbrugh’s Restoration comedy The Provoked Wife, directed by Richard Kuhlman, had us rooting for the lovers while cringing at the boorish antics of Sir John Brute. It gains our nod for best laughs. Best overall dramatic production goes to Rubicon’s The Gem of the Ocean, the first play in August Wilson’s Pittsburgh Cycle, directed by James O’Neil. With a phenomenal cast and a set that transformed a parlor into a slave ship, the show captivated from start to finish.

And now, five reasons we can’t wait for 2013: the think-pink, made-from-movie musical Legally Blonde at Simi ARTS in February; an adaptation of the Oresteia trilogy, The Curse of the House of Atreus, at SENGA in April; the return of James O’Neil’s folk journey Lonesome Traveler in May; the sleazebag Producers at High Street in June; and the steamy Weimar-era musical Cabaret at Skyway in July. Who says you can’t beat the post-holiday blues? 

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