Dec 29, 2005

From John Denver to Kaufman & Hart

It’s time for a year-end list, don’t you think? For me, the year was split pretty neatly in half between the two coasts, so it’s hard to think of this all as one. Accordingly I've split this list of everything I saw in 2005 in half. I think this is everything, though not all my L.A. programs seem to have made the move intact, and a certain website no longer has a functional theater review archive (its initials are BS). When I get a chance I’ll take a moment to consider my favorites, and possibly my least favorites, at some length. For now I’ve simply bolded the titles of shows that stood out as exceptional in one way or another. Looks like I had a better year of theater out West, but hope springs eternal for 2006. (Note: I've made four updates to the New York list.)

NEW YORK (August-December)
Almost Heaven: Songs of John Denver at the Promenade Theater
Anathemaville at the Gene Frankel Theater
The Ark at 37 Arts
Ashley Montana Goes Ashore in the Caicos... or What Am I Doing Here? at the Flea Theater
The Audition at the Wings Theatre
The Banger's Flopera at the Barrow Arts Center
Belly of a Drunken Piano at the Huron Club at Soho Playhouse
Bingo at the Theater at St. Luke's
But I'm a Cheerleader at the Theater at St. Clements
The Color Purple at the Broadway Theatre
Dear Dubya: Patriotic Love Letters to at the Brick Theatre
The Eisteddfod at the Ontological Theater
A Fiddler on the Roof at the Minskoff Theatre
Glengarry Glen Ross at the Jacobs Theater
Hercules in High Suburbia at the Mazer Theater
Holy Cross Sucks! at Ars Nova
In the Continuum at the Perry Street Theater
Isabelle and the Pretty-Ugly Spell at the Lion Theatre
Klonsky and Schwartz at the Ensemble Studio Theatre
The Last Two Minutes of the Complete Works of Henrik Ibsen at Ace of Clubs
The Lightning Field at the Flea Theatre
Love Sick at the Access Theatre
Measure for Measure at St. Ann's Warehouse
Motke Thief at University Settlement Theater
A Naked Girl on the Appian Way at the American Airlines Theatre
Nerds at the Samuel Beckett Theatre
The Odd Couple at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre
Primo at the Music Box Theatre
Richard Cory at the Lion Theatre
Seascape at the Booth Theatre
See What I Wanna See at the Public Theater
Shakedown Street at the Village Theatre
Silence! at the Lucille Lortel
A Soldier's Play at the Second Stage
Spirit, Improbable at the New York Theatre Workshop
Surviving David at the Flea Theatre
Sweeney Todd at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre
Thick at Collective: Unconscious
A Touch of the Poet at Studio 54
The Trip to Bountiful at the Signature Theatre Company
Two Gentlemen of Verona at the Public Theatre
Uncle Jed's Barbershop at the Theatre at St. Clement's
Uncle Sam's Satiric Spectacular at the Players Theatre
Waiting for Godot at the Theatre at St. Clement's
Walk Two Moons at the Lucille Lortel
Wild Women of Planet Wongo at the Samuel Beckett Theater
The Winter's Tale at the BAM Harvey Theater
The Woman in White at the Marriott Marquis
You Wanna Piece of Me? at Ace of Clubs

Accomplice at the Colony Theatre
Acme Love Machine at the Acme Comedy Theatre
Angels in America at the NoHo Arts Center
Anna in the Tropics at the Pasadena Playhouse
Big River at the Ahmanson Theatre
Bus Stop at the Fremont Centre Theatre
Chicago at the Pantages
The Comedy of Aerosmith, Troubadour Theatre Company at the Falcon Theatre
The Contract at the Hollywood Court Theatre
Don Quixote: Which Was a Dream at City Garage
Doubt at the Pasadena Playhouse
Dust at Company of Angels
Echo’s Hammer at the Boston Court
Electricidad at the Mark Taper Forum
Eyes for Consuela, SegWAY Theatre Project at the State Playhouse
Finer Noble Gases at Sacred Fools
Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said at the Evidence Room
The Gary Plays, Padua Playwrights at the Electric Lodge
Gaveston at the Celebration Theatre
The Goat or, Who Is Sylvia? at the Mark Taper Forum
A Good Soldier at the Odyssey Theatre
Happy End at Pacific Resident Theatre
Henry IV, Part1 x 4, Classical Theatre Lab at Fiesta Hall
If Only at the Globe Playhouse
Imelda at East West Players
Ivona the Princess of Burgundia at Sacred Fools
Julius Caesar at A Noise Within
Killer Joe at Gardner Stages
The King and I at the Pantages
The Knights of Mary Phagan at Theatre 68
The Last Five Years at the El Portal Theatre
A Long Bridge Over Deep Waters, Cornerstone Theater Company at the John Anson Ford Amphitheatre
Lydia in Bed at Theatre of NOTE
Mall America, Theatre Neo at the Stella Adler Theatre
Medal of Honor Rag at the Egyptian Arena Theatre
Medea at the Boston Court
Melancholy Play, Echo Theatre Company at the Hayworth Theatre
A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Knightsbridge Theatre
The Misanthrope, Circus Theatricals at the Odyssey Theatre
Monster at the MacGowan Little Theatre
Mother Courage and Her Children, Antaeus Theatre Company at the New Place Theatre Center
My Uncle Sam at Sacred Fools
A Naked Girl on the Appian Way at South Coast Repertory
Neurotica at the Hudson Guild
Never Tell at the Elephant Theatre
A New War at Theatre 68
The Nina Variations at Company Rep
Oklahomo! at Third Stage
Once on This Island at the International City Theatre
The Orange Grove, Playwrights Arena at Lutheran Church of the Master
A Pair by Molière: The Wise-Ass Women and The Man-Hater at Fiesta Hall
The Pink Dress at the Japanese American National Museum
Play Without Words at the Ahmanson Theatre
The Possession of Mrs. Jones at the Zephyr Theatre
Ragtime, Musical Theater West at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center
Roar of the Crowd at Theatre 40
Roberta, Musical Theatre Guild at the Alex Theatre
Room at the Met Theatre
Ruthless! at the Hudson Theatre
San Fran Scapin, Andak Stage Company at the New Place Theatre Center
Sleuth at the Falcon Theatre
The Smoke and Ice Follies at the Road Theatre
Songs for a New World at the Rubicon Theatre
Stuff Happens at the Mark Taper Forum
The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife at the Laguna Playhouse
Tea at International City Theatre
They Shoot Mexicans, Don’t They?, About Productions at the Luckman Intimate Theatre
The Threepenny Opera at the Open Fist Theatre
Up From the Downs, Watts Village Theatre Company at the LA Design Center
Venus in Orange at the Victory
Waving Goodbye, Syzygy Theatre Company at the Los Angeles Theatre Center
The Wonder Bread Years at the Hermosa Beach Playhouse
Yellowman at the Fountain Theatre
You Can’t Take It With You at the Geffen Playhouse

Dec 23, 2005


I write from Valparaiso, Ind., my sister's house, where I just pored over the Chicago Tribune's "On the Town" section. Michael Phillips is now apparently a film critic there, with Chris Jones handling lead theater critic duties and Kerry Reid, formerly a Back Stage West stringer, handling smaller offerings (like a production of Sheila Callaghan's Crumble).

I'm sure all these stories are easily accessible online but I have limited time on my brother-in-law's laptop, so I'll simply link this feature and tell you to watch this space for a review of one of the finest things I've yet seen in the New York area -- a lovely end to another freelance year. UPDATE: Here it is.

Dec 20, 2005

Then It's War!

I've made the walk across the Brooklyn Bridge a number of times, and it makes for a lovely jaunt. But now it will be necessary.

Dec 19, 2005

Christal Clear

My American Theatre feature on another L.A.-to-NY transplant, costume designer Christal Weatherly, is up here.

Dec 16, 2005

Good Old Reliable Nathan

Indeed he's about all that's particularly good or reliable in the new film. My review here. (My take on the L.A. production a few years ago here.)

Dec 13, 2005

Politically Correct

My review of the Bread and Puppet Theater's new show is here.

Dec 8, 2005

A Spot of O'Neill

My review of the bracing, mostly excellent new Broadway production of A Touch of the Poet is here.

Dec 7, 2005

So This Is Why I'm Here

To review a show like this.

Onward and Upward

Well, it's official: Don Shirley will leave the LA Times as of Jan. 16, 2006. He tells me he's feeling "very upbeat" about the future. And Bob Dowling (pictured above), longtime Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of The Hollywood Reporter, just announced his departure.

Don is a trusted colleague, fellow native Arizonan, and, dare I say it, something of a friend, and his body of knowledge about the L.A. theater culture (and the LA Times culture) will be missed at the town's paper of record. He could be prickly in print but he's always been unfailingly kind in person. Bob was a mentor to me at Back Stage West, which shared the floor with THR for its first five years, then merely the same building, and as the boss of my boss I felt he understood what I was doing, and what my little upstart team had built at BSW, better than anyone in the company.

These two don't have much in common except that they've loomed large in my professional life, and I wish them both all the best in the next chapter of their publishing careers.

Dec 6, 2005

Linney & Foote

Two new productions about which I'm admiring but lukewarm: Romulus Linney's play about poet Delmore Schwartz, and the Signature's so-so revival of Horton Foote's masterwork.

Dec 5, 2005

Two Helpings of Crow

So Britney will not give to Charity after all. (Nifty new BackStage site, by the way.)

And while I've heard nothing new on the Don Shirley front, one scribe who's taken the LA Times early buyout is none other than pop "music" critic Robert Hilburn (hat tip to LA Observed). I've been on the record deploring Hilburn's "criticism," though I've almost always found his reporting relatively astute and dogged (even if it, too, is generally overawed and studded with book-report prose). We look ahead to brighter days at L.A.'s beleaguered flagship daily.

Dec 1, 2005