(Steven Leigh Morris’s article appeared in LA Weekly, 12/22; Brad Schreiber’s picks were posted on the Huffington Post, 12/29.)
Here's our list of the best experiences on the L.A. stage this year:
10. If you don't believe in L.A. theater as an incubator, consider the good reviews John Fleck's solo show Mad Women is getting in New York (it opened earlier at the Skylight in Los Feliz), or Anthony Sacre's solo comedy story of his marriage and career, The Next Best Thing, which took home the Best Storyteller prize at New York's United Solo Theatre Festival after premiering at this year's Hollywood Fringe. Or Stephen Sachs' Bakersfield Mist, which, after playing for months at the Fountain Theatre, has been optioned for productions in London's West End and in New York.
9. The Getty Villa deserves mention for its programming of ancient Greco-Roman or Greco-Roman-influenced works, such as Anne Bogart's staging of Trojan Women (After Euripides) for her SITI Company (adapted by Jocelyn Clark), in its Malibu amphitheater. The play had a stylish earnestness that teetered on melodrama, but it hasn't escaped my memory.
8. The Broad Stage in Santa Monica was another credible presenter, from Peter Brook's Spartan staging of Beckett (Rockaby) and Dostoyevsky (The Legend of the Grand Inquisitor) to F. Murray Abraham's nicely modulated Shylock in The Merchant of Venice.
7. The California International Theatre Festival wended its way in from Calabasas to the Los Angeles Theatre Center. Good to see another producer of solid international fare, though less dynamic than much of the work at REDCAT and Radar L.A., and there are still some curatorial issues for this growing, promising enterprise.
6. Darin Dahms was a director of note, at Theatre of NOTE, for a memorably exotic production of B. Walker Samson's new play, Alceste. A spin on the myth of Euridice in the underworld, both play and production were goofy and elegiac in their pleasingly upside-down questioning of love, and sacrifice for the one you love.
Margo Veil, Odyssey Theatre Ensemble
Bart DeLorenzo directs masterfully Len Jenkins's almost indescribable, thrillingly inventive science fiction-noir mystery. DeLorenzo has assembled actors from his excellent Evidence Room brethren here, including Dorie Barton, Tom Fitzpatrick and Lauren Campedelli, in a tale of transferred minds and bodies that, with the elan of sound designer John Zalewski, takes us to places far beyond the confines of the theatre's four walls.
The Method Gun, Kirk Douglas Theatre, Center Theatre Group
The Austin-based Rude Mechs break the fourth wall themselves in grand style, as director Shawn Sides takes Kirk Lynn's text about a supposed group of performers obsessed with a long-missing theatre guru who try to honor her vision of a radically-condensed version of A Streetcar Named Desire. In addition to intergroup squabbles, we're treated to wild theatrical exercises and even a final, touching interaction, based on written audience responses. There is a special method to Rude Mechs's madness.