Slick, visually stark, and deeply cutting. Peter Macon played the title role as a man imbued with greatness yet dogged by his intransigence--in other words, a fully realized, bloody-minded Greek tragic hero. His showdown with, and destruction of, Creon (Stephen Yoakam, the second time these actors squared off on a Twin Cities stage in as many years, the first being 2004 City Pages Top 10 show Blue/Orange at the Guthrie Lab) was probably the most harrowing sequence of the year. Isabell Monk O'Connor added a credibly complex and conflicted Jocasta, and David Zinn's costumes wed the classics to Ziggy Stardust. It's the ultimate detective story, with the gumshoe closing in unknowingly on himself, and this production of it was fittingly gripping.
3. ENTERTAINING MR. SLOANE
The Jungle Theater
Joe Orton's 1964 play about a young rogue who malevolently insinuates himself into a British household, sleazily exploiting a woman and her brother's attraction for him and eventually committing a heinous act, is a dark, ugly thing. What a fine night out at the theater, then, in this playfully depraved production. Justin Kirk returned to the Twin Cities to play the contemptuous, sneering hustler in question, and Sally Wingert was painfully raw and moving as middle-aged Kath. Bain Boehlke returned to the stage with a shaved head--the better to play a doddering old man who earns a clubbing for his clear view of the rot around him. Mr. Sloane, it turned out, actually was very entertaining.
Ten Thousand Things
Emily Mann's new adaptation of Sophocles crackled with rage, emotion, and the ruinous consequences of a "wartime commander" who will "stay the course" despite all evidence that his decisions are ill-considered [polite clearing of throat]. Kate Eifrig in the title role was all unyielding anger to match Bob Davis's power-drunk Creon, though both actors hit perfect notes when the time came for their comeuppance. Sonja Parks as Antigone's sister Ismene plugged into the hot wires of a woman trying to compel her relatives to back down from their craziness, and Ron Menzel's Haemon exuded power in his lay-it-down doomed attempt to make his father come to, well, let's say Zeus.
1. MARIA DE BUENOS AIRES
Theatre de la Jeune Lune
This show ran around the same time Jeune Lune learned that it had received a 2005 Regional Theatre Tony Award--and was a triumph of its own. A tango opera by Astor Piazzola that premiered in 1968, Maria explores the feminine embodiment of the Buenos Aires underclass, in a vector that leads inescapably to the grave. Piazzola's original opera played around with dualities, and in this production Christina Baldwin and Jennifer Baldwin Peden portrayed Maria split into two, a move echoed by the tag-team depiction of her suitor the Spirit Poet (Steven Epp and Bradley Greenwald). The Mandragora Tango Orchestra provided an understated take on Piazzola's compositions to good effect (tip for Piazzola lovers: Violin hero Gidon Kremer released Tracing Astor in 2001, and it is minimal, and beautiful). You walked away feeling as though you had seen sights and heard sounds not soon to be reproduced.
TEN GREAT SETS OF 2005 AND THE
PEOPLE WHO DESIGNED THEM:
As You Like It, Guthrie Theater, James Noone
The Flies, Bedlam Theatre, Brad Dahlgaard
A Cupboard Full of Hate, Off-Leash Area,
A Body of Water, Guthrie Lab, Michael Sims
Pericles, Guthrie Lab, John Clark Donahue
An Empty Plate at the Café du Grand Boeuf, Girl Friday Productions, Steve Kath
Antigone, Theatre de la Jeune Lune,
She Loves Me, Guthrie Theatre, James Youman
NOTABLE PERFORMANCES FROM SHOWS THAT DIDN'T MAKE THE TOP 10:
Stephen D'Ambrose, in An Almost Holy Picture, Pillsbury House
Brian Sostek, in The Mad Dancers, Mixed Blood
James Craven, in Grandchildren of the
Buffalo Soldiers, Penumbra Theatre
Jeany Parkand Sherwin Resurreccion, in Happy Valley, Mu Performing Arts
Megan Gallagher, in The Constant Wife, Guthrie Theater
Ron Menzel, in Pericles, Guthrie Lab
Carena Crowell, in Iphigenia, Ten Thousand Things
Alayne Hopkinsand Edwin Strout, in An Empty Plate at the Café du Grand Boeuf, Girl Friday Productions
Inside the Actor's Diary
Ever modest and democratic, we always seek to let the artists themselves have the last word. At least once a year. And so, in keeping with tradition, we asked a handful of local theater artists, some of whom made work cited above, to recount their most memorable theater-related experiences of the calendar year.
Lou Bellamy,Penumbra Theatre founder and artistic director
Penumbra's Tribute to August Wilson was held on October 26, 2005. Excerpts were read from each play of Wilson's monumental 10-play cycle beginning with Gem of the Ocean and ending with Radio Golf. Wilson's work has become a measuring stick not only of Penumbra's growth in craft, but a reflection of our maturity as human beings and contributing members of society. The complete offering of every ounce of skill and emotion that occurred in some of the readings was astounding. We're talking about actors, directors, writers, etc. working together for 30 years or more on some of the best literature that African Americans have produced. It demonstrated why black theater must and will always be.