The Year in Theater

The Greeks, the geeks, the freaks, the dualistic representations of the Argentine distaff underclass--all the best of Twin Cities drama circa 2005

 

4. OEDIPUS

Guthrie Theater

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.

 

2. ANTIGONE

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:

Brooklyn Bridge, Children's Theatre Company, Louisa Thompson

The Women of Troy, Frank Theatre,
John Francis Beuche

As You Like It, Guthrie Theater, James Noone

The Flies, Bedlam Theatre, Brad Dahlgaard

A Cupboard Full of Hate, Off-Leash Area,
Paul Herwig

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,
Marcus Dilliard

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

Linda Kelsey and Marvette Knight, in Going to St. Ives, Park Square Theatre

Ron Menzel, in Pericles, Guthrie Lab

Carena Crowell, in Iphigenia, Ten Thousand Things

Camille D'Ambrose, Allen Hamilton, in Honour, Jungle Theater

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.

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