David Dodd 2:53 a.m., May 21
Reviewing a year of theater on deadline's like trying to take the pulse of a lion on the move. Omissions come to mind immediately. Here are a few:
TOM STEPHENSON. What a year he had! In Cygnet's radio version of A Christmas Carol he played a different kind of Scrooge. Instead of a penny-pinching, old Victorian codger, Stephenson was a 1940s CEO, three-piece suited and above the law. When this Scrooge discovers his humanity at the end, if only for a moment, Stephenson made our country's financial crisis seem doable.
I wrote that over the years I've seen more productions of A Christmas Carol than any other play. Maybe dozens more. The second most? Probably Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. Actors usually make Bottom, the weaver-turned-thespian, an unlettered bumpkin. As he did with Scrooge, Stephenson went a different way. His Bottom - one of the most imaginative I've ever seen - was a dilettante. He knew just enough about theater and acting to be dangerous. He had the impulses but not the acumen - in effect a comic, even loveable snob.
INTREPID SHAKESPEARE COMPANY'S A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM. Stephenson was part of a fine ensemble cast in this do-wop musical version. Owing to a nagging infirmity, I was had to miss the opening and ended up catching the night before it closed. Add to that: my niece (who teaches drama) was in town with her husband and two sons (ages 12 and 9). After a long day at the zoo and Sea World, the boys looked to be unrelenting squirmers even before the curtain rose.
Not so. They loved the show, everything from the music (which sounded to their 2012 ears as a foreign language) to Colleen Kollar Smith's sprightly choreography, and the updated staging that filled the evening with humor.
I had a great time too. It was so polished and assured. Looking back a reason stands out. For once I got to see a show at the end of its run, far from the stress and endemic weirdness of opening night, on stage and in the audience, when so much is at stake. The show hadn't just settled in, you could see trust in the performances, and the kind of nuances discovered along the way. And a joy in the doing.
THE CAST FOR GOOD PEOPLE A THE OLD GLOBE. In a top flight ensemble cast, actors don't merely contribute to the whole. Each is foremost among equals and a team player. If just one were less so, the quality would suffer.
David Lindsay-Abaire's blunt comedy's a tale of two Bostons: blue-collar, four-letter word South Boston, and high-toned Chestnut Hill. Director Paul Mullins encouraged his actors to give themselves over completely to their characters, even to the almost completely unlikeable ones. So Eva Kaminsky played Margie, a single parent with a "challenged" child so desperate for a job she'd say, even do, anything. And Robin Pearson Rose's vile, hilarious Dottie spouted one politically incorrect jibe after another as if each were a fiery truth and she were Zeus on high. Ditto Carol Halstead, as Jean, whose curses could rival a stevedore's. On the other side, Nedra McClyde was an epiphany of Chestnut Hill elegance, who could break down all boundaries if need be.
I wish I could see Midsummer and Good People again, to study how the actors worked so well together. I couldn't the first time. I was too engrossed in what they were doing.
TONY HOUCK BRINGING THE SNACKS AT DIVERSONARY. One of the year's genuine show-stoppers. In Harmony, Kansas, gay men meet for "poker night," an excuse to gather apart from their homophobic surroundings. And Darrell always brings the snacks, which he unveils as if designer gowns. When Julian, an unsuspecting newcomer, offers chocolate cupcakes to the group, Darrell (Houck) becomes LIVID. "I Bring the Snacks," he sings, setting the record straight forevermore.