Aurora Theatre Company celebrates Tennessee Williams’s 100th birthday with his lesser-known Summer and Smoke rewrite, The Eccentricities of a Nightingale. Y’all can head on over to today’s Marin IJ to see what I thought of it.
Some days it’s all you can do just to hold it together, and sometimes every day is like that. That’s the feeling one gets from Minneapolis playwright Allison Moore’s latest comedy, Collapse, which plays Aurora Theatre in a National New Play Network rolling world premiere that will subsequently play Curious Theatre in Denver and Kitchen Dog Theater in Dallas in different productions. Collapse was one of the plays read last season as one of the finalists in Aurora’s Global Age Project new works initiative, and is the second GAP play to go on to a main stage production at the theater.
Here we are pretty much back where we started on this blog, with my Top Ten list of my favorite shows for the year. It was awfully hard to whittle the 126 shows I saw this year in the Bay Area down to ten, which is probably a good sign: that’s a far better problem to have than not being able to think of ten good ones. I limited myself to shows that actually opened in 2010, which disqualifies shows like Ann Randolph’s hilarious monologue Loveland that otherwise would be high on my list. Most links are to my original reviews earlier in the year, and the shows are more or less in order of preference.
Alice Childress’s play Trouble in Mind feels both very much of its time and ahead of it. First presented off-Broadway in 1955, a month before Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat to a white passenger in Montgomery, it’s full of the energy of the early days of the Civil Rights Movement, the sense that something has to change.
There’s a lot of talk in the theater community about how to bring in younger audiences, and one pretty natural way would seem to be to do plays that appeal to the young’uns by being about them. Of course, just because a play has teenage characters, like Grease or Brighton Beach Memoirs, doesn’t mean they’re going to resonate with teens. I’m stacking the deck by using those examples because they’re period pieces, but it’s a common pitfall for plays by adults about teens to come off as nostalgia pieces or condescending, no matter when they’re set. It’s something that certainly can be done well, but more often it’s not.
Aurora’s first main stage production to come out of its annual Global Age Project new works series, Joel Drake Johnson’s The First Grade isn’t at all what the title or the set might lead one to expect. Nina Ball’s scenic design is themed around a first grade classroom, with a hand-printed alphabet banner, inspirational posters on the wall and lockers that look drawn in crayon or chalk. Wall panels rotate to form a kitchen interior or the exterior of a house.
Top Ten Theater Productions of 2009
Although I started 2009 reviewing theater for one paper and ended the year reviewing for another, when I look over the list of the 108 shows I saw over the course of the year to determine my top ten, I realize that none of my favorite shows are ones that I actually reviewed. Those respective papers have space, money and geographical constraints, and it just happened that there was no overlap between the shows in my review docket and those in this year’s top ten.