M. E. Warren’s Theater Picks

In the spirit of hope that the new year will bring good things, let me recall only the best of what I saw on Orange County stages in 1993.

Best show, hands down: “Saltimbanco” (Cirque du Soleil, Costa Mesa, February). From the first glimpse of the big top--an enormous spaceship of fabric pinioned into the concrete of the South Coast Plaza mall parking lot--I knew I was in for an otherworldly adventure, and I definitely was not disappointed. Every aspect of this breathtaking spectacle of light, sound and movement was an awe-inspiring tribute to the amazing capacities of the human animal. The incredible feats of strength and grace created their own time and place and captured the imagination as only truly great theater can.

Best direction: Tony Reverditto of Way Off Broadway in Santa Ana. Not only did his personal directing talents shine in the troupe’s production of “Greetings” by Tom Dudzick (November-December), but the whole thrust of this interesting and tenacious organization is powered by Reverditto’s energy; Way Off Broadway begins and ends with him. He is patiently building a loyal company of artists and an audience that keeps coming back for more of his offbeat theatrical tastes.

(“The Way Off the Wall Comedy Night Greatest Hits” will be presented tonight at 9 at the Way Off Broadway Playhouse, 1058 E. 1st St., Santa Ana. $25. (714) 547-8997.)


Best performances:

Denise Poirier in “Bedroom Farce” by Alan Ayckbourn (the Laguna Playhouse, Laguna Beach, March). Poirier created a hilariously anguished character as the love-starved, neurotic Susannah.

Anne West in Noel Coward’s “Private Lives” (GroveShakespeare, Garden Grove, April-May). West transformed Sybil, a notoriously secondary role, with her abundant humor and sympathetic humanity.

Best ensemble: “The Hot l Baltimore” by Lanford Wilson (Garden Grove Community Theatre, March). A cast of 14 directed with sensitivity by Michael Ross made a party of Wilson’s ongoing train-wreck of humanity. The setting was bare bones, but there was plenty of flesh in the performances.


Best costumes:

Abel Zeballos for Moliere’s “Tartuffe” (Alternative Repertory Theatre, Santa Ana, April-June). Rendered in pristine drifts of white cotton with lace and trim, the costumes made the characters appear as if they had left their overclothes on the bed and had come out in their undies--a delicious comment on the veneer of respectability so easily punctured in the play by the scoundrelly Tartuffe. And Tartuffe’s shocking leather jock strap get-up, complete with tattooed buttocks, was the one genuinely anarchistic moment of the production.

Ted Giammona for the GroveShakespeare “Private Lives.” Precise and witty, in perfect keeping with the play.

Best all-around design: Philip Silver, Louis Guinand and Ann Curtis for “Aspects of Love” by Andrew Lloyd Webber (Orange County Performing Arts Center, Costa Mesa, June). Silver’s set, Guinand’s lighting and Curtis’ costumes created an atmosphere of windblown delicacy and palatial decadence in gorgeous, ultra-chic black and white. The visual design elevated the melodrama toward magic. (Of course, with all its resources, the Performing Arts Center can push the envelope scenically like nobody else in the county).