In order of preference:

1. "A Bright Room Called Day," Cypress College (March). A rare staging of Tony Kushner's superb early play about Weimar Germany was college theater-making at the highest level.

2. "Tartuffe," Shakespeare Orange County, Orange (August). Ron Campbell was a brilliant amalgam of Rasputin and a coyote-trickster in one of this company's wiliest and smoothest productions.

3. "La Posada Magica," South Coast Repertory, Costa Mesa (December). The L.A. area's most original Christmas show, Octavio Solis' updating of the posada tradition delivers both holiness and salsa.

4. "The Blue Beetle," Stages Theatre, Anaheim (June). Roger Freeman's sendup of comic book superheroes was affectionately clever in this hyperactive theater's 100th production in three years.

5. "The Seat of Your Pants," O.C. Crazies Theatre, Santa Ana (July). LizAnne and Nina Arnelli delivered one blast of comic energy after another in an evening of pointedly female comedy.

6. "Sam Shepard One-Acts," Orange Coast College's Drama Lab, Costa Mesa (August). A smart, skilled retrospective of Shepard's raw, wild early plays--and another case of college theater exploring where safer O.C. theaters don't go.

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