On Theater: 'Plaid,' 'Sons,' 'Godot' top local theater

Local stage productions on both the community theater and collegiate levels proved impressive during 2011, with an imaginative musical and a pair of modern classic dramas leading the way.

At the Costa Mesa Playhouse, the 1950s flavored musical "Forever Plaid," directed by Stephen Husley, proved to be the theater's most impressive offering of the year. The Newport Theatre Arts Center set the pace with a strong, involving revival of Arthur Miller's postwar drama "All My Sons," directed by David Colley.

Vanguard University mounted a thought-provoking adaptation of Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird," with Marianne Savell directing, as its top production, while Orange Coast College set the pace with a rousing revival of Gilbert and Sullivan's "The Pirates of Penzance" under the direction of Peter Uribe.

The most resoundingly accomplished show of the year, however, came from UC Irvine. There, Robert Cohen staged an intriguing version of Samuel Beckett's "Waiting for Godot" in the venue rechristened as the Robert Cohen Theater for its director/professor, who's been at UCI as long as UCI has been in Irvine.

Other memorable productions at the Costa Mesa theater were director Jason Holland's mounting of "Steel Magnolias" and Noel Coward's "Blithe Spirit," directed by David A. Blair. Newport's season was spiced by Neil Simon's "Biloxi Blues," staged by Gigi Fusco Meese, and the farcical "25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee," directed by Kari Hayter.

A pair of second leads topped the performance tabulations in community theater during 2011. Jonathan Deroko and Amber Bonasso delivered memorable portrayals in Newport's "All My Sons." At Costa Mesa, Norma Jean excelled both as a leading actress in "The Book of Liz" and in support for "Blithe Spirit."

Other memorable acting achievements at the Costa Mesa Playhouse came from Amanda Hart and Bethany Price for "Steel Magnolias," Paul Griffiths, Danielle MacInnis and Emily Price, all for "Blithe Spirit," and Ron Grigsby and Ed McBride in "The Book of Liz."

A number of performers shone brightly in Newport, including Vince Campbell, Toni Beckman and Christopher Utley, all for "All My Sons;" Julie Ellis and Della Lisi for "The Dixie Swim Club;" Erin McNally and Maxwell Corpuz for "Spelling Bee;" and Mark Kaufman, Alec Malczynski and Nathanial Carpenter, all for "Biloxi Blues."

At Vanguard, Paul Eggington (Atticus) and Danae Hayes Macpherson (Scout) delivered the year's top performances in "To Kill a Mockingbird," while Royen Kent and Rosalyn Brickman also were very impressive as the title lovers in "Romeo and Juliet."

Other notable achievements came from Lucas Moore and Katelyn Spurgin in "Romeo and Juliet," Lucas Moore, Candace Miser-Blanton and Mary Lee Tandy-McGlasson in "The Mystery of Edwin Drood" and the father-daughter team of Michael Fidalgo and Sarah Maresch in "To Kill a Mockingbird."

Rick Golson's major general in "The Pirates of Penzance" topped the list of OCC performances, while Wes Timmons, Leo Martinez and Jessica Slagle also impressed in the same show. At UC Irvine, both Ben Jacoby and Chris Klopatek were brilliant in "Waiting for Godot."

Of all the local stage productions, on all three levels — professional, community and collegiate — two people emerged as especially memorable. They will be announced next week as the Daily Pilot reveals its Man and Woman of the Year in Theater for 2011.

TOM TITUS covers the local theater scene for the Pilot.

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