On Theater: The year in professional theater

This is the first of three columns reviewing the year 2012 in local theater.

Apart from the touring productions at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, professional theater is represented locally by South Coast Repertory, which has been producing in our area since 1965, and the Laguna Playhouse, more than 90 years old but an Equity theater for just the past two decades.

As 2012 approaches its final curtain, this column takes its annual backward glance at the highlights of the year in professional theater. With each of the "best production" and "best actors" accolades, a quote from this column's review is offered.


South Coast Repertory

BEST PRODUCTION: "Elemeno Pea" by Molly Smith Metzler, directed by Marc Masterson ("…may be the funniest show you'll see all year, an outlandish treatise on class warfare that'll have you chuckling all the way home.").

RUNNERS-UP: "Absurd Person Singular," directed by David Emmes, and "Jitney," directed by Ron OJ Parson. Honorable mention to "How to Write a New Book for the Bible," directed by Kent Nicholson.

BEST ACTORS: Charlie Robinson in "Jitney" ("…as masterfully interpreted by Charlie Robinson, Becker explodes into a fervent fury.") and Linda Gehringer in "How to Write a New Book for the Bible" ("…it is, as might be expected from this actress, a superb performance.").

RUNNERS-UP: Larry Bates for "Topdog/Underdog," Katrina Lenk for "Elemeno Pea" and both John Kapelos and Nike Doukas for "The Prince of Atlantis."


Laguna Playhouse

As for the Laguna Playhouse, the top production of 2012 remains on the playhouse's stage through Dec. 23. The year's highlights at the Laguna Playhouse:

BEST PRODUCTION: "Plaid Tidings," written and directed by Stuart Ross ("...the celebration of pre-rock '50s harmonic music beautifully conceived and created by Stuart Ross … is bringing audiences to their feet … the ultimate theatrical holiday treat.").

RUNNERS-UP: "The Marvelous Wonderettes: Caps & Gowns," written and directed by Roger Bean, and "Tickled Pink" by Rita Rudner, directed by Martin Bergman.

BEST ACTORS: Emma Fassler in "Tickled Pink" (…Fassler hits all the right notes in an exemplary performance") and Dan Fenaughty in "The 39 Steps" ("…Dan Fenaughty establishes the show's breakneck pace....").

Runners-up include RUNNERS-UP: Justin Flagg and Justine Bennett for "Lonesome Traveler," Maripat Donovan for both "Sister's Easter Catechism: Will My Bunny Go to Heaven?" and "Ask Mrs. Honey B., Certified Life Coach," Rudner for "Tickled Pink," Denise Fennell for "Ask Mrs. Honey B.," Misty Cotton and Bets Malone for "The Marvelous Wonderettes," Larissa Klinger for "The 39 Steps" and the four-man cast of "Plaid Tidings."

This was the cream of the crop in local professional theater during 2012. In two weeks, the spotlight will shift to the highlights of local community and college theater.

TOM TITUS reviews local theater for the Daily Pilot.

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