On Theater: A big year on the small stage

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

Home-grown theater, as practiced by community playhouses and collegiate drama departments, was particularly prevalent during 2012 in the cities covered by this column: Costa Mesa, Newport Beach, Huntington Beach, Laguna Beach and Westminster.

Here, in this summary, are the highlights of the year on community and college stages.

At the Costa Mesa Playhouse, David Auburn's well-traveled "Proof" was the standout production of 2012, under the direction of Michael Serna. Runners-up were Danielle MacInnis' production of "Wait Until Dark" and "The Crucible," directed by John McQuay.

As to individual performances, Darcy Porter takes top honors for her riveting portrayal of a math whiz fearing mental decay in "Proof." Other outstanding depictions were delivered by Rebecca Bollar in "Wait Until Dark," Gordon Carmadelle in "The Crucible" and Michael Dale Brown in "Proof."

The Newport Theatre Arts Center showcased a stellar production of "Art," directed by both Michael Ross and Gigi Fusco Meese, who took over when Ross fell ill. Also impressive were "Ladies in Retirement," directed by Terri Miller Schmidt, and "Pack of Lies," staged by Sharyn Case.

Among the actors, the top performances came from Vincent Campbell in "God's Favorite" and Harriet Whitmyer in "Pack of Lies." Also notable were Valerie Lohman and Tara Golson in "The Crucible" and Ben Green in "Proof."

The musical "Can-Can," directed by Larry Watts, headed the parade at the Huntington Beach Playhouse. Watts' production of "Guys and Dolls" shared runner-up honors with "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee," directed by Austin Peay.

Top performances were those of Adriana Sanchez, both for "Can-Can" and "Guys and Dolls," and Eric Anderson for "Spelling Bee." Also impressive were Ryan Holihan in "Sherlock Holmes — the Final Adventure," Kristen Matson in "Spelling Bee" and Kyle Myers in "Guys and Dolls."

In Laguna Beach, the No Square Theatre staged a superb 20th-anniversary production of "Lagunatics," the annual roast of the coast, directed by Bree Burgess Rosen. Also notable was director Joe Lauderdale's production of "Ruthless."

Tops among the No Square performers was Yvonne Browning in "Ruthless." Charlotte Rubino and Paul Nygro also excelled in the same show.

Another version of "Proof," directed by Lenore Stjerne, took top honors at the Westminster Community Theatre. Another "Spelling Bee," directed by Kirk Larson, and Tom Mynar's production of "Leading Ladies" also shone during 2012.

Golson and John Parker, both performing in "Proof," topped the list of actors at Westminster this year. Also making fine impressions were Garrett Chandler in "Spelling Bee," Laurie Robbins in "Much Ado About Nothin'" and Donna Lee Taylor in "The Hollow."

Turning to college productions, at Costa Mesa's Vanguard University, top honors were earned by "The Servant of Two Masters," directed by Susan Berkompas. Other winners were "The Pajama Game," directed by Vanda Eggington, and Berkompas' production of "The Comedy of Errors."

Jordan Laemmlen, who starred in both "Servant" and "Pajama Game," took top acting honors for the year at Vanguard. Also noteworthy were Donna Louden-White and Bretlyn Schmitt in "Pajama Game" and Preston Butler III for "Comedy of Errors."

In Vanguard's summer-stock American Coast Theater Company, Kevin Slay's production of "The Taming of the Shrew" earned top honors, while its two stars, Berkompas and Paul Eggington, also excelled.

Orange Coast College's production of "The Awesome '80s Prom," directed by Alex Golson, stood at the top of the heap for that school. Also impressive was "The Incredible Murder of Cardinal Tosca," also directed by Golson.

The standout actor at OCC was Rebecca Frechette in "The Awesome '80s Prom." Also notable was Steve Quinn in "Tosca."

Golden West College staged a superior "Cabaret," directed by Martie Ramm, the top production of the year. Also praiseworthy were "You've Got Hate Mail," directed by Tom Amen, and Ramm's production of "Twelve Angry Men."

In the acting category, Christian Navarro led the way with his powerful performance in "Twelve Angry Men." Also memorable were Tony Torrico in "The Servant of Two Masters," Lawrence Hemingway in "You've Got Hate Mail" and Shirley Anne Hatton in "Cabaret."

This wraps up the community and collegiate theater scenes for 2012. Next week marks the conclusion of this year-end summary with the unveiling of this newspaper's annual "man and woman of the year" selections.

TOM TITUS reviews local theater for the Daily Pilot.

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