It was the best of times
In some cases, it was also the worst of times. A look back at the year in local theater and art
Published: December 30, 2010
Best Bets: The Mad Cow and Orlando Shakespeare theaters continue to offer the highest caliber of professional theater in town. Two of my favorite shows this past year were Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead at Mad Cow and All’s Well That Ends Well at Orlando Shakes (directed by the theaters’ artistic directors, Alan Bruun and Jim Helsinger, respectively). With Bruun exiting his spot as Mad Cow’s head honcho, it remains to be seen whether the company will continue to maintain its premier status.
Best Bets, redux: With its 21st anniversary retrospective, Theatre Downtown proves that it still can compete with the pros. Frank Hilgenberg’s ability to stage competent productions on a shoestring budget with amateur talent (only in the paying sense) is a testament to his tenacity and producing-directing skills.
Most Missed: The Orlando Theatre Project, a professional theater company that spent 24 years putting on shows in Central Florida, staged its last production in 2010. The departure left a hole in the theater community, still unfilled.
Most Likely to Succeed: The Garden Theatre in Winter Garden serves up its own shows and also hosts homeless companies’ productions. Jay Hopkins’ mounting of The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged) was a hoot. If the depressed economy doesn’t kill it, the theater should be around for many more years.
Most Inventive: John DiDonna, in addition to being the most peripatetic auteur in town, continues to be its most inventive. His Halloween show, Phantasmagoria, was a theatrical treat.
Least Inventive: Theatre Downtown’s Lend Me a Tenor made the mistake of playing the farce as a comedy of words rather than a madcap rollercoaster ride.
Best Series: Mad Cow’s Cabaret Festival continues to score with its intimate evenings of vocal pyrotechnics.
Longest-Running Series: I’ve attended every Orlando Fringe Festival since its inception, and I’m never disappointed. The Fringe is a theatrical gem in our city’s cultural crown.
Best Show with a British Theme: Brandon Roberts and Brad dePlanche in Orlando Shakespeare’s The 39 Steps, proved what prodigious clowns they are, giving Orlando’s reigning funny man, Philip Nolen, a run for his money.
Worst Show with a British Theme: Conversely, Chaps, a Jingle-Jangle Christmas, at the Shakes, offered a cast of Americans trying to sound British, trying to sound American, all in order to sing a bunch of cowboy songs.
Best Political Drama: The gritty production of Top Dog/Under Dog, at Mad Cow.
Worst Political Drama: Mad Cow’s The Cradle Will Rock, wasn’t badly staged, but its “workers of the world unite” message was lost on a beaten-down and co-opted proletariat who lost its will to fight against corporate malfeasance decades ago.
Best Revival: Alan Sincic and Brett Carson in an independent production of Waiting for Godot showed why Beckett’s bleak comedy still resonates.
> Email Al Krulick and Richard Reep