Criticalrant Best Choices 2017: Theatre in N.TX/OK Region

Top Production of 2017: Richard III at Trinity Shakespeare Festival. Directed by Stephen Brown-Fried. Starring Blake Hackler. Amy Peterson photo

Best of 2017? DFW fosters a diverse, vibrant theatre community with more talent expanding its depth and range every year. Many interesting roles for women in 2017…. Despite the focus on harassment issues and the #MeToo paradigm shift, DFW theatre trends towards more parity in male/female engagement. It’s always easy to recall an array of fine male performances (better and bigger roles, in more shows). This year the outstanding women’s performances jumped out at me first. A one-woman show easily became the most remarkable performance of the year, in a class of its own. Among my list of top ten shows, women wrote and directed three. I don’t judge art by a gender quota. These are the productions that stand out in my estimation, and I applaud the artists involved, female and otherwise.

My list selection criteria: Is the play or musical performance well crafted, artistically satisfying, with resonance for today? How well does the production honor the playwright’s intent, and does it take me on a unique journey that satisfies my heart, intellect and soul? Does it challenge me to think about life in some new way? Do production elements create a unified reality? Does the acting inform the play’s themes and come from a place of honesty? Will I recall moments from the production for years to come?

Really alive in 2017: Two solo productions stand out for their creative power, uniqueness and capacity to represent our region boldly to the national scene.

Sherry Jo Ward in Stiff at FIT 2017, Risk Theater Initiative

  • 1) Sherry Jo Ward’s personal revelation, Stiff, at Festival of Independent Theatres, produced by Risk Theater Initiative, directed by Marianne Galloway. Ward’s performance had the most affecting emotional impact of the year. Touring in 2018 to Galveston, Austin, St. Louis and more. https://criticalrant.com/2017/07/18/the-serendipity-of-sugartits-stiff-at-fit17/
  • 2) Bren Rapp and Joey Folsom’s Lenny Bruce Is Back, by Sam Bobrick and Julie Stein. Rapp and Folsom presented this irreverent solo work featuring Folsom as the incendiary comic revived from the grave for one last acerbic stand-up show in a tour that started in Dallas in August 2017, playing in non-traditional comedy and burlesque venues. So far it’s hit Big D, Fort Worth, Los Angeles, New York City and Chicago. More to come. Tours come to DFW, right? This national tour originated here. Folsom spellbinds as Lenny Bruce. Directed by Nathan Autrey. Check out Lenny Bruce Memorial Foundation (lennybruce.org) https://criticalrant.com/2017/08/10/devils-return-joey-folsoms-lenny-bruce/

    Joey Folsom as Lenny Bruce in Lenny Bruce Is Back, national tour by Rapp and Folsom

Top Productions of 2017:

  • 1) Richard III, Trinity Shakespeare Festival (TSF), directed by Stephen Brown-Fried
  • 2) Original Man, The Ochre House, written and directed by Matthew Posey
  • 3) Adding Machine, Theatre Three, adapted from Elmer Rice’s1923 play, by Jason Loewith and Joshua Schmidt, directed by Blake Hackler
  • 4) Hair, Dallas Theater Center, by Ragni/Rado/MacDermot, directed by Kevin Moriarty
  • 5) Burns, A Post-Electric Play, Oklahoma City Repertory Theatre, by Anne Washburn
  • 6) Waiting For Lefty, Upstart Productions, by Clifford Odets, directed by David Meglino
  • 7) Ruined, Echo Theatre, by Lynn Nottage, directed by Pam Myers-Morgan
  • 8) Grounded, Second Thought Theatre, by George Brandt, directed by Alex Organ
  • 9) The Occupant, WingSpan Theatre, by Edward Albee, directed by Susan Sargeant10)
  • 10) Lear, Prism Movement Theater with Theatre Three, adapted by Katy Tye

Top performance by a female actor: Quinn Coffman in Original Man (The Ochre House)

Quinn Coffman in Ochre House’s Original Man

Outstanding performances by female actors: Christie Vela in The Necessities (Second Thought); Jenny Ledel in Grounded (Second Thought) and Pride & Prejudice (Water Tower); Constance Gold Parry in The Occupant (WingSpan Theatre); Kris Schnitzke in Mr. Burns, A Post-Electric Play (CityRep): Marianne Galloway in Lear (Prism Movement Theater); Denise Lee in Ruined (Echo Theatre); Lynn Blackburn, Kelsey Milbourn, Sarah Rutan and Krista Scott in Richard III (TSF)

 

Top performance by a male actor: Thomas Ward in Adding Machine (Theatre Three)

Thomas Ward in Adding Machine, Theatre Three

Outstanding performances by male actors:

Marcus Stimac in Original Man (Ochre House); Blake Hackler in Richard III (TSF); J. Brent Alford in Richard III (TSF); Montgomery Sutton in Measure For Measure (TSF); Van Quattro in Waiting For Lefty (Upstart Productions); Paul Taylor in Mr. Burns, A Post-Electric Play (CityRep) and Solstice (Theatre Three); Justin Locklear in Original Man (Ochre House); Bob Hess in Mr. Burns, A Post-Electric Play (CityRep) and Pride & Prejudice (Water Tower); Derek Whitener in Little Shop of Horrors (Fire House Theatre); Carson Wright in Stand-Up Tragedy (Jasso/Carrazana)

 

Emerging youth talent: Alex Duva (Igor in the Plano Children’s Theatre production of Young Frankenstein, directed by Morgan Southard)

Alex Duva in Young Frankenstein at Plano Children’s Theatre

 

Top Touring Production: The King and I, Lincoln Center Theater Production, by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein, directed by Bartlett Sher, ATTPAC Broadway Series

I want to thank personally all the responsible, caring, creative individuals in this arts community who bring so much joy to the stage while living their lives as honorably and honestly as humanly possible while neither showing off their junk nor grabbing anyone by the genitalia without permission.

Respectfully yours, Alexandra Bonifield

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