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Top Ten

The Year on Stage

Man of the House: Frederick Strother dominated the Everyman Theatre stage as Troy in August Wilson's Fences.

Top Ten 2002

The Year in News The Maryland Lottery announces its relocation to Montgomery Park, a new redevelopment of the... | By Van Smith and Erin Sullivan

The Year in Film It was an absolutely fantastic year for movie lovers of all kinds.

The Year in Music The tail end of 2001 brought out the flag-waving American in almost every musician, but we really...

The Year in Local Music Surely I wasn't the only person in town who read The Sun's Sunday, Dec. | By Bret McCabe

The Year in Books 1 Jonathan Safran Foer, Everything Is Illuminated (Houghton Mifflin) You know a novel is going to...

The Year in Television Two weeks ago, when Roone Arledge --the instrumental TV producer who created such broadcast...

The Year in Art 1Painted Prints at Baltimore Museum of Art Judging from the exhibit's subtitle--The Revelation of... | By Mike Giuliano

The Year on Stage 1Fences at Everyman Theatre A good play is entertaining, but a great play can transport you to...

Posted 12/18/2002

1

Fences at Everyman Theatre A good play is entertaining, but a great play can transport you to another world, sucking you in so completely that only the actors bowing at the end can destroy the illusion. Everyman Theatre's production of August Wilson' Fences was one of those plays. Director Jennifer Nelson and her superb cast brought to life the frustrated dreams an African-American family struggling through the 1950s, letting the character-driven action build slowly, every emotion simmering beneath the surface before boiling over. Frederick Strother gave a commanding performance as the patriarch Troy, making the overbearing character easy to hate but impossible to stay mad at, and the supporting cast--especially Aakhu Freeman and Lance Williams as Troy's beleaguered wife and son--gave beautifully multifaceted performances. Put that together with a gorgeous set that wrapped around the theater, literally enveloping the audience in the play, and you have a show that didn't just show you another world, it took you there. (Anna Ditkoff)

2

And God Created Great Whales at Center Stage In actor/composer/playwright Rinde Eckert's musical drama, a composer with deteriorating memory struggles to complete his opera based on Melville's Moby Dick before his disease takes over. Rinde Eckert as Nathan and Nora Cole as his muse made the perfect duo in a performance that challenged sexual and racial boundaries as it maintained a delicate comic tension. Eckert's musical score embodied the dissonance in the story without descending into cacophony. Whales shouldn't be confused with Moby Dick, but it had an intensity and relevance that could send you back to crack Melville's monster for the first time since high school. (John Barry)

3

Faith Healer at Rep Stage Brian Friel's Faith Healer is made up of four monologues, each one presenting a separate take on the artistic vocation. Faith healer Frank Hardy (Nigel Reed), his wife, Grace (Julie-Ann Elliott), and his impresario, Teddy (Bruce Nelson), have spent more than a decade traveling through tiny Welsh and Scottish villages, promising the crippled and the lame cures for their ailments and addictions. Reed, Elliott, and Nelson managed to turn their four separate monologues into a unified piece. That's not easy to do in any play; this trio, supported by director Kasi Campbell, managed to develop their relationships without ever appearing onstage together. Friel didn't make things easy for them, and the Rep Players delivered. (JB)

4

Diary of Anne Frank at Audrey Herman Spotlighters Theatre Community theater is so frequently half-assed--one good actor is surrounded by a bunch of lackluster ones, a director who has one good idea but lets the rest of the play languish. The Spotlighters' production of The Diary of Anne Frank avoided these pitfalls. Using an adaptation by Wendy Kesselman that portrayed the Franks and the other inhabitants of the annex not as saints but as warts-and-all people living in horrifying times, director John Sadowsky created a powerful and thoroughly engrossing play that rarely dropped the ball. And the Spotlighters' cramped stage proved a perfect setting for a play about people trapped in a tiny space. Sadowsky added to the effect by never allowing his actors to leave the stage, even at intermission, creating a tension so palpable that, even in a play this familiar, the audience was often at the edge of their seats. (AD)

5

Belle of Amherst at Rep Stage When Tana Hicken played Emily Dickinson in this Rep Stage production, she filled the stage with invisible characters from the poet's inner and outer worlds. Hicken navigated these alternating moments of ecstatic intensity and girlish chatter from the poised perspective of the 56-year-old Dickinson, capturing the fascinating mix of personalities of an older woman who is intensely emotional as an individual but coolly detached as an observer of life. Lighting and background shifts accompanied tonal shifts throughout the evening, but director Donald Hicken wisely kept his distance, leaving Dickinson's imagination as the appropriate guide for the sometimes thrilling, sometimes dangerous journey of a pilgrim who charted unexplored worlds without leaving her room. (JB)

6

Puppetmaster of Lodz at Performance Workshop Theatre Company Gille Segal's two-act play (translated from the French by Isabelle Sanche) is the wrenching, sometimes funny, and haunting story of a Holocaust survivor. It's about burying the dead, dealing with the wreckage, and moving on. Director Marlyn Robinson's production of Puppetmaster of Lodz both entertained and delighted; it just didn't do it in ways you might expect. Marc Horwitz as the tortured puppetmaster was funny and heart-wrenching. With an excellent supporting cast, his character took a nightmarish scenario and turned it into a human drama. (JB)

7

A Delicate Balance at Everyman Theatre With largely immobile characters headed toward an obvious apocalypse, Edward Albee's A Delicate Balance runs the risk of mixing gray intervals of social comedy with sudden bursts of absurd rants. But Everyman's accomplished actors avoided this by allowing the wave of terror to build gradually in their intense, understated production. There was humor and plenty of solo soul-bearing, but throughout you got the sense that the most dramatic moment took place long ago, when characters were sentenced to solitary confinement in the black box of the American middle class. (JB)

8

Habeas Corpus at Vagabond Players The Vagabond Players gave Alan Bennet's farce the energetic, camp performances it required--complete with sly asides to the audience, occasional bursts of song and dance, and an avalanche of below-the-belt jokes. Arthur Wicksteed (Michael Stryer) was a splendidly slimy impresario of middle-age raunchiness guided by one overweening ambition: using his doctor-patient privilege to get the buxom young Felicity Rumpers (Elisabeth Ogrin) out of her garters and into his bed. Chaos erupted around him at the staid Wicksteed home as it disintegrated into a madhouse of undersexed, underclothed colleagues, patients, and family members, who all seemed to have become lackeys of their nether regions. (JB)

9

Parade at Fells Point Corner Theatre For Baltimore's theater enthusiasts, Parade began Fells Point Corner Theatre's 2002 season on a high note. Both director Bill Kamberger and his 35-member cast pooled limited resources to tackle a complex musical--about the 1913 mob lynching of Leo Frank--in which songs and drama were elaborately interwoven. So the musical had some great numbers, but it also had the impact of an intense, and sometimes funny, play. Fortunately, lyricist Jason Robert Brown avoided turning Parade into a politically correct tearjerker. In the tradition of his mentor, Stephen Sondheim, he ratcheted up the dark humor, which he used to create a colorful confederacy of misfits: good, ol' boys, Southern-belle wannabes, corrupt politicians, Bible thumpers, crusty Civil War veterans, chain gangs, and, at the bottom, blacks and Jews. (JB)

10

Putting It Together at Theatre Hopkins Once you accepted the fact that Stephen Sondheim's revue/extravaganza was a casually framed, unfocused retrospective, it was easier to sit back and enjoy. Theatre Hopkins offered an excellent ensemble performance. Peter Crews and Liz Boyer Hunnicutt shared a wonderful chemistry as a couple negotiating their ways through regrets, infidelities, and middle-age crises. Lauren Spenser-Harris played a sort of younger counterpart to Hunnicutt's character in a bravura, predatory style. In the end, Theatre Hopkins brought a joyful puckishness to Sondheim's cynical worldview. (JB)

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The Year In Tracks (12/15/2009)
. . . just in the case the album really is dead.

The Year in News (12/9/2009)

The Year in Movies (12/9/2009)

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