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Top Ten

The Year on Stage

Hedda Gabler, Dickens of a Carol, Misalliance, Picasso at the Lapin Agile and Other Great Performances

Heada Steam: Deborah Hazlett and Bruce R. Nelson come to grips in Everyman Theatre's powerful Hedda Gabler.

Top Ten 2003

The Year in News O'Malley vs. Ehrlich, Public Housing Segregation Trial, Computer Voting, Baltimore's Primary Election, and More

The Year in Quotes Bon Mots by Joy Martin, Martin O'Malley, Keiffer Mitchell, Miss Maryland and Others

The Year in Film Another year, another intro essay bitching about the past 12 months of cinema...

The Year on Television So now it's official, there are two kinds of television: the kind you watch, and the kind you gawk at...

The Year in Music Jay-Z, Little Brother, OutKast, Stephen Malkmus, The White Stripes and more

The Year in Local Music Urban Ave 31, DJ Debonair, Misery Index, Lungfish, Richard Chartier and more

The Year in Art "Work Ethic" at the BMA, "Imperfect Innocence" at the Contemporary, Performance Video at UMBC, and Other Remarkable Shows

The Year in Books The Cadaver Industry; a Meditation on Race, Music, Family and Postwar America; Growing Up in the Bronx, and More

The Year on Stage Hedda Gabler, Dickens of a Carol, Misalliance, Picasso at the Lapin Agile and Other Great Performances

The Year in Food Grilled Sardines, She-Crab Soup, Spicy Tuna Tartare, Pierogi and Other Memorable Morsels

Posted 12/17/2003

1

Hedda Gabler, Everyman Theatre Theater is a tricky beast. One misstep--a bad casting choice, stilted direction, awkward sets--can destroy the illusion. But when it all comes together, it's truly magical. Everyman Theatre created one of those fairy tales with its production of Henrik Ibsen's Hedda Gabbler. A flawless cast (led by an alternately wicked and deeply human performance by Deborah Hazlett in the title role), brisk direction courtesy of Vincent Lancisi, sumptuous sets, and a fresh adaptation of the late-19th-century work all came together for a pitch-perfect rendition. Combining both the humor and the horror of Ibsen's tale, the production made for this year's most satisfying theatrical experience. (Anna Ditkoff)

2

A Dickens of a Carol, Baltimore Shakespeare Festival The Top 10 theater list was finished when we stumbled upon the Baltimore Shakespeare Festival's A Dickens of a Carol, but after seeing it we realized that it deserved a spot. This one-man show, written by Kimberley Lynne and performed by Baltimore Shakespeare Festival artistic director James Kinstle, blew us away. The story revolves around Charles Dickens as he wrote A Christmas Carol and interweaves the infamous tale with stories from Dickens' own life. It's an absolute treasure for literature lovers and a welcome antidote to all the cutesy kid-centric theater that is foisted upon us this time of year. Read all about it on page 51. (AD)

3

Misalliance, Center Stage An onstage plane crash was just one of many spectacular moments in this delightful revival of George Bernard Shaw's 1909 play. Shaw's famous epigrams received pitch-perfect articulation from an impeccably acted and directed ensemble. Particularly delicious was Natalija Nogulich as Lina Szczepanowska, the Polish gymnast-cum-aviator who casts a wickedly funny spell on this garden party. Would that many more such felicitous collisions of social upheaval, secret affairs and devastating wit fell out of the sky and onto our stages. (Gadi Dechter)

4

Picasso at the Lapin Agile, Theatre Outback, Howard Community College Dead-on casting and crackerjack performances turned this Steve Martin-penned spurious history spoof into a fun evening out. The comic-cum-playwright places Picasso and Einstein in the same Parisian bar at the cusp of their stellar careers. High art and big thoughts meet low comedy and fart jokes. And it works. Wild-haired Michael Avolio looked just like last century's pre-eminent egghead, while Maboud Ebrahimzadeh made Picasso randy and rakish. Michael Wood's crazed, kinetic depiction of vainglorious nobody Charles Dabernow Schmendiman iced this slick, witty cake. (Brennen Jensen)

5

The Dazzle, Rep Stage The local premiere of Richard Green-berg's meditation on legendary pack rats Langley and Homer Collyer was a definite highlight of the season, as much for Bruce Nelson's dazzling performance as for Greenberg's gorgeously written script. Nelson's ability to coax charm and empathy from a character so helplessly self-absorbed as the disposophobic Langley was a genuine tour de force, regrettable only in that he upstaged everyone else. But Kasi Campbell's tight staging kept Greenberg's hyper-realistic words flowing, even as the stage became increasingly cluttered with the detritus and debris of Manhattan that would eventually suffocate his characters. (GD)

6

The New America, Top Floor Theatre The Top Floor and its resident dramatic assemblage Company 13 debuted last year with the promise of bringing brash, unafraid theater to sleepy Hamilton. The New American, the one-man show de force written and performed by Company 13 co-founder Paul Diem, did this claim proud. Diem deftly delivered a Whitman's Sampler of contemporary, Home of the Brave citizens, clever, probing, and often damn funny. Moving from level to level of a jumbled set made from 20th-century jetsam, Diem explored our nation's obsessions with sex, drugs, rock 'n' roll, and lots of stuff in between. At the close of the show, one theatergoer was heard to say, "That was as good as anything I've seen at the downtown theaters." That person was right. (BJ)

7

Ben Franklin Unplugged, Theatre Project By the end of Josh Kornbluth's Ben Franklin Unplugged, no one knows who Ben Franklin was, and even if they did, they wouldn't want to meet him. The old lecher, the cruel father, the American revolutionary, and the amateur scientist all merged into one great patriarchal white whale, and Kornbluth was in hot pursuit, emotional baggage in tow. In this fascinating one-person pilgrimage, Kornbluth spent two hours filling the stage with his ghosts, his insecurities, his mentors, and, of course, his Ben Franklin. But this Ben Franklin was nothing like the Ben Franklin we've all heard about. (John Barry)

8

The Real Inspector Hound/ The Mystery at Twicknam Vicarage, Fells Point Corner Theatre A double bill of murder-mystery parody proved that the Fells Point Corner Theatre remains an important anchor of downtown theater. Alex Willis' production of Tom Stoppard's popular parody-within-a-parody nailed almost all the jokes, and was bolstered by Rich Espey's hilariously exuberant performance as the minister and Carlos Del Valle's equally funny lunatic Latin lover. The evening was topped off by David Ives' silly whodunit spoof, which would have been merely diverting, except that you couldn't take your eyes off of Espey, who once again stole the show. (GD)

9

My Children! My Africa!, Everyman Theatre Everyman Theatre's powerful production of Athol Fugard's My Children! My Africa!, set in 1985 South Africa, looked at first like it might drag on. But two hours later, we weren't ready for it to end. Frederick Strother deftly played Mr. M, a teacher who encourages two high-school students--Thami, a popular black student (Lance Williams), and Isabel, white and middle class (Megan Anderson)--to debate one another. For a brief moment, it seemed that these three would go far together. But soon, the triumvirate started to fall apart, the disintegration made vivid not just by the fine acting but by the sense that, for all their virtues, the characters never really got to know one another. The actors never lost sight of the tenuous link, and if occasionally they came off like stage stealers, it was because the stage was theirs to steal. (JB)

10

Three Sisters, Fells Point Corner Theatre The Fells Point Corner Theatre production of Anton Chekhov's Three Sisters didn't come with a laugh track, but it didn't lose itself in a collective swoon either. There were moments of dead air and bursts of melodrama, potholes that are tough to avoid in Chekhov. But when the cast--spearheaded by the titular sisters, Olga (Katherine Lyons), Masha (Cherie Weinert), and Irina (Virginia Hess)--hit its stride, it made for an energetic, intense production that succeeded at a difficult task: showing three women, each one unhappy in her own way, but each with her eyes focused on the same unattainable goal--Moscow, happiness, and love. (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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