Welcome Kristoffer Diaz' 'Arroyo's' and
another Fountain premiere for Fugard

Even with our "select" sampling of Southern California theater, 2010 had more than its share of successful new plays and musicals. Revivals we saw were less remarkable, but we still have much to celebrate.

For world premieres the top honors go to Welcome to Arroyo's by Kristoffer Diaz, a production that introduced us to both a new play and a new writer. Though New York audiences already knew Diaz for The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Diety, that play would not make it here for another year, arriving the Geffen Playhouse in. Ironically, that play would not land as impressively for us as did this one, which subtly dug deeper into theater traditions to break from them and, in doing so, make a more emphatic call for understanding and change. On his own blog, Diaz called the play "hip-hop theater with a traditional narrative structure, a love song to the Lower East Side, and the single play that (even more than Chad Deity) explains who I am and why I am."

For musicals there was the ambitious Venice at the Kirk Douglas Theatre. Pilloried by the critics, I still liked it, as narrative missteps were easily forgiven for the force and drive of the music, staging, and performances, led by Matt Sax, Erich Bergen and Angela Wildflower Polk. There were two Hershey Felder shows, celebrating the music of George Gershwin and Leonard Bernstein, staged, respectively, at the Laguna Playhouse and Geffen Playhouse, his two championing L.A. area venues. The top honors, however, go to the master, Stephen Sondhein, and an impressive production at Chance Theatre.

On the subject of musicals, it should be noted that Open Fist Theatre gave us a good look at Tom Stoppard's Rock 'n' Roll, another brilliant work from the visionary Czech-born Englishman.

Theatertimes Rearview Trophy

Our favorite revival benefits from deja vuing. George Bernard Shaw's Misalliance was a big hit for South Coast Repertory when I worked there as Public Relations Director in 1987. The incomparable I.M. Hobson, an actor equally adept at slapstick silliness and Shakespeare command, had set the bar high for Dakin Matthews, as had the earlier cast for its 2010 roster. Matthews and company, which included Kirsten Potter, JD Cullum, and Melanie Lora gave Director Martin Benson a superb revival that, on its scenic recreation of

In the acting areas, Annika Marks made an indelible mark in Wendy Graf's Behind the Gates, as the tormenting teen who leaves her unappreciated privilege for the confining orthodoxy of strict Judaism in Israel. Her opening monologue won raves and help launch her subsequent film and television career. Ed Harris, the biggest star seen all year by me, gets the 'mirror' not for his celebrity but for the masked delicacy of his portrayal of the twisted mourner in Neil LaBute's Wrecks at the Geffen Playhouse. Harris' performance, in which he takes advantage of the intimate Skirball theater to make constant eye contact with the audience, carefully leads us into a world of tender love and devotion that existed outside the limits of social taboo.

These personal citations of appreciation are intended to be made each January for the just-concluded year and are based the opinion of Theatertimes' lone critic. They may salute a landmark production that is seen as historic or simply note an individual achievement, even if it came in an otherwise forgettable production.

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PREMIERE: 'WELCOME TO ARROYO'S' by Kristoffer Diaz | The Old Globe

REVIVIAL: 'MISALLIANCE' by George Bernard Shaw | South Coast Repertory

MUSICAL: 'MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG' Stephen Sondheim and George Furth | Chance Theatre

DIRECTOR: LARRY BIEDERMAN The Autumn Garden | Antaeus Theatre Company

FEMALE LEAD: ANNIKA MARKS Behind the Gates | Marilyn Monroe Theatre

MALE LEAD: ED HARRIS Wrecks | Geffen Playhouse

FEATURED FEMALE: ADRIANE LENOX Harps and Angels | Mark Taper Forum
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FEATURED MALE: JOHN WALCUTT The Clean House | Odyssey Theatre

SET DESIGN: BRIAN SIDNEY BEMBRIDGE The Good Book of Pedantry and Wonder | Theatre @ Boston Court


LIGHTING DESIGN: KEN BOOTH The Train Driver | Fountain Theatre

SOUND DESIGN: JOSHUA HORVATH Venice | Kirk Douglas Theatre

HIGH BEAMS: KAREN LANDRY Special award for 'Loyalties' | Pacific Resident Theatre


Anton in Show Business / X Repertory Theatre

The Autumn Garden / Antaeus Theatre Company

Becky Shaw / South Coast Repertory

Behind the Gates / Marilyn Monroe Theatre

Clean House / Odyssey Theatre

Cousin Bette / Antaeus Theater Company

Crimes of the Heart / South Coast Repertory

Dual Citizens / Odyssey Theatre

The Female of the Species / Geffen Playhouse

FDR / Pasadena Playhouse

George Gershwin Alone / Laguna Playhouse

The Good Book of Pedantry and Wonder / Theatre @ Boston Garden

Great Expectations / A Noise Within

Harps and Angels / Mark Taper Forum

In a Garden / South Coast Repertory

In the Next Room, or, The Vibrator Play / South Coast Repertory

The Language Archive / South Coast Repertory

The Lion in Winter / Shakespeare Santa Cruz

Love's Labour's Lost / Shakespeare Santa Cruz

Love, Loss and What I Wore / Geffen Playhouse

Loyalties / Pacific Resident Theatre

Maestro-The Art of Leonard Bernstein / Geffen Playhouse

Merrily We Roll Along / Chance Theater Company

Misalliance / South Coast Repertory

The Road to Mecca / San Diego Repertory

Rock 'n' Roll / Open Fist Theatre

Ruined / Geffen Playhouse

Supernova / Elephant Theatre Company

Through the Night / Geffen Playhouse

The Train Driver / Fountain Theatre

Venice / Kirk Douglas Theatre

Welcome Home, Jenny Sutter / Chance Theatre Company

Welcome to Arroyo's / The Old Globe

Wrecks / Geffen Playhouse

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