It was a year of comfort plays, with sturdy dramas dating from the first half of the 20th century--North Shore Players' The Scarecrow (1911), Apple Tree's Anna Christie (1921), Remy Bumppo's Holiday (1928), Broutil And Frothingham's The Mousetrap (1952), TimeLine's Awake And Sing (1935), and Writers Theatre's Rocket To The Moon (1938). The year also featured a number of productions tailored to specific environments (no swimming pools, though). And 2002 saw Raven Theatre re-open after lying dormant for two years, while Hellcab retired to the garage after a decade-long run.
Contrary to my predictions at this time last year, few brave-boys-in-uniform melodramas saw light in 2002. But some productions addressed the complexities of our times:
Indian Ink (Apple Tree Theatre) and The Royal Hunt Of The Sun (The Journeymen): Imperialism, cultural genocide, academic myopia and exotic locales--all argued in dense intellectual detail by Tom Stoppard and Peter Shaffer. But the multi-ethnic ensembles united by directors Marc E. Lococo and Frank Pullen after diligent searching carried it off with ease.
Holiday (Remy Bumppo) and The Dazzle (Steppenwolf): Never have wealth and status been more encumbering than in Philip Barry's argument for individual freedom over social status, or in Richard Greenberg's poignant portrait of two inseparable brothers.
Vintage Red And The Dust Of The Road (Visions And Voices) and The Hot L Baltimore (Mary-Arrchie): Robert Koon took the close-up, and Lanford Wilson, the panoramic, view of drifters, actual and spiritual. But together they made an unprejudiced case for both those doomed to run and those to stay.
The Trestle At Pope Lick Creek (Rivendell) and Wendall Greene (Steppenwolf): From gritty realism to transcendent fantasy, adolescents struggling to find their places in a harsh and impoverished universe were the focus of new plays by Naomi Wallace and Jeffrey Mangrum.
As You Like It (Chicago Shakespeare) David H. Bell's direction, Henry Marsh's incidental music and James Leonard Joy's set made for a picturesque replication of Czarist Russia, but Mariann Verheyen's costumes could have warmed the coldest Siberian winter.
Around The World In 80 Days (Lifeline): John Hildreth's adaptation of Jules Verne's novel took us on a whirlwind tour, while director Dorothy Milne, a gaggle of protean players, Anne Wakefield's dialect instruction and an Olympic-grade technical staff made it all fit cozily into the little Lifeline space.
Rhinoceros (The Hypocrites): You thought Jurassic Park was exciting? The Sean Graney's high-concept rendition of Ionesco's venerable 1960 parable of creeping totalitarianism made attack by horned beasts so immediate and menacing, we could almost hear them on our way home.
Other Significant Authors: S.M. Shephard-Masset (Waiting To Be Invited), Jeff Carey (Pan And Boone), Lydia R. Diamond (The Gift Horse), Dhana-Marie Brandon (Five Rooms of Furniture), Douglas Post (God And Country)
Other Significant Directors: David Cromer (The Dazzle and The Hot L Baltimore), Kate Buckley (A Few Good Men), Alison Birkmeyer Aske (My Sister In This House), Karen Kessler (The Trestle At Pope Lick Creek), Ilesa Lisa Duncan (Waiting To Be Invited), Shade Murray (Tattoo Girl), Virginia Smith (Crimes Of The Heart)
Significant Actors, female: Lisel Mueller (Waving Goodbye), Yvonne Huff (The Gift Horse), Corryn Cummins (The Lonesome West), Katherine Ripley (She Stoops To Conquer), Becca Kotler (The Trestle At Pope Lick Creek), Marssie Mencotti (Whose Body?), Christa S. Trinler (The Firebugs), Cat Jarboe (Hassock Cossack)
Significant Actors, male: Christian Kohn (The Gift Horse), Derrick Nelson (The Royal Hunt Of The Sun), Gregory Thomas Isaacs (Xena Live II), Alan Berks (The Last Seder), Nathan Craig (Ice/Age), Willie B. Goodson (The Last Apple), Lou Ferguson (Drowning Crow), Nick Sandys (Making History), Peter Greenberg (Whose Body? and Around The World In 80 Days), Don Bender (Cocktail Time and The Royal Hunt Of The Sun)
Tip-Top Tag-Teams: Robert Breuler & Mark L. Montgomery (Cat On A Hot Tin Roof), Tony Mockus & Ann Whitney (On Golden Pond), Eric Aviles & E. Milton Wheeler (Jesus Hopped The A Train), Karol Kent & Sheila Myrcik (La Vie Ennui), Roderick Peeples & Dan Rivkin (The Lonesome West), Kathrynne Rosen & Laura Scott Wade (Bloody Bess), Mark Richard & PJ Powers (Rocket To The Moon), Tracy Letts, David Pasquesi & Susan Bennett (The Dazzle), Brian Dennehy, Steve Pickering & David Cromer (Long Day's Journey Into Night)
Outstanding Ensembles: Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? (Shattered Globe), From The Mississippi Delta (Congo Square), Waiting To Be Invited (Victory Gardens), Holiday (Remy Bumppo), Acts Of Mercy (Flush Puppy Productions), High Life (Shattered Globe), Streamers (Blind Faith), She Stoops To Conquer (City Lit), The Tragedy of Peter Pan (House Productions), Picasso At The Lapin Agile (New Leaf Productions), Crimes of the Heart (Village Players)
Tech, scenic design: Byron Wallace (Go Away, Go Away), Joey Wade, (Woyzeck), Kevin Hagen (The Time Of The Cuckoo), Jacqueline & Richard Penrod (The Mousetrap), Lynn Koscielniak (Tattoo Girl), Garrett West (My Sister In This House) Tech, costume design: Stacy Ellen Rich (Xena Live) Tech, Sound Design: Joshua Horvath (Jesus Hopped The A Train), Lindsay Jones (The Trestle At Pope Lick Creek) Tech, set dressing: Jim Lichon (The Dazzle) Tech Dream-Teams: The Royal Family, The Hot L Baltimore
SPECIAL MARY ZIMMERMAN ENVIRONMENTAL THEATER AWARD: Rowhouse Theatre (Evil Dead: The Musical), New Leaf Productions (Picasso At The Lapin Agile), North Shore Players (The Scarecrow)
Special AARP pinup Award: BF Helman (Sci-Fi Action Movie)
Special Fab Fauna Awards: Stanley The Tortoise (Cooking With Elvis), Angry Mama Swan (Cocktail Time), Convenient Elephant (Around The World In 80 Days)
Special Boat-In-Bottle Scenic Design Awards: Anthony Austin (The Rabbit Foot), Robert A. Knuth (Bloody Bess)
What's most important is that we weathered the doomsayers who predicted anew the death of Art As We Know It. Let's show 'em up again next year, huh?
See the front page, left side directory of www.WindyCityMediaGroup.com for comprehensive listings of theater openings and productions now on stage