December 28, 2006

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Standout performances of '06
Area companies impressed challenging work
By Heidi Masek hmasek@hippopress.com

For those waiting for the southern New Hampshire theater scene to expand beyond Cats and Annie, 2006 was your year.

Edgy productions
Bedford Off-Broadway's presentation of Children of a Lesser God in October stood out for execution and script choice. At a school for the deaf, a couple tries to come to terms with a wall that they slowly, painfully realize will always be between them. The hearing cast had to learn American Sign Language and was coached in deaf speech patterns and culture. Gina Carballo and Anthony Goes stood out as the leads. Mark Medoff's script uses sign and witty, insightful dialogue to explore limitations and frustrations in relationships and society.

The young alumni of the Peacock Players, many of whom are performing arts majors, staged Andrew Lippa's The Wild Party in a new experiment this summer. Most of the college-age performers were also camp counselors for Peacock drama camps, and this gave them a chance to work on something adult and musically challenging. The Wild Party explores violent, destructive human behaviors in the Prohibition era. Based on a Joseph Moncure March poem, it is almost entirely sung. Actors Holly Laurent, Michael S. O'Keefe and Katie Preston were particularly strong. An alumni show will be a great tradition to continue if Peacock keeps pulling talented alumni back to perform and uses provocative material that isn't overdone.

NH Theater Project brought a recent retelling of The Odyssey overseas from England for its first American run. London playwright David Farr's 2005 version of Homer's epic was tightly presented in Portsmouth in November. Farr references a modern-day government detention center, where Odysseus is held after he washes up on a foreign shore. The gypsy-influenced score arranged for NH Theatre Project by Agnes Charlesworth was particularly effective in setting atmosphere. Actors were able to show a wide range since most played more than one character.

Aunt Dan and Lemon by Wallace Shawn at Merrimack Repertory asked its audience if indeed they are any better than the world's notorious despots. The 21-year-old play is still relevant and the script well-crafted and engrossing. The professional actors, many with film and television credits, gave a flawless performance.

Andy's Summer Playhouse's practice of premiering original work produced some very cool results this year. Goldberg Variations, a collaboration by 31 writers, choreographers, musicians, etc., created scenes that were variations on the themes of Rube Goldberg's philosophies, commentaries and cartoons, and Bach's Goldberg Variations, which play in the background, foreground or not there at all (30 variations and an aria). The "flash plays" ranged from amusing shorts that kids identify with to the abstract or symbolic. The staged reading of a work in progress by Karen Smith Vastola, Useless, Inc., was also compelling and wide-ranging. It explored ideas of feminism, capitalism, productivity, usefulness and invention, and worked in time travel and a talking manikin.

Ghostlight Theater Co. was honored for its performance of an excerpt from its production of One Flea Spare by Naomi Wallace at the New Hampshire Community Theatre Association's 35th Festival of Community Theatre. Ghostlight will move on to perform at the New England Regional Festival of Community Theatre in March. Neal Blaiklock and Mari Keegan of One Flea Spare were judged Best Actor and Best Actress in the festival as well.

Standout efforts
New Thalian Players showed much perseverance this year. Even as the Fisher Cats had a fireworks show nearby, planes drowned out lines and a rain storm drenched the place before curtain, New Thalian soldiered on to deliver A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum outdoors. Their initial "Theater in the Park‚ÄĚ staging was West Side Story in 2005, and was such a success they hoped to make it an annual summer event.

New Thalian founder Beth Ann O'Hara left her retirement from directing of five years to direct Hot Mikado in November. O'Hara has a lifetime achievement award from the New Hampshire Theater Association. O'Hara put much work into building the company, and reinvesting income from shows into detailed sets and costumes. O'Hara had wanted to stage this jazz version of Gilbert and Sullivan's satirical operetta Mikado for the past eight years. She has been blood transfusion-dependent for most of the last 14 years.

Changes
New companies on the scene this year included Pirate Stage, a cooperative of southern New Hampshire theater veterans who so far have staged Rocky Horror Show in Nashua around Halloween. The company is called Pirate's Stage because they plan to "share the booty" of show income.

Derryfield Repertory is a new summer stock company that includes alumni from the Manchester private school, as well as other college students who worked as camp counselors at the school's new summer drama camp. Best Foot Forward Productions is a new company that formed with the idea of having youth involved in its board of directors. It also recognized the same interest of actors ages 18 through 22 wanting to stay with their youth theater company. Stage Coach Productions also formed, and is set to produce its first show, Jane Eyre, the Musical, Jan. 19-21, directed by Timothy L'Ecuyer, who has directed frequently for Peacock Players.

Christopher Courage, Acting Loft founder, left to pursue a new opportunity after ten years with the Manchester theater education organization.


12/21/2006 Curtain Calls

12/14/2006 Players remember Peter Bridges
12/07/2006 Young talent
11/30/2006 Lighthearted farce for the holidays
11/23/2006 Curtain Calls
11/16/2006 Good theater
11/9/2006 Preview roundup
11/2/2006 Access to the ancients
10/26/2006 Aida on a Nashua stage
10/19/2006 Children of a Lesser God brilliantly played
10/12/2006 A true love triangle
10/05/2006 Curtain Calls
09/28/2006 Bringing people back to life
09/21/2006 Getting judged
09/14/2006 Long strange journey
09/07/2006 Curtain Calls
08/31/2006 Curtain Calls
08/24/2006 Putting kids in charge
08/17/2006 Curtain Calls
08/10/2006 All theater, all summer
08/03/2006 A Jesus musical, reworked
07/27/2006 A match made in Maine
07/20/2006 Variations on a theme
07/13/2006 I Hate Hamlet
07/06/2006 Serious theater
06/29/2006 L.A. in Peterborough
06/22/2006 Da Vinci to Rube Goldberg
06/15/2006 Peter Bridges remembered
06/08/2006 From Hairspray to monkeys
06/01/2006 Special Theatrics
05/25/2006 Live Brit-com
05/18/2006 Evil stepsisters earn the yuks
05/11/2006 A message to mom
05/04/2006 Meet the cast
04/27/2006 'I hope i get it'
04/20/2006 Find yourself in Yonkers
04/13/2006 Nashua rocks The Wiz
04/06/2006 Nashua rocks The Wiz
03/30/2006 Cabaret is Mnchester bound
03/23/2006 A 42nd Street detour
03/16/2006 Actor-director wants your ideas
02/23/2006 Yellow Taxi's Theater Festival opens March 1
02/16/2006 Herding CATS
02/09/2006 An†actors' studio
02/02/2006 A thing about love
01/26/2006 Spring theater season warming up
01/19/2006 Gearing up for the big night
01/12/2006 This Phantom is not a menace
01/05/2006 Jim Kelly, sci-fi writer and alternate historian
10th anniversary at Capitol Center
10 Ways To Survive The Audition
A Chorus Line
A Figaro Worth Cheering
A 'Living Newspaper' on stage
A tale of two wives
A Tribute To Music
Actorsingers Deliver On Superstar
Beauty and the Beast
Bedford Off-Broadway Gets Spooky
Being The Beatles, 1964 The Tribute
Bringing NYC to Wilton
Creating the venue from antiques
Crimes Of The Heart
Curtain to rise on Dana Center
Dana Center Takes Center Stage
Ensemble elevates Palaceís Godspell
From stage to the silver screen
Great play, too bad itís over
Greater Tuna
Humble Boy
Itís cabaret, hear it sing, joke, tease
It's Child's Play
Jesus Christ Superstar
Kids Tackle Edgar Allan Poe
Local boy hits the big time, doesnít lose his head
Lowell theater opens with a winner of a satire
Madco welcomes Boston actor-director
Meet John Sefel, Director
Meet Suzanne Delle, Yellow Taxiís driver
Music Man to run three weekends
New Thalian Players
Palace announces 2005-06 season
Peterborough Playersí Solidarity is solid gold
Plaid
Plaid (II)
Playing with manís best friend
Proud of the Peacock
Racy, crazy blast at the Palace
Reviving His Passion
Robert Dionne, The man behind the Majestic
Rosemary Dann
Secrets Every Smart Traveler Should Know
Short-Attention Span Theater
Side Show
Sideshow slips sideways
Spending The Summer On Stage
Stages of learning
Steel Magnolias
Suessical: The Musical
Theater Of The Imagination
Theater Kids Without A School
Theater in the park draws big
The Drawer Boy
The Festival
The†Five best shows of 2005
The Prisoner Of Second Avenue
The Russian/American Kids Circus
The Senator Wore Pantyhose
The Tony Awards, they're grrrrreat
The Warmth Of The Cold
Three nights, three shows at the Palace
Tosca

Under the Caribbean with the little mermaid

Wake up to Ďnight Mother