Soaring not snoring
Many good shows alighted on local theater stages in 2002
From less-than-successful pop operas to modern spins on ancient Greek comedies, 2002 proved to be yet another rich year for local theatergoers in the Chico area.
Over at the Blue Room, the various works produced demonstrated enough quirks and tics for the company to maintain its reputation as an “alternative” theater. Right off the top of one’s head, here are some stand-out productions:
Jamie Pachino’s pointed satire The Return to Morality, an ironic take on the media and the American public’s obsession with self-induced fear. Quentin Colgan was good as a college professor who writes an ironic tome that gets taken and promoted at face value, resulting needlessly in the work’s being elevated to the stature of a political “back to basics” manifesto. Director Jeremy Votava kept the pace quick.
Lee Blessing’s hostage-driven drama, Two Rooms, delivered some fine performances from Joe Hilsee and Elizabeth Kollings, as a husband and wife physically separated when he is taken hostage in Beirut by fundamentalist terrorists. Also good was Betty Burns as a State Department envoy. Apart from being cannily well-timed, the Hugh Brashear-directed production proved to be one of the strongest dramas locally staged in 2002.
Irish playwright Martin McDonagh’s The Lonesome West proved the most uplifting of his three County Galway-situated works. Director Joe Hilsee drew some fine work from his actors—Eric Pedersen, Betsy Brewer, Callen Reese and Jeremy Votava—in this tale of a Cain-and-Abel-like pair of brothers, their attractive neighbor, and the priest who makes the ultimate sacrifice to bring about peace in their lives.
Eric Overmyer’s On the Verge offered us three intrepid explorers (played by Sheri Bagley, Alice Wiley Pickett and Shanna Walsh) journeying to the farthest reaches of the world, eventually traveling through time itself and reflecting the development of American 20th-century culture and language. Director Margot Melcon did a good job, and the period costumes and minimal set lent themselves perfectly to the time and space spanning tale.
Most admirable effort: The original “rock opera” (for lack of a better term) by musician Aaron Lyon and writer Jeremy Votava, Hollywood Outsider.
Over at the Chico Cabaret, everything from musicals to dramas was staged, and the quality was solid. Stand outs include Sue and Phil Ruttenburg’s performances as a rough, tough seaside-situated couple in Edward J. Moore’s drama, The Sea Horse, a wonderfully energetic staging of Richard O’Brien’s gender-bending classic The Rocky Horror Show, and an ambitious production of an adaptation of J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, which featured children and adults in all the major roles, great costumes and a fully functioning dragon’s head representing Smaug.
Chico State Drama Department demonstrated some signs of renewed inspiration with its productions of Rebecca Gilman’s racially charged drama, Spinning Into Butter, Moisés Kaufman’s controversial tale of a town’s reaction to a young gay man’s murder, The Laramie Project, and an updated and entertaining take from director Cynthia Lammel on Aristophanes’ ancient Greek comedy, The Birds.
Shakespeare in the Park presented a strong production of the Bard’s Othello, the Moor of Venice. Director Joyce Henderson kept the pace moving, and Bruce Dillman’s performance as villain Iago was marvelous.
Mention must also be made of the parodies presented at the Senator Theatre. Readily the best was director DNA and writer Craig Blamer’s take on the classic Scooby Doo cartoons—hilarious! And we regret our sparse coverage this past year of the generally wonderful productions at Theatre on the Ridge in Paradise, Birdcage Theatre in Oroville, and the new Bare Stage Theatre in Red Bluff (although that last is just a wee bit out of our area). We hope to remedy this lapse in 2003.