Local theater year-in-review

Welcome to the Five Willies club, Sharon Rietkerk and Cristopher Ryan (as Lily Garland and Oscar Jaffe).

Welcome to the Five Willies club, Sharon Rietkerk and Cristopher Ryan (as Lily Garland and Oscar Jaffe).

Photo courtesy of davis shakespeare festival

To celebrate the final SN&R issue of 2018, we looked back at the plays that stood out to our stage reviewers. Here are some of the year’s local productions that garnered the coveted five-Willie review:

One Man, Two Guvnors

The grand opening of B Street Theatre’s new midtown location took a simple, silly plot with this play, and it proved a perfect welcome for B Street’s new home. Facing the audience before the show, artistic director Buck Busfield thanked everyone for their support, and then explained why he picked an over-the-top “unapologetic farce” to launch the new theater. “I wanted our first show to be fun,” he said, “and to show off our new space and all our veteran cast members.” (Patti Roberts, 2/8)


Set in 11th century Scotland, Sacramento Theatre Company’s production of the Shakespeare classic was based on paganism and ancient ritual, with chanting witches and drums to accentuate the feeling onstage. Strong performances by all, particularly William Elsman in the title role, made this an excellent production. (Bev Sykes, 3/1)

A Raisin in the Sun

Celebration Arts chose Lorraine Hansberry’s iconic A Raisin in the Sun to unveil its new theater space at 27th and B Streets. This wonderful, heartfelt production of an African-American family trying to traverse the social and racial issues of 1950s Chicago still resonates with a talented cast, all under the direction of Celebration Arts founder James Wheatley. (P.R., 3/1)


The show’s young cast members were all eager to be pulled into the collective experience of joy and resistance that swept the country in the late ’60s. Falcon’s Eye Theatre’s ensemble was intoxicatingly enthusiastic, as were the psychedelic set and dynamic production elements. (P.R., 4/19)

An Ideal Husband

Directed by Kevin Adamski and Nina Dramer, this Big Idea Theatre production of Oscar Wilde’s 1895 comedy featured a contemporary bromance between two friends, Lord Robert (Eric Craig) and Lord Arthur Goring (Ian Hopps). A scene late in the first act had a magical give-and-take between the men—the scene was stunning stagecraft. (Jim Carnes, 5/3)

Marjorie Prime

Jordan Harrison’s play is a sci-fi tale wrapped inside a family drama. Janis Stevens brilliantly starred in the title role, with sterling turns by Jamie Jones, Brock D. Vickers and Steven Sean Garland. Stephanie Gulart, Capital Stage founding artistic director, now producing artistic director of Florida’s American Stage, directed this co-production of the two companies. (J.C., 5/10)

Mary Stuart

Mary Stuart arrived as this summer’s bonus, a strong modern mounting of a classic with two powerhouse professionals as leads, Jamie Jones (Queen Elizabeth I), and Sharon Rietkerk (Mary Stuart, aka Mary, Queen of Scots). This critic had been waiting years to see this kind of summer festival launch locally, and Davis Shakespeare Festival made it happen. (Jeff Hudson, 7/5)

On the 20th Century

The Davis Shakespeare Festival presented this classic musical by Cy Coleman, with orchestra playing the music of Comden and Green. A first-rate cast, dressed elegantly, cavorted on a beautiful train set designed by Liz Hadden-McGuire, with rotating cars to show the interior rooms. (B.S., 7/12)

Joe Turner’s Come and Gone

Celebration Arts presented this second installment of August Wilson’s 10-play “Pittsburgh Cycle.” Steady precision came from actors Kevin Johnson and KT Masala as every character searched for identity as Americans, African-Americans and as free men and women still dealing with racism and discrimination. (J.C., 10/18)