Local theater year-in-review

Our critics cap off the decade with one final round of applause for local theater

<i>When We Were Colored</i> was one of several 5-Willies plays to hit Sacramento theatre this year.

When We Were Colored was one of several 5-Willies plays to hit Sacramento theatre this year.

Photo courtesy of Charr Crail Photography

The past 12 months were chock full of great theater—take it from our reviewers. Before heading into the new decade, we took one last look at some of the best shows Sacramento theaters had to offer in 2019.


Martin Luther King Jr. weekend was a most appropriate time for Celebration Arts to debut its outstanding production of Rick Foster’s Abolition. Foster directs this excellent production, which stars newcomer Levi Lowe as Frederick Douglass. (J.C., 1/24)

A Doll’s House, Part 2

The curtain goes up again in Lucas Hnath’s Tony nominated play A Doll’s House, Part 2, which imagines the story years later as Nora drops by the family she left behind. B Street Theatre director Dave Pierini keeps the cast on task—a challenge when a play calls for each character to show their weaknesses and faults along with their non-apologetic strengths and stubbornness. (P.R., 3/7)

We Won’t Pay! Nunca!

In a refreshing political satire, director Manuel José Pickett leads a cast of five brilliant actors into Teatro Espejo’s 44th season with We Won’t Pay! Nunca! at California Stage Theatre. It’s a wonderfully light and comical production with a passionate and talented cast. (TMO, 3/21.)


For the Sacramento debut of Vietgone, Capital Stage has gathered a vibrant, cohesive cast and top-notch director Jeffrey Lo, all from the Bay Area. What makes Vietgone so powerful is Playwright Qui Nguyen’s way of inviting the audience to witness American culture through the eyes of immigrants. These are refugees who have lost country, family and identity, who see the Vietnam War through a different lens, and who must rebuild lives and loves in a brand new world. (P.R., 3/21)

When We Were Colored

Sacramento playwright and former journalist Ginger Rutland brings the story of her mother, Eva Rutland to Sacramento Theatre Company. Shifting in time and place from 1950s Sacramento to the 1940s in the South, family photos projected onto the back of the stage. They add a journalistic integrity to the story, at the same time illustrating the family’s life journey. (J.C., 3/28)

Yeomen of the Guard

There’s a lot of funny stuff in Yeomen of the Guard, now produced by Light Opera Theatre of Sacramento, but its primary theme is death and sadness. But the music is fantastic, and under the direction of Anne-Marie Endres, the opera’s 30-piece orchestra plays it gloriously. (B.S., 8/22)

Between Riverside and Crazy

Capital Stage launches its 15th anniversary season with one of its best productions ever. Between Riverside and Crazy, the 2015 Pulitzer Prize-winning drama by Stephen Adly Guirgis, boasts perfect casting, an exquisite set and fierce dedication to a script that is as challenging as it is entertaining. (J.C., 9/12)

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, by Simon Stephens, based on the novel by Mark Haddon, takes an entirely sympathetic and worthy hero on a voyage of discovery of self and the world at large. Staged at Sacramento City College’s Art Court Theatre, Lori Ann DeLappe-Grondin directs this swirl of action and emotions with authority and understanding. (J.C., 10/17)

’Night, Mother

’Night, Mother is the type of play that could easily scare off an audience. An intense—sometimes all-too-real—family drama about depression, loneliness and the ideation of suicide, it can be crushing. At Errant Phoenix Productions, director Steve Buri gives the characters the same respect as playwright Marsha Norman does. He moves the actors skillfully around the small, tidy set and elicits two powerful performances in service to the script that won the 1983 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. (J.C., 11/14)