The year of magical stages

Sacramento had a bang-up theatrical 2012

Capital Stage’s <i>Enron </i>left us absolutely raptor-ous.

Capital Stage’s Enron left us absolutely raptor-ous.

Photo By charr crail

Sometimes we forget how lucky we are as critics to live in a town so filled to the brim with theater companies that push the envelope with edgy work—and bring that same energy to light comedies and the classics. Here are a few of our high notes for 2012, a year of outstanding theater.

We need to start with a handful of “whole company, whole season” compliments. In the professional category, that goes to Capital Stage, which opened its new home on J Street and then pulled out all the stops with a fantastic season. We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the play with all the buzz a woman could hope for, In the Next Room (or the vibrator play), which left us tingling and whispering, “More, please.” Then, there’s the raptor-ishly delightful tragicomedy of corporate raiders and government blindness, Enron. We can’t help but show the love for this local treasure that keeps getting better.

On the community-theater front, how can we get you to give it up for Big Idea Theatre? It earned its name yet again by nudging up to professional standards while continuing to live on a community-theater budget—and offering community-priced tickets. With shows such as its detailed, note-perfect production of Tom Stoppard’s mammoth Arcadia, the blow-out-the-doors production of Killer Joe, a zombified The Life and Undead of King Henry V and a This Is Spinal Tap take on Love’s Labour’s Lost, this would be the best season-ticket deal in town—and that’s without the rest of the plays on its list. The critics agree: Get thee some Big Idea!

And in the experiments-of-the-excellent-variety category, we’ve got to name KOLT Run Creations’ empty-swimming-pool-in-an-old-building production of Caryl Churchill’s feminist epic Vinegar Tom. KRC’s season was thoughtful—with Where We’re Born and Smudge, both Northern California premieres—but its final excursion into site-specific theater was a sold-out, extended knockout punch. Keep an eye on this troupe.

The year also included moments of excellence so sublime that we had to bring smelling salts for our Willie rating: New Helvetia Theatre’s incredible staging of Next to Normal; B Street Theatre’s outstanding work on Arthur Miller’s The Price, and the incredible presentation of Red; Janis Stevens’ star turn in Sacramento native Joan Didion’s formidable one-woman show The Year of Magical Thinking at California Stage; and Green Valley Theatre Company’s steampunk version of The Rocky Horror Show.

But perhaps the best night of theater in town lasted only one night: Asclepius Productions’ benefit staged reading of August: Osage County. The company—the brainchild of local actress and music teacher Kelly Cullity, a cancer survivor—stages benefit shows using Sacramento’s talent to raise money for the American Cancer Society. It had help this year from the Sacramento Theatre Company, which allowed the use of its Mainstage. Oh, and the donated services of tons of local actors, both Equity and technically “amateur.” The staged reading went off-book in the third act, and thanks to top-notch work from the aforementioned Stevens, Shannon Mahoney, Maggie Hollinbeck, Nanci Zoppi and director Benjamin T. Ismail—plus the largest supporting cast seen locally in a long, long time—this show was as good as it gets. And it raised money to fight cancer.

Yep, we love Sacramento theater.