In the Wings: 01/7/05
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While selecting 2004's best performances (today's cover story) and best plays (last Friday), I invited readers to send their thoughts.
There was a small flood on behalf of "The Mystery of Irma Vep" at the new Grand Dream Productions in Elizabeth, sent by Crystal Baker, Tammy McQuaide, Brian Overton, Bob Killmeyer ("I almost died laughing"), Patti Makepeace, Ron Frenz, Peter Carioto and Jim Scott. They mainly praised its hard-working leads, Ronald J. Gmys and Varian Huddleston, and director, Christopher Scott ("quickly becoming a directing force to be reckoned with in this town").
This is typical: "Of the plays I've seen in the past year, the absolute best in terms of set design, acting, directing and tech has to be 'The Mystery of Irma Vep.'" And this: "I am a volunteer at The Pittsburgh Public Theater [which does] wonderful work. [But] the best play of 2004 [was done by] a little-known, brand new theater company in the South Hills."
Other Scott shows also came in for praise, such as "The Devil's Disciple" at the Freeport Theatre Festival: "Why this guy doesn't get more attention in the press is beyond me." And Caitlyn Darr praised Scott as "the best dramaturge in town" for his work on Sunday Light Live: "Why don't you guys do enough stories on SNL?" (I detect a theme.)
There was also praise for other actors in both Scott's shows and two shows at South Park. One message bolstered its praise of "Irma Vep" and "Devil's Disciple" by sharing it with PICT's "A Woman of No Importance," Little Lake's "Of Mice and Men" and the Public's "The Chief."
Many messages were detailed and well-argued. Similarly, Mary Aiello spoke up well for "Into the Woods" at Apple Hill: "Oftentimes these small groups put on wonderful shows."
Kevin Ewart wrote, "I don't believe there is a better or more exciting actor working in Pittsburgh than Jay O'Berski," citing PICT's "Stones in His Pockets" and "Uncle Vanya" and Dog & Pony's "Bam! Pow!"
Dione Cahillane was articulate on behalf of Steve Pellegrino's performance project, "LOSER -- Loose Organization of Surreal Ethereal Realists," and its other participants. "My husband and I admit that we don't always 'get it,' but that is what keeps us coming back for more. Isn't part of the whole theatrical experience -- one's own interpretation?"
G. O'Brien argued well for "Work Song," "Bam! Pow!" ("campy fun") and "Do It" by Blankspace Arts, "a company to watch" (one I much regret missing myself). Rob Gorman cast his vote for "Uncle Vanya" in just about every aspect. And John Nestor wrote to praise Cindy Limauro's lighting for "James Joyce's The Dead."
Fred and Ann Werner, who subscribe to the bigger professional companies, picked "The Dead" and "Anna in the Tropics" as the two best plays, Doug Rees as best actor and Heath Lamberts as best comic actor (both in "Travesties"). Also: "Best idea for a festival: Mark Clayton Southers' 'Black and White.'"
And then there's Ron Necheff, a theater-lover and commentator of such commitment that he amounts to a freelance critic. Here is his perceptive Top Ten, in no particular order: "Sympathetic Magic" (Open Stage), "Last Five Years" (Jewish Theatre), "Gompers" and "Work Song" (City), "Travesties" and "Uncle Vanya" (PICT), "Proof" (Little Lake), "Big Love" (No Name), "Holler" (Bricolage) and "Broadway" (PPT).
Necheff also nominated several plausible performers of the year: Doug Rees, Laurie Klatcher, Dan Krell, John Shepard and Rachel Downie. Like me, he says PICT had the most interesting overall season ("by far"). And he noted a number of actors with three major successes: Larry John Meyers, Robin Walsh, Martin Giles, Heath Lamberts and Doug Mertz, plus Bingo O'Malley with two. He ends: "So who sez there is nothing wonderful to do in the 'burg?"
First Published January 7, 2005 12:00 am