OLD DOGS, NEW TRICKS: The 2006 Theater Season in Review
by Mary Shen Barnidge
It was the year when a single weekend might have over a dozen plays clamoring for the press’ attention. For example, there were the road shows that filled the downtown playhouses, selling out months in advance. And there was also Victory Gardens opening the doors of its new facility at the legendary Biograph Theater, becoming the Chicago theatre community’s leading landlord, with five stages under two roofs.
Oh, and for playgoers ( like me ) who find the more—uh, mature—men and women sexy, it was the year when the old blokes and broads showed their mettle—and sometimes their naughty bits, too.
That said, here are some of the shows ( and parts, thereof ) that made my job a pleasure in 2006:
The Coast of Chicago ( Walkabout Theater at the Water Tower ) . Chicago ethnographic history came alive for audiences in a landmark space right in the middle of the tourist district.
Lear ( Goodman Theatre ) . Five old men dancing a tarantella in the rain to the dionysic beat of the Rolling Stones—this was “epic theatre” like Brecht never imagined.
Fellow Travelers ( Stage Left ) . Not just another holocaust drama, but a an intimate tale of an expatriate artist living with the shameful secret of his survival.
Mother Courage And Her Children ( Vitalist Theatre ) . The Thirty-Years-War galloped along at vaudeville-pace on a panoramic scale, and only eight actors stepped out for curtain call.
Gaudy Night ( Lifeline Theatre ) . Dorothy Sayers’ thriller assembled the environs of Oxford University’s Women’s College and distinguished alumnae thereof, all on Lifeline’s tiny stage.
House of Blue Leaves ( Shattered Globe ) . Thirty-five years after its premiere, a group of young artists found empathy and coherence in John Guare’s madcap look at 1965 America.
Argonautika ( Lookingglass ) . After treading water in recent years, Mary Zimmerman and her pals come back with the kind of imaginative spectacle that made their reputation.
American Buffalo ( Raven ) . Tone down the hyperadrenal rants that make young actors so love David Mamet and what do you find underneath but a family drama worthy of Eugene O’Neill?
And some individuals deserve recognition as well:
Smart Words: Margaret Lewis, Fellow Travelers ( Stage Left ) . Nicholas Patricca, Oh, Holy Allen Ginsberg, Oh Holy Shit Sweet Jesus Tantric Buddha Dharma Road ( Bailiwick ) . Frances Limoncelli, adaptation of Gaudy Night ( Lifeline Theatre ) . Laura Eason, adaptation of The Coast Of Chicago ( Walkabout ) . Ranjit Bolt, translation of Tartuffe ( Remy Bumppo ) .
Smart Direction: Sheldon Patinkin ( Sunset Limited, Steppenwolf ) , Ilesa Duncan ( Tick, Tick...Boom, Pegasus ) , Jessica Thebus ( The Clean House, Goodman ) .
Outstanding Ensembles: Willy’s Cut And Shine ( ETA ) , Another Part Of The House ( Teatro Vista ) , Funeral Wedding ( Scott Dray Productions ) , La Hija de La Llorona ( Aguijón Theatre ) , The Shakespeare Stealer ( Vittum Theatre ) , Desire Under The Elms ( GreyZelda ) , Orphans ( ReMiChi ) , Practical Anatomy ( Sansculottes ) .
Outstanding Tag Teams: Nick Sandys & Linda Gillum ( Tartuffe & The Real Thing, Remy Bumppo ) . Austin Pendleton & Freeman Coffey ( Sunset Limited, Steppenwolf ) . Kirsten Fitzgerald & Guy Van Swearingen ( The Sea Horse, Red Orchid ) . Doug McDade & Nigel Patterson ( Dealer’s Choice, Shattered Globe ) . Adrienne Cury & Jack Hickey ( Picnic, Oak Park Festival Theatre ) . David Parkes & Nigel Patterson ( The General From America, Timeline ) .
Outstanding Actors: Christopher Prentice ( The Zoo Story, Signal Ensemble ) , Chuck Likar ( Fellow Travelers, Stage Left ) , Elizabeth Rich ( The Duchess Of Malfi, Writers Theatre ) , Gary Houston ( Unchanging Love, Artistic Home ) , Jeff Radue ( Richard II, Actors Revolution Theatre ) . Karen Hill ( The Tempest, GroundUp Theatre ) , Christopher McLinden ( You Never Can Tell, ShawChicago ) , Marvin Edward Quijada ( Blind Mouth Singing, Teatro Vista ) .
Three Latina Criadonas: Stephanie Díaz ( Tartuffe, Remy Bumppo ) , Aemilia Scott ( Oh Holy Allan Ginsberg etc., Bailiwick ) , Guenia Lemos ( The Clean House, Goodman ) .
Special Pirates of the Caribbean award: Martin Yurek ( The Devil’s Disciple, ShawChicago ) .
Special Trippingly On The Tongue award: Ben Carleson ( Hamlet, Chicago Shakespeare ) .
Outstanding Lighting Design: Michael Phillipi ( Lear, Goodman ) .
Outstanding Sound Design: James Murray ( Unchanging Love, Artistic Home ) , Jason Demma & Ralph Sledge ( Florida Styx, Hypetia Theatre ) , Victoria DeIorio ( The Real Thing, Remy Bumppo ) , Richard Woodbury ( Lear, Goodman ) .
Outstanding Costume Design: Rachel Anne Healy ( Power, Remy Bumppo and The Chalk Garden, Northlight ) , Jacqueline Firkins ( The Dreams of Sarah Breedlove, Goodman ) , Laura M. Dana ( Seascape, Signal Ensemble ) , Tatjana Radisic ( The Duchess of Malfi, Writers Theatre ) .
Outstanding Set Dressing: Kevin Hagan and Arow Blackdragon ( House of Blue Leaves, Shattered Globe ) , Grant Sabin ( The Sea Horse, Red Orchid ) , Kris Stengrevics and Emily Schwartz ( Funeral Wedding, Scott Dray Productions ) , Craig Choma ( Mother Courage, Vitalist ) , Michael Menendian and Danni Quider ( American Buffalo, Raven ) , Kevin Hagan and Eileen Niccolai ( Dealer’s Choice, Shattered Globe ) .
Special Ultra-Violence award: Rick Sordelet ( Lear, Goodman ) , Matthew Hawkins ( Hatfield and McCoy, House Theatre ) .
Special Boat-in-the-Bottle award: Marathon ‘33 ( Strawdog ) .
Special Flora and Fauna award: Goblin horse ( Johnny Tremain, Lifeline Theatre ) , Singing raven ( The Snow Queen, Victory Gardens ) , entire cast of Rikki-Tikki-Tavi ( Lifeline Theatre ) .
Special AARP Pin-Up award: Stacy Keach ( Lear, Goodman ) , Richard Cotovsky ( Killers, Mary-Arrchie ) , Dawn Alden and Stephanie Repin ( Affair of Honor, Babes With Blades ) , Mark Richard ( A Room With A View, Lifeline ) .
And finally, an extra-special shout-out to the dialect coaches that made it all sound so good: Clare C. Hane ( Dealer’s Choice, Shattered Globe ) , Phil Timberlake ( Fellow Travelers, Stage Left ) , Kirsten D’Aurelio ( A Whistle In The Dark, Seanachai ) , Martin Aistrope ( The Night Heron, Steep Theatre ) , Eve Breneman ( Voyeurs de Venus at Chicago Dramatists, Unchanging Love at Artistic Home and The General From America at Timeline ) .