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2012 Top Ten Stage

Also featuring: Top Ten Performances

Photo: Ken Stanek, License: N/A

Ken Stanek

1. The Iceman Cometh; Front Row: Tony Colavito, Rodney Bonds, Mark Scharf, Michael Robinson; Back Row: William Walker, Ian Bonds, Mike Papa, David Morey, John Hurley, Rick Stover, Tim Evans

1. The Iceman Cometh, by Eugene O’Neill (Fells Point Corner Theater) Truth be told, we weren’t looking forward to a three-and-a-half hour production. Yet we sat riveted as the 18-member cast interpreted Eugene O’Neill’s ambitious tale about the power of daydreams and the lengths we go to to avoid reality, particularly the inevitability of death. An indelible performance, one we found ourselves thinking about months later. (Andrea Appleton)

2. The Whipping Man, by Matthew Lopez (Center Stage) In his first directorial role since taking over as Center Stage’s new artistic director, Kwame Kwei-Armah displayed an impressive instinct for the physical reality of the theater, bringing an intense focus on real bodies in real space—the pain those bodies suffer, the desires that spark them into action, and the rituals they perform—to this story about a Jewish Confederate officer and his slaves. (Geoffrey Himes)

3. The Brothers Size, by Tarell Alvin McCraney (Everyman Theatre) Daniel Ettinger’s set—the grimy metal of a barely breaking-even auto shop in rural Louisiana—sets the mood for this all-male production where the choices are as stark and unforgiving as the pipes and machinery around them. The shop’s owner has just hired his brother, fresh from prison, to prevent him from going back, but the shop isn’t much friendlier than prison was, and the brother would rather smoke weed and sleep late. (GH)

4. Into the Woods, by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine (Center Stage) Everything in this production was scaled down to more intimate dimensions, and this actually heightened the impact of this reverse-image collection of fairy tales, where the happy endings occur in the first act and the disappointments in the second. Further evidence that musicals gain more from understatement than from the usual overstatement. (GH)

5. Office Ladies, by Lola B. Pierson (Acme Corporation) An original production by one of Baltimore’s newest companies, this play is gorgeous on all counts: The superb script, set, acting, and music combine to create a stunning, philosophical vision of a floating world. (Baynard Woods)

6. Breaking the Code, by Hugh Whitemore (Performance Workshop Theatre) This vivid resurrection of a forgotten script about World War II espionage and homosexuality reminded us just how good this group can be when it takes on a major project. Marc Horwitz, the master of voices, pulls off an impeccable British accent—with a pronounced stutter. (GH)

7. This Bird’s Flown: A Travesty of Antiquity, by Alex Hacker (Yellow Sign Theatre) Hacker’s debut as a playwright and director, and Yellow Sign’s first full-length, scripted production is the rare attempt to update classical tragedy that does justice to both the ancient source material and the contemporary world as it follows Aggy—played with exceptional brutality by Hacker—and his band of thugs in their attempt to find an “abducted” Helen. (BW)

8. A Skull in Connemara, by Martin McDonagh (Center Stage) By seemingly combining an Irish cottage and a local graveyard in a single environment, director BJ Jones and designer Todd Rosenthal reinforce the point that death is a constant presence in Ireland, where life is overcrowded with dead heroes and ancestors who leave little room for new initiative. (GH)

9. Drunk Enough to Say I Love You, by Caryl Churchill (Single Carrot Theatre) The title of the play alludes to those things we feel deeply but don’t talk about, and the half-spoken, rapid-fire dialogue shows the ways our desires always rest on unspoken emotional premises rather than rational arguments. It is the perfect play for a political season—not because it tells us what’s right or wrong, but because it shows us the mechanisms of our acquiescence. (BW)

10. Ages of Man, by William Shakespeare and Sir John Gielgud (Performance Workshop Theatre) Shakespearean actor John Gielgud created Ages to highlight Shakespeare’s greatest speeches and sonnets. PWT’s Marc Horwitz ably followed in his footsteps in 2009 and once more this year. It was astonishing to watch Horwitz glide from role to role, from bitter Caliban to thoughtful, tortured Hamlet to desperate, addled Lear. Horwitz brought speeches we know too well back to startling, vibrant life. (AA)

Top Ten Performances

By Geoffrey Himes

1. Marc Horwitz as Alan Turing in Breaking the Code (Performance Workshop Theatre)

2. Yaegel T. Welch as Ogun in The Brothers Size (Everyman Theatre)

3. Dana Steingold as Little Red Riding Hood in Into the Woods (Center Stage)

4. Kevyn Morrow as Simon in The Whipping Man (Center Stage)

5. Eric C. Stein as Mervyn in A Behanding in Spokane (Fells Point Corner Theatre)

6. Beth Hylton as Sarah in Time Stands Still (Everyman Theatre)

7. Si Osborne as Mick in A Skull in Connemara (Center Stage)

8. Susan Rome as Catherine in An Enemy of the People (Center Stage)

9. Ama Brown as Kioni in Passport (Theatrical Mining Company/Load of Fun Theatre)

10. Nathan A. Cooper as Joseph Cornell in Hotel Cassiopeia (Single Carrot Theatre)

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