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Best of Theater 2000-2009 

The long look back: 49 theatrical reasons to miss the Zeros

Regional theater leaves the last decade stronger than when it started. Here's a long look back before launching into the future—which, for our purposes, begins this weekend. Happy new decade!

  • A Lesson Before Dying, Justice Theater Project, 2004. — JTP proved exceptional theater can occur anywhere there are actors, a director—and vision.

  • A Mouthfulla Sacco & Vanzetti, Shakespeare & Originals, 2000 — Playwright Michael Smith's brilliant slapstick re-envisioning of an American injustice.

  • A Walk in the Woods, International Social Studies Project, 2000 — Paul Frellick placed nuclear arms negotiators on a geopolitical tightrope.

  • click to enlarge Sarah Whalen and Carl Martin in the Burning Coal Theatre Company production of Adrian Hall's "All the King's Men" - PHOTO BY THE RIGHT IMAGE PHOTOGRAPHY INC.
    All the King's Men (Parts 1 and 2), Burning Coal Theater, 2003 — Adrian Hall's audacious adaptation of Warren's novel on Southern political corruption.

  • Angels in America, Part 1: Millennium Approaches, Duke Theater Studies, 2005 — Amazing student cast performances—and Jeff West's jaw-dropping Roy Cohn.

  • Angels in America, Part 2: Perestroika, Theatre in the Park (TIP), 2008 — Director Adam Twiss unleashed regional veterans on Kushner's closer.

  • As the Crow Flies, Paperhand Puppet Intervention, 2006 — Sophisticated tales, multistory puppets, compelling original music: pure Paperhand.

  • Back of the Throat, Manbites Dog Theater, 2005 — Conscience-challenging enhanced interrogation techniques, staged in real time.

  • Bash: Latterday Plays, Raleigh Ensemble Players (REP), 2001 — An impressive first regional staging of LaBute.

  • Bent, REP, 2001 (revived 2009) — The audience literally walked one man's path during the Holocaust.

  • The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant, Little Green Pig Theatrical Concern, 2007 — A catty, caustic send-up of the Fassbinder film.

  • The Bluest Eye, PlayMakers Repertory Company, 2007 — A harrowing Toni Morrison stage adaptation: what happens when a village refuses to raise a child.

  • brooms: a play about saying yes, both hands theatre company, 2004 — Its first production evoked Gertrude Stein and Steve Reich: a thoughtful comedy about getting married.

  • The Cherry Orchard, Little Green Pig, 2006 — A production pointedly staged with brilliant African-American actors.

  • columbinus, REP, 2007 — This took us all back to high school—the day the murderers came.

  • Copenhagen, Broadway Series South, 2002 — An elegant touring production: three sides of the atomic bomb's unknown secret.

  • Cornucopia of Me, Katja Hill, 2007 — An autobiographical solo show—in mime, no less—mocked the day jobs an actor must take.

  • click to enlarge Debra Gillingham and David Henderson in the Burning Coal Theatre Company production of "James Joyce's 'The Dead'" - PHOTO BY THE RIGHT IMAGE PHOTOGRAPHY INC.
    The Dead, Burning Coal, 2004 — A very chilly musical adaptation of James Joyce.

  • Dream Boy, Streetsigns, 2003 — Jim Grimsley's gay coming-of-age story, tenderly adapted, acted and directed.

  • Fuddy Meers, Manbites Dog, 2000 — David Lindsay-Abaire's dark screwball comedy, well done.

  • The Glass Menagerie, PlayMakers Rep, 2000 — Director Kent Paul's unsentimental—and appropriate—reading of Tennessee Williams.

  • click to enlarge The Deep Dish Theater Company production of "Glengarry Glen Ross" - PHOTO BY LISA MARIE ALBERT
    Glengarry Glen Ross, Deep Dish, 2009 — A tight ensemble digs that Mamet jazz.

  • Hedda Gabler, Triad Stage, 2004 — An achievement in Gothic-tinged design and acting.

  • Holy Hell, 10 x 10 Festival, 2006 — Ten perfect minutes: a harrowing drama about a guilt-based marriage.

  • Howie the Rookie, Delta Boys, 2008 — Lucius Robinson, Stephen LeTrent and Kathryn Milliken explored Dublin's punk underbelly.

  • The Island, Manbites Dog, 2008 — Acting authenticity hallmarked a fully embodied Fugard play.

  • The Laramie Project, PlayMakers Rep, 2001 — A crisply directed, taut and compelling act of community.

  • Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, Streetsigns, 2001 — An ambitious adaptation of Evans and Agee's classic text.

  • The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby, PlayMakers Rep, 2009 — PRC strained to produce an abridged version of Edgar's script—and it showed.

  • Life, Love, Cows, Shakespeare & Originals, 2001 — This Chekhov adaptation kept us spellbound. For an hour. Outdoors. In cold weather.

  • The Lion in Winter, TIP, 2005 — A vehicle for theatrical lions Ira David Wood and Lynda Clark.

  • Minstrel Show: The Lynching of William Brown, Theatre Alliance for Social Change, 2002 — Two aging black entertainers presented grim evidence with dignity in the first 2002 staging.

  • Never the Sinner, REP, 2000 — Sweat dripped from murderers and audience alike in this taut crime trial.

  • click to enlarge Derrick Ivey as the president and Carl Martin as Henry Kissinger in the Manbites Dog Theater production of "Nixon's Nixon" - PHOTO COURTESY OF MANBITES DOG THEATER
    Nixon's Nixon, Manbites Dog, 2004 — A scathing political comedy, and an amazing Nixon by Derrick Ivey.

  • The Old Settler, Raleigh Little Theatre (RLT), 2000 — A robust production of John Henry Redwood's black 1940s romantic drama.

  • Out of the Dark, Wordshed Productions, 2005 — Hannah Blevins' script took us deep into West Virginia coal mines—and the miner's lives.

  • The Pillowman, Manbites Dog, 2007 — Martin McDonagh's sharp take on artistic responsibilities, helmed by an exceptional quartet.

  • The Prisoner's Dilemma, Burning Coal, 2008 — Expert actors construct a fragile diplomatic bridge of words in David Edgar's geopolitical thriller.

  • The Price, Deep Dish, 2003 — Four veteran actors calculate the cost of old mistrusts in Arthur Miller's family drama.

  • Private Eyes, Flying Machine, 2000 — Steven Dietz's intricate puzzle box contains two relationships.

  • Ragtime, NC Theatre, 2004 — A boisterous restaging of this turn-of-the-last-century musical.

  • click to enlarge Elissa Olin and Alice Cannon in the Burning Coal Theatre Company production of Athol Fugard's "The Road to Mecca" - PHOTO BY THE RIGHT IMAGE PHOTOGRAPHY INC.
    The Road to Mecca, Burning Coal, 2002 — An aging South African artist worries she's losing more than her physical vision in Athol Fugard's drama.

  • Shakespeare's R&J, Streetsigns, 2003 — Four military school students staged Shakespeare—unauthorized—in this astounding production.

  • Snow, Archipelago Theatre, 2000 — An ice cavern of a set, intense sounds and lights abetted an original script on how relationships grow chill.

  • Terra Nova, RLT, 2001 — A cool, psychologized retelling of Robert Scott's Antarctic disaster.

  • Three Sisters (on Ice), Little Green Pig, 2006 — An improbably revelatory—and deranged—revision of Chekhov.

  • Uncle Tom's Cabin, Burning Coal, 2001 — A hellish, avant-garde, audio-animatronic tour through American racism.

  • Unidentified Human Remains and the True Nature of Love, REP, 2000 — A sinuous, seductive and truly merciless nightlife puzzle.

  • Wit, PlayMakers Rep, 2000 — Tandy Cronyn, as a dying English professor, aces her truly final exam.

click to enlarge The Playmakers Repertory Company production of "The Glass Menagerie" - PHOTO BY JON GARDINER
  • Regional theater leaves the last decade stronger than when it started.

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