*"Man and Superman" at South Coast Repertory in Costa Mesa--The editing did cause a few minor continuity troubles, but this was still a first-rate staging, bright with intelligence and good looks. SCR routinely has turned to George Bernard Shaw, usually with potent results. Here, with arguably his greatest play, SCR proves again that it's a valuable alliance.
*"Holy Days" at South Coast Repertory--Sally Nemeth's stage poem about hard living in mid-1930s Kansas was spare and evocative. There was little action or plot development, but its subdued expression could be stirring.
*"The Importance of Being Earnest" at the Grove Shakespeare Festival in Garden Grove--Not a stellar production, but a valid one. Oscar Wilde's epigrammatic language was respected and allowed to shine through; with it, of course, came much of his needling wit.
SMALL AND COMMUNITY
*"Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All for You" at the Costa Mesa Civic Playhouse--This approach to Christopher Durang's comic acid dip of rigid Catholic dogma and intellectual pedantry lacked some finesse but it nonetheless offered the playwright's message in sharp ways. It was, especially by community-theater standards and considering the shortsighted protests it generated, a brave production.
*"Two Funny" at the Backstage Theatre in Irvine--This mix of performance art and pure stagemanship featured Sandra Tsing Loh's satiric tribute to the American musical, "ShiPOOpeE! The American Musical Deconstructed," and Barry Yourgrau's beguiling reading of his short story, "Safari." With almost no props, these two conspired to create entertainment both elevated and accessible.
*"A Christmas Memory" at the Alternative Repertory Theatre in Santa Ana--ART views this annual reading of Truman Capote's holiday treat with a certain casualness, not wanting us to confuse it with the small company's more ambitious shows. But "A Christmas Memory" is such a satisfying and intimate piece of theater, you have to place it with ART's best work.
COLLEGE AND UNIVERSITY
*"Into the Woods" at UC Irvine--Barbara Damashek brought wit and verve to this great-looking production of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's warped musical fairy tale. The well-rehearsed student cast capably handled the demanding Sondheim score.
*"A Lie of the Mind" at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo--Sam Shepard's black comedy was given a vaguely surreal staging that emphasized the playwright's customary obsession--the American family, with all its disturbing emotionalism in high relief.
*"Don't Go Back to Rockville" at Rancho Santiago College in Santa Ana--The college's Professional Actors Conservatory's production of Jamie Baker's gritty play set in the world of horse racing was vivid and appropriately tense.