It's no secret that the most polished home-grown productions--though not always the most gripping plays--are mounted on the two stages at South Coast Repertory, the county's Tony Award-winning troupe in Costa Mesa.
It's also no mystery why this is so.
When it comes to financial or theatrical resources, SCR simply dwarfs the local competition.
But the serenade of snores that sometimes emanates from SCR's seats testifies either to an audience that needs its sleep or the fact that the plays are not engaging enough to keep playgoers awake. Perhaps it's both.
Of the 15 or so SCR productions I've seen over nearly as many months, only one was an unqualified success, in my humble opinion: George Bernard Shaw's "Man and Superman" on the Mainstage. It was dazzling, profound, funny. Long, yes, but every minute gave me pleasure.
Sally Nemeth's "Holy Days" on the Second Stage was also something to behold, for the quiet power of its acting as well as the poetic substance drawn from an unimposing script.
The Laguna Playhouse in Laguna Beach probably has the highest snore quotient among the county's "big three" theater companies because of its mostly unadventurous programming. If you want to catch up on plays you've missed over the past couple of decades, then you should hurry over to Laguna.
At the Grove Shakespeare Festival in Garden Grove, where the outdoor productions can be hit or miss, the snore quotient seems to be lower than Laguna's. I'm not sure whether that is because the Grove's repertoire is dominated by a playwright whose scripts are reliable benchmarks of excellence or because the audience is so devoted to the classics. But I am sure that the nip in the night air works like No-Doz.
The pre-eminent place to see touring musical imports--if not the only place--is the Orange County Performing Arts Center. The snore quotient here varies wildly, depending on the show, how far you're sitting from the stage and whether the stage mikes are behaving. Sometimes it depends on the star. When Rudolf Nureyev appeared in "The King and I" last season, it was actually painful to stay awake.
Still, there have been many worthy moments on Orange County stages. Among the ones I still remember with a smile are:
Jarion Monroe plaintively reciting Mendoza's love poem to Luisa and George Ede's bluster as the Statue, both in "Man and Superman."
Tom Bradac's comic relief as Constable Dogberry in "Much Ado About Nothing" at the Grove's Festival Amphitheatre.
George McDaniel driving his chariot across the stage as Miles Gloriosus in "A Funny Thing Happened" and piling up in the wings at the Performing Arts Center.
Jan Herman covers theater for The Times Orange County Edition.