Daily Pilot

On Theater: Looking back at Mesa and Newport theaters

By Tom Titus

DECEMBER 15, 2016, 2:25PM

This is the second in a series of three columns chronicling 2016 in local theater.

The Costa Mesa Playhouse was born in 1965, the Newport Theatre Arts Center in 1980. Both enjoyed robust years in 2016, with the Mesa theater receiving at least a year's lease on life at its Hamilton Street venue.

Looking back on their past 12 months of activity, both theaters stretched their resources a bit and each came up with some highly enjoyable productions. Lets visit the Costa Mesa Playhouse first:

Best production: "The Addams Family," directed by Jason Holland. Runners-up: "Rumors," directed by Kyle Myers, and "Of Mice and Men," directed by Michael Serna.

Of "The Addams Family," this column observed, "The Costa Mesa production ... with Stephen Hulsey serving as musical director ... is notable both for its characterizations and its vocal prowess" with "all boasting exceptionally strong voices."

Best actor and actress: Peter Hilton for "Of Mice and Men" and Christine Cummings for "Rumors." Runners-up: Johnny Fletcher and Jillian Barnett, both for "The Addams Family."

Hilton, this column wrote, "delivers an outstanding performance. He renders the pathetic Lennie empathetic and believable." In "Rumors," our review praised "the tall, lanky Christine Cummings, whose comedic moves bring to mind a young Carol Burnett."

And regarding the Newport Theatre Arts Center:

Best production: "God of Carnage," directed by Phyllis Gitlin. Runners-up: "1776," directed by Kathy Paladio, and "Steel Magnolias," directed by David Moltroni.

Of "God of Carnage," this column declared, "This devastating dramatic comedy ... brilliantly and imaginatively directed ... is squarely and powerfully on the mark." It might be noted that the same play earned "best production" honors for the Costa Mesa Playhouse in 2014.

Best actor and actress: Bradley Miller for "1776" and Tiffany Berg for "God of Carnage." Runners-up: Mark Coyan for "Uncle Vanya" and Adriana Sanchez for "I Do, I Do."

Miller "scores repeatedly as the conscience of the congress," this column wrote, and "drives this lengthy but highly satisfying production." Berg's portrayal was described as "a devastating performance from a highly skilled actress."

This column didn't visit either the Huntington Beach Playhouse or Westminster Community Playhouse as often as usual because of publication limitations. However, we were impressed with Huntington Beach's "M*A*S*H," directed by Jack Messenger, and Westminster's "Almost Maine," staged by Karla Franklin.

Next weekend, the column takes a break from year-end activity to review the musical "Elf" at the Segerstrom Center. Then, on the first day of the new year, the 2016 man and woman of the year in local theater will be announced.

TOM TITUSreviews local theater