Daily Pilot

College and community theaters were prolific in 2017

By Tom Titus

DECEMBER 21, 2017, 4:00 pm

The year 2017 was an active one for community theaters and collegiate drama departments, even though we lost one such entity along the way (more on that subject in a future column).

For the Costa Mesa Playhouse, now in its 53rd season, two productions ascended to the top rung of the artistic ladder – "Dinner With Friends," directed by Michael Serna, and "A Piece of My Heart," staged by Kathy Paladino. Both proved compelling in their own ways, "Dinner" brutally examining a failed marriage and "Heart" depicting women volunteering for service during and after the Vietnam war.

Individually, Angel Correa and Jordana Oberman turned in the year's top performances as the splitting couple in "Dinner." Runners-up were the entire ensemble of "Heart."

At the Newport Theatre Arts Center, the Pulitzer Prize-winning "Proof," directed by David Colley, was clearly the standout production. A solid second choice was director Robert Fetes' staging of "Calendar Girls."

Top performance honors were captured by Della Lisi Kerr in "Calendar Girls" and Nicole Powell in "Proof." Also noteworthy were Abel Garcia in "Proof" and Harriet Whitmyer in "A Murder is Announced."

Garden Grove's Gem Theater, a showplace for musicals, unveiled some fine ones in 2017, the most impressive being "Cabaret," for which the entire theater was remodeled. It was directed by Damien Lorton, as was the runner-up show, "Follies."

Superlative performances abounded, chief among them Nicole Cassesso in "Cabaret." Also memorable were Adriana Sanchez and Beth Hansen in "Follies" and Danny Diaz in "Cabaret."

The Huntington Beach Playhouse, which had been around since 1963 in various locations, finally folded its tent this year, finishing up with an impressive production of "To Kill a Mockingbird." Tom Killam excelled in that show's leading role, as did Anastasia Lincoln in a riveting cameo.

As for local college theater, the blue ribbon goes to director Vanda Eggington's ambitious production of "Into the Woods" at Vanguard University. Also significant was the streamlined revival of "Macbeth" at Golden West College, directed by Martie Ramm.

Terrific performances were turned in by Alexandria Miller and Megan Fox in "Woods," along with Matthew Cobb and Savannah Smith as the murderous couple in "Macbeth."

This column's annual year-end roundup concludes next week with the announcement of TimesOC's man and woman of the year in local theater, the 44th pair to be so honored.

TOM TITUS Reviews local theater.