Curtain calls - Page 2

YEAR IN THEATER 2011: Memorable food fights, biggest dicks, inscrutable triumvirates, George Clooney jumps ... It's the return of the Upstage/Downstage Awards

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A moment from "Beardo" with Anna Ishida
PHOTO BY PAK HAN

Where have all the puppets gone? It seemed like for a few years there they all went into hiding, perhaps barricading themselves in little puppet bunkers, awaiting the end times. But a modest slew of puppet-driven performances resurfaced over the course of 2011, reigniting our hopes for a full-blown revival in the future. A shortlist of memorable puppets encountered this year include Lone Wolf Tribe's dark circus of clowns and war veterans in Hobo Grunt Cycle; a beleaguered Orson Welles puppet manipulated by Nathanial Justiniano's sociopathic Naked Empire Bouffon Company alter ego Cousin Cruelty; Thomas John's "hard-boiled" egg puppets who populated his Humpty Dumpty noir thriller The Lady on the Wall; the over-the-top awesomeness of a trio of Audrey Jrs. in Boxcar Theatre's Little Shop of Horrors, and the silently suffering soldier of Aurora Theatre's A Soldier's Tale. Here's hoping this miscellany foreshadows the triumphal return of the missing puppets, to as opposed to their last hurrah. (Gluckstern)

 

Nicest timing

The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs

Just before public figures across the spectrum wailed their approval of a fallen business idol, Seattle-based monologist Mike Daisey, at Berkeley Rep, not-so-quietly reminded people of what a corporation is. Then Occupy Wall Street happened. (Avila)

 

Most Polarizing Descent Into the Reptilian Complex

Chekhov Lizardbrain

Whether you loved it or loathed it, Pig Iron's touring production of Chekhov Lizardbrain was certainly one of the year's most striking. Performing as part of foolsFURY's Fury Factory, the Philadelphia-based Pig Iron spearheaded an expedition into the inner workings of one man's brain beset by shifting vagaries of memory and truth. Combining a series of pompously-referenced "rules" of drama, stock Chekhovian alter-egos, and the dual personalities — internal and external — of an undersocialized protagonist (James Sugg) struggling to shape his memories into a recognizable narrative, Chekhov Lizardbrain elicited the most polarized reaction from its sold-out houses I saw all year. From a standing ovation to a fair number of disgruntled walk-outs, this dark-edged exploration inspired a panorama of strong responses in its audience, a solid sign of success in my book. (Gluckstern)

 

Best Labor of Love

The Companion Piece

Inspired by a concept by Beth Wilmurt, who was inspired by a book about the biological roots of human emotions (A General Theory of Love), Mark Jackson directed Wilmurt and fellow "vaudevillians" Christopher Kuckenbaker and Jake Rodriguez at Z Space in one of the most inspired pieces of devised theater all year (with a close second going to Jackson's own SF State production of the blissful Wallflower). (Avila)

 

Best Conversation Starter

The closure of a "remixed" Little Shop of Horrors

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