YEAR IN THEATER 2011: Memorable food fights, biggest dicks, inscrutable triumvirates, George Clooney jumps ... It's the return of the Upstage/Downstage Awards
Hobo Grunt Cycle at the Exit Theater
I'm not sure why there were so few people in the audience for this stunning cri de coeur against warfare by Kevin Augustine's rightly acclaimed New York–based puppet theater ensemble, Lone Wolf Tribe. As hard as it can be to look at the real face of war, this piece brilliantly insisted on the need to do just that: manipulated with consummate grace by one or more black-clad puppeteers, Augustine's life-sized puppets remained strikingly sentient, heartbreakingly damaged beings you absolutely could not take your eyes off. (Avila)
Classiest Beginning to a Final Bow
In the Maze of Our Own Lives
Playwright-director Corey Fischer's sleekly staged, prescient take on the radically influential Group Theatre ensemble of the thoroughly agitated 1930s, In the Maze of Our Own Lives, which lead off the Jewish Theatre's 34th and last season. (Avila)
Best Reason to Cross the Bridge: SQUART at Headlands Center for the Arts This 24-hour, all-stops-pulled-out version of choreographer Laura Arrington's shrewd experimental series in collaborative performance-making capped a residency at the Headlands with a well-attended set of four sneaky, astonishing pieces by a multi-talented ensemble of harried sleep-deprived creator-conspirators. Why isn't art always made this way? (Avila)
Worst Gas-to-Show Ratio Lolita Roadtrip at San Jose Stage A surprisingly unmoving outing from otherwise quick playwright Trevor Allen, who indeed quickly bounced back with a remounting of his popular solo, Working for the Mouse. (Avila)
Strangest Encounter Between "Performer" and "Audience" Robert Steijn Steijn questioned everything, including what the hell he was doing onstage in front of the people assembled to see the famed Dutch performer at Joe Goode's new annex in the Mission. They were all good questions, and the micro-choreography of physical and psychic states to which they pointed charged the room with a delicate intensity that encouraged many thoughtful beers afterward. (Avila)
Short takes: Biggest Dick: Kevin Spacey as Richard III. With balls and chops to match.
Best Beefcake Ham and Cheese on Wry for under $100: Hugh Jackman at the Curran.
Best use of salvia: Philip Huang at "Too Much!"
Best medicine for complacency: Cancer Cells, selections from late works and words by Harold Pinter by Performers Under Stress.
Biggest site-specific punch (with gloves on or off): Peter Griggs' one-man show, Killer Queen: The Story of Paco the Pink Pounder, at Michael the Boxer Gym and Barbershop.
Most intellectually stimulating drag lecture: David Greenspan reading Gertrude Stein's Plays at the Contemporary Jewish Museum. (Avila)