Maggie’s Picks – Top 5 of 2014

top-5Here are Maggie’s top picks of 2014:

Monstrous Regiment
Company: Lifeline Theatre
Venue: Lifeline Theatre
TEN WORD SUMMARY:  Nobody left on the disk but us ladies and monsters.
RATING:  d12- “Heckuva Good Show”

A troupe of strange new recruits are all that is left of fictional Borogravia’s thinning ranks after generations of war, in this Discworld adaptation. But the ladies-er, uh, lads make quick of enemy soldiers; there’s fearless leader Polly/Oliver, (Sarah Price), Maladict (Michaela Petro), a tee-totaling vampire, not to mention loyal trolls, Igors and no shortage of orphans. They’re plucky, resourceful, and they tromp their country’s archaic views on women and war into the dust. This play is hilarious, high energy and heartfelt- the sort of show you always hope is waiting for you on the other side of the curtain.

Show: The Arsonists
Company: Strawdog Theatre Company
Venue: Strawdog Theatre
TEN WORD SUMMARY:  Ruthless fire starters can’t bring one man up to code.
RATING:  d12- “Heckuva Good Show”

In this satire, flawed protagonist Biedermann (Robert Kauzlaric) is determined to outwit dangerous arsonists on his own; intent on returning to his simple life and making the firebugs someone else’s problem. But he simply isn’t willing to lose face to his sedated wife (Sarah Goeden), a chorus of firefighters, or the dim-witted/mastermind arsonist Schmitz (Scott Danielson). He traps himself in his pride and failed efforts to manipulate a bad situation in his favor. As Biedermann finds his options narrowing in the face of impending fiery doom, the stage closes in on him, a tangle of scaffolding, fuse wire and fire hose.

Show: Ain’t Misbehavin’
Company: Porchlight Music Theatre
Venue: Stage 773
TEN WORD SUMMARY:  A whole world of stories hidden in old time music.
RATING:  d12- “Heckuva Good Show”

It’s a unique pleasure to watch this cast of five incredible singers (Robin Da Silva, Lisa Wasp, Sharriese Hamilton, Lorenzo Rush Jr. and Donterrio Johnson) careen from number to number, not just singing and dancing but deciding their relationships in the blink of an eye. Austin Cook pounds away on the piano as the whole joint threatens to shake to the ground under the power of the troupe’s exuberance. But it’s a handful of surprisingly introspective and haunting renditions of well-known Waller tunes that make this revue so much more than an exercise in pastiche. Directors Brenda Didier & Janet Landon have ensured that this is an Ain’t Misbehavin’ the like of which has never been seen.

Show: Venus in Fur
Company: Goodman Theatre
Venue: Goodman Theatre
TEN WORD SUMMARY:  An actor and director spar for all man and womankind.
RATING:  d10- “Worth Going To”

Rufus Collins and Amanda Drinkall are Thomas and Vanda, seemingly mild-mannered (sort of pretentious) writer-director and the actress who has stormed in literally, dead-set on auditioning for the title role in his masochistic Venus in Furs adaptation. What starts as a simple read-through between strangers slowly escalates into sly plays for power and dominance and the unraveling of text and psyches; and it’s a thrill to watch as the two dissolve into sweaty madness. The night’s not over until intellectual posturing, source material and Thomas and Vanda’s mutual assumptions have all been cast to the wind.

Show: Santaland Diaries
Company: Theatre Wit
Venue: Theatre Wit
TEN WORD SUMMARY:  Torture, abuse, and insanity, all in the name of Santa.
RATING:  d12 “Heckuva Good Show”

Actor Mitchell Fain is a masterful emcee, putting a bead on his captive audience as he pauses boastfully to land laser-accurate zingers or winces at the unfortunate window he has opened into his own embarrassment. Fain has swallowed his pride for a paycheck, and is hired, trained and outfitted to appear as ‘Crumpet’, an elf herding families through the screaming, vomit, profanities, racism, lies, alcohol and menstrual blood saturated Macy’s decadent Santaland forest.