The Year in Austin Culture
Top 10 Theatrical Productions of 19991. Lipstick Traces (Rude Mechanicals) This was the show that I told people who never go to the theatre to see. Loud, funny, and irreverent, this adaptation of Greil Marcus' famously un-adaptable tome was strangely, wonderfully comprehensible. It was the artistic chutzpah and pop culture savvy of the Rude Mechanicals operating on all eight cylinders.
2. The Rocky Horror Show (Zachary Scott Theatre Center) I always hear that the more a cast enjoys a show, the better it is. I'm not sure if that's true, but in this unforgettable, high-camp production, it was tough to tell who was having more fun, the audience or the performers -- and for that matter, who was the audience and who were the performers.
3. Millennium Bug (Frontera@Hyde Park Theatre) Rare is the writer who can see through the bullshit, make sense of the madness, and -- wonder of wonders! -- create a piece of work that is original, incisive, and funny as hell. Steven Tomlinson is a creative force to be praised -- and envied.
4. The Cry Pitch Carrolls (Salvage Vanguard Theater) The storyline of this "nostalgic nuclear winter Christmas opera" was so challenging and the presentation so unique that I was genuinely lost at times. But with Graham Reynolds' accompaniment, Jason Neulander's strong vision, and Ruth Margraff's original text, not to mention an all-around commendable cast, the warmth and beauty of this play about resurrection could not be mistaken.
5. Twelfth Night (Sneck Up! Productions) A finely crafted valentine to Shakespeare, Thirties Hollywood, and a timeless little thing called love. (Ed. Note: The production was directed by Chronicle Arts editor Robert Faires.)
6. The Mystery of Irma Vep (Zachary Scott Theatre Center) Was it a howl? A scream? A hoot? A riot? Directed by Dave Steakley and performed by Martin Burke and Joe York, this two-man comic caper was all of the above -- a hysterical headrush of costume changes, plot twists, and good old-fashioned slapstick.
7. Shakespeare's R&J (Zachary Scott Theatre Center) Under the skillful direction of Sarah Richardson, a four-person ensemble -- Martin Burke, Chris Hatcher, Jon Watson, and Aaron Michael Johnson -- imbued their tale with passion and ingenuity, making literature's most familiar love story feel brand new.
8. The Collection/A Kind of Alaska (Subterranean Theatre Company) Of the many Pinter productions to choose from this year, Ken Webster's engaging double bill was my favorite, if only for the impeccably acted and rarely staged The Collection, which the playwright wrote for television in 1976.
9. Boys' Life (One Theater Company) One Theater Company has been brimming with enthusiasm since they hit the Austin arts scene two years ago. But this production, headed up by a haunting performance from Eric Peterson, proved they have plenty of talent, too.
10. David Sedaris (Paramount Theatre) At this appearance by comic writer Sedaris, I laughed so hard that I actually begged the author to stop. My side hurt; my back hurt; I could hardly breathe, and I couldn't envision sustaining laughter for much longer. Fortunately for me and the rest of the enthralled audience, Sedaris wasn't listening.
Venus and Dirigible (Salvage Vanguard Theater)
The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (Austin Musical Theatre