Performance Workshop Theatre: Harold Pinter's "The Caretaker." The company, which has helped brighten Harford Road, gave an effective staging of this unnerving play, directed by Marlyn G. Robinson. Marc Horwitz, the company's featured actor, burrowed into the central role of a crusty homeless man. (In the fall, Horwitz went on to demonstrate his virtuosity in Conor McPherson's "St. Nicholas," a one-man play about a theater critic and vampires -- no, they're not the same thing.)


BSO: John Williams: The celebrated film composer made his BSO debut conducting a sensational concert that drove the audience wild. Williams, who donated his services for this musicians' pension benefit, led a terrific sampling of his works for the screen and had the orchestra playing it with an electrifying edge.

Vagabond Players: Noel Coward's "Private Lives." In a bright reminder of the good work community theater companies do around town, this polished staging set off genuine sparks. Directed by Sherrionne Brown, an able cast delivered the zingers and physical comedy with aplomb.


Acme Corporation: Sam Shepard's "Killer's Head." This adventurous DIY company really turned on the juice in this 10-minute monodrama that captures a convict's last thoughts before execution in an electric chair. Director Stephen Nunns placed the play in a cell-like room that put the audience inches away from the condemned man, potently portrayed by Chris Ashworth.


BSO: Britten's "War Requiem." Alsop marked the Benjamin Britten centennial leading this epic fusion of liturgy and anti-war poetry. Some moments lacked impact, but this was still a noble account of a deep, important work. Tenor Nicholas Phan, bass-baritone Ryan McKinny and soprano Tamara Wilson sang superbly. Great contributions from University of Maryland Concert Choir and Peabody Children's Chorus, too.

Everyman Theatre: John Logan's "Red." It's not every day a play makes the philosophy of art the basis for an engaging theatrical experience. The company's stirring production, directed by Donald Hicken, featured exceptionally nuanced performances by Bruce Randolph Nelson as pathbreaking painter Mark Rothko, and Eric Berryman as his unsuspecting assistant.

Center Stage: Paula Vogel's "A Civil War Christmas." What a great year-end treat (the last performances are today). Vogel's panoramic look at Washington and its environs, December 1864, magically fuses history, fiction and music. This production, directed by Rebecca Taichman and gently choreographed by Liz Lerman, has a versatile, engaging cast that communicates the subtle message of hope glowing at the center of this remarkable work.