By Tom Titus
10:37 PM EST, December 1, 2011
Editor's note: This is the first of three columns chronicling the year 2011 in local theater.
South Coast Repertory's "The Trip to Bountiful" was described in this column a few months ago as "an engrossing journey with extraordinary performances that rank among the year's most noteworthy achievements" at SCR.
As 2011 comes to a close, that assessment is particularly accurate when measured against the company's other accomplishments during the year. Director Martin Benson's compelling production of the Horton Foote drama ranks as the year's top production by the professional company.
A very close second was SCR's third production of Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream." Director Mark Rucker put his "stamp of scintillating showmanship" on the production, which lent a "futuristic feel to this Elizabethan frolic."
Ranking third is "Completeness," a world premiere by Itamar Moses directed by Pam MacKinnon. While dealing with complex issues of math and science, the play focused on an intense personal relationship.
Rounding out the top five shows were SCR's revival of a play it once premiered, Richard Greenberg's "Three Days of Rain," directed by David Emmes, and Catherine Trieschmann's "How the World Began," staged by Daniella Topol.
As for individual accomplishments, none shone brighter than Lynn Milgrim's lustrous aging widow in "The Trip to Bountiful." Milgrim, as the Daily Pilot review stated, "does full justice to the character that won Geraldine Page an Oscar back in 1985."
Among the actors, SCR founding artist Richard Doyle led the way as the "first among equals in a fine ensemble" in Conor McPherson's Irish-flavored atmospheric tale "The Weir." His tavern regular "begins and ends each round of chatter, drawing sympathy for a wasted life of missed opportunities."
A half-dozen actors from "Midsummer Night's Dream" rendered memorable performances — Susannah Schulman, Patrick Kerr, Elijah Alexander, Rob Campbell, Kathleen Early and Dana Green. Daniel Reichert and Jennifer Lyon helped make "The Trip to Bountiful" an involving journey.
Kevin Rahm and Schulman (again) stood out in "Three Days of Rain," while James Lancaster excelled in "The Weir."
Other notable performances in SCR plays were those of Marin Hinkle in "Circle Mirror Transformation," Sarah Rafferty in "How the World Began," Karl Miller and Mandy Siegfried in "Completeness" and Monette Magrath in "Silent Sky."
TOM TITUS covers local theater for the Daily Pilot.