The Arts page recently conducted a poll among its reviewers to determine the five best plays of the year. The following productions ranked among the best of Harvard drama. And the winners are...
West Side Story: Director David Eggar's modernization of the script resulted in some incongruous moments, but a capable, energetic cast, Christine Van Kipnis's stunning choreography and near professional production values made for an enthralling show. As Maria, China Forbes sung beautifully, and Cori Peterson's Anita would have impressed fans of Rita Moreno. Kudos also to the multi-story freeway bridge which Matt and Mark Buchanan designed as the centerpiece of the set. One only wishes that Eggar had removed a jarring dream sequence which replayed Tony and Maria's courtship as transvestite vaudeville.
The Errols: Todd Fletcher's through-composed senior thesis boasted beautiful musical compositions and masterful vocals from Alexis Toomer and Charlie Cardillo. Although Anna Banks and Cinque Hicks provided lively choreography for the Fourth of July sequence, most of the show's blocking seemed extremely stiff and Fletcher's plot was merely skeletal. In addition, he choose to sidestep controversial racial commentary by focusing on individual relationships. Despite these flaws, The Errols remained a significant triumph for this talented student.
Romeo and Juliet: This tragic tale of star-crossed lovers received a fresh and vibrant interpretation by director Jim Marino. Marino emphasized the youthfulness of Shakespeare's characters and the bloody consequences of their immature passions. Tom Chick and Shelia McDonald earned our empathy with their appealing performances as Romeo and Juliet. McDonald's Juliet was particularly impressive--her balcony scene reminded the audience of an infatuated teenager pining away for her musical idol in Bye Bye Birdie.
The Duchess of Malfi: Orion Ross did a magnificent job of blending artsy pretentiousness with the emotional struggles common to all people. David Gammons' stripped-down set accentuated Tanya Selvaratnam's stirring performance as the Duchess, and flying refrigerators kept the audience on its toes. The play might have befuddled the audience with its sexist behavior toward women, but this brutality only added to the tragedy.
A. . .My Name is Alice: Jennifer Giering's decidedly non-experimental production featured energetic staging, sweet and simple dancing and Larry O'Keefe's skillful piano accompaniment. No voice stood out, but the ensemble blended well and brought out the humor in an entertaining, though hardly brilliant, script. Given the show's conventional approach towards feminism, the audience's biggest question was why Giering staged A...My Name is Alice in the Loeb Experimental Theater.