Great theatre flourished last year in our part of the world.
2016 was Shakespeare time in Omaha, amid world-wide commemorations of his earthly departure 400 years ago. Six plays lived and breathed here. Credit Nebraska Shakespeare for making it so. Moreover, laud Creighton’s Amy Lane for superb interpretations. Her take on June’s presentation On the Green of The Taming of the Shrew filled it with wonderful fun and impeccable interpretations of characters and dialogue. A indelible example of how great these productions can be. Moreover, she made the horrors of war and the fury of hatred suffuse November’s air, searing the mind in Vincent Carlson-Brown’s reworking of Henry VI, The Fire Within. Her stagecraft vivified and clarified the complex story.
Other Shakespeare productions were Carlson-Brown directing Macbeth On the Green as well as staged readings of Richard II and The Two Noble Kinsmen. Moreover UNO’s D. Scott Glasser brought forth Foreign Flames, Part 1 of Carlson-Brown’s endeavor.
In April at the same site remarkable and unusual Kwaidan unfolded. The evocation of Lafcadio Hearn’s Japanese Ghosts and Demons, materialized with remarkable inventive visual effects during the cast’s impeccable performances.
That month too, special style made Cy Coleman, David Zippel and Larry Gelbart’s City of Angels a wonderful flight of fancy at the Omaha Community Playhouse. In the musical romp in black and white re real life vs. reel life, credit Georgiann Regan’s imaginative costumes, Jim Othuse’s stand-out sets and Jeff Horger’s classy direction.
In March the Playhouse was also the scene for Caroline or Change by Tony Kushner and Jeanine Tesori. Eschelle Childers’ dynamic singing as Caroline remained a mighty foundation amid true depth of talent among other African-American voices in this unforgettable experience.
Compassion and beauty came alive in Tammy Ryan’s stirringly realized Lost Boy Found in Whole Foods at the same theater in May. The story about a Sudanese refugee resonates in these troubled times. Millard North High School junior Justice Jamal Jones stood out impressively and majestically. The producers deserve kudos for giving this to us.
SNAP lived up to its reputation for the unconventional during September, offering Jane Anderson’s trenchant, intelligent The Quality of Life brought forth with truth by director M. Michelle Phillips and her cast. The provocative subject at the core, facing imminent death, challenged us to consider our own temporary existences.
SNAP justified its purpose further with Cock by Mike Bartlett. Despite the title and expectations about gay men, this covered new ground, the question of identity in the center of inventive director Joshua J. Mullady’s staging, an open space framed by spectators as if roosters would fight within. He followed through on Bartlett’s bold concept, bare without nudity, kisses, props or character names. A March knockout.
The unexpected also characterized Lucas Hnath’s The Christians in April at Bluebarn. Neither preaching nor satirizing, the questions therein about faith could apply to many dimensions of belief. Credit director Susan Clement-Toberer for evoking convincing playing by a fine cast, especially Anthony Clark-Kaczmarek.
These memorable performances are among 30 of a potential 45 I attended from the above plus Brigit Saint Brigit, Chanticleer, Circle Theatre, The Rose and Shelterbelt.
What a special theatre year! What a great privilege it has been to witness so much of it.