FrontRow-Theater-1 Steven Walters and Abbey Siegworth in The Shape of Things at Dallas Theater Center. photo by Brandon Thibodeaux

In compiling this year in review, I deliberately avoided the word “best.” As a freelance theater critic, the number of shows I’m able to attend is regrettably limited. There’s a good chance that I missed the best performance of the year, or the best show, or the best set. There’s also a good chance that I didn’t pick your favorite performance, show, or set. That’s OK—part of what makes art great is its subjectivity.

So, with that disclaimer out of the way, my favorite theater of 2010:

Male Performance: Lee Trull, Dallas Theater Center’s The Shape of Things

I hated him so much I loved him. With so little to warm to, it would have been easy to recoil from his portrayal of Phillip, but the uncomfortable glances, the rude comments, and the unrelenting provocation was horribly, deliciously perfect.

Female Performance: A tie! Abbey Siegworth, Dallas Theater Center’s The Shape of Things and Kristin McCollum, Echo Theatre’s Well

Two very different roles, two very different results. Abbey Siegworth captivated me with her take on the focused, manipulative Evelyn—nearly a year later I’m still unsettled. As the driving force behind Lisa Kron’s indulgent memoir-ish play, Kristin McCollum was funny, relatable, and, most importantly, humble.

Male Supporting Performance: Drew Wall, Undermain Theatre’s The Dog Problem

In a company brimming with talent, Wall stood out with his fidgety, direct take on Ronnie, an unwilling gangster with hidden paranormal talents.

FrontRow-Theater-2 Drew Well (left) in The Dog Problem. courtesy photo

Female Supporting Performance: Pam Dougherty, WaterTower Theatre’s The Full Monty

I’ve seen a few Jeanettes over the years, and normally they slog through her one song and offer a mediocre one-liner from time to time. Under Dougherty’s control, Jeanette was sassy, brassy, and bubbling over with an exciting sense of “what’s this crazy old broad going to do next?”

Ensemble: My First Time, WaterTower Theatre’s Out of the Loop Fringe Festival

Four actors, dozens of stories and characters, not a weak link in the bunch.

Director of a Play:Terry Martin, WaterTower Theatre’s Our Town

No, he didn’t win because he also pulled double duty as the Stage Manager. This Our Town didn’t get bogged down in sentimentality, but instead kept a brisk pace that shuttled its audience toward a heart-wrenching finale.

Director of a Musical: Michael Serrecchia, Theatre Three’s The Drowsy Chaperone

A convoluted, whimsical plot that sends up an earlier theatrical era could easily grow stale. Serrecchia kept his audience close and never let them stray.

Scenic Design: Todd Rosenthal, Dallas Theater Center’s The Trinity River Plays

A working kitchen? A climbable tree? Real rain? Cheap tricks or not, they wouldn’t have had the same impact without the meticulously detailed rendering of a 1970s-era Oak Cliff home to fall back on.

FrontRow-theater-3 Karen Aldridge on Todd Rosenthal's set for The Trinity River Plays. courtesy photo

Costumes: Robin Armstrong, Circle Theatre’s Bach at Leipzig

I’m a sucker for brocade, and this production offered plenty of it. Luxurious without being over-the-top, Armstrong’s costumes appropriately conveyed the time period and lent an aura of authenticity.

Lighting: Steve Woods, Undermain Theatre’s The Dog Problem

It was subtle, but the twinkling Christmas trees and eerie glowing eyes of the languid lady in the wall-sized advertisement dropped an ominous yet playful haze over the entire show.

Sound: Rachael Lindley, Richardson Theatre Centre’s The Haunting of Hill House

I didn’t like much about this production, but the creepy music and thunderous clanking and crashing of disconcerted spirits was surprisingly effective.

Choreography: Dan Knechtges, Dallas Summer Musicals’ Xanadu

Rollerskates. Ramps. Not a twisted ankle in sight. Need I say more?

Favorite Year by a Company: Dallas Theater Center

In his third season at the helm Kevin Moriarty hasn’t slumped yet, delivering bold and exciting productions in a host of new spaces at the Wyly. From foul-mouthed LaBute in rep to a madcap revisal of It’s a Bird…It’s a Plane…It’s Superman! that attracted national attention, to debuting Regina Taylor’s bound-for-something-great Trinity River Plays, the DTC gave us a varied and stimulating year.

Show of the Year: The Shape of Things, Dallas Theater Center

This is one of the first shows I reviewed for D Magazine's FrontRow, and it remains my favorite. Clever technical solutions, strong directing, and stellar acting from its four cast members combined into that rare show that I would pay to see again and again.

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