Brains, edge, and ambition defined Charleston’s theater scene in 2017, with work and players coming together to demonstrate a rich and raging stage presence throughout the city.
Most Memorable Senior Moment
In Village Repertory Company’s production of The Father, Nat Jones seizes the title role, portraying the part of an aging, irascible man suffering from dementia with raw power and arresting nuance. A solid runner up goes to Randy Neale as the patriarch in PURE Theatre’s production of If I Forget, whose character in the throes of a stroke may be far less antagonistic, but is every bit as unforgettable.
Most Tentacled Spectacle
Who better than Ursula, the deep-sea octo-wench of Charleston Stage’s The Little Mermaid, to make optimal use of the Dock Street Theatre’s tricked out production capacities? The wow-factor was just the ticket for the company’s 40th anniversary celebration.
Sharpest Musical Theater
All-around formidable musical pipes — and a cracker of a double-decker set — came together to deliver Village Rep’s bang-up, throat-slasher of a take on Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. With Bradley Keith’s haunting, resonant performance as the savage barber, along with a top-flight ensemble, Sweeney seared.
Most Creative Cross-Marketing
Spotting true-blue-suited proselytizers of The Church of Latter-Day Saints distributing their much-touted missives outside of the North Charleston Performing Arts Center for the touring production of The Book of Mormon was noteworthy enough. However, the church even took an ad in the program, cheekily lobbing: “Our version is sliiiightly different.”
Brainiest Bill of Fare
At PURE Theatre, The (Curious Case of the) Watson Intelligence honed your thinking while it wrecked your head, with splicing multiple characters representing man’s irrepressible desire to replicate himself as a machine. As many a Watson, the oh-so-watchable Scott Pattison-Smith gets a special shout-out.
Best Reason to Schlep to Citadel Mall
5th Wall Productions may be operating out of a storefront in a past-its-prime shopping mall, but that doesn’t stop them from presenting new work — like Snowblind — in a theater scene woefully remiss in this area.
Woman on the Vergiest
Jangled female nerves were all the rage this past year, whether manifest as dark drama or antic comedy. On the dark side, Carrie Schwab was a standout as a new mother with postpartum depression in Mine, Laura Marks’s sci-fi drama at Threshold Repertory Theatre in January. On the lighter side, Lynda Harvey-Carter was utter unhinged fun as a strung-out leading lady in Midtown Productions’ It’s Only a Play.
Set Designer You’d Most Want to Rearrange Your Living Room
Threshold Rep’s artistic director and set designer Jay Danner never fails to trick out the company’s black box in just-so appointments, whether flipping the theater’s standard configuration in a sumptuous stretch of a Russian country manse for Uncle Vanya or fashioning an artfully sparse design for The Elephant Man.
That would be for Sweeney Todd once more. Working with their neighbor, Ho¯M restaurant, they offered pre-show meat pies (as they did recently in a New York production), which likely left an odd aftertaste once patrons learned the contents of said comestibles during the show.
Brightest Glimmer of Hope
With real estate visionaries like Patterson Smith creating an arts space at Zion Olivet for theater makers — from a new home for PURE Theatre to a downtown annex space for Art Forms and Theatre Concepts — I am holding out hope that this is the dawning of the age of the enlightened developer.