Tucson theater has gone from the sublime to the ridiculous this year.
On the one hand, you have The Rogue Theatre’s sobering “Mother Courage and Her Children.” On the other, there’s Arizona Onstage Productions’ giddy “Five Women Wearing the Same Dress.”
Over at Arizona Theatre Company, the deliriously silly “Xanadu” followed the thoughtful “Mountaintop.”
And Arizona Repertory Theatre gave us the sophisticated “Nine,” about a midlife crisis, and the completely zany “Boeing Boeing,” about a swinging bachelor in the swinging ’60s.
Here’s the thing: Sublime or ridiculous, Tucson stages in 2013 offered thrills, laughs and substance.
Those that moved us, amused us and provoked us the most are honored with the Star’s Mac Awards, now in their 13th year.
The 2013 Mac nominees and winners:
Best Actor in a Comedy
“The Sunshine Boys” at ATC shone with its two lead actors, David Green and Peter Van Norden.
Owen Virgin’s Banjo in Arizona Repertory Theatre’s “The Man Who Came to Dinner” had a manic frenzy that fully fleshed out his character despite his short time on stage.
Michael Martinez gave a tender and funny portrayal of the sidekick pianist in Live Theatre’s “Souvenir.”
Call this a cop-out, but there were two performances in this category that deserve the Mac, so we give one to each: David Alexander Johnston, who smoothly aged himself about 30 years as the 86-year-old Mr. Green in Live Theatre Workshop’s “Visiting Mr. Green,” and Michael Calvoni in Arizona Repertory’s “Boeing Boeing.” Johnston’s performance was so deeply rooted that the audience quickly understood this man, his loneliness and his bitterness. And Calvoni, a wonderful physical clown, was a complete hoot as the nerdy, unsophisticated friend in Arizona Rep’s “Boeing Boeing.”
Best Actress in a Comedy
Susan Arnold was fully committed to her role as a soap-opera star who has trouble separating reality from her TV life in Beowulf Alley Theatre’s “What is the Cause of Thunder?”
Carlisle Ellis made us love the wealthy Florence Foster Jenkins, who adored singing but couldn’t hit a note in “Souvenir,” which Live Theatre staged.
Carley Elizabeth Preston showed a tenderness and determination in her strong portrayal of Ruth in Invisible Theatre’s “Miracle on South Division Street.”
Jordan Letson’s turn as Maggie in Arizona Rep’s “The Man Who Came to Dinner” smartly captured a sassy, determined woman of the ’30s.
Lori Hunt gave a nuanced and very funny performance as the tough, self-deprecating bridesmaid in Arizona Onstage Productions’ “Five Women Wearing the Same Dress.” She takes the Mac.
Best Actor in a Drama
James T. Alfred’s portrayal of Martin Luther King in ATC’s “The Mountaintop” was packed with poignancy and raw emotion.
Evan Werner’s performance as Ronald in Winding Road’s “The Alturists” was vivid and riveting.
Joseph McGrath’s turn as the title character in the Rogue’s “Richard III” was charming and vicious, funny and sobering.
Matt Bowdren used a pair of green gloves and his body to easily convince the audience he was a frog in the Rogue’s “After the Quake.” He made the challenging role look seamless. The Mac goes to Bowdren.
Best Actress in a Drama
Patty Gallagher was mesmerizing in her portrayal of an ape who has been captured and “civilized” in the Rogue’s “Kafka’s Monkey.”
Alida Holguín Gunn held the audience’s complete attention in her demanding role as the lone actor in Borderland Theater’s “Grounded.”
Cynthia Meier’s powerful turn in the title role of “Mother Courage and Her Children” was full of venom and heart.
Lori Hunt has made her mark as a comic actress, but she gave a chilling seriousness to her portrayal of Anna in Invisible Theatre’s “The Letters.”
The Mac goes to Toni Press-Coffman, who did some of her best stage work in Winding Road Theater Ensemble’s production of the devastating “August: Osage County.” Her stoned, manipulative mother at the center of the story was chilling.
Best Actor in a Musical
Christopher Johnson reprised his title role in The Bastard (Theatre) production of “Hedwig and the Angry Inch.” He still rocked a pair of high heels while expressing the anguish and humor of Hedwig.
Brian Klimowski didn’t say a word in Arizona Repertory Theatre’s “Fantasticks,” but his turn as the Mute in the musical dripped with charm and conveyed volumes.
Brian Levario and Kit Runge used their strong voices to tell stories through song in Arizona Onstage’s touching “Closer Than Ever.”
The dimwitted Sonny was given an earnest ’80s vibe by Dane Stokinger in ATC’s “Xanadu.”
The Mac goes to Christopher Johnson for his brave and raw performance as the Emcee in Winding Road Theatre Ensemble’s production of “Cabaret.”
in a Musical
Dani Dryer’s Yitzhak, in “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” was fuming and heartbroken. She also nailed the budding Nazi Ernst in Winding Road’s “Cabaret.”
Jessica Skerritt’s impeccable timing was matched by her beautiful voice and impressive roller-skating chops in her role as Kira/Clio in ATC’s “Xanadu.
Lucille Petty’s portrayal of Sally in Winding Road’s “Cabaret” was powerful and harrowing.
Comically gifted Christine Riippi stole the scene every time she was on stage as Calliope in ATC’s “Xanadu.”
Amy Erbe’s lovely voice and strong acting skills helped elevate Arizona Onstage’s “Closer Than Ever.”
The Mac goes to Liz Cracchiolo for her performance in “Closer Than Ever.” She has attitude, a beautiful voice, and a strong comedic sense, and they all came together in this moving production.
Best Director, Musical
Kevin Johnson’s direction of “Closer Than Ever” gave us an intimate and tender portrait of middle age.
Christopher Johnson and Evan Werner did not shy away from the very dark sides of “Cabaret.”
Danny Gurwin’s direction of Arizona Rep’s “The Fantasticks” was fresh and lovely without ever being sentimental. And he worked wonder’s with “Nine,” also on the Arizona Rep stage.
David Ira Goldstein showed absolutely no restraint in his direction of the extremely silly “Xanadu.” The result was a hoot of a musical and a rollicking good time for audiences. He takes the Mac for Best Director of a Musical.
Best Director, Comedy
Stephen Frankenfield’s direction of Live Theatre’s “Souvenir” resulted in a play that was full of laughs and tenderness.
Arizona Onstage’s “Five Women Wearing the Same Dress” was chock-full of humor and laced with reality in Terry Erbe’s hands.
Brent Gibbs made us like the fast-paced “Boeing Boeing” even while we weren’t crazy about the script.
David Ira Goldstein reminded us how funny Neil Simon can be with his direction of ATC’s “The Sunshine Boys.”
The Mac goes to Rhonda Hallquist for her restrained and insightful direction of Live Theatre’s “Visiting Mr. Green.”
Best Director, Drama
The Rogue’s “After the Quake,” jumped between stories and used minimal props to tell them. Nic Adams’ direction meant the audience stayed riveted.
Susan Claassen’s direction of Invisible Theatre’s “The Letters” was thoughtful and tight.
Barclay Goldsmith’s uncluttered direction of “Grounded” underscored the disturbing issues in the story.
Glen Coffman took on the sprawling “August: Osage County” and fashioned a play that was bleak, funny and relevant.
Mark Clements saw to it that the often-dark humor was beautifully balanced by the often-dark circumstances and characters in ATC’s “Clybourne Park.”
Cynthia Meier not only seamlessly cut Shakespeare’s script of “Richard III,” she directed the play with an eye toward clarity and rhythm. The compelling production wins her the Mac for Best Director, Drama.
Arizona Theatre Company’s production of “The Sunshine Boys” was fresh, funny and fun.
The cast of Arizona Repertory Theatre’s “Boeing Boeing” was so spot-on that we couldn’t help but fall over giggling.
“Five Women Wearing the Same Dress” is a hoot of a play, and Arizona Onstage Productions’ strong ensemble cast (plus some pretty outrageous bridesmaids’ dresses) wrung every laugh out of it.
“Souvenir” is a two-character play about an actual woman who was convinced she could sing. Live Theatre’s production showed a real affection for the character and gave us a fast-moving journey into bad singing and a solid friendship.
“Visiting Mr. Green” is a comedy with a serious note, and has lots of potential to be overly sentimental. Live Theatre Workshop’s production found the humor and heart without getting schmaltzy. The production takes the Mac for Best Comedy.
“August: Osage County” is a long, difficult play that moved like lightning and kept the audience on the edge of its seat, courtesy of Winding Road Theater Ensemble.
ATC’s production of the Pulitzer- and Tony- prize winning “Clybourne Park” was as eloquent as it was provocative.
The Rogue’s “Richard III” was a devastating piece wrapped in humor and packed with fine acting.
Also at the Rogue: “Mother Courage and Her Children” was darkly funny and disturbing, and “After the Quake” was storytelling at its best — a simple production that understood both the humor and the drama.
Borderland’s Theater’s production of the new play “Grounded,” about a military pilot who is moved from flying the skies to flying drones, is a demanding play. It had grace and insight. “Grounded” gets the Mac for Best Drama.
Winding Road’s “Cabaret” was gutsy and loaded with heart. The horror of the mind-set in Germany as the Nazis took hold was palpable.
Arizona Onstage’s “Closer Than Ever” captured middle-aged angst with some beautiful singing and a strong ensemble cast.
“Hedwig and the Angry Inch” is just so deliciously outrageous, and The Bastard (Theatre) did not hold back, turning out a production that was as funny as it was sad.
Arizona Repertory Theatre’s production of the much-loved “The Fantasticks” was both innovative and a delight.
“Nine” had no business working as well as it did — it’s about a man in a middle-aged crisis and was performed by college students. Arizona Rep’s production saw to it that we believed the characters and held on to the story.
May the theater gods forgive me — the Mac goes to “Xanadu.” The ATC production showed no shame in milking every silly moment out of the script, and it was a riot fest from beginning to end.