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Top 5 on campus theater productions of 2014

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2014 brought with it a staggering increase in the amount of theater produced on Stanford’s campus. We at The Daily were thrilled to see these innovative, exciting and touching shows. In particular, these five productions stood out to us. In alphabetical order, here they are:

“The Bluest Eye,” directed by Angela Schiller

This adaptation of Toni Morrison’s novel, performed with an all-African-American cast, gave the story new life onstage. A brave production, it tackled a variety of issues — racism, self-hate, incest, rape and the politics of beauty — very effectively due to the dynamic staging by Schiller and fine acting across the ensemble. Book adaptations can be tricky, but Schiller’s production only added to the already powerful story.

The Fantasticks,” directed by Ken Savage

Courtesy of Nick Salazar.
Courtesy of Nick Salazar.

A musical comedy delight, “The Fantasticks” was proof that low budget theater can be just as good as anything else. From the hilarious unending handshake between fathers Hucklebee and Bellomy (Weston Gaylord ’15 and Mark O’Meara ’13), to the charm and wittiness of The Mute (Matt Herrero ’17), to the beautiful vocals and earnestness of Luisa (Annie Sherman ’14), there was not a weak link in the production. With a charming intermission gag and inventive set and lighting design, “The Fantasticks” seized every opportunity to create clever and enjoyable storytelling.

 

Next to Normal,” directed by Allison Gold 

Courtesy of Matt Lathrop.
Courtesy of Matt Lathrop.

Authentic, moving, and vocally and visually stunning, “Next to Normal” told the story of a family struggling to relate to each other with remarkable resonance. As Diana, Megan Gage ’15 created a heartbreakingly believable portrayal of a woman fighting (and giving into) her bipolar disorder. A stunning set (designed by Keenan Molner ’15) and an ensemble that committed to making each moment on stage better than the last pushed this student production to a new level. By committing to the honesty of the most difficult and touching moments, as well as the humorous ones, “Next to Normal” gave us a powerful glimpse into the imperfection of the human condition.

Moby Dick – Rehearsed,” directed by Rush Rehm and Courtney Walsh

The cast of Moby Dick - Rehearsed, with Rod Gnapp as Ahab and Peter Ruocco as Starbuck above. Photo by Stefanie Okuda.
The cast of Moby Dick – Rehearsed, with Rod Gnapp as Ahab and Peter Ruocco as Starbuck above. Photo by Stefanie Okuda.

Welles’ adaptation of the classic Melville novel came to campus this summer in a magically designed 90-minute production, outstanding in everything from lighting and sound design to choreography. Captain Ahab (a frighteningly powerful Rod Gnapp) led a terrific ensemble cast to create the illusion of an ever-sailing whaling ship headed to its doom. Hailed as a “theatrical wonder,” “wickedly gorgeous and richly layered,” and as a “production that captures the essence of theater and humanity,” the production won four Theatre Bay Area 2014 awards, for Best Sound Design (Michael Keck), Best Ensemble, Best Director and Best Overall Production.

Proof,” directed by Noemi Berkowitz

Matthew Libby as Robert and Jessica Waldman  as Catherine in Stanford Theater Laboratory's production of "Proof." Photo by Frank Chen.
Matthew Libby as Robert and Jessica Waldman as Catherine in Stanford Theater Laboratory’s production of “Proof.” Photo by Frank Chen.

An intellectual and emotional tour de force, this interpretation of the Pulitzer Prize winning play “Proof” shined on every level. With artfully minimalistic staging by Berkowitz and nuanced, rounded performances across the board — that did justice both to the emotional gravity and the humorous moments of the play — this production skillfully showcased David Auburn’s brilliantly written text. The play also received rave reviews from Psychology 1 students, who saw the piece and discussed its ubiquitous psychological themes, such as mental illness, family and creativity, as part of an innovative and successful collaboration with the Psychology Department.

Note: A few members of the theater editorial board were involved in productions on campus last year. When it came to those productions, the other members evaluated whether or not they would be on this list.

Contact the Theater Editorial Board at theater “at” stanforddaily.com.