WBEZ | Ron OJ Parson http://www.wbez.org/tags/ron-oj-parson Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en The best Chicago theater directors of 2011 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-12-20/best-chicago-theater-directors-2011-95051 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-December/2011-12-20/_78.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Some theater folk hold that 90% of the work of a really good director is casting the show. Certainly, there are times when the quality of the talent on stage is such that a gifted director simply gets out of the way and makes him/herself invisible. But not always. Sometimes concept or interpretation make all the difference and then the director becomes the star of the show in the best sense, or at least a co-star. There were several strong examples in 2011.</p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-December/2011-12-20/Kimberly-Senior-Headshot-300.jpg" style="margin-right: 10px; margin-top: 10px; margin-bottom: 10px; float: left; width: 300px; height: 200px; " title="Director Kimberly Senior">At Next Theatre Company last winter, the time-tested director <strong>Kimberly Senior</strong> again demonstrated her skill with J. T. Rodgers’s <em>Madagascar</em>, a three-person monologue play about a missing person that offers audiences a conundrum inside a puzzle. Senior guided her actors knowingly through every inch of this poetic, rich and layered work of direct address to the audience, resulting in a spell-binding piece where one might have had mere drone.</p><p><strong>Dexter Bullard</strong>, highly regarded as a director of physical theater, was at the top of his game with the February world premiere of <em>The Big Meal</em> at American Theater Company; a fast-paced and multi-scene comedy by Dan LeFranc that was both verbally and physically complex. All actors played multiple roles and ages in portraying four generations of a family (or was it five?) meeting across the holiday dinner table. Vastly entertaining and meaty as well, the play and the performances gained critical mass as the show progressed.</p><p>Director <strong>Jonathan Wilson</strong> long has been one of Chicago’s under-appreciated treasures, who combines nuanced understanding of text with a firm hand and—always—clear vision. Wilson’s merits were fully on display in <em>Yellowman</em>, produced in September by Greentree Productions. Dael Orlandersmith’s prize-winning drama has been seen in Chicago before, but never in such a funny, tender and terrifying production. A tale of love, discovery, racism and class conflict, the play is too long, but it didn’t matter this time.</p><p>September also brought us one of America’s top directors in top form as <strong>Robert Falls</strong> staged John Logan’s <em>Red</em> at the Goodman Theatre (of which Falls is the long-time artistic director). This witty two-man work about artist Mark Rothko and a fictional young assistant is surprisingly physical, and Falls made the physical business dazzling (although not unnecessarily so). However, his real contribution was an interpretation radically different from the New York/London original production; one which brought more meaning out of the text and, therefore, out of the characters.</p><p>Also in September, Seanachai Theatre tackled the great Sean O’Casey’s first important play, <em>The Shadow of a Gunman</em>. It’s a play of character and “crack” (Irish slang for talk and banter) rather than plot—which O’Casey telegraphs miles away—and Seanachai was fortunate to have <strong>John Mossman</strong> as director. Himself an actor and teacher (he and his wife run The Artistic Home), Mossman took the often-purple and poetic prose of O’Casey and turned it into intimate speech deeply rooted in the personality of each character, without ever losing the Irish charm or O’Casey’s passion.</p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-December/2011-12-20/_78.jpg" style="margin-left: 10px; margin-top: 10px; margin-bottom: 10px; float: right; width: 300px; height: 200px; " title="Director Ron OJ Parson">Finally, I can’t let the year wind down without citing the astute comedic glory of what <strong>Ron OJ Parson</strong> and three superb actors are doing with Harold Pinter’s <em>The Caretaker</em> at Writers’ Theatre in Glencoe (running through next March 25). Parson’s high concept puts the audience—all 40 or so of them—<em>inside</em> the set, which is a complete four-walled room built within the already-tiny theater space. Within the confines of this space, the audience becomes one with the three distinct personalities of the characters, whom Parson and company bring to crystal-clear life.</p></p> Tue, 20 Dec 2011 16:08:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-12-20/best-chicago-theater-directors-2011-95051