The New Orleans theater scene seemed to live between extremes in 2014. The NOLA Project went from enticing adults into a trip down the rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland to the morass of men infantilized by institutionalization in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. The Marigny Opera House triumphantly launched its dance company in October and was nearly shuttered over permit issues during the New Orleans Fringe Festival. Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carre lost the rights to produce Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat but finished the year with an entertaining run of the recent Broadway hit, Peter and the Starcatcher.
The NOLA Project presented a diverse and impressive set of productions. After several years of springtime Shakespeare productions in the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden, it delighted all ages with an adaptation of Alice in Wonderland in which audiences followed Alice or one of two of her sisters and met Lewis Carroll's bizarre characters in various scenes throughout the space. Its production of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest rose above the original book's dated ideas about mental health care and explored the risks of antisocial behavior. Cecile Monteyne turned in two excellent performances, animating a rebellious teenaged girl in Shiner and livening the mourning Olivia in a boisterous version of Twelfth Night; or, What You Will staged in the Great Hall at NOMA.
Local actors brilliantly brought to life several of Tennessee Williams troubled and brooding characters in a couple of productions. Southern Rep returned to Michalopoulos Studio, where it presented A Streetcar Named Desire in 2012, and Mike Harkins starred as the haggard defrocked priest in The Night of the Iguana. At Le Petit Theatre, Beau Bratcher directed a lush production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof starring Monteyne as Maggie.
Le Petit presented Golda, the one-woman show about Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir, and finished the year with Peter and the Starcatcher, an imagining of the backstory of Peter Pan. The theater scrambled to replace Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (which is scheduled instead in the 2015 Broadway in New Orleans season), presenting a remount of the feel-good jukebox musical Under the Boardwalk, which debuted at Rivertown Theaters for the Performing Arts. Le Petit also lost the services of Artistic Director Cassie Steck Worley, who stepped down in September after starring in Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike.
The Elm Theater became the latest company to hit the road, leaving its former space on Julia Street. It produced a stark version of Sam Shepard's A Lie of the Mind at Mid-City Theatre.
The Anthony Bean Community Theater reinforced its identity as home to August Wilson's Pittsburgh Cycle. After completing the 10-play, decade by decade look at African American life in the 20th century, the theater restarted the cycle with the first Wilson play it produced, Two Trains Running.
The Shadowbox Lounge may be inadvertently gaining a reputation for gorey spectacles after hosting the 2013 Evil Dead: The Musical, this year's Musical of the Living Dead and The Christmassacre Story, a holiday and horror mashup from See 'Em On Stage: A Production Company.
Shadowbox also hosted the Iraq war-based Dying City, which featured a standout performance from Monica Harris. Casey Groves anchored a polished production of Moon for the Misbegotten at The Irish House.
It also was a good year for original productions. John Biguenet's beguiling one-woman show Broomstick debuted locally at Southern Rep and at theaters across the country. Goat in the Road Productions' Numb, exploring the discovery of medical anaesthesia, was a highlight of the Fringe Festival. After a successful year the festival is changing its name to faux/real [a chain of events]. The effort is spurred by the success of independent production companies and venues to stage their own works, a good sign of the creative energy driving the local theater scene at the grass-roots level.
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