Jack Lyons Theatre & Film Critic
Jack Lyons Theatre & Film Critic

One of the perks of being a critic is that we get to makes lists.  To select what we felt   were the best productions of the season for the year coming to a close.  All the high profile critics do it, so why not a list of what your humble and lowly critic felt was the some of the “most memorable” productions that Coachella Valley theatres produced in 2013.

It is usually very dangerous going out on a limb when choosing this play over that play, as “best”. There are so many variables that go into the criteria.  First one cannot always see every show, no matter how hard one tries, too many are being produced in our valley.

For example, the Desert Theatre League (DTL) has over thirty-one producing companies on its membership rolls.  This DTL season produced more than 450 nominations for playwrights, producers, directors, actors, dancers, singers, choreographers, set designers, costumer designers, lighting designers; plus a host of other technical disciplines.

That being said I sally forth, with great trepidation, in listing only a few productions among many worthy candidates that I felt were “most memorable”.  In no particular order they are:

“TRU”, the Coyote StageWorks production about the life of the irascible and prickly author/playwright/celebrity Truman Capote, as brought to life by actor Chuck Yates, in his DTL award-winning performance at the Annenberg Theatre.  “Suds: the Rockin’ 60’s Musical Soap Opera”, was another crowd pleaser from Coyote Stageworks.

CV REP produced two wonderfully acted shows: “Master Class”, the Maria Callas story brilliantly brought to life by Marina Re.  “Collected Stories”, produced two first-rate performances by Eileen T’Kaye, and Erika Whalen about the vagaries of friendship, trust, betrayal and plagiarism in the world of commercial literature.

The Groves Cabin Theatre production “Strange Snow”, about Viet Nam veterans and PTSD, sensitively and intelligently directed by Abe Daniels, is still being talked about in valley theatrical circles.

Cabaret Theatre West, produced two memorable productions revolving around the subject of Broadway shows and Singing in general.  Both were crowd pleasers and highly entertaining: “A Grand Night for Singing”, and “It’s All About Love” were audience favorites.  “Is He Dead?” the clever and delightfully silly play about Mark Twain’s much celebrated premature demise; produced by Palm Desert Stage Company, put on-stage some of the valley’s top farceurs who had an over-the-top ball with the vehicle.

The Palm Canyon Theatre (PCT) production of Sunset Blvd”, starring Pam Abramson and Mark Almy was a feast for the eyes and the ears.  The set design by J.W. Layne was worth the price of admission alone.  And not to be outdone, PCT scored again with their fabulous production of “The Wizard of Oz”.  Both “Wizard” and the College of the Desert (COD) production of “A Little Night Music” ended in a tie as the DTL’s Outstanding Musical production of the Year.   If you didn’t find one of your favorite plays of the 2013 season listed above, don’t worry. It just means I couldn’t see them all.  And remember, beauty is always in the eye of the beholder (please direct all your disagreement emails to the publisher he welcomes them… just kidding).

The 2013 theatrical season here in the Coachella Valley was diverse, rich and rewarding. By not attending at least a few of the fine plays and productions available to all, you’re missing out on some really fine entertainment. So make a New Year’s resolution that says ‘I will attend at least three live theatre productions in 2014’, and paste it on your refrigerator door.