Hands down, the best stage production of 2004 was

Olga Sanchez's Lorca in a Green Dress

at the

Miracle Theatre

. Despite a problematic script, a cast that included actors with bad habits, and a theater company that has long suffered from earnest but mediocre work, Sanchez created an electric evening of theater. In the process, she moved Miracle back onto our town's theatrical map. The question is: Has she received any invitations from other companies (especially ART) to direct? If not, it's an injustice.

Before reaching Reims, local aria-heads had to endure Portland Opera's production of Lucia di Lammermoor, Gaetano Donizetti's tale of a Scottish lass gone mad. PO's Lucia was a catalog of woe: an attic's jumble of strange, silly sets, props and costumes; a Lucia without high notes; and an Arturo without notes at all (at least we had the satisfaction of knowing she'd kill him by evening's end). High points: a first-class Edgar, vocally and dramatically, courtesy of Turkish tenor Bülent Bezdüz, and conductor Carol Lucas' masterful work in the pit. But their masterful music-making couldn't salvage a production with direction that recalled Busby Berkeley at his most mindlessly semaphoric (and sophomoric).

Other than a few standouts, such as Insight Out's staging of Lenelle Moise's CORNERED in the Dark (the year's best acting), Lorca in a Green Dress (see Winners) and Jane Unger's staging of the Raymond Carver stories for Literary Arts' new Verb series (which made for a nourishing evening of intelligent and inventive literary interpretation), the local theater scene was at its most torpid. As always, the biggest losers were the audience. But there are rumors flying that various companies are now in financial straits, some of which may well prove expendable. As a friend of mine says: "Some sick things need to die."

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