Best of 2005: Theater Bravos and Boos

Here are lifestyle editor and Washingtonian Online theater critic Leslie Milk's picks of the year's finest--and not-so-fine--work on local stages

Best production: Take Me Out at Studio Theatre. Richard Greenberg's award-winner about a ballplayer who announces that he's gay rang as true as the thwack of the bat when a slugger hits one out of the park.

Best set and costume designs: Simon Higlett created such a lush, elegant world for the Shakespeare Theatre Company's staging of the Oscar Wilde comedy Lady Windermere's Fan that you almost wanted to move in. And Robert Perdziola's gowns–particularly Lady Erlynne's scarlet number–were to die for.

Best performer: Will Gartshore, who starred in Signature Theatre's Pacific Overtures and Urinetown, is the total package–he sings, dances, lights up the stage, and looks terrific. How long can Signature artistic director Eric Schaeffer keep him in Arlington?

Local girl made good: Georgetown Day School graduate Gina Gionfriddo. Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company produced After Ashley, Gionfriddo's biting and beautiful play in which a father writes about a family tragedy and becomes a celebrity. It would have been worth seeing even if part of it hadn't been set in Bethesda.

Most thought-provoking show: Round House Theatre's Columbinus, which used transcripts from kids, parents, teachers, and police to re-create the shootings at Colorado's Columbine High School. With no curtain calls, the play felt frighteningly real.

The year's best openings were performance spaces: the majestic Music Center at Strathmore, the artfully expanded Studio Theatre, and Woolly Mammoth's industrial-chic new home.

Longest nights: Both were at Arena Stage. If you stayed to the bitter end of The Importance of Being Earnest and Passion Play, A Cycle, you were probably a critic.

Washingtonian staffers contributing to this section were Cristina Abello, Susan Baer, Susan Davidson, Ken DeCell, Rebecca Dreilinger, Kim Isaac Eisler, Mary Clare Fleury, Kimberly Forrest, Brooke Lea Foster, Garrett M. Graff, Cynthia Hacinli, Thomas Head, Todd Kliman, Ann Limpert, Chad Lorenz, Leslie Milk, Aparna Nancherla, William O'Sullivan, Cindy Rich, and Chris Wilson. Also contributing were Cathy Alter, Ann Cochran, and Matthew Graham.

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