Best theater company
Talk about grand entrances. In his first full season as artistic director of the Huntington Theatre
Company, Nicholas Martin hit a home run clear to Broadway. Last December's revival of the Ibsen classic
Hedda Gabler, directed by Martin and starring Kate Burton, was so well received that the whole production
moved to New York this fall - proving that Boston can be strong testing ground for theatrical events with
a little more weight than Seussical. Not surprisingly, the Huntington repeats last year's win in our
readers' poll, and it's already got a head start for 2002: the theater opened its current season with an
elegiac musical (James Joyce's The Dead), and it's now going berserk with bad boy Christopher Durang's
Betty's Summer Vacation, which Martin has already directed to great acclaim (and an Obie Award) in New York.
The American Repertory Company is sort of the Saturday Night Live of the Boston theater community. People
like to say that the company is past its prime, but every so often they're jolted into recognizing the ART's
ability to make the most audacious ideas work - as it did with János Szász's spectacularly poetic production
of the Bertolt Brecht play Mother Courage and Her Children this spring. The ART also exerts a clear
influence on the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company's popular summer productions on Boston Common, in terms
of both style (anachronistic costumes, a grab bag of musical cues) and quality of performance: top-notch
actors work in both companies. The impending departure of Robert Brustein is arousing curiosity, but there's
no concern about the ART's future or its ability to attract major talent. Case in point: Tony Award winner
Cherry Jones is set to appear here next spring in a musical adaptation of Lysistrata.
Huntington Theatre Company, 264 Huntington Avenue, Boston, (617) 266-0800; American Repertory Theatre, Loeb Drama Center, 64 Brattle Street, Cambridge, (617) 547-8300.