Playing it safe: Theater in Santa Barbara 2014 was a chance to reconsider and regroup

he biggest news this year in the world of Santa Barbara theater was the loss of the Circle Bar B Ranch Dinner Theatre. It’s not that the small but lovable theater was in the red. In fact, by all reports it was doing well and had a hearty subscriber base. But the owners of the surrounding ranch wanted to take the location in other directions and so in October, after 44 years, the theater closed with Marc Camoletti’s “Boeing Boeing.” Directors Susan and David Couch put their heart and soul into the little space and made it a shining example of what is usually a disparaged style of theater. It was also a home to many of our town’s favorite comic actors . . . and it gave them gainful employment too. It shall be missed.

The Ensemble Theatre Company finished its first full season at the New Vic and began its second, beginning with David Lindsay-Abaire’s “Good People” and bringing out the big guns for Mary Zimmerman’s adaptation of Ovid’s “Metamorphoses,” showing off all the stage goodies the New Vic has at its disposal, including a reflecting pool. But the stage also benefits intimate shows with small casts, like John Logan’s Mark Rothko bio play “Red” and the campy Tallulah Bankhead-led comedy “Looped.” The year ended with a standby — Peter Shaffer’s “Amadeus” — and a U.S. premiere, the uproarious comedy “The Best Brothers.” Executive Director Jonathan Fox has been balancing the new with the popular these two seasons and hopefully he’ll continue to do so.

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