Best Large Theater Company: A humane place to spend a few hours
The Aurora has always had a reputation for smart plays -- the most consistent local source for George Bernard Shaw junkies, it has also made math sexy (Partition) and Ionesco a delight (The Chairs). These days the work is as intelligent as ever, but it's also warming up; the sort of cool, dry precision which marked the beginning of Tom Ross' tenure as artistic director after Barbara Oliver's departure is giving way to more depth and juiciness. The company's Marius was a wistful valentine to a bygone time, so nicely balanced you could smell the sea beyond the bistro, while the recent Master Builder presented Ibsen in a lively sparring match and The Thousandth Night was just breathtaking. The work isn't quite as abstract as in earlier seasons, or as dark; while in previous years the Aurora has given us tragic death (The Trestle at Pope Lick Creek), murder most foul (Therese Raquin), and the occasional burning at the stake (Saint Joan), lately the bloodshed has been limited to one play (The Persians) and the company has focused on subtler and sometimes more superficially humorous work (Blue/Orange, Thousandth Night, Dublin Carol) that still packs an ideological punch. Ross is choosing interesting stuff, and even the pieces that don't work as effectively are well paced and lovingly staged.