Best Large Theater Company: Place to admire bright costumes against a dun-colored mountain
Despite having to tighten its belt so much it sounded like the office staffers were taking turns mowing the lawn at the Bruns Amphitheater, CalShakes had a great season last year, laying out one excellent show after another -- an intense Julius Caesar, the hilarious Lillian Groag-helmed Arms and the Man, the stunning, desolate Measure for Measure with Johnny Cash singing Nine Inch Nails in the background, the tango-flavored Much Ado About Nothing. Although all of the large companies made interesting and generally strong showings, last season CalShakes really hit its stride. Which couldn't have been better timed, considering that the company also decided to drop the word "Festival" from its name and begin producing plays year-round instead of just during the summer. Happily, it should be able to keep the quality of its work as consistently high and engaging as it did last year -- and its Shakespeare (and Shaw, and so forth) as accessible and relevant.