A lesser director might have turned Flyin' West into a hiss-filled potboiler. But in director Jeffrey Nickelson's capable hands, Pearl Cleage's play became an expansive ode to courage, self-determination and the price of freedom. Despite the dramatist's frank treatment of the subject of domestic
abuse, the play was hardly a sermon; instead, Nickelson and company paid tribute to the generations of trailblazing women who selflessly cleared the way for those who came after them. And Shadow's early-season production of Hughie resurrected one of Eugene O'Neill's more colorful characters with sublime grace: With all of Ralph Kramden's expansive largesse and Archie Bunker's blunt-witted pluck, actor Kurt Soderstrom brought a wealth of understanding to the character of Erie, covering a lifetime's worth of defeat, loneliness and fear in the space of 45 minutes.