Monday, April 11, 2011

Ah, the burden of the ideal.
A different form of drama has recently distracted me from my usual round of citations for dramatic excellence - which is a pity, isn't it.  'Tis also a pity that, thanks to the machinations of Kati Mitchell and Shawn LaCount, I won't be seeing quite a few artists this season who probably deserve my acknowledgment.  So to you, I offer an apology for Kati and Shawn's sins in absentia.

All that aside, however (I'm getting bored with them, too), there are already quite a few shows and performances (particularly ensemble performances) to cite this spring as award-worthy.  Alas, there still is no physical manifestation of the Hubbie (although the model at left, methinks, would serve as award enough for anybody).  So this token of my esteem remains merely virtual.  For that I also apologize.  Still, sometimes a virtual accolade can mean more than a physical one - particularly if it has never been compromised by being bestowed on the likes of Man of La Mancha, if ya know what I mean . . .

But enough on that topic, too!  Here are the Hubbie Awards so far for Spring 2011:

First some general thoughts, though - what's the current trend in excellence in our city's performing arts?  Well, I suppose the big story is Boston Lyric Opera's stunning season - this spring we've already seen two triumphs from them, Agrippina and The Emperor of Atlantis, and hopes are high for their upcoming A Midsummer Night's Dream.  But I don't usually award Hubbies to opera or dance productions, as my coverage there is more sporadic (with the new dispensation, however, that may change).

On the theatrical front, I'd say what has been striking me of late is the amount of high-quality direction coming from women.  There was a fuss a year or two ago over the supposed under-representation of female playwrights on our stages - but that "controversy" has yielded to my mind only one great script, Lydia Diamond's Stick Fly.  Yet at the same time, a whole new generation of talented female directors has kind of snuck up on Boston, pretty much unsung (but isn't that always the way?).  Their achievement has in part been obscured by the negative example of our most notorious female director, the A.R.T.'s Diane Paulus - and to be honest, her greed-driven vulgarian chic might be enough to put you off female directors in general.

But that would be a huge mistake.  A significant number - maybe even the majority - of the best ensembles I've seen in the past year have been directed by women, and I think I can begin to sense a sort of stylistic locus for these artists, all of whom seem committed to quiet, highly sensitive readings of the text in question (except when politically-correct issues arise, at which point a few of them go haywire, as Melia Bensussen did with The Merchant of Venice).

So who exactly is in this new vanguard of women directors - who are already pretty clearly stronger than the boys you regularly see at say, SpeakEasy or the Lyric? Well, any short list of the best direction I've seen in the past year would have to include:

Melia Bensussen - The Blonde, the Brunette and the Vengeful Redhead, and Two Jews Walk into a War. . .  (both at Merrimack Rep), along with Circle Mirror Transformation (at the Huntington);

Bridget Kathleen O'Leary - DollHouse, New Rep;

Liesl Tommy - Ruined, Huntington Theatre;

Maria Aitken - Educating Rita, Huntington Theatre  (Neither Tommy or Aitkin are local, btw.);

Meg Taintor, Tales from Ovid, Whistler in the Dark (of which she's artistic director).

I've also been impressed by the work of Stoneham's Caitlin Lowans and the Huntington's M. Bevin O'Gara, whose work I haven't seen lately, but who is helming Bat Boy at Metro Stage this summer.  I know Kate Warner is the big name missing from this survey - largely because while I've enjoyed Warner's direction, her choice of scripts often seems to me wacky; if I could ignore that, she'd be on the list.

Well, that became quite the digression, didn't it - and so on with the Spring Hubbies:

Best New Plays

In the Footprint: The Battle Over Atlantic Yards, (below) by The Civilians at ArtsEmerson;

To Hell with this Village, by S. Travis Taylor, Roxbury Center for the Arts;

The Hotel Nepenthe, by John Kuntz, Actors' Shakespeare Project;

Life "in the footprint" with the Civilians at ArtsEmerson.
 Best Ensembles

Tonye Patano, Carla Duren, Pascale Armand, Zainab Jah, Oberon K.A. Adjepony, and Ensemble,  Ruined, directed by Liesl Tommy, Huntington Theatre;

Jane Pfitsch and Andrew Long, Educating Rita, directed by Maria Aitken, Huntington Theatre;

John Kuntz, Daniel Berger-Jones, Georgia Lyman and Marianna Bassham, The Hotel Nepenthe, directed by David R. Gammons, Actors' Shakespeare Project;

Liam Carney, Nancy E. Carroll, Ingrid Craigie, Dermot Crowley, Clare Dunne, Laurence Kinlan, Dearbhla Molloy, Tadhg Murphy and Paul Vincent O'Connor, The Cripple of Inishmaan, directed by Garry Hynes, Druid and Atlantic Theater Company at ArtsEmerson;

Aimee Doherty, Cheryl McMahon, Kerry A. Dowling, Maureen Keiller, Jennifer Ellis, Shana Dirik, Santina Umbach, Amy Jackson, McCaela Donovan, Eric March, and Timothy John Smith, Nine, directed by Paul Daigneault (at left).

Andrea Maulella, Mark Shanahan, Tryst, directed by Joe Brancato, Merrimack Rep;

Judith Lightfoot Clarke, Carolyn Baeumler, Catherine Eaton, and Joseph Tisa, The Exceptionals, directed by Charles Towers,  Merrimack Rep;

Jeremiah Kissel, Will LeBow, Two Jews Walk Into a War . . ., directed by Melia Bensussen, Merrimack Rep;

Jimi Stanton, Will McGarrahan, Amanda Collins, 9 Circles, directed by Eric C. Engel, Publick Theatre;

Sarah Newhouse, Will Lyman, Jennie Israel, Diego Arciniegas, Cheryl Singleton, Claudia Q. Nolan and Julian Schepis, DollHouse, directed by Bridget Kathleen O'Leary, New Rep;

Best Individual Performances

Jen O'Connor, The Europeans, Whistler in the Dark;

Nathan Darrow, Ajax, American Repertory Theatre;

John Kuntz, Hysteria, Nora Theatre;

Phil Thompson, Glengarry Glen Ross, Independent Drama Society;

Joel Colodner, Anne Gottlieb, My Name is Asher Lev, Lyric Stage;

Jason Ming-Trent, Christen Simone Marabate, and Ted Schneider, The Merchant of Venice, Theatre for a New Audience at ArtsEmerson;

Best Design

James Fuhr, set, and Aaron Sherkow, lighting, The Road to Mecca. Boston Center for American Performance (left);

Eugene Lee, set, The Crucible, Trinity Rep;

John Lee Beatty, set, and Linda Cho, costumes, The Merchant of Venice, Theatre for a New Audience at ArtsEmerson;

SeƔghan McKay, projections, Educating Rita, Huntington Theatre, and Nine, SpeakEasy Stage;

Kathryn Kawecki, set, The Rimers of Eldritch, Stoneham Theatre;

John Malinowski, lighting, 9 Circles, Publick Theatre;

Cotton Talbot-Minkin, costumes, Mac Young, set, and Michael Underhill and Jenna Stelmok, lighting, The Crazy Locomotive, Imaginary Beasts;

Bill Barclay, sound, The Hotel Nepenthe, Actors' Shakespeare Project.

1 comment:

  1. Congratulations to all--a great list of productions to remember! And thanks for the shout out to female directors and to opera companies (I agree it's a good time to fall into both of these categories!)