Friday, May 2, 2014

Nicky Martin has passed away

The famously wry smile.
If you haven't heard the news yet, director Nicholas Martin, a great theatrical talent and ebullient raconteur who led the Huntington to new heights of artistic achievement, and did nothing less than sculpt the South End into a revitalized Theatre District, passed away on April 30 after a long illness.

Sigh - where to begin. First, I was a great fan of Nicky's directorial style, which blended the best of the popular and the classic, and would rate most of his productions (Love's Labour's Lost, The Cherry Orchard, Present Laughter, etc.)  among the best the Huntington ever mounted - and one in particular (the sublime She Loves Me) as among the greatest productions I've ever seen, period.

Beyond that,  it would be hard to name a single person who has had a larger impact in recent years on the city's theatre scene. For in an unprecedented move, Nicky threw the Huntington's institutional weight behind Boston; he began to hire Boston actors, and developed Boston playwrights (indeed, he mounted the Huntington's first production of a local playwright with Melinda Lopez's Sonia Flew). What's more, he backed the successful effort to expand the Boston Center of the Arts into a four-theatre complex, including the gorgeous new Wimberley Theatre, which transformed not just that particular block of the South End but the city as a whole, as it found itself re-oriented to a new Theatre District, with a playwriting scene, and an Equity actor scene, and a theatrical fringe where none had existed before.

Nicky moved on to the Williamstown Theatre Festival in 2008, where he likewise burned brightly; but he endured declining health after suffering a stroke in 2010 - although he still led high quality productions at the Huntington and elsewhere, and was nominated for a Tony for directing Christopher Durang's Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike on Broadway. He intended to reprise that triumph at the Huntington this fall - and it remains on the theatre's schedule; but something tells me the poignant undertow that now moves beneath Durang's farces will be even more powerful this time around.

Because they just don't make 'em like Nicky Martin anymore. He was the last of his breed. So I would say that he'll be missed - only frankly, he's missed already.  Terribly.

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