Cricket's Notebook by Larry Stark - "It's IRNE Time Again!!!"

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Monday, 27 December, 1999: "It's I.R.N.E. Time Again!!!"

I may not get this done tonight, but I want to get all my nominees for this Century's-End INDEPENDENT REVIEWERS OF NEW ENGLAND Awards Ceremony out where some of them just might jog some Other reviewers' memories about some show they'd otherwise overlook. It was a hectic year, and though I didn't best top year's total, I did spend some 138 nights (or days) at theatrical events of some kind, and reviewed most of what I saw. So about a week ago I set to work on this exercize in sublime nostalgia by flipping down through my list of plays seen searching for:

WORTHY NOMINEES FOR SOMETHING

and came up with these lovely plums:

6 jan RAGTIME Colonial
15 jan TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD Insight WORKS THEATRE Davis Sq.
20 jan TRIUMPH OF LOVE SpeakEasy BCA
25 feb SIDE SHOW Boston Conservatory
11 mar THE SWAN Nora BOSTON PLAYWRIGHTS' THEATRE
27 feb MOON OVER DARK STREET bwot BCA
28 feb GOD SMELLS LIKE A PIG ON A SUMMER'S DAY bwot BCA
13 mar THE GLASS MENAGERIE Hovey Players ADDAMS MEMORIAL THEATRE
17 mar BUFFALO GALS The OTHER Theatre BEAU JEST
26 mar MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING Theatre Cooperative PEABODY HOUSE
1 apr AT THE BLACK PIG'S DYKE Sugan BCA
9 apr EQUUS The Footlight Club
17 apr ..AND TRUTH Brimmer Loft EMERSON PLAYWRIGHTS FESTIVAL
21 apr THREE DAYS OF RAIN SpeakEasy BCA
22 apr FOR COLORED GIRLS... MIT Dramashop KRESGE LITTLE
28 apr WHEN PIGS FLY Lyric Stage of Boston Inc.
6 may LA VITA CLAIRE CentaStage BCA
7 may SCOTLAND ROAD New Rep
8 may A CHORUS LINE Turtle Lane
5 jun THE SKRIKER Quick Change Theater Company BCA
10 jun KRAPP'S LAST TAPE/THE AMERICAN DREAM Koinonia OCBC
10 jul SNAPSHOTS ReveScape ACTORS' WORKSHOP
22 jul PRIVATE EYES Baobab PEABODY HOUSE
23 jul EVITA Colonial
6 aug PROPOSALS Second Stage NEW REP
5 sep OLD TIMES Threshold & M.Dowd, BEAU JEST
18 sep ST. NICHOLAS Sugan BCA
28 sep THE TEMPEST Theatre Collective PEABODY
7 oct THE WATER CHILDREN Equity Code BEAU JEST
8 oct APOCALYPSO! Industrial Theatre LEVERETT HOUSE
9 oct A NEW BRAIN SpeakEasy BCA
23 oct THE KING AND I Turtle Lane
30 oct SEDUCTIONS Poets' Theatre WORKS THEATRE
1 nov ROMEO AND JULIET Boston Theatre Works
5 nov SurREAL LIFE TheatreZone ACTORS' WORKSHOP
11 nov BOYS AT PLAY Hovey Players ABBOT MEMORIAL WALTHAM
12 nov JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR Footlight Club
18 nov ROSENCRANTZ & GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD New Rep
8 dec SHE LOVES ME Lyric Stage of Boston
9 dec ANYONE CAN WHISTLE Boston Conservatory
11 dec DUTCHMAN The Theatre Cooperative
15 dec HOME FRONT Delvena BCA

Whew!!!

You thought it was easy being a reviewer, huh? Try boiling down that spread of excellences into proper categories, and then ranking them in order of excellence! Often I had to leave the name of the performer blank until I could go back through a stack of 138 programs to find out how a name was spelled. And I'm still tinkering and tweaking here and there. This year I thought I'd link each show to a my review --- if I managed to write one --- so merely typing out this list may be a chore.

But well worth the effort. I said at last year's IRNE-Bash that "Everyone in this room did something memorable last year"! Remembering all of them is a joy indeed!

I'll start with the techies:

COSTUME DESIGN

HOWARD CRABTREE

for WHEN PIGS FLY Lyric Stage of Boston Inc.
The costumes WERE the show!

LIGHTING DESIGN

DANIEL MEEKER

for ROSENCRANTZ & GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD New Rep
The lighting and scenic designs of this show were outstanding, and meshed beautifully with the directing and the ensemble acting.

SET DESIGN

2)Richard Chambers

for ROSENCRANTZ & GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD New Rep

1)Ronald L. Dion


forTHE KING AND I Turtle Lane
This was an amazing, colorful, intricately detailed set that managed to use the Turtle Lane playspace efficiently and imaginatively, folding in and out of itself to add surprises.

Okay, now for the individual actors. The first one is easy:

SOLO PERFORMANCE

Richard McElvain

in ST. NICHOLAS Sugan BCA

I must confess I have a blurry idea of what "Supporting" really means. I have more than once used the line "Starring Blank in a minor role!" But, sometimes even in a closely knit ensemble, someone in a small part will take a moment and make it unforgettable:

SUPPORTING ACTRESS

2)Suzanne Nitter

as Nurse in ROMEO AND JULIET Boston Theatre Works

1)Maryanne Zschau

as Miss Ritter in SHE LOVES ME Lyric Stage of Boston
She really did, for a moment, turn Miss Ritter into a star vehicle!

SUPPORTING ACTOR

3) Bill Gardiner

as Prologue/Friar in ROMEO AND JULIET Boston Theatre Works
Gardiner's knowing, clear-eyed, unsentimental figure held this show together.

2) John Kuntz

as Hamlet in ROSENCRANTZ & GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD New Rep

1) Jeremiah Kissel

as The Player King in ROSENCRANTZ & GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD New Rep
This is really a big role, and without breaking the ensemble feeling, Kissel nailed it!

ACTRESS

5) Amy Soroko

as Amalia Balash in SHE LOVES ME Lyric Stage of Boston
There's a lot of weight behind singing songs that have been in Barbara Cook's club repertoire for decades! Amy Soroko made this character come freshly alive, and her acting was as good as her singing.

4)Danielle Fauteux Jacques

in SurREAL LIFE TheatreZone ACTORS' WORKSHOP
Danielle has done a lot more directing than acting for TheatreZone; however, when she threw herself into a sexual affair with a sofa on the Actors' Workshop stage it was a truly memorable experience!

3) Caroline Lawton

as Lula in DUTCHMAN The Theatre Cooperative
I saw Caroline Lawton in an unmemorable role with another company, but she certainly blossomed here. No holding back, in a big, passionate role.

2) Rebecca Honig as Juliet

in ROMEO AND JULIET Boston Theatre Works
Unfortunately, Rebecca Honig was almost the only interesting thing for me in this production. Her swift, spontaneous reactions to everything really re-created the character as a wilful teenage victim of her own emotions. She and Friar Lawrence were the only ones who seemed to me to have understood the play.

1) Dorothy Brodesser

in SEDUCTIONS Poets' Theatre WORKS THEATRE
This portrayal stood out in an excellent cast, because Dorothy Brodesser gave the role everything required. It's a powerful role, too, and demanded a brave, fearless commitment to bring it to life.

ACTOR

2) Diego Arciniegas

in THREE DAYS OF RAIN SpeakEasy BCA
The three actors in this play had to play two parts, and Diego Arciniegas did a night-and-day change. It was while watching this play that I realized that the acting-pool in Boston is wider and deeper than I had ever noticed.

1) Barlow Adamson

in SEDUCTIONS Poets' Theatre WORKS THEATRE
and as The Swan in THE SWAN Nora BOSTON PLAYWRIGHTS' THEATRE
In "The Swan" and "The Marriage Proposal" Barlow Adamson displayed a flair for physical action that was always appropriate, but surprising. His work as "The Lover" was also a dual-character tour de force.

ENSEMBLE

15) RAGTIME

Colonial

14 ) HOME FRONT

Delvena BCA

13) THE GLASS MENAGERIE

Hovey Players

12) BUFFALO GALS

The OTHER Theatre BEAU JEST

11) THE SKRIKER

Quick Change Theater Company BCA

10) A CHORUS LINE

Turtle Lane

9) ANYONE CAN WHISTLE

Boston Conservatory

8) THE TEMPEST

Theatre Collective PEABODY

7) OLD TIMES

Threshold & M.Dowd, BEAU JEST

6) ROSENCRANTZ & GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD

New Rep

5) SHE LOVES ME

Lyric Stage of Boston

4) APOCALYPSO!

Industrial Theatre LEVERETT HOUSE

3) THE WATER CHILDREN

Equity Code BEAU JEST

2) TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

Insight WORKS THEATRE Davis Sq.

1) SEDUCTIONS

Poets' Theatre WORKS THEATRE
This is my favorite category, and except for the top two the sequence is largely arbitrary.

DIRECTOR

10) Michael Murray

for SCOTLAND ROAD

at New Rep

9) Rick Lombardo

for
ROSENCRANTZ & GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD New Rep, etc...

8)Scott Gagnon

for JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR Footlight Club.

7) Nancy Curran Willis

for EQUUS The Footlight Club

6) Spiro Veloudos

for SHE LOVES ME Lyric Stage of Boston

5) Beth Manspeizer

for THE SKRIKER Quick Change Theater Company BCA

4) Lesley Chapman

for THE TEMPEST Theatre Collective PEABODY

3) Aiden Parkinson

for "The Marriage Proposal" in SEDUCTIONS Poets' Theatre WORKS THEATRE

2) Fran Weinberg

for "27 Wagons Full of Cotton" in SEDUCTIONS Poets' Theatre WORKS THEATRE
and for ..AND TRUTH Brimmer Loft EMERSON PLAYWRIGHTS FESTIVAL

PENNY SCHRICKER

for TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD Insight WORKS THEATRE Davis Sq
"Mockingbird" is a big machine with lots of moving parts, and it was obvious that so many parts meshed so well into a whole because of Penny Shrecker's directing. Everything else in this category is really the second-place winner!

MUSICALS

5) MOON OVER DARK STREET

Boston Women on Top BCA
This is much more than a cabaret selection, and deserves its wider audience.

4) SIDE SHOW

Boston Conservatory
An excellent revival of a "flop"!!

3) A CHORUS LINE

Turtle Lane
This was a stretch for what is really a community-theater cast., but that very fact made the 'I Hope I Get It!" fever all the more real.

2) TRIUMPH OF LOVE

SpeakEasy BCA
When I saw this in the cramped and quirky BCA, I thought "Wow. This is good enough to play The Colonial!" Well, it had already had a New York run, but apparently that production didn't have the voices, the vigor nor the direction that SpeakEasy gave it here!

1) RAGTIME

Colonial
Easily the best new musical of the decade. Garth Drubinsky made it, and Jon Platt got it to Boston, and anyone who saw it will be forever in their debt. With Broadway suffering from elephantiasis of the budget, it was a pleasure to see that a musical could be big without being Just big, but also satisfying on every level. Pound-for-pound, this was the best show of the year.

NEW PLAYS

7) RAGTIME

Colonial

6) SCOTLAND ROAD

at New Rep

5) LA VITA CLAIRE

CentaStage BCA

4) BUFFALO GALS

The OTHER Theatre BEAU JEST

3) BOYS AT PLAY

Hovey Players ABBOT MEMORIAL
Jerry Bisantz is Optometrist In Residence with the Hovey Players, a theatrical workaholic whose play may indeed outgrow this tiny theater. Break a leg all!

2) ..AND TRUTH

Brimmer Loft EMERSON PLAYWRIGHTS FESTIVAL
This is a surprising play by Mary Stanford, an Emerson student. It tackled such ideas as the Incarnation, the Second Coming, Sainthood, and the ambivalent roles of Satan --- and all of them with refreshing humor and a feeling for theatricality unexpected in one so young.

1) APOCALYPSO!

Industrial Theatre LEVERETT HOUSE
This is the ultimate in playmaking: a playwright-in-residence (William Donnelly) working with a continuing company, and tailoring roles for the specific strengths of the actors. The characters had a lower-middle-class oddity after a shot-&-a-beer or three that sounded new, as well.

BEST PRODUCTION

6) AT THE BLACK PIG'S DYKE

Sugan BCA
There is a blend here of history, myth, and current news that only theater can bring tom life so forcefully.

5) SurREAL LIFE

TheatreZone ACTORS' WORKSHOP
This miscellany of short plays seemed to be an anthology of the best things TheareZone has been doing for the last several years, and things got better and better as the night progressed.

4) SEDUCTIONS

Poets' Theatre WORKS THEATRE
This three-play anthology served as a showcase for all that's best about theater here in Boston.

3) APOCALYPSO!

Industrial Theatre LEVERETT HOUSE
Fine work by everyone, including the resident playwright!

2) RAGTIME

Colonial
This was a big-cast big production with all the money of Broadway behind it. The last Big musical? Maybe. The best musical? Yeah!!!

1) TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

Insight Theatre Company WORKS THEATRE Davis Sq.
This too was a big-cast big production, with not a dime behind it. All things considered, the best of the year.

Those are my nominees. What were yours?

Love,
===Anon.


THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide

| MARQUEE | USHER | SEATS | INTERMISSION | CURTAIN |