Non-Equity Jeff Awards Announced

Okay, one more theater-related thing this week, and then no more til my next (potentially controversial!) review. Last week the Jeff Committee announced nominees for the Non-Equity Jeff Awards (the Tonys of Chicago), so I checked out the list to see if anything looked familiar. And lo!

Opus” — Redtwist Theatre (for Play, Director, Ensemble, Sound Design, Artistic Specialization)

A Behanding in Spokane” — Profiles Theatre (Supporting Actor)

One Flea Spare” — Eclipse Theatre Company (Supporting Actor)

Under the Blue Sky” — Steep Theatre Company (Supporting Actress)

We Live Here” — Theatre Seven of Chicago (New Work, Artistic Specialization)

Cyrano” — The House Theatre of Chicago (New Adaptation, Original Incidental Music, Costume Design, Fight Design)

The Spirit Play” — The Strange Tree Group (Original Incidental Music, Artistic Specialization)

The Sea” — Theatre Mir (Sound Design)

For my money: Opus was one of my favorite shows last year and definitely deserves Director or Play. I would not give it Artistic Specialization (it was nominated for Music Coach); one of the actors never once did vibrato on her viola!

Caroline Neff, yes, should of course win Supporting Actress for Under the Blue Sky. We Live Here was another one of my favorites and deserves a win for New Work (and Cyd Blakewell, who was also great in last year’s MilkMilkLemonade, was a standout here).

Cyrano was terrific, and the fight scenes were breathtaking. I did like the music in The Spirit Play.

Hey, eight nominated shows! Not bad. And I agree with most of the nominations for those shows. Even better. Some of the nominated shows are still running, so check them out while you still can.

New Centerstage Review Up

I was thrilled to find that Steep Theatre’s The Receptionist was a reasonable 75 minutes with no intermission. I have a friend who works as a stage manager, and she’s said that she doesn’t understand plays that have intermissions. The actors don’t need them, the crew doesn’t need them, and she doesn’t think the audience does either. I agree! For the most part, playwrights can say what they need to say in an intermission-less 80 minutes or less. Far too often, the energy dissipates completely by the time it picks back up, and that’s a huge loss.

Anyway, this was a great ensemble piece, although I appreciated Caroline Neff a little more than the other actors, as usual. She’s so good! Here’s an excerpt of my play review:

“The mood is set before the show even starts: Muzak versions of Top 40 hits play while the audience settles in, and the perfect set design (Stephen Harold Carmody) replicates every small office lobby in the country, effectively establishing a sense of malaise with a few inspirational posters and a sad potted plant. Then the titular receptionist enters and starts transferring calls to voicemail while chatting with the staff, and office workers in the audience might wonder if they went to the theater or just never left work for the day.”

You can read the rest of the review here. The play is definitely worth a trip up to Andersonville.

New Centerstage Review Up

I’m glad I got to see a mainstage Strawdog Theatre Company play. They’ve been around for ages, which means they have more latitude than younger companies to dust off older scripts and see what they can do with them. That seems to be what they did with The Petrified Forest (see also their Duchess of Malfi coming this spring). I enjoyed the show, especially Caroline Neff, who always seems to contain about 2.5 times more energy and emotion than normal humans. Here’s an excerpt of my play review:

Squire looks at her pictures and asks her to read poetry, and next thing she knows, Gabby’s in love. The timing is inconvenient, since the end of the second act sees the infamous Duke Mantee (Jamie Vann) and his henchmen using the café as a rest stop on their escape from the law after a massacre in Oklahoma.

You can read the rest of the review here. It’s an enjoyable show, but not an earth-shattering one. A pleasant way to pass a couple hours in Lakeview.