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.

TWO New Centerstage Reviews Up!

Hello all! I would wish you a happy spring, but it’s far too cold and damp out there to merit any mudluscious frolicking. Instead, why don’t you bundle up and head out to the theater? I have two new reviews up at Centerstage; one is recommended with reservations, and one is totally worth your time (and also only $10!).

The first play I saw last week was One Flea Spare by Naomi Wallace. Now this is an award-winning play, but it left me a bit cold. Still, most of the performances are solid and it is a topic you don’t see addressed too often (the plague in 17th century London). (For some reason, the editors attached the tagline “What could be funnier than the plague?” to the review, which makes no sense, as it’s not a comedy, but maybe it’s an in-joke that some will get.) Here’s a snippet:

Naturally, four people in cramped quarters for a month come into conflict, but unfortunately, too much of the conflict here feels staged merely as a political mouthpiece for Wallace’s views on class and gender.

You can read the rest of the review here.

I went to Before and After as an experiment, since the theater company’s motto is “theatre that happens to be improvised.” But it turned out to be pretty great!

Impressively, the narrative holds, and the actors do a wonderful job establishing themes early on and carrying them through to the end. On the night I saw the show, the play was concerned with the faith we have in people and in technology.

You can read the rest of the review here. Sessily and I talked after the show about the benefits (for both performers and audience members) of improvising a play as opposed to working with a written script, and, well, I’ll just quote her here: “For the participants, I think the benefit is of the give and take that’s inherent in improv (like you said, the first rule is don’t say no). There’s no real option to reject what’s been done, so it forces you to react and build off of other people, which leads to creating something that you couldn’t have created on your own. There’s also something about creating it in the moment…it’s more alive, sort of, than a written play. For the audience, I think there’s a certain pleasurable tension in the ‘will it work or won’t it’ part of improv, which makes seeing it come together slightly more enjoyable than in a written play.” If that doesn’t intrigue you, I don’t know what will. Enjoy!