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 had trouble writing up the latest play I saw for Centerstage, because I felt so conflicted about what I’d seen. Under the Blue Sky by David Eldridge has received rave reviews everywhere it’s been performed, including here in Chicago. It’s well-written, with natural dialogue and smart commentary.

But the characters were straight out of the Cliché Grab Bag. We had the Emotionally Unstable Woman who frantically waved a knife at her lover rather than let him move away, the Slut Who Only Does It Cuz She Hates Herself, and the Shy Young Man Who’s Secretly a Pervert. Still, the actors played them well, and with a considerable amount of subtlety. And there were some twists that undermined the clichés somewhat. But why make them the premise in the first place?

(Also, the male actor in the final scene seemed to be constantly forgetting his lines, not entirely, just enough to throw off the rhythm entirely. Must’ve been frustrating for his female counterpart.)

Here’s an excerpt of my play review:

And what private moments these are. The first two vignettes show so-called friends at their worst, people treating each other so badly that they even come right out and comment on how ugly the situation is.

You can read the rest here.