Thursday, May 26, 2011

ITBA 2010 - 2011 Patrick Lee Theater Blogger Awards


The Independent Theater Bloggers Association (the “ITBA”) is proud to announce the 2011 recipients of the Third Annual Patrick Lee Theater Blogger Awards.   Patrick Lee was one of the ITBA's founding members. Patrick passed away suddenly last June, and was an erudite, passionate, and tireless advocate for theater in all its forms. Patrick was also the ITBA's first awards director, and was a regular contributor to Theatermania and TDF Stages.
The 2010-2011 Patrick Lee Theater Blogger Award Winners:
Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson
Anything Goes
The Normal Heart
The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity
The Kid
Angels in America, Part 1: Millennium Approaches
Michael Shannon, Mistakes Were Made
Feeder: A Love Story
The Caucasian Chalk Circle
Belarus Free Theater's Discover Love
Black Watch
Sleep No More
The Scottsboro Boys
Nina Arianda, Born Yesterday
Laura Benanti, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown
Reed Birney, A Small Fire
Christian Borle, Peter and the Starcatcher
Norbert Leo Butz, Catch Me If You Can
Bobby Cannavale, The Motherfucker with the Hat
Colman Domingo, The Scottsboro Boys
Sutton Foster, Anything Goes
Josh Gad, The Book of Mormon
Hamish Linklater, School for Lies
Joe Mantello, The Normal Heart
Arian Moayed, Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo
Lily Rabe, The Merchant of Venice
Mark Rylance, Jerusalem
Michael Shannon, Mistakes Were Made
Benjamin Walker, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson
La Mama
The list of the 2011 recipients of The Patrick is read by Susan Blackwell, Heidi Blickenstaff, Jeff Bowen and Hunter Bell, the cast and creators of the acclaimed [title of show] and who are currently collaborating on Now. Here. This.", a Developmental Lab Production at the Vineyard Theatre:   A video of their reading is on Youtube at  which was filmed by ITBA member Jesse North
The ITBA, is comprised of bloggers who regularly see live performances in all its forms in New York City and beyond.   Members are in New York, Boston, Chicago, Minneapolis, and London.  For further information and a list of our members, our website is  If you are interested in learning more about the ITBA, email  To invite the members of the ITBA to your show or event, please send an email to

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Catching Up the Backlog

It's been a busy spring.  Here's a collection of summaries on what I've seen of late.

"The House of Blue Leaves" at the Walter Kerr Theatre, April 11, 2011

This revival was a big hit in its 1986 production at Lincoln Center Theatre with John Mahoney, Swoosie Kurtz and Stockard Channing.  I wish I'd seen it.  Instead we get Ben Stiller, who was also in the 1986 production, with Edie Falco and Jennifer Jason Leigh.  Ms. Leigh is the only one close to being appropriately cast.  Director David Cromer seems to have strayed from what made his last two successful productions work (Our Town and Brighton Beach Memoirs) - focus on the text.  One has to wonder how much pressure there was for commercial success after the unfortunate end of the latter.  Mr. Stiller flails but never nails the desperation of Artie, making the ending twist all the more flabbergasting for the wrong reasons.  This limited run ends July 23, 2011.

"The Intelligent Homosexual's Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures" at the Public Theater, April 13, 2011

Tony Kushner returns to New York with a new play on an operatic scale (and length).  Taking on themes of communism, socialism, labor unions, sexuality and betrayal, this production is its latest incarnation after a premiere at the Guthrie.  Powerful and sweeping, one can see the work that has taken place, and the work still to be done.  Where it lacks the extravagant theatricality of Angels in America, it makes up in character development.  Stephen Spinella's Pil, gives us a glimpse of what Louis Ironson might have grown up to be.   Director Michael Greif, who also directed the Signature's revival of Angels... handles the mammoth work with finesse.  It's not Mr. Kushner's greatest work to date, but will rank among the better ones.  This limited run ends June 12, 2011

"Picked" at the Vineyard Theatre, April 15, 2011

Christopher Shinn brings us a tale of "be careful what you wish for" with this story of an actor who finally gets his big break to work with a world-class director (think James Cameron) on a new concept of film-making in which the process is reversed, writing the script after casting the actors.  It's an interesting concept and relatively well-written.  Coming off a starring role in "Cloverfield" Michael Stahl-David handles the scenes of insecurity experienced by most actors well.  He fails to deliver on the more emotional moments where the honesty his character purports to demonstrate don't come through.  Picked runs through May 22, 2011.

"Jerusalem" at The Music Box, April 16, 2011

Mark Rylance returns to Broadway in this story of a down-and-almost-out man fighting to keep the land he claims as a birthright from development.  He supports himself by selling drugs to the wayward youth in the area, drawing them in like the Pied Piper.  The subplot of a missing girl gets a bit lost in the shuffle from time to time, but Mr. Rylance is at his usual stellar performance level playing his own kind of St. George saving the maiden from the dragon.  This limited run ends July 24, 2011.

"The Importance of Being Earnest" presented by Roundabout Theatre Company at the American Airlines Theatre, April 21, 2011

Brian Bedford directs and makes Lady Bracknell the ultimate travesty role in this delightful revival of the Oscar Wilde classic.  Even the likes of Jane Houdyshell as Miss Prism can't steal the spotlight from Mr. Bedford.  This limited run ends July 3, 2011.

"The People in the Picture" presented by Roundabout Theatre Company at Studio 54, April 24, 2011

Once again, the Roundabout varies from their core mission of producing revivals to attempt a new production.  Even talented star power like Donna Murphy and Chip Zien can't help turn this overearnest effort into a hit.  Crossing elements of To Be or Not To Be with Sophie's Choice it finds neither the laughs nor heartache of either.  This limited run ends on June 19, 2011.

"The Normal Heart" at the Golden Theatre, April 25, 2011

What was first received as Larry Kramer's ranting polemic about the origins of the AIDS crisis and the failure of both the US and New York City governments to act in the best interests of homosexual men to stem the plague, it reveals itself as remarkably relevant today.  It also reveals itself as a particularly  good play, well-constructed and very powerful.  This all-star production in its first bow on Broadway features an excellent cast including director wunderkind Joe Mantello in the leading role of Ned Weeks, Kramer's thinly-veiled self-portrait.  Directors Joel Grey and George C. Wolfe channel the pain and anger into power.  David Rockwell's stark black and white set cleverly reveals the seemingly endless headlines and quotes from the period as the situation deteriorates, with stark projections of the increasing number of victims' names eventually covering the walls of the theatre itself.

Not to be missed, this limited run ends July 10, 2011.

"War Horse" presented by Lincoln Center Theater at the Vivian Beaumont, April 26, 2011

Based on a novel for young adults (think Coram Boy), this story of a young man's relationship with his horse during World War I is beautifully staged following its transfer from London.  The use of puppetry figuratively and literally anthropomorphizes the horse Joey, 1/2 thoroughbred, 1/2 workhorse as he struggles to survive the horror of war.  Eight million horses died during WWI - only 62,000 of them were brought back to England.  Even though the script is often predictable, the staging is breathtaking and the emotions are strong.

It's a brilliant production - not to be missed.  War Horse is on an open-ended run.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

The School for Lies

"The School for Lies" at Classic Stage Company, April 30, 2011

David Ives returns to CSC with another update of a classic. This time it's a fresh interpretation of Moliere's The Misanthrope.

And fresh, indeed.  Mr. Ives manages to combine the French salon of the empire with a hilarious farce entirely in verse and using quite contemporary and usually anachronistic language.  It's a similar feat to that of this season's revival of David Hirson's La Bete, but this time it doesn't require the masterful skills of Mark Rylance to achieve success.

Mr. Ives kicks off this grand time with the names assigned to his characters.  The misanthrope, a man incapable of guile or dishonesty, even for the sake of polite society is aptly named Frank (Hamish Linklater).  Celimene (Mamie Gummer) is the widowed owner of the manse where the action occurs, and has a slander charges pending against her. She sports a barbed tongue as sharp as Frank's, but wields it purely for sport, "I never gossip, I just repeat."  Losing the case will render her penniless if her secrets are revealed.  Complicating the suit is Celimene's rival, Arsinoe (Alison Fraser).  She also has three suitors: the obnoxious and untalented, self-styled poet Oronte (Rick Holmes), Acaste (Matthew Maher) a vapid hanger-on, and her oily lawyer Clitander (Frank Harts).  Philante (Hoon Lee) and Elainte (Jenn Gambatese) round out the cast as friends of Celimene and Steven Boyer doubling as servants of both Celimene and Frank.

Mr. Linklater's Shakespearean experience rings through loud and clear as he skillfully manipulate the verse.  His Frank is a bit reluctant, but always rises when challenged.  Equalling his performance is Ms. Gummer, looking and acting more like her mother with each new role.  She commands the range from elegant to acerbic to vulnerable.

Director Walter Bobbie is in high form.  He navigates this farce with aplomb, pulling elegance and pratfalls together, matching Mr. Ive's mix of period and contemporary with laughs aplenty, and a final, touching plot twist.  It's an excellent match of director and writer, showing an enhanced relationship following their pairing last in with Venus in Fur. 

The crisp, upholstered white set is by John Lee Beatty (and Restoration Hardware).  William Ivey Long's costumes are sumptuous and elegant.  

It's an excellent evening of theatre - don't miss it!

The School for Lies runs through May 22.  Click here for tickets.