IT’S been a strange few years. Like you, I was so glad to see theaters and galleries and museums begin to reopen.
I’ve missed you.
I’m so glad you’re back.
And now that there’s been a season to comment on, here is this year’s Nancies, my irreverent, sometimes tongue-in-cheek, totally idiosyncratic awards.
I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write You a Letter Award
… to The Laboratory Theater of Florida
Lab Theater opened and closed its season with plays based on epistolary novels: “The Color Purple” and “Les Liaisons Dangereuses.” Both plays include letters as an essential element to the plot and both plays, incidentally, were also made into movies.
Most Clever Ad Lib Award
… to William Connell in “The 39 Steps” at Gulfshore Playhouse
During an early scene, the rotary phone onstage began ringing, on cue. Unfortunately and annoyingly, a cellphone in the front row, also stage left, began ringing as well. The actor was supposed to say something like, “Hello, I must answer the telephone.” But instead, Connell ad libbed and said, “Hello, I must answer the telephones,” plural. This fast thinking, clever ad lib made me laugh out loud.
Sweetest Foul Mouth Award
… to Viki Boyle
Viki Boyle curses so sweetly and unexpectedly in Florida Repertory Theatre’s production of “A Doll’s House, Part 2.” Perhaps it’s because it’s a period piece (set in Norway in the late 1800s) or perhaps it’s how sweet and soft-spoken her character is, but it takes you by surprise and got laughs every night
Defying Gravity Award
… to the special effects in the Naples Players’ production of “Mary Poppins”
Not only did Mary Poppins actually fly in and fly out, but a chimney sweep walked up the side of a wall and then upside down on the ceiling. Very impressive.
Did Someone Forget to Pay the Electric Bill? Award (tie)
… to the Naples Players’ production of “When We Were Young and Brave”
Held in the Tobye Studio, there was such extremely dim lighting in some scenes that I was thankful when someone lit a candle on a table. I’m all for atmospheric, moody lighting, but I also like to see what’s going on onstage.
Also to the Asolo Repertory Theatre’s production of “Hair,” which began dimming the stage lights very low prior to the actors’ nude scene.
They Were Naked and Unashamed Award
… to certain male members of the cast of “Les Liaisons Dangereuses” at Lab Theater, who boldly displayed certain male members for the sake of art.
They Were Naked and Unashamed (Not) Award
… to the cast of “Hair” at the Asolo Repertory Theatre
Some actors shed their clothes for the famous nude scene, but posed coyly, as if in an “Austin Powers” movie or “Calendar Girls.” Some even kept their underwear on. All this, in the dimmest lighting I’ve ever seen onstage. It was puzzling, as it felt very conservative and prudish and didn’t reflect the freedom loving, uninhibited spirit of the ’60s at all. (A few years prior, the Venice Theatre, a community theater just south of the Asolo, put on the same musical. The actors in that production were nude onstage for a number, as in the original Broadway production.)
Safety First Award
… to those actors — we won’t name names — who accidentally walked onstage still wearing your mask. We understand; you heard your cue and made your entrance. We’re just glad you were following safety protocols backstage.
Musical Chameleon Award
… to Evan Tyrone Martin, who starred in the world premiere of “Let’s Fall in Love” at the Florida Repertory Theatre. Without crossing over into impersonation, Martin vocally transformed into Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Sammy Davis Jr. and Tony Bennett.
Best Correspondence Award
… to Jack Massing & William Wegman
These two artists corresponded with each other over the past couple of years, sending photos and short videos to each other, and responding in kind. It was a kind of visual correspondence, a surreal, artistic game of ping-pong, if you will. Examples of their correspondence were exhibited at the Bob Rauschenberg Gallery in “Jack Massing & William Wegman: Two Clever By Half,” a show which grew and changed over the months. Massing was artist-in-residence at the gallery with an onsite studio, and happily spoke with people who came to see the exhibit. We hear a book of their visual correspondence is being planned.
Fighting Lunacy with Lunacy Award
… to the Birds Aren’t Real protestors, who, to satirize all the crazy conspiracy theories out there, claim that over the past years, the CIA has killed all living birds and replaced them with government surveillance drones that look just like the real thing. According to “60 Minutes,” more than a million people now call themselves Bird Truthers.
And if you ever wondered why birds like to perch on electrical wires and telephone wires … they’re recharging.
Most Creative Use of Space in a Play Award
… to “The Colored Museum” at Theatre Conspiracy
When presenting George Wolfe’s “The Colored Museum,” Theatre Conspiracy used other spaces in the buildings, including galleries and art classrooms, anything but the stage and theater itself. A creative and clever use of space.
Best Prop in a Play Award
… to the manual typewriter in “Knoxville” at the Asolo
I knew before a word was even spoken that I was going to like “Knoxville.” Even before the play begins, a spotlight highlights a circa 1940s Royal manual typewriter, center stage.
(It’s a writer thing.)
Funniest Prop in a Play Award (tie)
… to the fake testicles in “Into the Breeches!” at Florida Rep
When the men are fighting in World War II, the women left behind decide to put on an all-female version of Shakespeare’s “Henriad.” To get the women to walk and move about as men, the cast’s costume designer sews a series of fake cloth testicles for the women to wear. The scene with the women trying them out for the first time, during rehearsal, was comic gold.
And to the mashed potatoes in “The Cake” at Theatre Conspiracy
When Della slathers herself with whipped cream to entice her husband, he responds in kind by smearing mashed potatoes on himself.
Strangest Sex Prop in a Play Award
… to an Archie comic book in “The Invisible Hand” at Gulfshore Playhouse
I guess some guys just have a thing for Veronica … or Betty — even if they haven’t been teens for a couple decades.
Best Interpretation of a Classic Musical
… to “The Sound of Music” at Broadway Palm
“The Sound of Music” can be sentimental, draggy, cloying. But Broadway Palm’s production avoided all those pitfalls and presented a fresh, exciting version, almost as if had never been performed before. Melissa Whitworth was a highly likeable Maria, not sickeningly sweet.
Best Place to see Clever, Literary T-shirts Award
… to the Southwest Florida Reading Festival.
That’s where we saw a Friends & Fiction T-shirt and another saying “Booked for the Weekend” with an image of a row of books on a shelf. And then another with white lettering on black, saying: “Letters & Words & Sentences & Pictures & Books & Libraries.” (The woman wearing it said she was a literacy instructor.)
Best Interpretation of a Classic Play Award
… to “Our Town” at the Asolo Rep
I’ve seen a lot of productions of Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town,” but the production at the Asolo Rep this season was revelatory. Directed by Desdemona Chiang with an almost all-female creative team and color conscious casting, the production showed just how fresh, contemporary and avant-garde this 1938 Pulitzer Prize-winning play truly is. As I sat in the audience, spellbound, I remember thinking, “So this is how the play is supposed to be!”
Best New Musical
… to “Knoxville” at the Asolo
The team that created “Ragtime”– director Frank Galati, lyricist Lynn Ahrens and composer Stephen Flaherty — created “Knoxville,” which had its world premiere at the Asolo. The musical is based upon James Agee’s 1957 Pulitzer Prize-winning autobiographical novel, “A Death in the Family,” and, in part, Tad Mosel’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play, “All the Way Home.” Touching, lyrical, creatively staged and full of theatrical and tender surprises, this show deserves to move to Broadway. ¦