The Best of 2011!

Lay on the eggnog! Toss the confetti! It’s time for the 2011 superlatives! Huzzah! This year’s winners of the internationally renowned theater-words awards are listed below, roughly in the order they opened.

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BEST CASE FOR THE SURVIVAL OF THE WELL-MADE PLAY:

Good People, MTC/Broadway

Here’s how it goes: There’s an interesting lead character who wants something that she has to fight hard to get. A shocking setup, I know, but we Aristotelians in the audience at David Lindsay-Abaire’s latest were giddy at the elegance and payoff of this perfectly crafted and relevant class drama.

BEST REMINDER THAT TONY KUSHNER ROCKS AND TOTALLY DOESN’T CARE ABOUT NON-COMMERCIAL TITLES:

The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures, the Public Theater

Mr. Angels in America’s four-hour behemoth stood proudly on its own, complicated terms: Spectacularly performed and directed, it simultaneously made you uncomfortable and blissed out—not exactly an easy combination.

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Two New Plays: Of Church and Theater

Would that all family talks were so well lit. (Photo by Joan Marcus)

There’s a mythical, religious undertone in two new shows off-Broadway, “Go Back to Where You Are” (at Playwrights Horizons), and “The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures” (at the Public).

“Go Back,” written by and starring David Greenspan, is a breezy breath of a play, a stream-of-conscious trip to Montauk by way of ancient Greece. Greenspan plays a displaced actor from BC times, one who probably “originated roles” in “world premieres” of plays like “Oedipus Rex” and “Medea.” (!) In true Greenspan, shape-shifting fashion, he assumes two contemporary personalities — the first, a depressed lover; the second, a dowdy, British librarian.

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Spring Fever

It’s marquee season on Broadway — the moment just before spring shows go into full swing, and freshly postered theaters taunt their half-baked wares to hungry passers-by. Every new show is a potential hit, and this sense of promise makes a theater-lover giddy with ticket-buying anticipation.

What to see first is the real question: “How to Succeed,” starring a wandless Daniel Radcliff? Or “Book of Mormon,” whose workshops were such a smash that reviews might be irrelevant? (As the show’s pervasive ad material frequently reminds us, “Vogue” has already surmised that “Mormon” might be “the funniest musical of all time.”) Then, of course, there’s “Catch Me if You Can,” the new project from the team behind that most rapturous of musical-theater perfections, “Hairspray.” Can they live up to their poppy, Tony-gilded reputation? Let’s hope so!

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Peace, Love, and Belarus

In a gesture of solidarity and dissent, we’re gathering today to protest censorship. “Free Belarus,” a theater company performing in downtown’s Under the Radar Festival, has temporarily escaped suppression by fleeing Belarus for New York. Their play, “Being Harold Pinter,” is the runaway hit of the moment.

THE EVENT

Today’s demonstration has been organized via text message: “PROTEST JAN 19@12P. RAIN OR SHINE. WE WILL NOT BE DETERRED. SPREAD THE WORD.” The Public Theater (which runs Under the Radar) is producing the event with Amnesty International. At noon, the scheduled starting time, about 200 very prompt people have gathered on East 67th and Lex. Some signs are homemade but most bear the trademark diagonal, block lettering of all Public Theater advertising. (Am I a cynic for thinking that this marketing continuity makes the whole protest look like an exercise in brand expansion?)

We’re a docile lot, we protestors. We file carefully onto our patch of sidewalk on the southern side of the street while photographers take their place to our north. It’s worth noting that we’re actually a whole block away from the Belarusian mission to the UN — permit shenanigans mean we can only shout to that most political of sites, the Hunter College Bookstore.

Still, the event has a feeling of urgency. Public Theater interns lead chants:

Intern: “What do we want?”

Us: “Human Rights!”

Intern: “When do we want it?”

Us: “Now!”

When we tire of this call and response, we’re told to shout something that sounds like “Jeevay Belarus! Jeevay Belarus!” This is Belarusian, I guess; most of us just skip the “Jeevay” part and join in on “Belarus.” (Note to self: learn Belarusian for next year’s protest.)

The Police are out, and, ever to form, we all politely defer and go where we’re told. We don’t want to crowd the sidewalk, do we?

[Read more…]

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