Yes, I am back in Chicago after eight really intense weeks commuting back and forth to the great Buckeye state for a client project (waiting to board that last flight from CMH to ORD tonight felt like the helicopter scene in Miss Saigon, but unlike Kim, I got out! Ha!). There’ll be lots more blog postings in the near future, although I’m taking a much needed break for a week or so, getting airdropped into a fabulous, undisclosed, inaccessible location for some cell rejuvenation (nope, I’m not going to show up in a VH1 reality show a couple of months from now!). My “welcome back to chi-town” gift was yesterday’s announcement of the nominees for last season’s Jeff Awards for Equity theater. Unlike last year, when I was pretty flummoxed, and then dismayed, and then angered, at what the Jeff committee came up with, I’m pretty impressed with their selections this year, and I’m glad to see that the Jeff committee’s theatrical taste has not totally gotten lost somewhere inside the Bermuda Triangle. I’m very thrilled with the nominations for Timeline’s The History Boys, Chicago Shakespeare’s Edward II, Court Theatre’s Caroline or Change (although where was Kate Fry’s nomination?), The Goodman’s pre-Pulitzer Ruined, and Drury Lane’s surprising, stripped down, Miss Saigon. These were some of the best theater you could have seen in Chicago, or arguably anywhere, last season – sophisticated, emotionally engaging, beautifully and imaginatively crafted. However, as it happens every year, the Jeff committee continues to perform heinous acts of nominations oversight. I find it particularly egregious that they failed to nominate Victory Gardens’ Blackbird, the best production I’ve seen this year hands down, for Best Play, despite the much-deserved acting nominations for its lead stars, William Petersen and Mattie Hawkinson. This is high-caliber, provocative, unshakeable, world-class theater, much better than some of the other nominees (say Twelfth Night). Speaking of Twelfth Night, the Jeff Committee predictably demonstrated once again that it likes it’s Shakespeare served traditional (maybe with scones and jam on the side?), otherwise why is there no Best Production nomination for Steppenwolf’s 21st century take on the Bard, The Tempest, despite a very justified Best Actor nomination for Jon Michael Hill? And where are the acting nominations for Francis Guinan, who gave impressively detailed performances in Kafka on the Shore and The Seafarer; for Ann Whitney, whose Big Edie in Grey Gardens, was both impressively strong-willed and heartachingly vulnerable. a performance that equally complemented and deepened Hollis Resnik’s nominated performance as Little Edie; and especially, for Carla Gugino who magnificently prevailed over boulders, a flying house, a mystifying Bob Dylan background score, Pablo Schreiber’s naked butt, and general excess in Desire Under the Elms, by vividly painting a train-stopping, defiantly contemporary O’Neill heroine?
Tags: Jeff Awards