Wednesday, September 23, 2015

2015 INNOVATIVE THEATRE AWARDS: Celebrating the Best of Off Off Broadway

11th Annual Innovative Theatre Award Winners Announced 

The 11th Annual Innovative Theatre Awards celebrated the outstanding year of Off Off Broadway. The 2015 NYIT Award Nominees represent 145 individual nominees, 57 productions, and 55 theatre companies.

Congratulations and Kudos to the winners of the 2015 New 
York Innovative Theatre Awards:

Outstanding Premiere Production of a Play: In Vestments 
(Theatre 4the People)

Outstanding Revival of a Play: Much Ado About Nothing 
(Smith Street Stage, Inc)

Outstanding Production of a Musical: Merrily We Roll Along (Astoria Performance Arts Center)

Outstanding Performance Art Production: Night (The New 
Stage Theatre Company)

Outstanding Original Full Length Script: Micheline Auger, 
Donkey Punch (Ivy Theatre Company)

Outstanding Original Short Script: Lisa Bruna, Invasion from 
Estrogenius: Andi’s Night (manhattan theatre source)

Outstanding Actor in a Lead Role: Matthew Trumbull, The 
Temple, or Lebensraum (Tin Drum Productions in Association with MozzleStead)

Outstanding Actress in a Lead Role: Emily Koch, In the 
Bones (Astoria Performing Arts Center)

Outstanding Actor in a Featured Role: Dan McVey, Pretty 
Babies (Elsinore County)

Outstanding Actress in a Featured Role: Mel House, In the 
Bones (Astoria Performing Arts Center)

Outstanding Ensemble: Much Ado About Nothing (Smith 
Street Stage, Inc) Olivia Caputo, Michael Vincent Carrera, Mary Cavett,
John Patrick Doherty, Austin Durant, Maxwell Eddy, Patrick Harvey,
Alexandra Henrikson, Jonathan Hopkins, David Pegram, Lauren Pennline,
Georgina Richardson, Sam Rosenberg, Will Sarratt, Kim Taff, Sophia Tupy,
Corey Whelihan

Outstanding Solo Performance: Sylvia Milo, The Other 
Mozart (Little Matchstick Factory)

Outstanding Director: Isaac Byrne, In Vestments (Theatre 
4the People)

Outstanding Choreography/Movement: Isaac Bush, The 
Mountain (The Circle Theater of New York)

Outstanding Lighting Design: Nicole Pearce, The Law of 
Return (Newsom Zipoy Productions)

Outstanding Costume Design: Debbi Hobson, 
Unmentionables (Nylon Fusion Collective)

Outstanding Set Design: Carolyn Mraz, The Twelfth Labor 
(Loading Dock Theatre Company)

Outstanding Sound Design: Jeanne Travis, The Temple, or 
Lebensraum (Tin Drum Productions in Association with 

Outstanding Innovative Design: Stephanie Cox-Williams, 
R&J&Z (Hard Sparks)

Outstanding Original Music: Phyllis Chen and Nathan Davis, 
The Other Mozart (Little Matchstick Factory)

Artistic Achievement Award Recipient: Marshall W. Mason

Ellen Stewart Award: HERE Arts Center

Caffe Cino Fellowship Award: Theatre 167

Doric Wilson independent Playwright Award: Andrea Alton

Outstanding Stage Manager: Juni Li

Feel free to share this blog with your friends, and to offer up your 
own theater stories by posting a comment. I also invite you
to check out the new website Show-Score.Com, where you will 
find capsule reviews of current plays from Yours Truly and many
other New York critics.  

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

THE NEW MORALITY: Lost Comedy from 1911 Is Burnished to a Gleam in Mint Theater Production

Michael Frederick and Brenda Meany
Photo by Richard Termine

The Mint Theater Company is dedicated to breathing new life into old plays by, as they put it, “scour[ing] the dramaturgical dustbin” for works that have been lost or neglected. The Mint is not the only theatrical organization to take on this challenge, but it does it particularly well by taking great care in designing its showcase productions so as to present these plays not as museum pieces, but as living works that are fresh and vibrant and a pleasure to watch.    

Case in point is the current production of The New Morality, a charming and amusing comedy from 1911 by American-born, British-raised playwright Harold Chapin that rises from a lightweight romp to surprisingly Shavian levels in the third of its three short acts (each running approximately 30 minutes). 

The New Morality takes place aboard a houseboat on the Thames, where the idle rich spend their summers in an effort to escape the insufferable heat of the city.  Betty Jones (Brenda Meaney) is lying in her bed in self-imposed exile after committing the unpardonable sin of having a loud and public row with another woman for encouraging Betty’s husband to flit around her like an infatuated schoolboy.  It doesn’t even rise to the level of flirtation, but in her eyes it is a matter of dignity and pride, both for herself and her husband. So she is digging in her heels. As she tries to explain to her bemused husband:

            I never misconstrued your relations in the very 
            least. When you bobbed up and down on your
            chair and fidgeted with your watch all through tea 
            because you’d got to fetch her a packet of hairpins
            from the town and you dreaded finding the shop 
            shut, I never feared it was illicit passion that made  
            you so anxious, and even when she made you 
            sing  idiotic duets with her, I never doubted your 
            innocence or hers.

The action of the play centers on the efforts of the two husbands, Col. Ivor Jones (Michael Frederic) and Teddy Wister (Ned Noyes), spouse of the unseen recipient of Betty’s wrath, to set things right between the neighbors. As neither of the men likes any of the fuss and bother, the fun lies in watching them try to coerce Betty into apologizing.

But Betty is having none of it.  She appears to be enjoying their discomfort, and she is happy to call Teddy’s bluff when he threatens to take her to court. 

So what is going on with Betty?  Why is she being so stubborn?  Is she merely bored, or seeking attention?  In the end, the answer comes not from her, but from Teddy, whom we have viewed as sort of a milquetoast who, against his nature, is going through the motions of defending his wife because that’s what a husband does. 

In Act III, however, Teddy and the play itself come into their own. Over dinner, to which he has invited himself, Teddy offers up a gloriously convoluted and alcohol-fueled speech about how Betty represents the modern woman, whose seemingly superficial behavior masks a spiritual and aesthetic evolution that mere men can barely begin to appreciate. 

Betty says earlier in the play that she is no suffragette, but in many ways she actually is carrying the battle flag for women’s rightful place in the world.  As she explains to her friend Alice (Clemmie Evans):

            I’m beginning to understand how people feel 
            when their convictions are described as—‘Betty, 
            darling, you’ve lost your sense of proportion.’  

This, along with Teddy’s wonderful rant, is what the “new morality” is all about.  We are entering into a new world of equality between the sexes – a revelation worthy of George Bernard Shaw.  

Under the direction of the company’s smart and sharply focused producing artistic director Jonathan Bank, the cast is uniformly strong, with Mr. Noyes giving a stellar performance as the fumbling yet ultimately insightful Teddy. With The New Morality, the Mint once again shows just what you can do when you scour that old “dramaturgical dustbin.” 

Feel free to share this blog with your friends, and to offer up your own theater stories by posting a comment. I also invite you to check out the new website Show-Score.Com, where you will find capsule reviews of current plays from Yours Truly and many other New York critics.