Scene's Theater Awards for (Most of) 2014

Yes, it's awards time again. So for those in the theater world, get out your soft cloth and gold polish (yes, these awards are cast from solid ingots of that precious metal). For everyone else: Remember and rejoice if you were able to see some of these shows. If not, you'd best get out more often in 2015.

Note: Due to a personal theatrical commitment and other issues, I was not able to attend any shows during January and February. As a result, shows that played during those months are not represented here. I'm sorry, I'm sure they were dandy.

Best Song Performance, You Know, Ever

Les Miserables at Great Lakes Theater was memorable because Stephen Mitchell Brown as Jean Valjean performed vocal heart surgery on every patron who experienced his rendition of "Bring Him Home." He was splendid throughout in that tight, beautifully performed show directed by Victoria Bussert. But Brown's delicate, fragile phrasing of that song will nest happily in many memories for a long time.

Best Nest of Sociopathic Vipers

No, it's not the people who decide on the Browns' first round draft choices every year, although they're a close second. It's the family of scummy cretins who populated The Little Foxes at the Cleveland Play House. The play by Lillian Hellman is a bit creaky, but the cast, as directed by Laura Kepley, turned this southern gothic melodrama into a delightfully poisonous mint julep.

Best Rip-Off of Shakespeare

Yeah, Old Will is always getting his plays done and redone in various guises, from modern dress versions to complete reconstructions. But in Spirits to Enforce at Cleveland Public Theatre, playwright Mickle Maher stretched Shakespeare so far that his vibe was transposed into a submarine where never-before-heard-of superheroes were working phones to raise money for their performance of The Tempest. Witty and offbeat, it threw some for a loop but tickled many others. Also, CPT mounted Titus: A Grand and Gory Rock Musical with bloody verve as directed by Craig J. George. Cringe-inducing and damn funny to boot.

Best Examples of Guys and Gals Acting Their Socks Off

Andrew Narten was matched by Leighann Niles DeLorenzo in Possum Dreams at None Too Fragile Theater, spilling over each other as they negotiated Ed Falco's relentless script. Derdriu Ring crafted two masterful perfomances at Mamai Theatre in Stranded on Earth and Woman and Scarecrow. Perren Hedderson and Michael N. Herzog were crazy good in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest at Blank Canvas Theatre. Scott Plate was a piece of work in Seminar at Beck. Greg White crafted a warm, sympathetic character in Anna Christie at Ensemble Theatre, while Robert Hawkes crafted a smiling predator in The Pillowman at Convergence-Continuum. And Darius Stubbs, Adam Seeholzer and Chris Siebert brought heart and pain to American Falls at CPT.

Best Mother-Daughter Bonding

Okay, they don't bond at all, really. But the performers did in the compelling 'night Mother at Beck. Under the sensitive direction of Scott Plate, Dorothy Silver and Laura Perrotta made Marsha Norman's script slide incisively down the razor blade of desperation leading to suicide. A tough journey, but completely riveting from start to finish.

Best Flyin' Feet

To choreographers Martin Cespedes (Mary Poppins at Beck), MaryAnn Black (Oliver at Porthouse) and John Crawford (My Fair Lady at Porthouse).

Best Designing Women and Men

The costumes by S.Q. Campbell for My Fair Lady at Porthouse Theatre were to die for (the ascot scene!), as were the luxe duds created by Lex Liang for The Little Foxes. The scenic design that did the most in the smallest space was Laura Carlson Tarantowski's set for Occupant at Cesar's Forum, while Lex Liang's expansive set for Foxes was equally captivating. As was Ben Needham's intentionally laborious turntable for A Civil War Christmas at Dobama Theatre. Great lighting: Mary Jo Dondlinger for Les Mis at GLT.

Best Risk-Taking

Ray Caspio stretched gender limits in a stunning manner in Tingle-Tangle, a piece he and the cast devised for Theater Ninjas. Con-Con director Clyde Simon took on the dark Irish mysticism of Terminus by Mark O'Rowe and made it work chillingly well.

Best at Tellin' People What to Do

In addition to the directors mentioned elsewhere in this piece, awards go to Pierre-Jacques Brault (Sunset Boulevard at Mercury Summer Stock), Sean Derry (Gidion's Knot at None Too Fragile), Pandora Robertson (Woman and Scarecrow at Mamai), Geoffrey Hoffman (The Pillowman at Con-Con), and Shannon Sindelar (Kin at Dobama).

Best Show About Lethal Drones

George Brant's intense script about a drone warrior stationed far away from the Middle East battleground was thoroughly involving. It was performed at CPH's New Ground Festival by Hannah Cabell, who stood in one spot for virtually the whole show—nicely matching the motionless audience in her thrall.

Here's hoping we can be treated to equally high quality stuff on stages in 2015. Now, about the next Browns' draft...

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About The Author

Christine Howey

Christine Howey has been reviewing theater since 1997, first at Cleveland Free Times and then for other publications including City Pages in Minneapolis, MN and The Plain Dealer. Her blog, Rave and Pan, also features her play reviews. Christine is a former stage actor and director, primarily at Dobama Theatre...
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