By Bill Hirschman
The Carbonell Awards ceremony falls on April Fools’ Day (restrain your quips) and there are going to be some incredibly close races that we’ll talk about below. But that also means it’s time for the annual grousing column about nominations. It wouldn’t be theater or journalism without grousing. The surprise is that I’m hard pressed to find more than one nomination this year that makes me wonder what we were smoking in the judge’s nominating meeting – almost a world’s record. No one who wins will be a head-scratching embarrassment. Everyone who takes home one of the lovely bronze eggs will richly deserve it.
That said, I wish the judges had the ability to expand the list of nominees by one or two slots at will. So here is my personal “Youze wuz robbed” list.
Best production of a play: It reasserts the open-mindedness of my fellow judges that the Caldwell Theatre’s The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity was justifiably recognized with a best play nomination. But it’s sad that a sixth slot wasn’t available for House Theatre’s imagistic and daring Death and Harry Houdini paid for by the Arsht Center – although a lot of people believe this was as much a road show as Wicked.
Best actress in a play: I’ll defend all five nominees to the death, but if there ever was cause for a sixth slot, it was Mary Sansone’s moving portrayal of a Holocaust survivor in Broward Stage Door’s A Shayna Maidel. This oversight was due totally to the fact that Stage Door changed the cast half-way through the period that judges could come see it. Oh, and you could throw in Irene Adjan and Margery Lowe for Zoetic Stage’s Moscow. And then there’s.…
Best supporting actor in a play: Many praised Ken Clement’s bravura turn in Mosaic Theatre’s The Diary of a Madman, but even more impressive was his understated but affecting portrayal of the cuckolded husband in Actors’ Playhouse’s Becky’s New Car. Equally sad was that Andy Quiroga wasn’t recognized for his volcanic brother in A Man Puts on a Play at Naked Stage.
Best supporting actress in a play: Makeba Pace only had one featured scene in the spotlight of M Ensemble’s King Hedley II but she delivered a stunning aria of pain and guilt as the woman who doesn’t want her grown daughter to have a child, fearing it will fall into the same trap of poverty and despair. It won a Tony Award for Viola Davis. Similar recognition is due Trenell Mooring as one of the damaged women in GableStage’s Ruined. And the real crime was overlooking Harriet Oser’s burned-out husk of a boarder in Palm Beach Dramaworks’ The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-In-The-Moon Marigolds.
Best supporting actress in a musical: Find room for Lourelene Snedeker’s toxic doyenne in Arts Garage’s Cabaret Verboten who made the cream curdle in the audience’s designer coffee.
Best scenic design: Antonio Amadeo pulled off a feat of magic in Naked Stage’s The Turn of the Screw by creating a persuasively eerie world of the supernatural with less money than you have in your wallet right now, complete with furniture melting into walls and a staircase leading nowhere.
Best costume design: Erin Amico garbed the decadent quartet in down-at-the-heels depravity in Cabaret Verboten.
Best ensemble: Gregg Weiner and Todd Allen Durkin actually could have been considered separately for best actor, but they really were a double act in GableStage’s A Steady Rain.
Best director: Clive Cholerton deserved a nod not just for choosing The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity but for bringing his particular skill set to the thought-provoking, multi-media satire. This was hardly the only attempt at edgy work in the region that should have appealed to a younger audience, but it was among the most artistically successful, melding imagination with discipline.
Best musical: Slow Burn Theatre Company is not eligible for Carbonell consideration — yet — because its fiscally-responsible runs are too short. But its Into The Woods would have given everyone a serious run for their money if it had been eligible. We’ll write this same sentence a year from now because Slow Burn’s most recent production, Side Show, also isn’t eligible and is already one of the best musicals of the year.
My biggest complaint is how tough it was to decide who to vote for among the final list of nominees – and what that says about the level of quality and the inherent problems in competition among theatrical undertakings.
The best play category is a validation of South Florida’s belief in itself as a center of theatrical quality. But it also raises the question of choosing a “best” from such apples-and-oranges examples of excellence as A Delicate Balance, Palm Beach Dramaworks; The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity, Caldwell Theatre Company; I Am My Own Wife, Zoetic Stage; Moscow, Zoetic Stage; and Ruined, GableStage.
It reaches into almost every category. Lighting design took me longer than any other category to vote for and if I had my way, there’d be a five-way tie among Ron Burns’ crucial contribution to making Michael Amico’s set look so lovely in Palm Beach Dramaworks’ Talley’s Folly, Luke Klingberg’s invaluable aid to actor Tom Wahl and director Stuart Meltzer in clarifying the shifts of time and place in Zoetic Stage’s I Am My Own Wife, Margaret M. Ledford’s first foray into lighting design integral to the creeping dread in Naked Stage’s The Turn of the Screw; Jeff Quinn’s always evocative but subtle choices illuminating GableStage’s Ruined, in more ways than the obvious one, and Ben Wilhelm whose work in Death and Harry Houdini for the Arsht Center is a textbook for everyone else in pushing the use of light as a front and center element of a highly stylized production.
I don’t know any of the outcomes; the Carbonells have their own Prize Waterhorse security. But, yes, the eventual winner in the best actress in a musical category is the Anne Hathaway lock I’d bet the house on (but I won’t reveal). Still, look at this field: Mandy Bruno’s silver-throated Marian Paroo in The Music Man at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre; Janet Dacal showing everyone what a skilled Broadway actress sounds like in The Last Five Years at Actors’ Playhouse; transplanted Broadway vet Jodie Langel simply nailing the deeply troubled mother in Next to Normal at Actors’ Playhouse; Vicki Lewis making everyone ask “Who’s Carol Channing?” in the Maltz’s reinvention of Hello, Dolly!, and Kate Shindle who performed the title song in Cabaret at the Maltz with gut-wrenching angst, simply as well as I’ve ever heard it done.
Just an interesting side note about the increasing diversity of South Florida theater: other than Angie Radosh in Dramaworks’ A Delicate Balance, the nominees in the category of best supporting actress in a play are all women of color: Renata Eastlick’s sensual prostitute in Ruined, GableStage; Lela Elam’s maid in Moscow, Zoetic Stage; Elena Maria Garcia, even crazier maid in Moscow, and Jade Wheeler as the damaged refugee in Ruined.
It’s going to be a hell of a theater prom.
The 37th Carbonell Awards ceremony is 7:30 p.m. Monday, April 1. Advance tickets are $25. Tickets sold the day of the ceremony are $35. Individual tickets can be purchased online at browardcenter.org, or by calling the Broward Center Box Office at (954) 462-0222. Groups of 10 or more may reserve tickets at $20 each and sit together based on availability. A $1.50 processing fee per ticket will be applied to all group sales. Group reservations can be made through the Broward Center’s group sales office at (954) 468-3280 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.