The Freddies: Achievements of excellence in the 2015-2016 season Richmond Theatre Season
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The Richmond theatrical season is mid-September through mid-July.
Mirroring the top critics in the top publications, I present my top ten lists. These are ACHIEVEMENTS of excellence, not beauty pageants with winners.
Warning! These are my choices. They reflect the preferences of absolutely nobody else. There are people who will swear under oath that they do not agree with me.
In alphabetical Order:
ACHIEVEMENT IN PRODUCTION
4000 MILES – Gary Hopper directed Amy Herzog’s beautiful story about generations discovering each other. Irene Ziegler and Johnny Day give heartfelt performances.
AMERICAN BUFFALO – Daniel Moore and Vinny Gonzalez turned The Basement into a Mamet junk shop letting their trio of superb actors decay in their own skins.
AMERICAN IDIOT – Adam Ferguson displays wonders of technical and musical creativity directing a super talented cast who all played instruments while they sang, danced and acted. An electric presentation that lasted way past final curtain.
CROAKER – Debra Clinton and Jason Marks made the community proud with their charming children’s story for grown-ups. Ms. Clinton, wrote, directed, choreographed and provided lyrics for Mr. Mark’s score and delighted absolutely everyone.
EQUUS – Anna Johnson conjured up mystery and powerful energy in a very small space, pairing the majesty of the horse with the frailty of the human. Jacob Pennington destroyed himself for audiences night after night.
LADY DAY AT THE EMERSON’S BAR AND GRILL – Katrinah Carol Lewis does Billie Holliday. Heartbreakingly awesome.
MR. BURNS: A POST ELECTRIC PLAY – Deejay Gray masterfully weaves a three act Greek Tragedy featuring Homer Simpson and family as tutorial of what society might and maybe should become.
THE LITTLE LION – The most ambitious and important production of the season. It didn’t all work but much did and John Mincks and Lisa Kotula gave deeply felt performances.
THE MOUNTAINTOP – Laine Satterfield works with actors Jarrod Solomon and Katrinah Carol Lewis to find the human being called Martin Luther King Jr. Both actors and director do great work.
VENUS IN FUR – David Ives’ outrageously high level of difficulty is achieved by superior acting (James Ricks and Maggie Roop) and direction (Matt Shofner). Clean, smart, sexy, dangerous.
ACHIEVEMENTS BY ACTORS & ACTRESSES NOT PREVIOUSLY MENTIONED
ADDIE BARNHART – Maple and Vine – Ms. Barnhart’s repressed society matron hid all her secrets under her poodle skirt until they exploded all over the place.
LARRY COOK – Equus – I DO! I DO! – Mr. Cook showed why he has been a mainstay on Richmond stages for decades. Subtle and understated, his magic creeps up on you till you’re hooked.
MATTHEW RADFORD DAVIES – The Merchant of Venice – King Lear – This man slayed Shakespeare this year. An outstanding Kent and so good as Shylock that he destroys my belief that the play is not about Shylock.
GREY GARRETT – The Boy from Oz – Ms. Garrett channels Judy Garland, the crazy years. It’s so good, it’s scary.
MCLEAN JESSE – Sadie’s Last Painting – The reigning and departing Diva of The Confederacy, Ms. Jesse tackled zombies in a post-apocalyptic play during which she creates an original work of art each night. Tense and amazing to watch.
PAUL MAJOR – Peter and the Starcatcher. A very talented actor gets out of the chorus to play a role that lets him shine. It’s about time.
EVAN NASTEFF – Bad Jews – Nasteff finds a role that lets him find the complexities within himself and revels in it.
AZA RAINE – Moon Over Buffalo – the only actor in a farce who had fierce skill playing farce.
ALEXANDER SAPP – Uncanny Valley – Croaker – Summer and Smoke. A very good year for a very good actor.
TYLER STEVENS – Brighton Beach Memoirs – The best debut an actor can have. Mr. Stevens’ Eugene Morris Jerome was the heart, soul and driving force of the production.
ACHIEVEMENT IN DESIGN
David Ballas – Set Design – The Lazarus Syndrome – Angular and roomy, dramatic in its modular confinements, dressed with exquisite hangings and set pieces, this set elevated the drama beyond its limitations.
Andrew Bonniwell – Lighting Design – American Idiot – Bonniwell’s designs are always effective and beautiful but he outdoes himself creatively by enhancing, not overpowering each powerful moment.
Vinnie Gonzalez – Set Design – American Buffalo – Mr. Gonzalez turned TheatreLAB’s basement into a Chicago junk shop with so many specifically appropriately pieces for sale that it became an experience not just a set.
Elizabeth Weiss Hopper – Costume Design – 4000 Miles – Ms. Hopper is mistress of realism in her 4000 Miles design. Restrained and beautiful evocation of character and period.
Rich Mason – Set Design – 4000 Miles – Mr. Mason recreated a lower Manhattan apartment where one family had lived their lives, manipulating a very small space to create what was, for me, a character unto itself.
Jenna Mannix – Media Design – American Idiot – A traditionally unrecognized category, the media design Ms. Mannix created for American Idiot was brilliantly conceived and executed.
Jeanne Nugent – Costume Design – Croaker – As much as anyone, Ms. Nugent created the world of Croaker through her astonishingly creative costuming.
Jesse Senechel – Sound Design – The Mountaintop – Blow ye winds, indeed! Senechel created a wall of sound which took a simple motel room drama up into the sphere of the Gods.
B.J. Wilkinson – Lighting Design – Summer and Smoke – Wilkinson let the mammoth stage be his plaything evocatively enhancing every moment of this Tennessee Williams soap opera.
ACHIEVEMENT IN ORGANIZATION
Cadence Theatre Company – Richmond’s gold letter theatre company. They limit themselves to three productions a year but with the staff and resources of Virginia Repertory Company, each production, under the Artistic Direction of Anna Johnson has been superlative. They produce magic in a space that is much too small to allow it.
TheatreLab – A company who is in the right place at the right time. Producing in a Basement at the Northeast corner of Broad and Third Street, TheatreLab has become the anchor of an artistic rejuvenation of the downtown area. Artistic Director Deejay Gray has created relevant, vibrant theatre and amassed the most loyal and talented production company in town.
Congratulations to all these fine productions and artists! I can’t wait for the 2016-2017 to open on September 15th.
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