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2002 Triangle Theater Awards: Making a List and Checking It Twice

January 2, 2003 - Traingle-Wide:


Compiling the third annual Triangle Theater Awards is a lot like compiling a Christmas list. The aim is to recognize and reward deserving individuals and groups. The fear is that I will somehow forget or overlook the work of some performer, director, etc., or some theater company — work that is equally important, maybe even superior.

Please remember that what follows is merely one man's opinion, based on countless hours spent in local theaters and a comprehensive review of the previews and reviews that I wrote in 2002. This year's Triangle Theater Awards, formerly published in Spectator Magazine, include a few new categories and a more detailed description of the winners. Like the 2000 and 2001 awards previously published in the Triangle's leading arts and entertainment weekly, these awards recognize outstanding achievement — onstage and backstage — in this area's homegrown productions.

It was difficult to select up to five finalists for each category, and it was more difficult to pick the winners. No doubt I have overlooked some worthy candidates. What follows is my opinion — presented in the form of an abbreviated awards-show script.

BEST ACTOR, DRAMA: The finalists are Lennardo DeLaine for A Lesson Before Dying (Deep Dish Theater Company), David Harrell for Show and Tell (Raleigh Ensemble Players), David Henderson for Lebensraum (Raleigh Ensemble Players), Terrence Mann for The Guys (Carolina Arts Festival), and Ira David Wood III for On Golden Pond and Barrymore (Theatre in the Park). The winner is David Wood for his extraordinary performance as 80-year-old Norman Thayer, a crotchety, sharp-tongued old coot who deeply loves his devoted wife Ethel (Patsy Clarke) and his estranged daughter Chelsea (Amy Bossi), but sometimes has trouble expressing that love — especially to Chelsea. After playing Norman Thayer straight in On Golden Pond, Wood gets to dip deeply into his actor's bag of tricks in Barrymore, in which he memorably portrayed the dissolute and increasingly desperate former matinee idol and fading Hollywood star as "The Great Profile" plots yet another comeback as Richard III.

Honorable mention: Michael Brocki for Plays Well with Others (Manbites Dog Theater), David Dossey for Juno and the Paycock (Burning Coal Theatre Company), Tony Lea for Watch on the Rhine (University Theatre at N.C. State), David Ring for A Tune for Tommy (Manbites Dog Theater), and Kenneth P. Strong for Sunrise in My Pocket: The Comical, Tragical, True History of Davy Crockett (PlayMakers Repertory Company).

BEST ACTOR, COMEDY/MUSICAL: The finalists are Seth Blum for Gun-Shy (Actors Comedy Lab), Michael Brocki for The Game of Love and Chance (Deep Dish Theater Company), Alan Criswell for The Gin Game (OdysseyStage), David Henderson for Company (Burning Coal Theatre Company), and David zum Brunnen for Travesties (Burning Coal Theatre Company). The winner is Seth Blum, who is a scream as Carter, a macho but accident-prone would-be ladies man whose ill-chosen liaison with temperamental Evie (Carole Marcotte) might literally be the death of him.

Honorable mention: John Allore for Arms and the Man (Deep Dish Theater Company), Ray Dooley for 'Art' (PlayMakers Repertory Company), Frank Kliegel for A Chorus Line (North Carolina Theatre), Brian Martin for Lend Me a Tenor (Towne Players of Garner), George Merritt for Broadway in Concert Featuring the Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber (North Carolina Theatre), Craig Schulman and Joe Cassidy for Children of Eden (North Carolina Theatre), and Martin Thompson for The Dinner Party (University Theatre at N.C. State).

BEST ACTRESS, DRAMA: The finalists are Charlotte d'Amboise for The Guys (Carolina Arts Festival), Marcia Edmundson for A Tune for Tommy (Manbites Dog Theater), Betsy Henderson for Lebensraum (Raleigh Ensemble Players), Meredith Sause for Rosmersholm (Open Door Theatre), and Donna Sullivan-Khouri for Communicating Doors (Raleigh Little Theatre). The winner is Charlotte d'Amboise for her crackerjack characterization of a professional writer who helps a deeply shaken fire captain compose eulogies for the men that he lost on 9/11.

Honorable mention: Dorothy Recasner Brown for Watch on the Rhine (University Theatre at N.C. State), Alice Cannon for The Road to Mecca (Burning Coal Theatre Company), SaRAH! Kocz for Show and Tell (Raleigh Ensemble Players), and Georgia Martin for Antigone (StreetSigns Center for Literature and Performance and Wordshed Productions).

BEST ACTRESS, COMEDY/MUSICAL: The finalists are Lynda Clark for The Dinner Party (University Theatre at N.C. State), Carole Marcotte for Gun-Shy (Actors Comedy Lab), Heather Powell for Once Upon a Mattress (Raleigh Little Theatre), Sheila Outhwaite for The Importance of Being Earnest (OdysseyStage), and Sarah Whalen for Crash Diet by (Wordshed Productions). The winner is Sarah Whalen for her portrayal of a gritty woman with a weight problem who plots a hilarious revenge on the husband who left her for a younger, slimmer woman.

Honorable mention: Janet Doughty for Lend Me a Tenor (Towne Players of Garner), Serena Ebhardt for Travesties (Burning Coal Theatre Company), Katja Hill for Arms and the Man and The Game of Love and Chance (Deep Dish Theater Company), Christina Ross for Proof (PlayMakers Repertory Company), and Sabrina Sheroff for Children of Eden (North Carolina Theatre).

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR, DRAMA: The finalists are David Dossey for The Road to Mecca (Burning Coal Theatre Company), Rob Jenkins for A Streetcar Named Desire (Raleigh Little Theatre), Torrey Lawrence for A Lesson Before Dying (Deep Dish Theater Company), Andrew Sync for Barrymore (Theatre in the Park), and Ben Tedder for Lebensraum (Raleigh Ensemble Players) and A Lesson Before Dying (Deep Dish Theater Company). The winner is Torrey Lawrence for his gut-wrenching performance as a young black man condemned to death for killing a white man during a robbery. Innocent of actually pulling the trigger, but a running buddy of the robbers and a bystander during the botched robbery, Jefferson must swallow the white-hot anger that erupts when his own lawyer embarrasses him in front of the jury — and learn to die with dignity.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR, COMEDY/MUSICAL: The finalists are Jared Coseglia Travesties (Burning Coal Theatre Company), James Fleming for Juno and the Paycock (Burning Coal Theatre Company), Tom Plotkin for Footloose (North Carolina Theatre), Rob Smith for Lend Me a Tenor (Towne Players of Garner), and Kenneth P. Strong for 'Art' (PlayMakers Repertory Company). The winner is Ken Strong. Strong is a stitch as Yvan the would-be peacemaker whose well-intentioned attempt to repair a rift between his two best friends only antagonizes them and causes them to turn on him.

Honorable mention: Philip Davidson for 'Art' and Proof (PlayMakers Repertory Company); Cris Groenendaal for Broadway in Concert Featuring the Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber (North Carolina Theatre); Don Howard, Holmes Morrison, Scott Honeycutt, and Rusty Sutton for Dearly Departed (Towne Players of Garner); John C. McIlwee for While the Sun Shines (University Theatre at N.C. State); Andy Paris for Proof (PlayMakers Repertory Company); Linh B. Schladweiler for While the Sun Shines (University Theatre at N.C. State); and Ray Walker for Children of Eden (North Carolina Theatre).

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS, DRAMA: The finalists are Amy Bossi for On Golden Pond (Theatre in the Park), Amy Flynn for Communicating Doors (Raleigh Little Theatre), Georgia Martin for Show and Tell (Raleigh Ensemble Players), Elissa Olin for The Road to Mecca (Burning Coal Theatre Company), and Jane Williams for Little Women (Raleigh Little Theatre). The winner is Elissa Olin for her fiery performance as the outraged protégé of an elderly, eccentric South African sculptor whom the conservative local pastor thinks would be better off in an old folks' home.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS, COMEDY/MUSICAL: The finalists are Lissa Brennan for Love's Labours Lost (Shakespeare & Originals) and La Ronde (Dog & Pony Show), Katie Flaherty for A Little Night Music (University Theatre at N.C. State), Amy Flynn for Tartuffe: Born Again (Raleigh Little Theatre) and The Book of Liz (Actors Comedy Lab), Julia Leggett for The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told (Raleigh Ensemble Players), and Nan Stephenson for Juno and the Paycock (Burning Coal Theatre Company). The winner is REP's first disabled community outreach director, Julia Leggett, for her hilarious performance as a wheelchair-bound lesbian rabbi with her own cable TV show.

Honorable mention: Nanci Burrows for Anton in Show Business (Theatre in the Park), Maria Chrysanthou for Crash Diet (Wordshed Productions), Betsy Henderson for The Game of Love and Chance (Deep Dish Theater Company), Beth Honeycutt for Dearly Departed and Lend Me a Tenor (Towne Players of Garner), Frances Stanley and Sharon Pearce for Dearly Departed (Towne Players of Garner), Laurie Gayle Stephenson for Broadway in Concert Featuring the Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber (North Carolina Theatre), and Deborah Winstead and Meredith Sause for La Ronde (Dog & Pony Show).

BEST SOLO: The finalists are Yaron Schweizer for A Letter to Harvey Milk (Manbites Dog Theater) and Ira David Wood III for A Christmas Memory (Theatre in the Park). The winner is Yaron Schweizer for his poignant portrait of an elderly Jewish man who befriends the gay San Francisco political activist shortly before his murder.

BEST ENSEMBLE, DRAMA: The finalists are the casts of The Guys (Carolina Arts Festival), Lebensraum (Raleigh Ensemble Players), On Golden Pond and Barrymore (Theatre in the Park), and Our Town (PlayMakers Repertory Company). The winner is The Guys. Terrence Mann and his wife, Charlotte d'Amboise, gave virtuoso performances as a distraught fire captain who lost most of his men on 9/11 and a stranger — a professional writer — whom he recruits to help him write their eulogies.

BEST ENSEMBLE, COMEDY/MUSICAL: The finalists are the casts of 'Art' and Proof (PlayMakers Repertory Company), Dearly Departed and Lend Me a Tenor (Towne Players of Garner), and Gun-Shy (Actors Comedy Lab). The winner is the cast of 'Art'. Ray Dooley is terrific as the supremely self-confident Serge, a wealthy dermatologist whose ultra-extravagant purchase of a controversial white-on-white painting first appalls and then outrages his best friend and fellow Modern Art aficionado Marc (Philip Davidson). Indeed, it threatens to destroy their long-time friendship. Davidson is great as the increasingly indignant Marc; but Ken Strong steals the show with his hilarious histrionics as Yvan, whose frantic efforts to heal the rift between Serge and Marc all backfire.

BEST LOCAL PLAYWRIGHT: The finalists are Jesse Thompson Eustice, Edward Hunt, and Jeff Storer for A Tune for Tommy (Manbites Dog Theater); Jody McAuliffe for her adaptation of Mao II by Don DeLillo (Theatre Previews at Duke); Matthew Spangler for Shady Hills: John Cheever's Short Stories (Wordshed Productions); Jeff Storer and Coats Guiles for their adaptation of Plays Well with Others by Alan Guganus (Manbites Dog Theater); and Sarah Whalen for adapting Crash Diet by Jill McCorkle (Wordshed Productions). The winners are Red Clay Ramblers co-founder Tommy Thompson's daughter, Jesse Thompson Eustice, and Manbites Dog managing director Edward Hunt and artistic director Jeff Storer for their stirring bluegrass biography that chronicles the dramatic changes in the father-daughter relationship occasioned by the Chapel Hill, NC, musician's harrowing descent into Alzheimer's-like dementia.

Honorable mention: Ellen Hemphill and Nor Hall for 'And Mary Wept', Erin Pushman for Moonshine (New World Stage), and Deb Royals for her adaptation of That Evening Sun by William Faulkner (Raleigh Ensemble Players).

BEST DIRECTOR, DRAMA: The finalists are Paul Frellick for A Lesson Before Dying (Deep Dish Theater Company), Terrence Mann for The Guys (Carolina Arts Festival), and Ira David Wood III for On Golden Pond and Barrymore (Theatre in the Park). The winner is Paul Frellick, whose heart-rending production of the anti-death penalty drama A Lesson Before Dying adds to his laurels as one of the Triangle's leading directors.

BEST DIRECTOR, COMEDY/MUSICAL: The finalists are Mitzi Hamilton for A Chorus Line (North Carolina Theatre); Beth Honeycutt for You Can't Take It with You, Dearly Departed, and Lend Me a Tenor (Towne Players of Garner); Rod Rich for Gun-Shy (Actors Comedy Lab), Tee Scatuorchio for Children of Eden (North Carolina Theatre); and Ted Shaffner for 'Art' and Proof (PlayMakers Repertory Company). The winner is Ted Shaffner for his smart staging of two of Broadway's best comedies of recent years.

Honorable mention: Rebecca Holderness for Travesties (Burning Coal Theatre Company) and John C. McIlwee for The Dinner Party (University Theatre at N.C. State).

BEST SCENIC DESIGNER: The finalists are Jan Chambers for 'And Mary Wept' (Archipelago Theatre), Morag Charlton for Travesties (Burning Coal Theatre Company), Michael Heil for Proof (PlayMakers Repertory Company), Stephen J. Larson for On Golden Pond and Barrymore (Theatre in the Park), Curt Tomczyk for A Little Night Music (University Theatre at N.C. State), and Rick Young for A Streetcar Named Desire and Tartuffe: Born Again (Raleigh Little Theatre). The winners are Jan Chambers for her surrealistic island landscape and Rick Young for his superbly detailed recreations of various Louisiana locations.

BEST LIGHTING DESIGNER: The finalists are Bob Bonniol for Broadway in Concert Featuring the Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber (North Carolina Theatre), Robert Hand for Children of Eden (North Carolina Theatre), Terri L. Janney for A Little Night Music (University Theatre at N.C. State), Stephen J. Larson for On Golden Pond and Barrymore (Theatre in the Park), and Peter West for Proof (PlayMakers Repertory Company). The winner is Bob Bonniol for artfully illuminating NCT's marvelous musical revue.

BEST COSTUME DESIGNER: The finalists are Sue Brace for Tartuffe: Born Again (Raleigh Little Theatre); Bill Clarke for Our Town (PlayMakers Repertory Company); Shambhavi Kaul for Travesties (Burning Coal Theatre Company); Vicki Olson for H.M.S. Pinafore (Raleigh Little Theatre); and Shawn Stewart-Larson for Richard III, On Golden Pond, and Barrymore (Theatre in the Park). The winner is Shambhavi Kaul for an impressive array of World War I era costumes.

BEST PROFESSIONAL THEATER: The finalists are Burning Coal Theatre Company, Manbites Dog Theater, North Carolina Theatre, PlayMakers Repertory Company, and Raleigh Ensemble Players. And the winner is Raleigh Ensemble Players. The granddaddy of alternative theater in the Triangle is blazing bold new trails with a series of strong productions of cutting-edge comedies and dramas.

BEST COMMUNITY THEATER: The finalists are OdysseyStage, Raleigh Little Theatre, Theater in the Park, and Towne Players of Garner. The winner is Towne Players of Garner, which scored three big comic hits with You Can't Take It with You, Dearly Departed, and Lend Me a Tenor while expanding its audience and nurturing the talents of individual performers. The Towne Players' acting ensemble improves with each production. Only My Three Angels proved less than heavenly.

TRIANGLE THEATER MAN/WOMAN OF THE YEAR: The finalists are actress/director Lissa Brennan for acting in Love's Labours Lost (Shakespeare & Originals) and acting in and directing four installments of her new PEEP!!! vaudeville and burlesque revue, Sodom, and La Ronde (Dog & Pony Show); actress/director Beth Honeycutt for acting in Dearly Departed and Lend Me a Tenor and directing You Can't Take It with You, Dearly Departed, and Lend Me a Tenor (Towne Players of Garner); actor/director C. Glen Matthews for acting in Hedwig and The Angry Inch and for directing The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told, Lebensraum, and Show and Tell (Raleigh Ensemble Players); actor/director/playwright Matthew Spangler for writing, directing, and/or acting in Shady Hills: John Cheever's Short Stories and Crash Diet and Other Sins (Wordshed Productions); and actor/director/playwright Ira David Wood III for writing, directing, and/or acting in On Golden Pond, Barrymore, A Christmas Carol, and A Christmas Memory. The winner is Glen Matthews. Matthews, in drag, cut quite a flamboyant figure as the over-the-top transsexual title character in the rock musical Hedwig and The Angry Inch; and he fearlessly confronted the homophobia of religious fundamentalists (The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told), residual anti-Semitism in present-day Germany (Lebensraum), and violence in the American public schools (Show and Tell), while tirelessly working to make REP's productions more accessible to persons with disabilities.

[Edited & corrected 1/5/03.]