NealsPaper

All Things Entertaining and Cultural

2020 Philadelphia Theater Critic’s Awards — The Recipients

Difficult! Difficult! Difficult!

Program from the first professional show I saw, Funny Girl with Carol Lawrence at the Valley Forge Music Fair.

    The shortened theater year — Philadelphia Theater Critic’s Awards are annual based on the calendar year because that’s the way they began when conceived by an adolescent in 1967. — makes determining a “best” more arduous a task because in a season of hundreds of choices, some performances obviously emerge as outstanding and special. In a fields between 27 and ninety-some, many have distinction. In addition to announcing the recipients of the 2020 Philadelphia Theater Critic’s Award, I will publish a list of the Top 15 in the Actor and Actress categories and a Top 20 in the Production, Supporting Actor and Supporting Actress groups. As I peruse the rankings, I see performances beyond those frankly arbitrary numbers that deserve recognition. As in any Award regimen in which a “best” is chosen, the chooser, I alone in this case, aches to omit artists and productions that rate acknowledge. So goes the world that decisions must be made anyhow. As I compose this, I am thinking of the NBC television program, “The Voice,” which will announce its winner, a word I never use, tonight. There are two clear choices, two others who in last night’s finals, challenge that clarity, and one who will gain from the weeks he’s been seen on television and the admiration of influential “Voice” coach Blake Shelton, but who is bound to be the only predictable also-ran. One of the four outstanding performers, different in style and approach from each other, but alike in abundance of talent and charisma, has to be chosen this year’s “Voice” champion. That is exciting, and I like competitions. The consoling note to coming in second — I was told once I was second for a job opportunity at a daily newspaper and quipped, “That’s as good as tenth.” — or fifth in “The Voice’s” competition is the public has seen you, your work, your talent, your charisma, and your improvement over the season. That will probably mean an advanced career and even stardom. Jennifer Hudson, Justin Guarini (a Philadelphia Theater Critic’s Award recipient), and Constantine Maroulis certainly thrived despite coming in behind the winner on their year of “American Idol.” The Philadelphia Theater Critic’s Award does not have the reach of a national network television program, or even the newspaper that didn’t give me the job. It is the personal activity and fiat of one person. I like to think it has some cachet in that it is one individual’s accolade, determined without the mitigating and compromising effect of a committee and governed by a critic who has been told he is “hard,” “picky” and “too impartial to care whether someone is new or having a bad night.” That’s right. If you’re on stage, you should be perfect or at least make your flaw interesting. It is also clear after 50 years of writing about theater I have specific tastes and dislikes. I acknowledge those, but like most things in life, my response is “So what? Deal with them.” By knowing my preferences — simplicity, sincerity, wit, a full play rather than a one-issue wonder with one big scene surrounded by political drivel, sentiment but not sentimentality, flash only when warranted and clever, universality of theme or sweetness of situation, whichever applies, entire production over a single element including plot (“Hamlet” can stink in the wrong hands.) — my place in the dialogue about theater, the conducting of which is all I claim as I write, is more useful as a reader can accept or dismiss some things I say based on the standards I have made clear within a half-century of exposing them.

        So, as objective as I like to characterize them, but as subjective as they necessarily must be, the next thing you will see are the production and performers cited for the 2020 Philadelphia theater season, truncated though it was.

The Recipients of the 2020 Philadelphia Theater Critic’s Awards are:

BEST PRODUCTION: THE CHILDREN by Lucy Kirkwood, Peoples Light & Theatre Company, Malvern, Pa.

BEST DIRECTOR: BLANKA ZIŽKA, Describe the Night, Wilma Theater, Philadelphia

BEST ACTOR: JOHN TUFTS, Sleuth, McCarter Theatre Company, Princeton, N.J.

BEST ACTRESS: MARCIA SAUNDERS, The Children, People’s Light & Theatre Company, Malvern, Pa.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: STEVEN RISHARD, Describe the Night, Wilma Theater, Philadelphia

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: JAYLENE CLARK OWENS, Renaissance in the Belly of a Killer Whale, Wilma Theater, Philadelphia

Now, for the Top 15 in two categories and the Top 20 in three.

BEST PRODUCTION

1.THE CHILDREN by Lucy Kirkwood, People’s Light & Theatre Company, Malvern, Pa.
2.Describe the Night by Rajiv Joseph, Wilma Theater, Philadelphia
3.The Band’s Visit by David Yazbek and Itamar Moses, National Tour, Academy of Music, Philadelphia
4.Sleuth by Anthony Shaffer, McCarter Theatre Company, Princeton, N.J.
5.Goodnight Nobody by Rachel Bonds, McCarter Theatre Company, Princeton, N.J.
6.A Hundred Words for Snow by Tatty Hennessy, Inis Nua Company, Philadelphia
7.Hello Dolly! By Jerry Herman and Michael Stewart, National Tour, Academy of Music, Philadelphia
8.Renaissance in the Belly of a Killer Whale by Jaylene Clark Owens, Hollis Heath, Janelle Heatley, and Chyann Sapp, Wilma Theater, Philadelphia
9.Midwives by Chris Bohjalian, George Street Playhouse, New Brunswick, N.J.
10.Outside Mullingar by John Patrick Shanley, Delaware Theatre Company, Wilmington
11.The Bald Soprano by Eugène Ionesco, Idiopathic Ridiculopathy Consortium, Philadelphia
12.Ship by Douglas Williams, Azuka Theatre, Philadelphia
13.Conscience by Joe DiPietro, George Street Playhouse, New Brunswick, N.J.
14.My Life on a Diet by Joseph Bologna and Renee Taylor, Bucks County Playhouse, New Hope, Pa.
15Cabaret by John Kander, Fred Ebb, and Joe Masteroff, Bristol Riverside Theatre, Bristol, Pa.
16.Two Gentlemen of Verona by William Shakespeare, Lantern Theater, Philadelphia
17.A Woman of No Importance by Oscar Wilde, Walnut Street Theatre, Philadelphia
18.In Splendid Error by William B. Branch, Philadelphia Artists Collective and Theatre in the X, Philadelphia
19.Thurgood by George Stevens, Jr., Walnut Street Theatre, Philadelphia
20.I (Heart) Alice (Heart) I by Amy Conroy, Curio Theatre, Philadelphia

BEST ACTOR

1.JOHN TUFTS, Sleuth, McCarter Theatre Company, Princeton, N.J.
2.Graham Smith, The Children, People’s Light & Theatre Company, Malvern, Pa.
3.Derek Smith, Sleuth, McCarter Theatre Company, Princeton, N.J.
4.Lee Sellars, Conscience, George Street Playhouse, New Brunswick, N.J.
5.John Bolton, Hello Dolly!, National Tour, Academy of Music, Philadelphia
6.Sameer Usmani, Goodnight Nobody, McCarter Theatre Company, Princeton, N.J.
7.Sasson Gabay, The Band’s Visit, National Tour, Academy of Music, Philadelphia
8.Charlie DelMarcelle, Outside Mullingar, Delaware Theatre Company, Wilmington
9.Sean Thompson, Cabaret, Bristol Riverside Theatre, Bristol, Pa.
10.William Zielinski, Everything is Wonderful, Philadelphia Theatre Company, Philadelphia
11.Bob Schmidt, The Bald Soprano, Idiopathic Ridiculopathy Consortium, Philadelphia
12.Matteo Scammell, Two Gentlemen of Verona, Lantern Theater, Philadelphia
13.Steven Wright, The Agitators, Theatre Horizon, Norristown, Pa.
14.Luke Bradt, Popcorn Falls, Walnut Street Theatre, Philadelphia
15.Akeem Davis, Two Gentlemen of Verona, Lantern Theatre, Philadelphia

BEST ACTRESS

1.MARCIA SAUNDERS, The Children, People’s Light & Theatre Company, Malvern, Pa.
2.Ellen McLaughlin, Midwives, George Street Playhouse, New Brunswick, N.J.
3.Harriet Harris, Conscience, George Street Playhouse, New Brunswick, N.J.
4.Carolee Carmello, Hello Dolly, National Tour, Academy of Music, Philadelphia
5.Satchel Williams, A Hundred Words for Snow, Inis Nua, Philadelphia
6.Dana Delany, Goodnight Nobody, McCarter Theatre Company, Princeton, N.J.
7.Tina Brock, The Bald Soprano, Idiopathic Ridiculopathy Consortium, Philadelphia
8.Annie Fang, Ship, Azuka Theatre, Philadelphia
9.Kim Carson, Outside Mullingar, Delaware Theatre Company, Wilmington
10.Charlotte Northeast, The Agitators, Theatre Horizon, Norristown, Pa.
11.Renee Taylor, My Life on a Diet, Bucks County Playhouse, New Hope, Pa.
12.Taysha Marie Canales, Shakespeare in Love, People’s Light & Theatre Company, Malvern, Pa.
13.Alicia Roper, A Woman of No Importance, Walnut Street Theatre, Philadelphia
14.Janet Dacal, The Band’s Visit, National Tour, Academy of Music, Philadelphia
15.Jessica Johnson, Rachel, Quintessence Theatre Group, Philadelphia

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

1.STEVEN RISHARD, Describe the Night, Wilma Theater, Philadelphia
2.Keith Conallen, Describe the Night, Wilma Theater, Philadelphia
3.Nate Miller, Goodnight Nobody, McCarter Theatre Company, Philadelphia
4.Joe Joseph, The Band’s Visit, National Tour, Academy of Music, Philadelphia
5.Ross Beschler, Describe the Night, Wilma Theater and In Splendid Error, Philadelphia Artists Collective and Theatre in the X, Philadelphia
6.Adam Gabay, The Band’s Visit, National Tour, Academy of Music, Philadelphia
7.Mike Cefalo, The Band’s Visit, National Tour, Academy of Music, Philadelphia
8.Adam Hammet, Two Gentlemen of Verona, Lantern Theater, Philadelphia
9.Brandon O’Rourke, A Woman of No Importance, Walnut Street Theatre, Philadelphia
10.Ryan George, Midwives, George Street Playhouse, New Brunswick, N.J.
11.Mahoud Ebrahimzadeh, Shakespeare in Love, People’s Light& Theatre Company, Malvern, Pa.
12.Bob Stineman, Cabaret, Bristol Riverside Theatre, Bristol, Pa.
13.Frank Nardi, Jr., Babel, Theatre Exile, Philadelphia
14.Dan Kern, Outside Mullingar, Delaware Theatre Company, Wilmington
15.Stephen Novelli, Shakespeare in Love, People’s Light & Theatre Company, Malvern, Pa.
16.Dave Johnson, Two Gentlemen of Verona, Lantern Theater, Philadelphia
17.David Bardeen, Two Gentlemen of Verona, Lantern Theater, Philadelphia
18.John Zak, The Bald Soprano, Idiopathic Ridiculopathy Consortium, Philadelphia
19.Bob Weick, In Splendid Error, Philadelphia Artists Collective and Theatre in the X, Philadelphia
20.Pax Resler*, Shakespeare in Love, People’s Light & Theater Company, Malvern, Pa.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

1.JAYLENE CLARK OWENS, Renaissance in the Belly of a Killer Whale, Wilma Theater, Philadelphia
2.Katie Kleiger, Everything is Wonderful, Philadelphia Theatre Company, Philadelphia
3.Janis Dardaris, The Children, People’s Light & Theatre Company, Malvern, Pa.
4.Kendal Hartse, The Band’s Visit, National Tour, Academy of Music, Philadelphia
5.Hollis Heath, Renaissance in the Belly of a Killer Whale, Wilma Theater, Philadelphia
6.Sarah Gliko, Describe the Night, Wilma Theater, Philadelphia
7.Blair Sams, Everything is Wonderful, Philadelphia Theatre Company, Philadelphia
8.Monique Robinson, Midwives, George Street Playhouse, New Brunswick, N.J.
9.Janelle Heatley, Renaissance in the Belly of a Killer Whale, Wilma Theatre, Philadelphia
10.Alison Ormsby, Ship, Azuka Theatre, Philadelphia
11.Jo Twiss, Cabaret, Bristol Riverside Theatre, Bristol, Pa.
12.Ariel Woodiwiss, Goodnight Nobody, McCarter Theatre Company, Princeton, N.J.
13.Cheryl Williams, My General Tubman, Arden Theatre, Philadelphia
14.Annie Fang, Man of God, InterAct Theatre, Philadelphia
15.Stephanie Iozzia, The Steward of Christendom, Irish Heritage Theatre, Philadelphia
16.Cathryn Wake, Conscience, George Street Playhouse, New Brunswick, N.J.
17.Mary Elizabeth Scallen, Shakespeare in Love, People’s Light & Theatre Company, Malvern, Pa.
18.Amanda Schoonover, Babel, Theatre Exile, Philadelphia
19.Zuhairah McGill, Rachel, Quintessence Theatre Group, Philadelphia
20.Claris Park, Man of God, InterAct Theatre, Philadelphia

BEST DIRECTOR

1.BLANKA ZIŽKA, Describe the Night, Wilma Theater, Philadelphia
2.Abigail Adams, The Children, People’s Light & Theatre Company, Malvern, Pa.
3.Adam Immerwahr, Sleuth, McCarter Theatre Company, Princeton, N.J.
4.David Cromer, The Band’s Visit, National Tour, Academy of Music, Philadelphia
5.Tyne Rafaeli, Goodnight Nobody, McCarter Theatre Company, Princeton, N.J.
6.Tina Brock, The Bald Soprano, Idiopathic Ridiculopathy Consortium, Philadelphia
7.Jaylene Clark Owens, Renaissance in the Belly of a Killer Whale, Wilma Theater, Philadelphia
8.David Saint, Midwives, Conscience, George Street Playhouse, New Brunswick, N.J.
9.Jerry Zaks, Hello Dolly!, National Tour, Academy of Music, Philadelphia
10.Claire Moyer, A Hundred Words for Snow, Inis Nua, Philadelphia
11.Kevin Glaccum, Ship, Azuka Theatre
12.Bud Martin, Outside Mullingar, Delaware Theatre Company, Wilmington
13.Cheyenne Barboza, The Agitators, Theatre Horizon, Norristown, Pa.
14.Maura Krause, Man of God, InterAct Theatre, Philadelphia
15.Keith Baker, Cabaret, Bristol Riverside Theatre, Bristol, Pa.
  • Pax Resler is listed among the Best Supporting Actors. This, in significant ways, is inaccurate and more a sign of a traditional, inflexible format than of reality. Pax is non-binary. They have said to the world, “I will not be boxed,” and I prefer to respect that choice while yet bowing to the traditional, inflexible format of my categorization. I chose to place Pax among Actors (a generic term that in my context refers to males) because the part they played was denoted as masculine in “Shakespeare in Love.”  In other diaries, they are ranked in both Actor and Actress categories depending on the role. Pax’s performances in 1812’s “This is the Week That Is” creates a genuine quandary, structural more than actual. Care is, and will be, taken to acknowledge individuality and the non-binary person, but to include Pax and not wrench a 50-year-old system, I made a choice. I boxed one who refuses to be. Apology for that, but my OCD requires structural neatness. (Remember that, playwrights!)  Complexity is a burden. Amen.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Follow me on Twitter

%d bloggers like this: