Stage and Cinema: Fountain is “Best Theater” in 2011

by Harvey Perr

BEST THEATER: The Fountain Theatre, which housed the year’s greatest artistic achievement, a gorgeous production of Tennessee Williams’ A House Not Meant to Stand (which proved, once and for all, that Williams was never on the decline and that he could still write a play in his later years that had more life in it than the work of most playwrights working today), and the year’s dandiest commercial entertainment, Stephen Sachs’ Bakersfield Mist.

"Bakersfield Mist"

BEST PLAYS: Bakersfield Mist (Stephen Sachs); Personal Choice:  A House Not Meant to Stand (Tennessee Williams).

"A House Not Meant to Stand"

BEST DIRECTION:  Simon Levy (A House Not Meant to Stand )

BEST PRODUCTION:  A House Not Meant to Stand.

SET DESIGN:  Jeff McLaughlin (A House Not Meant to Stand; Bakersfield Mist)

COSTUME DESIGN:  Naila Aladdin-Sanders (A House Not Meant to Stand )

THE BEST PERFORMANCES OF THE YEAR: Although there are probably more actors concentrated in Los Angeles than in any other city of the world, there seems to be an ambivalence here towards the art of stage acting. First-rate actors rarely get singled out and are frequently lumped together with second and third-rate actors, to the advantage of neither. And actors – who are, after all, the life-blood of live theater – can make or break the production of a play, a fact that seems to go unappreciated. There were, for example, some performances this year which, had they been seen in London or New York, would have been considered career-transforming performances, and those performances are the ones I am giving the top place in my list:

Sandy Martin

Sandy Martin was wonderful in Tennessee Williams’ A House Not Meant to Stand ; she brought the play itself with her onto the stage the moment she made her dazed entrance and embraced its poignancy and its wackiness simultaneously.

Of course, the women Williams created were particularly memorable, and, again, in A House Not Meant to Stand , Sandy Martin had some extraordinary support from Lisa Richards and Virginia Newcomb who were hilariously funny and, at the same time, incredibly moving in small but vividly written parts – the former as a woman who refused to grow old and the latter as a girl who hadn’t yet grown up.

Jenny O'Hara

And Jenny O’Hara found a myriad of ways in which to instill dignity into the liveliest piece of trailer trash one is ever likely to come across in Stephen Sachs’ Bakersfield Mist – trailer trash with some ideas on Art that reduces an art curator to dithering.

It was, as they say, a very good year. Here’s to 2012.

Harvey Perr writes for Stage and Cinema.

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