YEAR IN THEATER 2011: Memorable food fights, biggest dicks, inscrutable triumvirates, George Clooney jumps ... It's the return of the Upstage/Downstage Awards
YEAR IN THEATER With a grateful nod to former colleague Brad Rosenstein, we re-inaugurate a system of accolades and nah-ccolades celebrating some memorable highs and lows of the rapidly closing year in theater and performance.
Most Memorable Food Fight
A Three Little Dumplings Adventure
Within seconds of the appearance of the three titular protagonists of Megan Cohen's A Three Little Dumplings Adventure — a hot pink and powder blue hurricane wreaking havoc on the subdued prison of a suburban living room — it was impossible not to get sucked into their chaotic orbit. Alternating between being patently obnoxious, emotionally unanchored, and frankly homicidal, the "three little dumplings" played by Sarah Moser, Molly Holcomb, and Megan Trout teased, baited, jabbed, and wrestled each other across the stage, culminating in Moser pinning Trout to the floor threatening to eat her ("dumpling" being no tidy euphemism here, but a physiological condition). Presented at the Bay One Acts Festival, it was definitely the year's best meta-cannibalistic food frenzy, and it whetted our appetite for more. (Nicole Gluckstern)
Best Drug Story
Greg Proops at "Previously Secret Information"
Admittedly the best highs are often hard to remember. Kudos to the seemingly rock-hard memory of otherwise mellow-ab'd comedian Greg Proops, who recalled prodigious intake and takeout as a Chicken Delite delivery boy in 1970s San Carlos for an edition of Joe Klocek's storytelling series, "Previously Secret Information." (Robert Avila)
Best Political-Historical Thesis Disguised as a Wildly Funny and Louche "Songplay"
Their own prior hit, 2008's Beowulf: A Thousand Years of Baggage, was going to be a hard act to follow. But Banana Bag & Bodice and producers Shotgun Players made playwright Jason Craig and composer Dave Malloy's take on Rasputin look like child's play — very precocious child's play — where performances, music, costumes, mise-en-scène, themes, and dialogue all contributed to another hirsute masterpiece. (Avila)
Most Inscrutable Triumvirate
Mimu Tsujimura, Lily Tung Crystal, and Katie Chan in Songs of the Dragons Flying to Heaven
Speaking of frankly homicidal, the otherwise nameless characters "Korean 1, 2, and 3" in the joint Crowded Fire/Asian American Theater Company production of Young Jean Lee's Songs of the Dragons Flying to Heaven were as outrageously bloodthirsty a collection of countertypical characters as ever graced the Thick House stage. By turns violent, ecstatic, girlish, and demented, the eclectic trio played by Mimu Tsujimura, Lily Tung Crystal, and Katie Chan skewered every tradition-bound Asian stereotype in the book. Clad in the dazzle camouflage of their flowing silk dresses, rendering their monologues in their respective "mother" tongues, not spoken by this or many other audience members, the fiercely energetic characters expertly revealed themselves by not revealing a thing. (Gluckstern)
Best Lighting Design
Allen Willner for inkBoat's The Line Between
Willner's worked wonders before, not least with longtime collaborators inkBoat (Heaven's Radio), but he outdoes himself in this wild and excellent production, making the lighting design a full member of the ensemble with a world of shifting moods and ideas. (Avila)
Best Tentative Revival of a Theatrical Artform