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'Tis the Season

By John Rowell
Milk Like Sugar
Milk Like Sugar (photo: Ari Mintz)

I dearly love the theatrical awards season in New York! Yes, only a few can actually win, yes, people who don’t win get disappointed, yes, the national ratings for theater awards presentations are increasingly low. Who cares? It’s our community and we love ourselves! And, really, we’re all winners… sniff. I digress. Two of the most venerable awards organizations, the Village Voice’s Obie Awards and the Theatre World Awards, are front and center this week. (Coming soon: the Drama Desks and the Tonys.) The 2012 Obies were handed out on May 21 at Webster Hall, presented by the likes of such folks as Eric McCormack, Topher Grace, Justin Bartha, Lily Rabe, Grace Gummer, Hugh Dancy… you know, just the working class of our industry. More to the point, Obies were presented to some marvelously talented people who distinguished themselves in the New York theater this season, including, for performance, Linda Lavin (The Lyons), Steven Boyer (Hand to God), Susan Pourfar (Tribes) and Cherise Boothe (Milk Like Sugar); for playwriting, Amy Herzog (4000 Miles) and Kirsten Greenidge (Milk Like Sugar); and for direction, Richard Maxwell (Early Plays) and Jay Scheib (World of Wires.) On June 5, the Theater World Awards, the oldest awards given for outstanding debut performances in the New York theater, will be given out at The Belasco, and the recipients include several performers making big debut splashes this year: Jeremy Jordan, Finn Wittrock, Tracie Bennett, Russell Harvard, and Hettienne Park, among others. The winner of this year’s 2012 Dorothy Loudon Award for Excellence in the Theater is Susan Pourfar for Tribes. Congratulations, everyone! 


You simply can’t be an actor, director, playwright, producer—anything—without knowing something about The Group Theatre, that legendary ensemble of theater people that began in 1931 (started by Lee Strasberg, Cheryl Crawford and Harold Clurman) and included Stella Adler, Elia Kazan, Clifford Odets, Lee J. Cobb, Marc Blitzstein, and scores of other iconic, practically name brand, theater artists. And on Monday, June 4, at CUNY’s Graduate Center, there will be a free all-day tribute to the Group Theatre entitled The Group Theatre: A 75th Anniversary Celebration, which should prove fascinating for all students of the theater and for everyone who’d like to learn more about this amazing, game-changing organization. Readings, panel discussions, and film and video showings will take place from 2-8:30 p.m. For more information, visit 


Of course, the heart in question is a dark one, because I’m speaking of playwright/screenwriter Neil LaBute, whose plays and films do not generally, how shall I say, come with a sunny outlook. Passion, deep and curdling emotions, sexual negotiations, infidelity—tip of the iceberg! Coming up at MCC Theater are four nights of benefit performances of Mr. LaBute’s new short play series entitled The Heart of the Matter, which receives a staged reading from June 13-16 at MCC. Each play in The Heart of the Matter takes a look at a pair of lovers in crisis—de rigeur in LaBute Land! Carolyn Canter directs, Krysten Ritter (AMC’s Breaking Bad) stars. 


Open just about any work of fiction and you’ll see near the front of the book a disclaimer of sorts that alludes to the idea that everything contained therein “resembling actual persons living or dead is a coincidence” and all of it is a product of the author’s imagination, etc. Well… yes! And, um, no. The thin line between truth-telling and truth-bending is at the heart of Megan Hart’s This Is Fiction, which receives its World Premiere from InViolet Repertory Theater beginning June 12 at Cherry Lane Studio Theatre. Amy is an aspiring young writer whose first novel is about to be published; before it does, she must break the news to her family that her novel is not entirely… fiction. Veteran stage, film and television actor Richard Masur stars, along with Bernardo Cubria, Aubyn Philabaum, and Michelle David. Performances continue through June 30. 


One of our most venerable and legendary cabaret artistes is the inimitable Baby Jane Dexter, who proves—as if anyone had any doubts—that she is “Still Bad, Still Blue,” which also happens to be the title of her latest musical magnum opus, and which critics have been calling her best show to date. “Still Bad…” returns to the Metropolitan Room for 5 shows only from June 1 to 29, and will find BJD taking on songs by such composers and lyricists as Stephen Sondheim, Abbey Lincoln, Bessie Smith and Jimmy McHugh & Dorothy Fields, among others, as only she can. Life, once again, is a cabaret.