The winners for 1998 are as follows . . .
Happy Talk Keefer:
The Allen Theatre has been restored to its 1928 jazz-age grandeur. There are two promising blossoms in our theatrical hothouse: the Bodwin Portable Theatre Company, founded by Lynette Winter and Carrie Bodenger to perpetuate the joys of Readers' Theatre; and the Brick Alley Theatre, a haven for coffeehouse theatrics and sponsor of idea of the year--free ten-minute massages to audience members.
The Closing of Ray Shepardson's Hanna Cabaret. Even with their terrific Forbidden Broadway, and even more terrific stab at swanky old-style nightclub glamour, Clevelanders in sufficient numbers could not be persuaded to leave the comfort of their suburban living rooms and the joys of Indian fever long enough to keep this worthy endeavor alive and kicking.
To be specific, we must wag a reprimanding finger at Playhouse Square, supposedly the second-largest theatrical complex in the country, for still displaying a small-town mentality when it comes to manufacturing home-grown productions, having a vision, and letting other cities, such as Denver and Chicago, beat us to the Grade-A tours, such as Ragtime and Titanic.
Achievement Keefer Awards:
"The Man for All Seasons Keefer" goes to Randy Rollinson of Cleveland Public Theatre. Rollinson, who came to Cleveland from New York, is a theatrical Everyman: actor, playwright, producer, and director. In his first year as managing director, he has made Cleveland Public Theatre a host to chattering vaginas, depraved circus artists, and a new world of vital, live theatrical events. With his skilled minions, he has turned this theater from a wasteland into a theatrical mecca flowing with milk and honey.
"The Da Vinci of Backdrops Keefer" goes to set designer Oliver Sshngen. For half a decade, Sshngen's magical sets, such as a convenience store shelf built out of milk cartons, a forest of Arden made up of organ pipes, and a prison of bedsprings, have imbued subsequent productions with magical realism. He is our city's Prospero, perpetuating his magic throughout the city's theatrical community.
Happiest Event of the Year Keefer:
The benevolent reign of James Bundy at Great Lakes Theater Festival.
Theatrical Import of the Year Keefer:
The Bindelstiff Family Circus. Those who saw it will never forget those spinning plates atop a pole balanced in Miss Bindelstiff's nether orifice--a circus that could only be imagined by Hieronymus Bosch and directed by Fellini.
Best Production of a Musical Keefer:
Company, at the Cleveland Play House, directed by Edward Payson Call: "A brilliant production of a '70s artifact given new life in this red hot production of modern maidens and recalcitrant playboys set to Stephen Sondheim's still compelling score."
Runners-up: The Music Man, Cain Park, directed by Victoria Bussert; 1776, Porthouse Theatre, directed by Russ Treyz; Most Happy Fella, Great Lakes Theater Festival, directed by Victoria Bussert; One Mo' Time, Karamu Theatre, directed by Reggie Kelly; Forbidden Broadway, Hanna Cabaret, directed by Gerard Alessandrini.
Best Female Musical Performance Keefer:
Sandra Simon in The Music Man. "She managed to make her Marian the Librarian a holy bridge between Katharine Hepburn at her butchest and Jeanette MacDonald at her silkiest."
Runners-up: J. Elaine Linsy, One Mo' Time, Karamu; Angela Gwinn, 1776, Porthouse; Catherine DeBoer, 1776, Porthouse; Barbra Walsh, Most Happy Fella, Great Lakes Theater Festival.
Best Male Musical Performance Keefer:
Laurence Maurice in One Mo' Time. "As the oily Papa Du, he has a panther-like grace, enough star power to light Tivoli Gardens, an insinuating singing voice, and a Cheshire Cat smile."
Runners-up: Greg Violand, The Music Man, Cain Park; John Csherer, Company, Play House; John Payonk, The Most Happy Fella, Great Lakes Theater Festival.
Best One-Woman Show Keefer:
Eighth Wonder of the World, Dobama Theatre. "To classify Sarah Morton's mercurial reminiscences of herself as a nubile, over-aged ugly duckling confronting a sexual predator, we would have to evoke the collective memories of Sylvia Plath, Nancy Drew, and Edgar Allan Poe.
Runner-up: Eve Ensler, The Vagina Monologues, Cleveland Public Theatre.
Angels in America, Dobama, is one of those productions that leaves a critic in a quagmire, since its hardcore perfection makes it impossible to pick and choose individual performances, so a collective Keefer Valentine is bestowed upon Laura Perrotta, Scott Plate, Jerry Zafer, Kenn McLaughlin, Jennie Task, Laura Stitt, Doug Rossi, and Tony Sias.
Best Production of a Modern Drama Keefer:
Angels in America, Dobama Theatre. Denying this production a Keefer would be tantamount to not giving Gone With the Wind an Oscar in 1940. To quote our favorite critic, "Dobama has tamed this madcap dragon."
Runners-up: Russian Romance, Cleveland Play House, directed by Peter Hackett; The Homecoming, Ensemble Theatre, directed by Tim Saukiavicus; A View From the Bridge, Ensemble Theatre, directed by Lucia Colombi; Bent, Beck Center, directed by Robert Gibb; A Story's a Story, Signstage Theater, directed by Shanny Mow.
Best Actress in a Modern Drama Keefer:
Laura Perrotta in How I Learned to Drive, Dobama Theatre. "As the play's incest victim, the enigmatic Perrotta has the cheekbones of Dietrich, the Sphinx-like womanliness of Garbo, and the wisdom of Athens. She conquers the audience like Helen of Troy."
Runners-up: Tina Guster, A View From the Bridge, Ensemble Theatre; Triste Crawford, Love in Pieces, Cleveland Public Theatre; Dorothy Silver, A Story's a Story, Signstage; Nina Landey, Russian Romance, Cleveland Play House; Connie Thackaberry, SubUrbia, Cleveland Public Theatre.
Best Actor in a Modern Drama Keefer:
Reuben Silver in The Homecoming, Ensemble Theatre. "He is revealed here as an ill-tempered Cockney, someone too rancid and dangerous to be considered for the nursing homes he endorses on the radio. This may be the performance of his career."
Runners-up: Joseph Ruffner, Bent, Beck Center; Mark Mayo, Bent; John Fiedler, Twelve Angry Men, Cleveland Play House.
Best Director of a Modern Drama Keefer:
Joel Hammer, Angels in America, Dobama Theatre.
Runners-up: Lucia Colombi, A View From the Bridge, Ensemble Theatre; Tim Saukiavicus, The Homecoming, Ensemble Theatre.
Best Production of a Classic Keefer:
A Midsummer Night's Dream, Porthouse Theatre, directed by Terry Burgler. "As naughty as a night at the Roxy Burlesque, as fey as a waltz with Peter Pan, and as magical as a ride on Ali Baba's carpet."
Runners-up: Richard III, Great Lakes Theater Festival, directed by Bartlett Sher; As You Like It, Cleveland Public Theatre, directed by Lenny Pinna.
Best Actor in a Classic Keefer:
Scott Plate, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Porthouse Theater. "The audience's thunderous applause for his Oberon convinced us that this is one fairy they truly believed in."
Runners-up: Stephen Pelinski, Richard III, Great Lakes Theater Festival; Allen Byrne, Richard III.
Best Actress in a Classic Keefer:
Gwendolyn Lewis, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Porthouse Theater. "Her Julie-Christie-inflected Titania made even the fey boys yearn to procreate."
Runners-up: Laura Easterman, Richard III, Great Lakes Theater Festival; Cherie Panek, As You Like It, Cleveland Public Theatre.
Best Director of a Classic Keefer:
Terry Burgler, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Porthouse.
Runners-up: Bartlett Sher, Richard III, Great Lakes Theater Festival; Lenny Pinna, As You Like It, Cleveland Public Theatre.
Normally it is more blessed to give than to receive, but in this instance, quite the opposite is true. To all those who didn't win this year, remember the words of that immortal little bitch Miss Eve Harrington: "I'd do all that and more for a Keefer.