The Best of NYC THEATER 

BEST BAD SHOW: Mindgame

BEST COMEBACK: Angela Lansbury

BEST LINE READINGS: David Greenspan

BEST COMPANIES PUTTING ON SHOWS WRITTEN BY AND STARRING PEOPLE UNDER-REPRESENTED ON JUST ABOUT EVERY OTHER STAGE IN THE CITY: Vampire Cowboysand New Georges

BEST ONE-STOP PERFORMANCE SHOP: Dixon Place

BEST BOROUGH FOR THEATER BESIDES MANHATTAN: Queens

BEST OUTDOOR THEATER: Hudson Warehouse

BEST THEATER BAR: 1 Dominick

BEST SUMMER PERFORMANCE FESTIVAL SO FAR: undergroundzero

BEST AWKWARDLY REALISTIC PROJECTILE VOMITING ONSTAGE: Hope Davis

BEST IMPROMPTU PERFORMANCE SPACE: Gershwin

BEST STUNT-CASTING SUCCESS: Jane Fonda

BEST STUNT-CASTING DEBACLE: Jeremy Piven

BEST PUPPET SHOW: The Colonists


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BEST BAD SHOW: Mindgame
If Ken Russell pretty much invented a certain kind of “guilty pleasure” movie, then he defined guilty pleasure theater this season with the embarrassingly enjoyable Mindgame, a shamelessly predictable mystery in which Keith Carradine seemed to be sending up Rex Harrison and the female lead first turned up in a hot pink wig and rubber nurse suit. Most enjoyable was watching Russell throw back red wine in the front row.

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BEST COMEBACK: Angela Lansbury
Theatergoers had all but resigned themselves to the fact that Angela Lansbury had made her theatrical swan song in Terrence McNally’s execrable Deuce, but she surprised us all by scoring a triumph with the tailormade role of Madame Arcati in a diverting production of Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit. Watching her do a bizarre dance to summon the spirit world, it was clear we were seeing an actress in full command of the stage and of her formidable, razor-sharp talent.

click to enlarge Angela Lansbury as Madame Arcati

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BEST LINE READINGS: David Greenspan
Every time he opened his mouth in Theatre Askew’s very amusing Cornbury: The Queen’s Governor, David Greenspan kept the whole audience enthralled with eccentric emphases, sung vowels and unexpected pauses, as is his wont.

click to enlarge David Greenspan in Cornbury

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BEST COMPANIES PUTTING ON SHOWS WRITTEN BY AND STARRING PEOPLE UNDER-REPRESENTED ON JUST ABOUT EVERY OTHER STAGE IN THE CITY: Vampire Cowboys
This is, hands down, the company that has presented not only one of the most surprisingly funny and odd nights of theater that we’ve seen in the past twelve months, but also one of the most diverse casts. And when we say diverse we mean a little bit of everything, plus a good ratio of ladies to gents. Not only that, they managed a feat almost twice as rare: they had an interesting mix of people in the audience, which very few companies can manage. But above all, they’re making exciting stuff to watch, and that’s the most important reason to check them out.
AND
New Georges
Like the Vampire Cowboys, New Georges gets the nod not only for mixing it up on the page and on the stage, but also for putting on awesome work. They’ve managed to consistently shepherd new work from inception to production that is contemporary, theatrical, thoughtful, challenging, fun, and also happens to be written by women from a variety of backgrounds. They’ve been so successful, in fact, that a fair number of the writers and shows they have produced have gone on to achieve more mainstream success, so catch ‘em here, while the tickets are still cheap.

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BEST ONE-STOP PERFORMANCE SHOP: Dixon Place
The award this year has got to go to Dixon Place (161 Chrystie St). And yes, they get extra points for having a sexy new space that can never really replace the old living room they used to operate out of, but has some pretty excellent qualities all its own. As ever, they’ve got naked people, puppets, little theater, big theater, Mangina, dance, occasional one-nighters by famous people, music, a bar, poetry, literary readings, kind of awesome chairs, comic book slideshows, and things you can’t even imagine (that’s right). And they worked their asses off to get where they are, so they’ve earned a little kudos now and again.

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BEST BOROUGH FOR THEATER BESIDES MANHATTAN: Queens
In recent years Brooklyn would have taken it hands down, but Queens made moves this year, and the theater community paid attention. In Long Island City, the Chocolate Factory and Secret Theater hosted some terrific short theater and reading festivals this spring and summer. Nearby, the Astoria Performing Arts Center’s outstanding season earned it a couple of New York Innovative Theater Awards nominations.

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BEST OUTDOOR THEATER: Hudson Warehouse
Sure, Central Park had Anne Hathaway’s star power, but something about Hudson Warehouse’s Other Free Shakespeare in the Park summer-long series in Riverside Park won us over. Maybe it’s the lack of a queue, or the arduous three plays in three months schedule (August is A Midsummer Night’s Dream), but it’s probably a combination of the excellent hardworking cast and the sunsets over the Hudson that serve as their backdrop that makes these outdoor productions a must.

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BEST THEATER BAR: 1 Dominick
The stylish little café and bar 1 Dominick (1 Dominick St) at the HERE Arts Center is exactly what you want from a theater drinking spot, especially during summer events like the upcoming Fringe Festival, when the space opens onto the sidewalk so that things never feel crowded enough to overwhelm the laidback mood.

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BEST SUMMER PERFORMANCE FESTIVAL SO FAR: undergroundzero
Though its schedule wasn’t as epic as some other fests, undergroundzero at PS122 featured an unparalleled slate of experimental and adventurous works throughout the month of July. From musicals, burlesque and multimedia performances to monologues and dance, pieces were set in subway cars, at book club meetings, on shopping channels and in the afterlife.

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BEST AWKWARDLY REALISTIC PROJECTILE VOMITING ONSTAGE: Hope Davis
Not to ruin the surprise or anything, but at one point in the star-stacked Broadway production of Yasmina Reza’s God of Carnage, Hope Davis vomits all over the living room set. We’re told it took months of preparation and involved training in a waterproof suit, but, seeing Davis do it, you’d never suspect it took any effort.

click to enlarge Hope Davis in God of Carnage

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BEST IMPROMPTU PERFORMANCE SPACE: Gershwin
Yanira Castro’s site-specific dance theater piece Dark Horse/Black Forest in the Gershwin Hotel Bathroom was only visible to the small audience that could squeeze into the lobby lavatories. More people were able to watch the voyeuristic series of movements and vignettes via closed-circuit TV from rooms in the hotel.

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BEST STUNT-CASTING SUCCESS: Jane Fonda
As soon as we heard about it, we suspected that casting Jane Fonda in 33 Variations was just a ploy to earn her a Tony after a recent spate of poorly chosen roles and projects. If so, well done: we never knew talking about Beethoven’s music could be more thrilling than listening to it.

click to enlarge Jane Fonda in 33 Variations

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BEST STUNT-CASTING DEBACLE: Jeremy Piven
The idea of having Jeremy Piven in Speed-the-Plow on Broadway could have worked, but the actor ate way too much sushi and nearly OD’d on mercury. After the news hit, peeved playwright David Mamet told Variety: “My understanding is that he is leaving show business to pursue a career as a thermometer.”

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BEST PUPPET SHOW: The Colonists
Few puppet productions balance the uneasy emotional opposites of cute characters embroiled in high drama as well as the Terrible Baby Theater Company did in their botanical musical allegory about capitalism The Colonists at the Brick. When free market economics came between a rabbit and his earthworm buddy, things got frenetic in that idyllic garden.

click to enlarge The Colonists

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