Sherry Cohen's Picks for The Best of 2012
It's always hard for me to come up with the best of anything in entertainment. With my backstage theatre background, I'm obsessed with detail, and I can't simply sit back and enjoy any show. As a writer, I'm obsessed with the words, the sentence, the grammar, etc., and I can never read strictly for pleasure. In the pressure cooker of coming up with the best picks for 2012, I have a mixed pot.
Best New Play: Harbor by Chad Beguelin. When I interviewed Beguelin about his play, I thought he was extremely well-bred. He is polite, pleasant and modest. His play is about a gay couple who have to decide whether or not to have a child. One partner's trashy sister turns the screws on the issue when she arrives unexpectedly with one illegitimate daughter and another on the way. She has already chosen the child's parents - guess who? The play has the surprise ending, with no one, except possibly the older daughter, satisfied. But, relationships are often complicated, and the cast of this premiere at the Westport Country Playhouse captured all the subtleties of the characters with credibility.
Best Performance: Maureen Anderman in The Year of Magical Thinking. This was a hard play to see, especially for this hospital-, doctor- and disease-phobe. (I was serious when I asked my obstetrician to let me have a drive-through C-section. I would rest better in a Percocet haze at home.) As everyone knows, Joan Didion went through the unthinkable tragedy of losing both her husband and daughter in about one year's time. Didion is waif-like. Anderman is lionesque in appearance and in her performance, dominating the sizeable stage at the Westport Country Playhouse. But that kind of strength is a prerequisite to surviving the grueling process of dealing with doctors who cannot understand, let alone treat, her daughter's mysterious and ultimately fatal disease, and then having the strength to write a compelling book and play about it.
Best Children's Musical: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat. Curtain Call produced this show before, but this year's exceptional cast and direction and musical staging by Debra Lee Failla made it definitive for a community theatre group. I saw Failla's production before at Curtain Call and thought it was great fun, but this year all the elements were in the right places, down to the more manageable number of children at the foot of the stage. Standout performances were by Michael Okulski as Joseph, Matt Victory as Pharaoh, George Alberts as Jacob and Potiphar, and Laura Blackwell and Claire Kenny alternating as the Narrator. Oh, and my very energetic five-year-old son, who usually can't sit still through a snack, was thoroughly engaged in the show.
Noble Attempt to Adapt a Play: The Killing of Sister George. OK, so no one liked it, even though they were excited that Kathleen Turner would star and direct the play. Jeffrey Hatcher's adaptation of Frank Marcus's controversial 1964 play should have had some serious updating. A radio soap opera when people are glued to Downton Abbey on PBS? And where are the emotional depths that Turner promised? News of a popular performer's sexual orientation does not a career destroy. Long before JoAnna Johnson revealed that, like her character on The Bold and The Beautiful, she is gay, Anne Heche went public with her relationship with Ellen Degeneres, and Cynthia Nixon announced that she is bisexual and in a relationship with Christine Marinoni. Johnson will return to The Bold and the Beautiful in January after concentrating on a successful career as a TV and movie writer and producer. Heche and Nixon are still employable. Maybe Johnson, Nixon and Heche can take a crack at Sister George? It's a play worth revisiting.