Miami New Times - Best of 2012
READERS' POLL WINNER ~ Best Theater for Drama: GableStage
RUINED: Choreography as much as direction this time around, Joseph Adler took control of the largest cast ever assembled at GableStage – 16 altogether – to create the year's most riveting production. Discovering crannies of humor in a dispiriting milieu, Lela Elam disappeared inside the character of Mama Nadi, the morally complex barkeep-slash-madam trying to stay afloat in contemporary war-torn Congo. Renata Eastlick and Jade Wheeler were also virtually unrecognizable as two of her "entertainers." Flush with music, dance, violence, romance, and vitality, this production brought out every emotion in Lynn Nottage's extraordinary source material, with scenic and sound design that transplanted audiences to the middle of the horrific action.
THE MOTHER***KER WITH THE HAT: Fast-talking plays aren't easy, which is why you rarely see amateur theaters take on Mamet. They would similarly be best to avoid Stephen Adly Guirgis's profane Tony-nominate play, a hilarious ensemble piece about drugs, sex, infidelity, and a certain piece of headwear that wound up in the wrong place at the wrong time. Never a theater to shy away from a challenge, GableStage mounted its production at the beginning of the year and hit it out of the park. This is what it looks like when a show fires perfectly on all cylinders, with its infinitely engaging cast owning every skeevy, scuzzy line of dialogue with inexhaustible aplomb.
VENUS IN FUR: David Ives's provocative layer cake of feminism, S&M, and theatrical artifice began popping up at brave regional theaters throughout 2012 after its Broadway premiere turned heads and turned its star, Nina Arianda, into a sensation. I would gladly hold up GableStage's version against any competing production. Betsy Graver was a revelation as the deceptive seductress Vanda, turning on a dime from Valley Girl ditziness to Victorian iciness and sadistic menace. Sparring partner Matthew William Chizever also turned in some of his most dexterous work in a part that could easily be swallowed by Vanda's force of nature.
Best Musical -
Adding Machine by Joshua Schmidt and Jason Loewith
Art communicates first to the heart and then climbs its way to the brain on a ladder of associations - memories, snippets of things once seen or heard, allusions to the past. No recent musical has used association so evocatively as Adding Machine. In it, the industrial U-turned dystopia of early 20th-century modernism was conjured up through music that nodded to Brecht and Weill, coupled with an aesthetic derived in equal parts from Henry Ford, Fritz Lang, Tristan Tzara, and Le Corbusier. A story of a worker both made redundant by and subsumed into a brave new world of automation, Adding Machine is an old-school Marxist critique of frightening acuity: Singing out a series of numbers in dazzlingly precise polyrhythm, Adding Machine's characters transform into automatons themselves. If we, too, weren't a little too machine-like, the sight would send us running from the Biltmore, with the bad old future like a dead wind at our backs.
Best Director -
Joseph Adler, Adding Machine
Joseph Adler is a big personality with a big voice, big hair, and a big heart. So Adding Machine must have been quite a trick for him. The musical, composed in 2008 by Joshua Schmidt and written by Schmidt and Jason Loewith, is a modernist horror story based on Elmer Rice's nearly forgotten 1927 play The Adding Machine. Its story follows the spiritual decay of a man who loses his job to a machine, just when he is on the verge of turning into a machine himself. The show is meant to summon the feel of an early 20th-century industrial utopia gone awry - a world of smokestacks and conveyor belts, of perfectly conditioned workers diligently plunking away for their pay and rations of leisure time. The individual is invisible in such a world, and for one and a half hours at Adler's GableStage, the personalities of all involved in Adding Machine's production were notable only by their absence. Adler and his cast hardened their hearts, stepped away from the footlights, and let us see the only personality that mattered in this context: the blind and hungry void of industry gone mad.
Best New Play
Betrayed by George Packer
OK, so Betrayed wasn't completely new when it opened at Joe Adler's GableStage. But it still had that new-play smell. George Packer is probably the best writer The New Yorker has had in a decade or more, and his 2007 article about the Iraqi translators who teamed up with American forces after the 2003 invasion ("Betrayed: The Iraqis Who Trusted America Most") was one of the most powerful pieces of journalism written lately. Packer is no 9-to-5er, and he felt its power too: The plight of the secular, liberty-loving, life-risking Democraphiles he'd met in Iraq haunted his dreams, and this play was the result. It gave the reactionary liberals who proliferated in George W. Bush's second term - the ones with the curiously partitioned minds, who deplored totalitarianism in theory but thought it tolerable in practice, at least when its only enemy was a corrupt Republican administration - one hell of a jolt and reminded our glibbest hawks what the real fight was about and what it was worth. A play can hope to do no more.
Best Acting Ensemble
Betrayed with Antonio Amadeo, John Manzelli, Ceci Fernandez,
Ricky Waugh, Scott Genn, Bill Schwartz and Todd Allen Durkin
Betrayed was a play about the Iraqis who dreamed of American rescue long before the War on Terror, who loved the West and studied Emily Brontë and watched English-language porn, who were neither Baathists nor especially religious. They were (little-l) liberals, (little-d) democrats, and arts lovers. In other words, they were people much like Antonio Amadeo, John Manzelli, and Ceci Fernandez, the actors who gave them life in Coral Gables. Watching them work, one could plainly see they felt the moral weight of their task: Their portrayals were dignified but not heroic, trenchant but not sappy. In the play, as in the war, these Anglophiles went to work as translators for the Coalition forces, becoming targets of violence in their own neighborhoods and, as the war went poorly, objects of suspicion in the Green Zone. Many were turned out, and many died. When Fernandez, Manzelli, and Amadeo assumed their roles, they spoke their convictions softly and accepted their fates stoically. It was a fitting memorial to those who didn't make it, and a moment of unexpected fraternity with those who wait to make it still.
Best Supporting Actor
Paul Tei, Defiance
This writer has known Paul Tei, at least on a professional level, for almost three years. This writer has chatted with him in half a dozen theater lobbies, written half a dozen plays about his work, and has watched him star in at least as many shows. But when the tattooed, pierced, spiky-haired, sandpaper-throated Tei appeared as the paunchy, smooth-talking, oily-voiced Southern snake-in-the-grass named Chaplain White in GableStage's springtime production of Defiance, it took this writer 20 minutes to recognize him. It was the most complete and realistic transformation of an actor into his subject to hit Miami in this or any recent year. The part didn't have a lot of weight - Chaplain White was too shallow a being to inspire any audience reaction more complex than dislike - but he was a marvel nevertheless: a perfect triumph of technique.
Best Director - Joseph Adler for Pillowman
Imagine this: You were viciously abused as a child, and now you're a writer. You are totally unsuccessful. Your major subject matter is the torture and murder of children. You're really into it. The children in your stories eat cookies filled with razorblades or are dispatched with power drills used in extremely unconventional ways. At this very moment, you're being interrogated by police officers in the middle of a totalitarian state. These police officers suspect that you have, in fact, been murdering children in real life. Maybe you have: Certainly kids around town seem to be dropping dead in all the ways you describe in your writings. Your mentally handicapped brother is being tortured in the next room. It is highly improbable that you will live to see tomorrow. Now imagine appearing onstage in this wretched condition and getting an audience to not only sympathize with you, but find your entire situation utterly amusing. Sound improbable? Joe Adler made it happen, in an October production of Martin McDonagh's The Pillowman that was funnier and more powerful than the star-studded Broadway production that set tongues a-wagging in Manhattan the previous year.
Best Supporting Actor - Matthew Glass in Romance
In a play full of plus-size performances, little Matt Glass dwarfed everybody. David Mamet's filthy courtroom farce was one of the year's funniest shows, and Matt was not only its funniest character but also the most sympathetic. The love-starved boyfriend of the prosecutor, he pranced into the courtroom leaving a trail of handcuffs and dildos in his wake, sat himself on the judge's knee, and proceeded to interrupt the workings of the American justice system with his tale of domestic woe. He was too ridiculous to take seriously - some terrible amalgam of everybody's most vicious stereotypes about vacuous drama-junkie queens - but he somehow made you feel for him anyway. Deeply. Those who saw him do it are still wondering how he pulled it off.
Best Set Design - Lyle Baskin for Fat Pig
The set of Neil LaBute's tale of aborted love between a sweet fat chick and a not-so-sweet skinny guy was lovingly, elegantly, exactingly, and simply rendered by Lyle Baskin, a designer who regularly sends GableStage's brilliant shows rocketing to the next level of awesomeness. Fat Pig was a brutal, heartless story - one of the play's four characters had the soul of a poet, and she was endlessly shat upon by the other three, all of whom had approximately the soul of a moldering potato - and its cruelty was suggested, not by drab colors and an absence of stuff, but by a preternatural stillness. The opening scene's supposedly bustling cafeteria had the feel of a Chuck E. Cheese in the wake of a plague; the final scene's beachside setting looked and sounded like the beach, but somehow communicated "desert." Scenes set in a sushi bar and an office suggested cheerful surfaces and spiritual death, a hollow classiness created by an intelligence driven to make everything pleasant and nothing personal. One look at Baskin's set, pretty and functional and chilling, might tell you more about Neil LaBute than Neil LaBute could tell you about himself.
New Times - Best of 2005
BEST ACTOR - David Kwiat (QED)
David Kwiat Kwiat's performance as the dying oddball physicist Richard Feynman in QED (at GableStage) was in production a full year ago.
Award competitions such as the Oscars often have short memories in such cases, but all these months later Kwiat's funny, touching portrait
of one man's search for peace and meaning still resonates, an exceptional example of an exceptional actor's style: understated, deeply felt,
and fully alive.
New Times - Best of 2004
BEST THEATRICAL PRODUCTION - The Goat or Who is Sylvia?
In theater, sometimes everything just falls into place. That was definitely the case with GableStage's masterful
presentation of THE GOAT. Featuring Edward Albee's bitterly funny script, a fine cast, exceptionally
effective direction from Artistic Director, Joseph Adler, and an outstanding set design by Rich Simone, this
production was a gleeful blend of absurdity, horror and dry humor that sent audiences' heads spinning.
BEST DIRECTOR - Joseph Adler
The ebullient, outspoken Adler might seem a complete mismatch with tat, taciturn Edward Albee (The Goat or
Who Is Sylvia?). Nonetheless, Adler's masterful staging of Albee's provocative tragicomedy was a perfect
meeting of master minds. Adler is well known for his gutsy, go-for-broke style, but his work with THE GOAT was
particularly risky and insightful, put together with such skill that many of his roll-the-dice choices looked as
if he were using loaded bones to make point every toss.
New Times - Best of 2003
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR - David Kwiat (Dirty Blonde)
It's about time Kwiat received recognition as a one-man repertory company. A chameleon of an actor who appears regularly in many local theaters,
Kwiat is a director's dream. He can take the tiniest role and turn it into a perfectly realized character. Some of his recent work was memorable --
the brooding Irish drinker in The Weir and the embittered Yiddish actor in Smithereens, both at New Theatre; as well as his hilarious cameos in
Comic Potential at Actors' Playhouse. But it was GableStage's Dirty Blonde that really turned into a Kwiat riot as he rolled out one carefully
etched characterization after another.
New Times - Best of 2002
BEST LOCAL DIRECTOR - Joseph Adler
And the winner is.... Once again the award goes to Adler for his range of work and the professionalism with which it is produced. From gritty naturalism in the creepy and mind-bending Boy Gets Girl to lyrical musical drama inThe Dead to the brilliant absurdism of Edward Albee's The Play About the Baby, Adler moves all over the stylistic map and handles each stop with assurance. His direction is marked by clarity, energy, and a palpable love for the actor's craft. It's no coincidence that many actors shine in his productions. Until someone else manages all this in one season, the crown remains firmly planted.
BEST LOCALLY PRODUCED DRAMA - The Play About the Baby
Who's afraid of putting on Edward Albee? Not GableStage. And this production of the playwright's mind-bending verbal labyrinth was a dizzying, enigmatic tour de force. Strong all around, from Joseph Adler's crisp staging through the tight and engrossing performances (including some nifty work from John Felix and Cynthia Caquelin). Add to the mix the excellent work of Jeff Quinn, Daniela Schwimmer, and Nat Rauch -- for sets/lighting, costumes, and sound respectively -- and what you get is hard to beat, even if it were competing in a theatrical capital.
BEST ACTRESS - Pamela Roza (Boy Gets Girl)
Roza was memorable as a tightly wound professional woman in Manhattan being stalked by a would-be suitor. Her emotional range and willingness to explore the character's ugly sides helped turn Rebecca Gilman's issue-driven potboiler into a dark, troubling character study. We've seen Roza before in other psychological dramas, such as Extremities, where she played a rape victim who turns the tables on the perpetrator, literally and emotionally trapping her tormentor; and in her disturbing performance in Medea Redux (the title tells you something), one of three plays in Bash by Neil LaBute, where she revealed a simultaneous vulnerability and hardness that made us remember why watching live performances by talented actors is a riveting experience.
BEST HOTEL - Biltmore Hotel
Before you enter this 76-year old landmark, you already know you're close to paradise... That's right, this
is not simply a hotel. This is another universe. You walk through archways and courtyards, click across
elaborate tile floors, sit against carved wood and detailed tapestries... swim in one of the world's greatest
pools, eat among brilliant pinks and purples of bougainvillea and verdant banana leaves, treated like a
member of the old raj, take high tea indoors in the fabulous lobby, with choices of tea and finger sandwiches
that embarrass Harrods... sit on your private balcony and take in the tropical landscape cleverly disguised
as a golf course. Good theater next door at Gablestage, spa in the basement...
New Times - Best of 2001
BEST LOCAL DIRECTOR - Joseph Adler
In an interview with New Times last year, GableStage artistic director Joe Adler said, "Television, and to some extent movies, is about maintaining a level of mediocrity. This is not the case with theater. It's a much bigger commitment. The audience is a participant." Adler combined his numerous years of film and TV experience with his passion and directorial savvy, turning Popcorn into a dark and riveting satire about the movie industry, among other things. Known for his emotive directorial style, Adler knows how to get the best out of his actors. By pairing Claire Tyler and Paul Tei, he created just the right balance of innocence and evil. Adler consistently shows a keen awareness of the context of contemporary theater. He never makes theatergoers slaves to the stage. And he often uses film, video, music, and sound to propel the play into the imagination of the audience. In Popcorn Adler reminded audiences that live theater can offer excitement that television and film can't, without record, play, and rewind.
New Times - Best of 2000
BEST THEATRE FOR DRAMA
GableStage, The Biltmore Hotel
The newly created GableStage arrived with a bang on the staid landscape of South Florida theatre last season.
To be precise the company started off with a muscular production of David Hare's Skylight, only to
follow it up with the most compelling combination of programs and performances in the region. Ranging from the
familiar (Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men) to the spanking new (Patrick Marber's
Closer, in its first production outside New York), artistic director Joseph Adler's choices of material,
production standards, and the crackerjack performances he gets out of his actors are consistently engaging and
becoming more exciting all the time.
BEST SOLO SHOW
Judith Delgado as Diana Vreeland
In a season fraught with top drawer solo performances, Judith Delgado towered over all. Playing fashion diva
Diana Vreeland, the actress delivered a performance that lived up to Vreeland's motto: "Give 'em what they
didn't know they wanted." Delgado, a genius at transforming herself, turned the tastemaker and
long-time Vogue editor into something of her own (and director Joseph Adler's) making. It was a
performance that reached out and grabbed us by our lapels.