Friday, February 26, 2010

On Not Seeing Theatre

As some of you know, I haven't been in Chicago since the 14th--I've been in my hometown of Cleveland Heights, helping out my mother's after her surgery last month. (She's recovering wonderfully, I'm happy to say.) And I haven't seen a play since February 10th.

I think it's been years since I've had such a long period between shows, and it's a little odd. I did get the chance to see two movies--the Oscar Nominated Animated Shorts, which I liked quite a bit, though animation connoisseurs found them underwhelming, and Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call: New Orleans, a truly insane and bizarre film, and worth checking out for anyone who has an appetite for extremely uncomfortable laughs and darkness. I've also eaten meals, read some scripts, and slept. Oh, sleep.

So this is basically an explanation for my lack of posting. I'm very excited to return to Chicago on Sunday, and start seeing shows soon. And we're in season announcement season (not many other than the Goodman have so far, and I do need to write them up there), so I'll be talking about those too.

How are things for you guys out in internet-land?

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Critics v. Civilians

This profile of Graceland playwright Ellen Fairey has gotten me thinking. My ambivalence on the show has been well documented here, as has the show's continued success. I'm not here to dump on the show more but rather to discuss the thoughts that it has provoked.

To briefly summarize: what I liked in Graceland were the dialogue, the acting, the staging, and the design. I had three major problems with the script: some of the plot developments weren't credible, I could usually guess what was going to happen in a scene shortly after it began, and the whole production felt like something I'd seen before.

But this leads to an important point: I see a lot more plays than most theatregoers. My guess for last year is 60-75 shows. (I could probably figure it out if I tried, but I don't keep records. Maybe I should.) During the period of January 13th to February 10th of this year, I saw 11 productions--12 if you count both parts of The Brother/Sister Plays separately. There are others who see more than me, certainly (I'm looking at you, Kris Vire), but it's a fair bet that most of them are other critics, industry people, or members of the Saints or the Jeff Committee.

It's not a big leap to conclude that seeing this many shows has an impact on how I watch theatre. Even when not on the job, I can't help but watch with a double consciousness--both reacting instinctively to what I see and analyzing my reactions and the craft onstage. I'm also probably more aware of how stories are told onstage, and certainly keep up with the tricks and trends in theatre. (I think this piece would not have happened if I hadn't seen and read so many plays using dead relatives onstage, for instance.) As a result, I probably get tired of certain devices, techniques, and plays before most theatregoers would. If I accept that it's a matter of taste whether Graceland's plot developments were credible (and I do), the other flaws I saw could easily not matter to someone who sees only 10 plays in a year. Quite possibly the large audience that saw and enjoyed Graceland didn't feel like they'd seen it all before because they hadn't.

I've certainly noticed that phenomenon with my friends who are aficionados of other arts. I've been to choir concerts with my boyfriend Adam (a choir teacher who knows way more about the art than I could ever hope to) and practically seen a different concert than he did. Tim Brayton's negative review of Star Trek was based to a large extent on problems he had with the cinematography and composition that I simply didn't notice when seeing it. (I like movies, but I don't think I could tell you after seeing most movies whether they had more close-ups, medium shots, or long shots, and whether those shots were unusually long or short.) I can articulate what I did or didn't like about a concert or movie and why, but I can't say it in the same way that someone educated and experienced in the workings of choir or cinema can.

So what does it mean that a critic's experience of his or her art is fundamentally different from that of the vast majority of the people reading it?

Some would argue that the critic has a responsibility to review like an average audience member would: those are the people who always comment on the audience that was having a great time when watching a show that a critic panned. (Another manifestation are those who will protest that the show was "just a good time, not a deep drama" or "made for kids, not grouchy grownups," as if either of those meant it didn't still need to be good.) This is ridiculous. A critic can't review from a perspective other than his or her own. It's tough enough for me to figure out my own reactions to a show, much less everybody else's. (This is particularly true because openings are frequently filled with those who worked on the show and their friends, who tend to react much more positively.) It would be dishonest to react with anything other than my own feelings.

But it would be just as silly to say that audiences' tastes need to catch up to critics. I don't love movies enough to become an expert in them, and most audiences could never afford to see as many plays as I do. (Ah, press seats, how I love thee.) Everyone has the right to like what they like. Tastes evolve with time and experience, certainly, but criticizing someone for what they enjoy or don't is a waste of time.

In the end, I think it comes down to the essential contract between critic and reader, which I've discussed previously: It is the critic's job to honestly and articulately describe his or her experience with the artwork and the reader's job to read the review with an understanding of his or her own tastes and the critical thinking to make a guess at the critic's tastes and interests. (Having read the critic for a while and reading multiple reviews for the production helps a whole lot.) No two people have the same tastes and reactions, but you can learn a lot with someone whose tastes are different from yours.

Any additions, disagreements, or clarifications? Comment away.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Things To See

Alright, shameless plug time. I've been dramaturging two shows, and am incredibly proud of both of them. They're in previews now, and definitely worth a trip.

First off is Here Where It's Safe, at Stage Left, 3408 N Sheffield. It's a world premiere by Jeff winner M. E. H. Lewis, a moving story about an American couple, desperate to have a child, and the Indian surrogate they hire to help them. It's a gorgeous, involving play, and I couldn't be prouder of everyone involved. (The design is really stunning, too.) Previews are only $10, and they are tonight, tomorrow, Saturday, and Monday, all at 8 PM. We open Tuesday at 7:30, and the regular run is Thursday-Saturday at 8 PM and Sunday at 3 PM through April 3rd, with every Thursday being a "Pay What You Can" show. More info and tickets can be found at (216) 337-5281 or here.

Meanwhile, Fiddler on the Roof started previews last night at the Marriott Lincolnshire, 10 Marriott Drive in Lincolnshire, IL. You all know the story, but this is a particularly excellent production. Director David H. Bell has really led the cast to its very best work, and it's just sensational. The official opening is Wednesday the 24th, and it runs through April 25th. Tickets and info by phone at (847) 634-0200 or here.

So see these wonderful shows, with my recommendation, and let us know what you thought here.

(And I hope the lack of comments on the previous entry doesn't mean that nobody can think of a good theatre experience. That would just be too depressing.)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

What Works?

It's a given, it seems, that theatre people love to complain. Anywhere you look in the blogosphere you see personal attacks, crying, and anger. Outrageous Fortune is full of attacks on how new plays are produced in America, from funding to selection to production to marketing to critical response and beyond. And any time two or more theatre artists go out for drinks, bitching is soon to follow.

And honestly, I'm getting a little tired of it. There's a purpose in anatomizing what doesn't work, absolutely. We can't move forward without figuring out what has to change. But it seems like we rarely move on to discuss 1) what really is working, and how to emulate it and 2) how to fix processes and institutions that are dysfunctional.

I can make a start: I'm currently dramaturging FIddler On The Roof, directed by David H. Bell, at Marriott Lincolnshire. I'm having an absolutely wonderful time on that process, and think these are among the important factors:

Everyone is professional in behavior.
Everyone respects the artistry and time of everyone else.
It's a play the whole cast and production team believe in, and they're doing work of the highest quality.
There's enough money to make things easier than they would otherwise be.

But that's just my perspective from emails and having attended a few rehearsals. There could be all kinds of things going on I don't know about. And even if it's totally accurate, it doesn't really answer some important questions: 

Is every process at Marriott this positive, or is it more true on shows David directs? (The positivity clearly emanates from him.) 
Does this kind of atmosphere create great art? (I think this show will be great, though I'm hardly unbiased. But are negativity and tension productive?)
How did the organization make these values central? (Was a Marriott show 20 years ago the same?)
And how do other theatres, that aren't large commercial producers of musicals, take useful points from this organization?

So I throw it open to you:

What are experiences that have been particularly good, either specific productions or ongoing relationships with institutions? 
Have any of you experiences a dysfunctional process or place that was turned around and made positive? And if so, how?
How can an organization learn from the success of a different organization?

Let's see if we can get some good ideas out there.

The Benefits of Having a Staff Page

My staff page on Centerstage includes a link for people to write to me. Usually this means I get sent press releases, occasionally I get an interesting comment on a review, and once in a while I get this:


TO: Zev Valancy - zev[dot]n[dot]valancy[at]gmail[dot]com
They Found You From Here:
we must stop them and expose their alien agendas now
The Last Page They Saw Was:

A least we have a member of the nobility, who is also a Reverend, a Ph.D, and God on the job. Reptilians and Illuminati won't stand a chance.

Monday, February 15, 2010

New Review Posted: Wilson Wants It All

One last review from my insane month of theatregoing. (From January 13th to February 10th, I saw twelve productions. Some more thoughts on that are to come.) Here's the House's Wilson Wants It All, a fascinating show. I didn't love it, and certainly recognized its flaws, but they didn't bother me as much as they did some other commentators, like Don and Monica. Ah well. Mostly worth a trip, in my estimation, particularly for those with a fondness for political futuristic satire and dynamic stagings. Those with no tolerance for plot holes or clunky dialogue, not so much. And I promise some thought pieces and other blogging soon. I am, as always, higher on opinions than on initiative.

Here's the text:

Popular politicians are often compared to blank screens - full of charisma, but just vague enough on policy that people of widely varied political opinions can see whatever they want in them. Michael Rohd and Phillip C. Klapperich have taken this concept to provocative and often thrilling places in "Wilson Wants It All," and while it's hardly flawless, it gives plenty of food for thought and experience.

In 2010 an idealistic young Senator and his wife were assassinated, not long before he intended to announce his candidacy for the presidency. Luckily his chief of staff, Wilson (John Henry Roberts) rescued the daughter his wife was about to have, naming her Hope and training her to take up her father's mantle. Thirty years passed, and American political culture devolved, in frighteningly plausible ways. Hope (Rebekah Ward-Hayes) is now 30, and said to be on the verge of announcing her candidacy for her father's seat. But she's chafing against Wilson's obsessive management of her life, and has no idea that her fate is about to intersect with that of Ruth (Leslie Frame), who is the same age and looks remarkably similar.

Rohd, who directed, conceived and co-wrote, and Klapperich, who co-wrote, have created a remarkably coherent and persuasive world. It's easy to imagine us living in this fragmented, gridlocked society, and desperate for something to make it better, whether or not we truly understand what it is. And Rohd staging is exquisite: on Collette Pollard's set, made entirely from projection screens, he blocks his excellent cast in consistently fascinating ways.

Unfortunately, the script doesn't use this excellent setup to the fullest; the dialogue is often unsubtle and some of the plot twists strain believability. By the end there is a distinct sense of being told the same thing over and over. But there's still a lot to be said for a thrillingly staged, cautionary look into our own futures.

Friday, February 12, 2010

What Happens When...

...a conservative goes to see Rush Limbaugh! The Musical? Well, see for yourself. It's quite the nasty screed, attacking the very idea of criticizing Limbaugh, though using some rather dubious points. (Did you know he never said we shouldn't give aid to Haiti? Or that his having black friends mean he isn't racist? Staggering!) Go read it and comment. I already have.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

New Review Posted: I Am A Camera

Yes, another review. Only one more coming up, then I'm off for a few weeks. This was an interesting one: Allen and the Neos are always worth checking out, but this one didn't quite work. Ah well, still some good stuff to see, especially if you're interested in photos.

Here's the text:

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but not all of them are true. "I Am a Camera," conceived by director Greg Allen and written by performers Jeremy Sher and Caitlin Stainken, aims to explore the ways that photographs work, and the ways that people react to them. The explorations are frequently fascinating, funny and even moving. But too many go on for too long, and by the end it's not clear what the show's point is.

For instance: near the start of the show, Sher comes out, and a voice tells him to smile. He plasters on a fake grin as a song starts, and he attempts to maintain the expression, with increasing strain and distress, for the duration. Afterwards, Stainken comes on and does the exact same thing, again for the entirety of the song. It's a clever idea — who hasn’t suffered in trying to maintain an unnatural grin for a photo, and come off looking grotesque? But stretched to such a length it isn't really funny anymore, and the point is severely belabored.

Other segments are more effective; a sequence where the actors take pictures of audience members is delightful, and one using pieces of paper as miniature projection screens for sections of larger photos was simply beautiful. Even the sequences that don't work as well give something provocative to see or think about. But they don't really build to a conclusion. Maybe that was the intention — a series of explorations that don't really lead to an answer — but it still feels a little disappointing.

But even if the end is disappointing, the play is full of lovely moments. Sher and Stainken give honest and involving performances, and technical designers Peter Sebastian and Evelyn DeHais create some real magic onstage. There's plenty worth seeing, it just doesn't cohere into a complete picture.

Monday, February 8, 2010

New Review Posted: Rush Limbaugh! The Musical

Centerstage put up my review of Rush Limbaugh! The Musical at Second City. It has flaws, yes, but to an angry lefty like me, it's pure catharsis. I laughed like crazy--though I also occasionally cringed at the overly loud sound. If you aren't a leftist hater of the conservative noise machine, I don't know how you'll react, but in my subjective opinion, it's fantastic.

Here's the text:

Rush Limbaugh (Mark Sutton) is praying: he needs some event to rally everyone behind conservatism, and give them a greater appetite for Limbaugh's brand of hate-mongering. At that moment, someone jumps in to tell him that the twin towers have been hit. Limbaugh looks to heaven, and fervently gives thanks.

As the above joke makes perfectly clear, Ed Furman and T. J. Shanoff's "Rush Limbaugh! The Musical" is not a light, funny parody, like the author's previous, lesser show, "Rod Blagojevich Superstar." This is a vicious satire, with real teeth. It's primal-scream therapy for liberals, or anyone fed up with political discourse in America. Someone who doesn't agree with the show's politics probably won't have a good time, but for those of us continually horrified by Limbaugh and his ilk, it's cathartic.

The story looks back at Limbaugh's life from 2014, narrated by Shasta (Karla Beard), who is apparently the embodiment of Limbaugh's fears about black women. The device doesn't really make sense, but it doesn't matter, as Beard is giving a spectacular performance — she's got comic timing as strong as the rest of the cast, but she's also a truly exceptional singer. Her solos blow the roof off the place. While the rest of the cast's voices range from passable to good, it hardly takes away from the show, as they all jump into the gleefully malicious material with both feet. Sutton makes a frightening Limbaugh — though he's far too healthy-looking for the part — and the other four cast members each have truly brilliant moments in a variety of roles.

The show definitely has flaws — it loses steam during the last half-hour, and the sound mix is often ear-splittingly loud — but they don't detract much from one of the sharpest political satires I've seen. See it before Limbaugh's lawyers shut it down.

Friday, February 5, 2010

New Review Posted: The Island

Centerstage has posted my review of Athol Fugard's The Island, performed by Remy Bumppo at the Greenhouse Theatre. It's rough stuff, but well done. I'm still not entirely sure how I feel about the show, which I think the review reflects, but I'm interested to hear what other people who saw it thought. It's certainly worth a trip, especially with the other Fugard being done around town. Here's the text:

Two men stand on a beach, with shovels and wheelbarrow. Each shovels sand into the wheelbarrow, fills it, and dumps it in front of the other. It's painful and humiliating for the men doing it, alternately horrifying, fascinating and dull for the audience watching. And it goes on for nearly 10 minutes before anyone says a word.

That's the bravura opening of "The Island," by Athol Fugard, John Kani and Winston Ntshona (the latter two starred in the original production). The set is spare and the shovels, wheelbarrow and sand all imaginary. But it's a perfect evocation of the place and time: the early 1970s on Robben Island, a prison colony off the coast of South Africa for those accused of political crime (usually protests against Apartheid). Director James Bohnen and actors La Shawn Banks (John) and Kamal Angelo Bolden (Winston) perfectly express the physical pain and psychological wear of life on the island, and the inner strength allowing them to survive.

The cellmates maintain fragile equilibrium, which is disrupted by two things: Winston's plan for them to perform a sequence from Sophocles' Antigone at an inmate concert (with John, in drag, as Antigone), and the success of Winston's appeal, which will end his prison term in only three months.

It's rough stuff, more to be admired than loved, and not without flaws; it's never completely clear what makes Winston flip back and forth between consenting to play Antigone and refusing. And the good news for South Africa — the end of Apartheid — is not necessarily good for the play. Instead of a pressing social statement, it's a period piece, which unavoidably saps some of the play's energy.

But a reminder of human brutality — and the strength to rise above it — is always necessary, and Banks and Bolden bring passion and brutal realism to their roles. It's not easy to watch, but those with the strength to visit such a dark place will find real rewards.

I'm Quoted In The New York Times! Sort Of.

So a couple weeks back, Charles Isherwood, second string critic at the Times was taking questions. I asked one, which was not answered. Then yesterday, he answered a second round, and there I was. I asked him a question about his regional theatre reviews. They put up an edited version of my question (minus the introductory statement and a question at the end about residencies in cities like Chicago, like Brantley does in London), which he sort of general way. Still, it's very fun to see my name on the New York Times webiste, especially so soon after my comment on the Plays That Changed Your Life piece got featured. Apparently, my life skill is posting on theatre blogs. Everyone needs something.

Here's the text of the question and answer, for those of you disinclined to click over (though it's worth reading the whole piece):

Q.What do you see as the benefit of the Times covering regional theater? What determines which productions are noteworthy? — Zev

A.The paper has a very large national readership, so I think it is only natural that major productions of plays and musicals (new or old) at regional theaters should be written about.

Good theater doesn’t just happen in New York, and it’s important to keep attuned to new voices and new currents outside the city. A supportive review from The Times can help call attention to a talented playwright or director, which is beneficial to both audiences and artists.

It does get a little tricky figuring out which shows to cover: new plays from noted playwrights are a priority, but good buzz or strong notices from local critics play a part too. Sometimes a busy season in New York means less outside the city will get reviewed.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Brother/Sister Plays

Centerstage has posted the review that the review that Zach Freeman and I wrote of the Chicago premiere of Tarell Alvin McCraney's The Brother/Sister Plays at Steppenwolf. It's three plays, presented on two bills: the first is In the Red and Brown Water, the second made up of The Brothers Size and Marcus, Or the Secret of Sweet. Centerstage sent two of us to the shows, so while I saw both, I only reviewed the second half.

And as to the hype you've heard: it's deserved. McCraney is a fantastic author, the real thing, and he isn't even 30. He'll go on to great things, I hope. And Landau's production is really gorgeous: simple but hugely involving.And the physical and vocal precision in each moment, coexisting with such sponatneity? Well, my best of 2010 list is starting early.

And my review didn't have space to mention:

--The fact that characters often speak stage directions out loud, a device that draws the audience in, rather than distancing them as in Brecht's work.
--The singing that pervades the show.
--How sexy the whole thing is.
--Details of how great the entire cast is.
--The post-show discussion with the playwright after, and how smart and fun he is.

Also, Steppenwolf has a pretty good array of discounts available. Here's a rundown.

Okay, here's the actual text of the review. Remember, the first part is Zach's, so I get no credit:

The stories that snake through the three interwoven plays included in The Brother/Sister Plays take place in a low-income neighborhood near the Bayou in Lousiana during the "distant present" – a time period that may sound odd but perfectly encapsulates the timeless timeliness the show invokes. Young playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney has created a complex, multi-generational world that unfolds over the course of the three shows, constructing an intimate portrait of a culture that is rarely given full life on the stage.

"In the Red and Brown Water," reviewed by Zach Freeman

The first, chronologically, of the three plays is the superb "In the Red and Brown Water," a piece with an ensemble reminiscent of a Greek chorus – a hip, sassy chorus trained in movement and vocal performance. As the plot rhythmically weaves in and out of the lives of the various characters, mostly following the early life of Oya, a star athlete with a chance for a scholarship to the state university, the audience is introduced to – and quickly immersed in – McCraney's singular writing style providently presented by director and ensemble member Tina Landau.

The opening moment of the show, begun with the house lights still fully up, is the first hint that this is not a standard performance to be passively witnessed from a darkened auditorium seat. Using intimate, stylized asides, the actors allow for constant real contact with the audience – nurturing the feeling of being told a story rather than simply watching one unfold - while simultaneously maintaining the steady ebb and flow of the intermingled storylines as well as the constantly surprising sidetracks that make this show truly unique.

Watching these people (they're beyond characters) come to life on the sparsely decorated stage is a thrill. Though each actor seems almost impossibly well-suited to his or her role - or roles, as the case may be - Jacqueline Williams as the brassy Aunt Elegua, Glenn Davis as the smiling young prankster Elegba, and ensemble member K. Todd Freeman as the stuttering stalwart Ogun Size are particularly impressive. Ensemble member Alana Arenas, as the beautifully tragic Oya, is simply sublime.

"In the Red and Brown Water" is dramatically heartfelt, laugh-out-loud funny, and intensely moving. It has the epic feel of a Shakespearean tragedy and the contemporary vibe of a Kanye West single. This is theater at its best and most alive.

"The Brothers Size," reviewed by Zev Velancy

From the dreamlike "In the Red and Brown Water," we move to the starker dramatic world of "The Brothers Size": three men - Ogun and Oshoosi Size (Freeman and Phillip James Brannon) and Elegba (Davis) - telling their own story. Even the props of the previous show — a variety of buckets — are gone, replaced by four rocks, marking off a playing space. It's storytelling at its most elemental, and it's stunning, in the most literal sense: I don't think I breathed for the last five minutes, and was dazed for the entire intermission. It's a simple tale: what happens when Oshoosi comes home from prison to stay with his brother, and what he and Elegba learn about their own friendship. But McCraney's stark poetry, Landau's diamond-cut staging and three deeply felt performances give it an impact far beyond its brief running time.

"Marcus, Or the Secret of Sweet,", reviewed by Zev Valancy

"Marcus, Or the Secret of Sweet" focuses on Elegba's son (Davis, again), grappling with his sexuality in what appears to be the weeks before Katrina. It's the funniest of the plays and the most contemporary-feeling. It's full of tasty moments in acting and language (Williams, Arenas, Rodrick Covington are particularly vibrant) but the ache in these characters' lives still throbs beneath. By the end, it's exceptionally moving.

But underneath it all are McCraney's fierce intelligence and his love for his audience, for his characters and their world, and for the act of telling a story theatrically. Combined with Landau's staging (radically simple yet emotionally lush) and generous performances, it's an extraordinary journey for the audience. You won't regret taking it.

Writing Things

Hey, remember that analysis of Outrageous Fortune I was going to write? And the essay on why Passing Strange is a completely brilliant show and you should all track down the DVD? Yeah, me too. I will. But here are some other things.

Apparently Anna D. Shapiro likes plays about families. In the fall she will be directing a revival of George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart's You Can't Take It With You on Broadway, the New York Times reports. The show is tentatively set for a month-long run at Boston's Huntington Theatre before starting previews on Broadway November 5th (with an opening set for the 14th) at a theatre to be determined.

I'm pleased at this news--I think it's really a wonderful play, and it's insane that it hasn't been seen on Broadway since 1983. It's also good that Shapiro will be back on Broadway--I'm faintly amazed that it will have taken her three years to end up back in New York. Not that I'm complaining--it's great to have her directing shows at a steady clip in Chicago. So congratulations, Anna, and I hope you'll help rescue the show from its reputation as a rather dull and sentimental staple of high schools, and show it for the subversive and very funny play it is.

Also, a few days back, the Oscar nominations were announced. It's not a terribly exciting list--2009 was widely agreed to be a pretty lackluster year, film-wise--but I was personally gratified to see multiple nominations for District 9, a very sharp and exciting science fiction movie/satire of apartheid, and Up, which had me crying like a baby. (I have not yet seen The Hurt Locker, Coraline, or In the Loop, but I imagine I'd be gratified by their inclusion as well.)

It was not a particularly strong year for theatre-related nominees. The film version of Nine did not receive the love many were expecting before it opened, but then it was hampered by sucking. Penelope Cruz was recognized for her work as Carla (Her work was impressive given how poorly she was directed, but it was hardly the best in the film. Unfortunately, Marion Cotillard would have been nominated as leading actress, a much more competitive category.), "Take It All" was nominated as best song (It's a passable piece made much better by Cotillard's brilliant work, and at least the best of the films new songs. I am so grateful that the wretched "Cinema Italiano" won't be on the broadcast.), John Myhre and Gordon Sim were nominated for Art Direction and Set Decoration and Colleen Atwood for costumes, and it was indeed a very attractive movie. Still, not quite the haul one might have expected for the followup to Chicago.

Amazingly, with the exception of Joel Coen, who has written a few plays, none of the screenwriters is known as a playwright. This is rather surprising--the past three years have generally seen at least one or two. Ditto with the directors, none of whom has done significant stage work. (That is, aside from Quentin Tarantino, who appeared in a revival of Wait Until Dark with Marisa Tomei in 1998. Yes, you read that right. Yes, it was as bad as you'd imagine.) The acting nominations have a somewhat better theatre presence: Morgan Freeman, from Invictus, Helen Mirren and Christopher Plummer in The Last Station (a drama about the last days of Leo Tolstoy that looks like fun for those of us who love British scenery chewing), Carey Mulligan, Nina in the acclaimed recent Broadway revival of The Seagull, for An Education, Meryl Streep, who still comes back to the stage once in a while, for Julie and Julia, Woody Harrelson (well, he's done two shows on Broadway) for The Messenger, and Stanley Tucci for The Lovely Bones. So 6 out of 20 nominated actors with significant theatre credits. It's not that many: last year had 8 by my count--Sean Penn (though it's been a while...), Frank Langella, Anne Hathaway, Streep again, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Chicago's own Michael Shannon, Viola Davis, and Marisa Tomei.

Anyhow, I'll probably watch, but don't expect any great interest on this end.