Thursday, January 28, 2010

Wisey Best Play: Equivocation

The nominees for best play of 2009 are:

End Days by Deborah Zoe Laufer
Seattle Public Theatre. Directed by Carol Roscoe. Shana Bestock, artistic director.

The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare
Seattle Shakespeare Company. Directed by John Langs. Stephanie Shine, artistic director.

Equivocation by Bill Cain
Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Directed by Bill Rauch. Bill Rauch, artistic director.

Elephant's Graveyard by George Brant
Balagan Theatre. Directed by Jason Harber. Jake Groshong, executive director, Lisa Confehr, managing director.

Opus by Michael Hollinger
Seattle Repertory Theatre. Directed by Braden Abraham. Jerry Manning, producing artistic director.

The Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare
GreenStage. Directed by Ryan Higgins. Ken Holmes, producing artistic director.

Our Wisey-winning best play of the year had it all: a strong, talented cast, a sock-you-in-the-gut story, lighthearted moments, marvelous staging, and wonderful costuming. It was a theater experience that will stick in memory for a long, long time. That description is completely apt for both of what were our two Wisey finalists, Elephant's Graveyard by Balagan Theatre and Equivocation by the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Ultimately it was Best-Writer-Wisey-winner Bill Cain's amazing script and story that gave Equivocation the slightest edge and the trophy in a close contest between two incredible, well-told stories.

We've spilled a lot of words here about Equivocation. Weisenheimer and Sweetie both wrote reviews after seeing it in Ashland, and the gushing might have been a tip that the play was on its way to this award: "The most mind-blowingly fantastic theater Weisenheimer has experienced in a while... incredibly clever writing and joyous language. It's an astounding piece of work." Sweetie wrote in her post on Cain's best-writer Wisey that Equivocation is "intricate without ever getting bogged down; clever without ever being trite; ambitious without ever getting lost... this is an important and enjoyable play—and that's not an easy combination to strike." What a great show. The OSF production was its world premiere, it made an encore performance for a month at the Seattle Rep, and now folks all over the country are falling all over themselves to produce it.

I'm proud as hell of my friends at Balagan Theatre for being right up there with the Equivocation juggernaut with their spectacular staging of Elephant's Graveyard. It has been oft written on these pages, though not in any of our Wisey posts, that Weisenheimer is the board chair at Balagan, but it doesn't make him biased. Sweetie and I, in fact, kicked around the idea that the connection might be creating an anti-Balagan bias. I don't think so; we gave Elephant's the most nominations, seven, of any show all year. But it's true that others got the nod in a couple of close calls over Balagan nominees, particularly in the best play and best actress categories. Kudos to all of y'all at Balagan. For the record I'll note they're all volunteers. As board chair, I invite all readers to give us lots of money so we can pay these talented folks!

Hardly also-rans, End Days, Merchant of Venice, Opus, and The Comedy of Errors were all great shows. 2009 was a super year for theater. We thank all of the talented people who make it happen.

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