Tuesday, July 18, 2017

ANGELS IN AMERICA, From National Theatre Live in London to Movie Screens


When you see a play or musical you really love, your reaction may be that you never want to see another production of it, that that one was perfect and you don't want to impose any new production over your memories of the perfect one. Or you may want to see as many different productions of that show as possible. Follies? Arcadia? I'll go see either of them anywhere I can manage. Good, bad or indifferent, there is no production of those shows I will not try.

Angels in America, Tony Kushner's two-part "gay fantasia on national themes" that sweeps together Mormons, Jews, Reagan Republicans and the AIDS crisis in the 1980s, falls into that category. I saw both parts -- Millennium Approaches and Perestroika -- on stage in New York and in Chicago in the early 90s. The Broadway and touring productions were very different, but each was deeply personal, deeply political, heartbreaking and fabulous in its own way. I also loved the small-but-mighty Angels directed by Steven M. Keen for Urbana's tiny Station Theater. And the all-star version version on HBO. Yes, I've struggled through several college productions that didn't send me and found myself unable to get to farther-flung Angels that were very warmly received.

This month, we all have the chance to meet another Angels when Fathom Events and National Theatre Live bring the current London production from the National's Lyttelton Theatre, directed by Marianne Elliott, with Nathan Lane as Roy Cohn and Andrew Garfield as Prior Walter, to movie theater screens all over Great Britain and the United States. Part One: Millennium Approaches, airs this Thursday, July 20, with Part Two: Perestroika the following Thursday.

You can find a theater near you at this link. There's nothing in Bloomington-Normal, but in the just-about-50-mile range, you can find the Willow Knolls 14 in Peoria or the Savoy 16 outside Champaign-Urbana. Both theaters are showing both parts of Angels in America at 7 pm on their respective Thursdays and you can purchase tickets now.

If you'd like to read more about Angels in America at the National or see videos, interviews and photos, check out this page at the National Theatre website.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Emmy Nominations 2017


When Emmy nominations were announced yesterday, I had two reactions: The race for Outstanding Actress in a Limited Series or Movie may be the strongest Emmy race in history, and what the heck is wrong with Emmy nominators when it comes to The Leftovers?

OUTSTANDING COMEDY SERIES
Atlanta
Blackish
Master of None
Modern Family
Silicon Valley
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Veep

Will Atlanta sneak in and upset Veep and Modern Family, the perennial contenders? Does anyboy really care what Modern Family does at this point?

OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTRESS IN A COMEDY SERIES
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep
Tracee Ellis Ross, Blackish
Lily Tomlin, Grace and Frankie
Jane Fonda, Grace and Frankie
Ellie Kemper, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Allison Janney, Mom
Pamela Adlon, Better Things 

Can anybody take down Julia Louis-Dreyfus? Ever?

OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES
Donald Glover, Atlanta
Anthony Anderson, Blackish
Jeffrey Tambor, Transparent
Aziz Ansari, Master of None
William H. Macy, Shameless
Zach Galifianakis, Baskets

Emmy voters love streaks, and Jeffrey Tambor in Transparent is one of them. Even though the show itself isn't nominated this year, don't bet against a third straight win for Tambor.

OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A COMEDY SERIES
Vanessa Bayer, Saturday Night Live
Anna Chlumsky, Veep
Kathryn Hahn, Transparent
Leslie Jones, Saturday Night Live
Judith Light, Transparent 
Kate McKinnon, Saturday Night Live

AKA the Saturday Night Live category. I'd pick Anna Chlumsky, who has been fantastic on Veep from the get-go, but I think an SNL player will take it. Probably McKinnon again.

OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES
Louie Anderson, Baskets
Alec Baldwin, Saturday Night Live
Tituss Burgess, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Ty Burrell, Modern Family
Tony Hale, Veep
Matt Walsh, Veep

It's lovely to see Tituss Burgess's name, if not Ty Burrell's. Burrell is back for the eighth time in a row. Yes, he's good, but he's not that good. It doesn't matter -- Alec Baldwin is going to win for his recurring role as our current president on Saturday Night Live.

OUTSTANDING DRAMA SERIES
The Crown
The Handmaid’s Tale
Westworld 
Stranger Things
This Is Us
Better Call Saul
House of Cards

Who will win? Probably The Handmaid's Tale, although Stranger Things has been buzzy, too, just not as recently as The Handmaid's Tale. But where is The Leftovers? I've asked that for the past few years to no avail. This last season was the best of all and really, really deserved a nomination.

OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES
Claire Foy, The Crown
Keri Russell, The Americans
Elisabeth Moss, The Handmaid’s Tale
Viola Davis, How to Get Away with Murder
Robin Wright, House of Cards
Evan Rachel Wood, Westworld

Elisabeth Moss and The Handmaid's Tale have made a huge impact on this year's TV landscape. I can't imagine anyone but Moss winning, although Claire Foy's QEII was impressive, too.

OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES
Sterling K. Brown, This Is Us
Matthew Rhys, The Americans
Kevin Spacey, House of Cards
Liev Schreiber, Ray Donovan
Anthony Hopkins, Westworld
Milo Ventimiglia, This Is Us
Bob Odenkirk, Better Call Saul

It's fantastic to see Sterling K. Brown and Milo Ventimiglia make the list from This Is Us, which bowed to excellent ratings and critical reaction last season. I'd probably vote for Matthew Rhys from The Americans, long overlooked by Emmy voters, but it's hard not to go with Brown, who was note-perfect all season. And then there's Anthony Hopkins. The TV Academy loves its Brits as well as its movie stars. Hopkins is both. As well as an Oscar winner. 

OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES
Uzo Aduba, Orange is the New Black
Millie Bobby Brown, Stranger Things  
Ann Dowd, The Handmaid’s Tale
Chrissy Metz, This Is Us
Thandie Newton, Westworld
Samira Wiley, The Handmaid’s Tale 

There should be enough awards to give one to each of the actresses in this outstanding category. They're all that good. I'd probably go with Samira Wiley, but Ann Dowd is hard to overlook.

OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES
Jonathan Banks, Better Call Saul
David Harbour, Stranger Things
Ron Cephas Jones, This Is Us
Michael Kelly, House Of Cards
 John Lithgow, The Crown
Mandy Patinkin, Homeland
Jeffrey Wright, Westworld

Ron Cephas Jones has my heart in this category, even though I'm bummed not to see Michael McKean's name for Better Call Saul. Just don't give it to John Lithgow, please. His Winston Churchill was OK, but that's it, and he has been way over-rewarded by the Emmys in the past.

OUTSTANDING LIMITED SERIES
Big Little Lies
Fargo
Feud: Bette and Joan
Genius
The Night Of

I thought Big Little Lies was stronger work all around than Feud and I'd love to see the former win, even as I expect the latter to take the Emmy.

OUTSTANDING TV MOVIE
Black Mirror
Dolly Parton’s Christmas Of Many Colors: Circle Of Love
Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Sherlock: The Lying Detective
The Wizard of Lies

OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTRESS IN A LIMITED SERIES OR MOVIE
Nicole Kidman, Big Little Lies
Reese Witherspoon, Big Little Lies
Jessica Lange, Feud: Bette and Joan
Susan Sarandon, Feud: Bette and Joan
Carrie Coon, Fargo
Felicity Huffman, American Crime

The battling divas of Feud take on the wounded modern women of Big Little Lies. I thought Kidman and Witherspoon were more impressive than the campy Feud ladies, and neither Lange or Sarandon really captured the screen legend she was portraying, but... Lange wins a lot, even in bad roles. Still, it could be anybody's prize in this jam-packed category.

OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTOR IN A LIMITED SERIES OR MOVIE
Riz Ahmed, The Night Of
John Turturro, The Night Of
Ewan McGregor, Fargo
Robert De Niro, The Wizard of Lies
Benedict Cumberbatch, Sherlock: The Lying Detective
Geoffrey Rush, Genius

I'm expecting Ahmed or Turturro to win. McGregor really doesn't belong with the others; his dual roles on Fargo were pretty lame when all was said and done.

OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A LIMITED SERIES OR MOVIE
Regina King, American Crime
Laura Dern, Big Little Lies
Shailene Woodley, Big Little Lies
Judy Davis, Feud: Bette and Joan
Jackie Hoffman, Feud: Bette and Joan
Michelle Pfeiffer, The Wizard of Lies

Laura Dern was beyond amazing, although Jackie Hoffman was pretty great, too. I'd be happy with either of them winning.

OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A LIMITED SERIES OR MOVIE
Alexander Skarsgard, Big Little Lies
David Thewlis, Fargo
Alfred Molina, Feud: Bette and Joan
Stanley Tucci, Feud: Bette and Joan
Bill Camp, The Night Of
Michael Kenneth Williams, The Night Of

There isn't a bad choice in the bunch. Skarsgard and Thewlis were both creepy, scary and terrific in their roles.

OUTSTANDING REALITY COMPETITION
The Amazing Race
American Ninja Warrior
Project Runway
RuPaul’s Drag Race
Top Chef
The Voice 

This is one category where I am always bemused. Why so much love for The Voice and The Amazing Race? I have no idea. I'd say give the award to newcomer RuPaul's Drag Race.

OUTSTANDING VARIETY TALK SERIES
Full Frontal with Samantha Bee
Jimmy Kimmel Live
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver
Late Late Show with James Corden
Late Show with Stephen Colbert
Real Time with Bill Maher

Go, Samantha Bee!

OUTSTANDING GUEST ACTRESS IN A COMEDY SERIES
Wanda Sykes, Blackish
Carrie Fisher, Catastophe
Becky Ann Baker, Girls
Angela Bassett, Master Of None
Kristen Wiig, Saturday Night Live
Melissa McCarthy, Saturday Night Live

OUTSTANDING GUEST ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES
Riz Ahmed, Girls
Matthew Rhys, Girls
Dave Chappelle, Saturday Night Live
Lin-Manuel Miranda, Saturday Night Live
Tom Hanks, Saturday Night Live
Hugh Laurie, Veep

OUTSTANDING GUEST ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES
Alison Wright, The Americans
Alexis Bledel, The Handmaid’s Tale
Cicely Tyson, How to Get Away with Murder
Ann Dowd, The Leftovers
Laverne Cox, Orange is the New Black
Shannon Purser, Stranger Things

OUTSTANDING GUEST ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES
Ben Mendelsohn, Bloodline
BD Wong, Mr. Robot
Hank Azaria, Ray Donovan
Denis O’Hare, This Is Us
Brian yree Henry, This Is Us
Gerald McRaney, This Is Us

OUTSTANDING REALITY HOST
Martha Stewart and Snoop Dogg, Martha & Snoop’s Potluck Dinner Party
Gordon Ramsay, Masterchef Junior
Alec Baldwin, Match Game
Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn, Project Runway
RuPaul Charles, RuPaul’s Drag Race
W. Kamau Bell, United Shades of America

OUTSTANDING STRUCTURED REALITY PROGRAM
Antiques Roadshow
Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives
Fixer Upper
Lip Sync Battle
Shark Tank
Who Do You Think You Are?

OUTSTANDING UNSTRUCTURED REALITY PROGRAM
Born This Way
Deadliest Catch
Gaycation With Ellen Page
Intervention
RuPaul’s Drag Race: Untucked
United Shades Of America With W. Kamau Bell

OUTSTANDING VARIETY SPECIAL
Carpool Karaoke Primetime Special 2017
Full Frontal With Samantha Bee Presents Not The White House Correspondents’ Dinner
Louis C.K. 2017
Sarah Silverman: A Speck Of Dust
Stephen Colbert’s Live Election Night Democracy’s Series Finale: Who’s Going To Clean Up This Sh*t?

OUTSTANDING SPECIAL CLASS PROGRAM
Hairspray Live!
The Oscars
Super Bowl LI Halftime Show Starring Lady Gaga
70th Annual Tony Awards

The Emmy Awards will be presented by CBS on Sunday, September 17.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Philip Dawkins and NEW PLAYS FROM THE HEARTLAND Starting Tomorrow


The Mike Dobbins Memorial New Plays from the Heartland project -- combining a one-act playwriting contest with staged readings and a master class for the winning playwrights as well as a public forum to allow the prominent playwright who selected the winners to interact with the Bloomington-Normal community -- is back this week at Heartland Theatre.

The festivities begin tomorrow night at 7:30 pm when Philip Dawkins, this year's playwright in residence, offers his remarks and takes questions on the art of playwriting in a forum that is free and open to the public. You may remember Dawkins' name from the play Failure: A Love Story, a musical tragicomedy in verse performed at the Illinois Shakespeare Festival in 2013 after a successful run at Chicago's Victory Gardens Theater. Dawkins is also the author of Miss Marx: Or the Involuntary Side Effect of Living (Strawdog Theatre -- Joseph Jefferson Award for Best New Work), The Happiest Place on Earth (Side Show Theatre/Greenhouse Theater Center), Le Switch (About Face Theatre, The Jungle), Charm (Northlight Theatre), The Homosexuals (About Face Theater) and the musical adaptation of Dr. Seuss’s The Sneetches with composer David Mallamud (Children’s Theater Company, Minneapolis). His lyrical, whimsical style makes him a unique voice in American theater.

The three winning New Plays from the Heartland will be performed as staged readings beginning at 7:30 pm on Friday and Saturday and 2 pm on Sunday, directed by Heartland artistic director Rhys Lovell. This year's winners are Golden Land by John Adams of Richmon Heights, Missouri; All Sewed Up by Marty Seigel of Bloomington, Illinois; and Annabelle's Last Stand by Todd Wineburner of Pontiac, Illinois. Here's what Heartland has to say about each of the plays:

GOLDEN LAND by John Adams, Richmon Heights MO
A chance meeting in New York in 1904 illustrates that the apple seldom falls far from the tree. The age-old conflict between the disenfranchised and the privileged plays out on a tenement stoop on a hot summer day.

ALL SEWED UP by Marty Seigel, Bloomington IL
Owners of a small-town business and the town manager go head to head against a high-powered corporation. The lingering smoke from an old flame can’t mask a critical flaw that will bring one side down.

ANNABELLE’S LAST STAND by Todd Wineburner, Pontiac IL
A house is not just bricks and mortar; it’s dreams and memories too. And that’s worth fighting for, as a sheriff who is reluctant to exercise his authority soon learns.

For more information on the Mike Dobbins Memorial New Plays from the Heartland, Philip Dawkins or the winning plays, you can visit Heartland's website for the full scoop. Please note that this new-play festival is made possible by the Town of Normal Harmon Arts Grant and sponsored by Paul and Sandra Harmon.