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‘Killer Joe’ and ‘Chess’ Sweep Last Night’s Non-Equity Jeff Awards

A year after stepping down from the committee for the Jeff Awards, the local organization that vets and gives out annual excellence awards for Chicagoland theatre productions, I was worried they’d get it all wrong at last night’s ceremony for non-Equity theatre, what with my all-important vote no longer counting…

Scene from Theo Ubique's production of Chess
I will slay you with my eyeballs: A scene from Theo Ubique’s multiple-award-winning production of Chess.

 

But where did the love of community go?

THEATRE A year after stepping down from the committee for the Jeff Awards, the local organization that vets and gives out annual excellence awards for Chicagoland theatre productions, I was worried they’d get it all wrong at last night’s ceremony for non-Equity theatre, what with my all-important vote no longer counting. So, with no small degree of relief and a great deal of proprietary cheer, I was heartened to find myself woo-hooing at several key intervals as plaques were handed out.


Cox (left) and the cast of Killer Joe

Some said the committee—which, deserved or not, has a reputation for being a bit priggish—would never reward a play in which fellatio with a chicken leg figures prominently in the final act’s, er, climax. Imagine my glee when Killer Joe offed the competition: The Profiles Theatre production of Tracy Letts’s bone-crunchingly violent comedy came out on top, taking the prize for actor in a principal role (Darrell W. Cox), director (Rick Snyder), and the coveted best-production-of-a-play plaque. In his speech, Cox said he was shy, a claim that didn’t quite square with his hard-charging performance as the titular, drum-stick wielding sociopath; but, his heart-felt thanks to Snyder—“a great friend, a great director and a great man”—was the manifestation of a bromance so sincere that I found myself getting a little weepy. (The show, by the way, is still running. Go to the company’s website or read my review of it.)

As for the legion of musicals up for awards, I wasn’t partial to any particular production. As it happened, Theo Ubique’s Chess wound up with most of the hardware. Before the ceremony, I chatted with Theo Ubique’s artistic director, Fred Anzevino, about Chess, which, as he reminded me, I pretty much hated. Theo Ubique somehow survived without my endorsement, taking home a wall’s worth of awards in the various musical categories including: overall production, actor (Courtney Crouse), actress (Maggie Portman), supporting actor (John B. Leen), direction (Anzevino and Brenda Didier), choreography (Didier), and musical direction (Ryan Brewster).

The most dismaying thing about this year’s Jeffs? The failure of the annual drinking game in which we throw back a shot every time an award recipient pays homage to the Chicago theatre/off-Loop/storefront “community” in his or her speech. Most years, the word is so overused you’d be drunk and singing Kumbaya 20 minutes into the ceremony. This year, the word never came up. Maybe the community dissolved when we weren’t looking. Or maybe Killer Joe had everybody rattled.
 


GOOD, RELATED LINKS: 
  • Catey Sullivan’s 2/22/2010 review of Raven Theatre’s Twelve Angry Men, which won for ensemble.
  • The full list of 2009-2010 non-Equity Jeff Award winners. 

 

Photographs: (top, thumbnail) Johnny Knight

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