'Karamazov' Plows Competition at LADCC

Choral marching themes from the 1966 film The Russians Are Coming the Russians Are Coming would have provided ideal mood music at the 38th annual Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Awards ceremony, held March 19 at North Hollywood's El Portal Theatre. Circle X Theatre's ambitious staging of Anthony Clarvoe's adaptation of Dostoevsky's classic novel The Brothers Karamazov, a pitch-black epic of murder and bitter rivalry in a 19th-century Russian family, stormed the competition. Winning in all seven categories in which it was nominated, the drama netted awards for production; writing; direction; scenic, sound, and lighting design; and ensemble performance — the most for any production and any producing company this year. This sweep follows the recent announcement of five Back Stage West Garlands for Karamazov.

Unlike previous years, in which such Center Theatre Group shows as The Drowsy Chaperone dominated the proceedings, this year's CTG wins were fewer. Other major L.A. theatres such as Geffen Playhouse, which produced the acclaimed All My Sons and Rabbit Hole, were shut out; the wins demonstrated a stronger than usual favor for intimate theatre productions. Second to Brothers in total wins was Furious Theatre Company's Grace, another dark drama about familial strife. Like Karamazov, it triumphed in all its nominated categories: production, writing, and direction. Roger Bean's crowd-pleasing musical The Marvelous Wonderettes also nailed wins for both of its nominees: the four-member ensemble cast and Janet Miller's choreography. Orange County theatres did well, with major wins for the Laguna Playhouse (A Marvelous Party) and Costa Mesa's South Coast Repertory (Hitchcock Blonde, Bach at Leipzig), as well as the previously announced Polly Warfield Award for an outstanding season, presented to Anaheim's Chance Theater.

Among results of note in the acting categories was a nod for the venerable Lynn Redgrave, for her labor-of-love solo play Nightingale, inspired by the life of her grandmother Beatrice Kempson. She was on the East Coast, touring the show, but she sent a heartfelt acceptance speech, read by CTG publicist Jason Martin. LADCC voters agreed with the Tony committee in honoring Cherry Jones, who repeated her heralded Broadway turn as the iron-willed nun in Doubt. Laurence Fishburne, who made two strong stage appearances locally last year — in the Mark Taper Forum's Without Walls and Pasadena Playhouse's Fences — was cited for the latter, an August Wilson play. Salome Jens triumphed for her work in the West Coast Jewish Theatre-Group at Strasberg co-production, Leipzig, accepting the award in a gracious speech in which she rhapsodized about the richness of the L.A. theatre scene, with its steady production of world-premiere plays.

The swiftly paced ceremony, smoothly produced by LADCC president Sharon Perlmutter, who writes for TalkinBroadway.com, and David C. Nichols, LADCC vice president and an L.A. Times critic, came in at what must have been a record for brevity, starting at 7:50 p.m. and ending just before 10, largely due to brief acceptance speeches.

Co-host Wenzel Jones, a Back Stage West critic, delivered his wry barbs. Competing with him for sardonic wit was Richard Montoya of the Culture Clash trio, which shared hosting duties. Montoya, winner of the Ted Schmitt Award for his world premiere script Water & Power, delivered cutting comments — for example, skewering the attire of award recipients (shades of Mr. Blackwell and Joan Rivers).

Entertainment included a sprightly opening parody number by the Troubadour Theater Company, recipient of the Margaret Harford Award for sustained excellence. There were droll blackout sketches by Culture Clash. Golden-voiced Kevin Earley delivered a marvelous musical salute to the 2006 Joel Hirschhorn Award (for achievement in musical theatre) recipient, music director-conductor Gerald Sternbach, sung to the tune of Lerner and Loewe's "On the Street Where You Live."

The Wonderettes quartet capped off the festive evening with a farewell medley.

The winners are as follows:

Production: The Brothers Karamazov, Tim Wright, Circle X Theatre Co., [Inside] the Ford; Grace, Furious Theatre Company, Pasadena Playhouse Carrie Hamilton Theatre; A Marvelous Party, Laguna Playhouse, Laguna Playhouse

T.H. McCulloh Award for Revival: A Touch of the Poet, A Noise Within, A Noise Within

DIrection: John Langs, The Brothers Karamazov, Circle X Theatre Co. at [Inside] the Ford; Art Manke, Bach at Leipzig, South Coast Repertory; Michael Michetti, A Picture of Dorian Gray, The Theatre @ Boston Court; Dámaso Rodriguez, Grace, Furious Theatre Company at Pasadena Playhouse Carrie Hamilton Theatre

Writing and Adaptation: Anthony Clarvoe (adaptation), The Brothers Karamazov, Circle X Theatre Co. at [Inside] the Ford; Craig Wright, Grace, Furious Theatre Company at Pasadena Playhouse Carrie Hamilton Theatre

Music Direction: Steven Smith, A Man of No Importance, Musical Theatre Guild at the Alex Theatre

Musical Score: Lori Scarlett, The Break Up Notebook: The Lesbian Musical, Hudson Backstage Theatre

Lead Performance: Dorie Barton, Lobster Alice, Blank Theatre Company's 2nd Stage Theatre; Jodi Carlisle, A Hole in the Dark, Blank Theatre Company's 2nd Stage Theatre; Laurence Fishburne, Fences, Pasadena Playhouse; Salome Jens, Leipzig, West Coast Jewish Theatre and The Group at Strasberg at The Lee Strasberg Institute's Marilyn Monroe Theatre; Cherry Jones, Doubt, Ahmanson Theatre; Dan Mailley, La Bête, Sacred Fools Theater

Featured Performance: Beth Kennedy, Much ADoobie Brothers About Nothing, Troubadour Theater Company at the Miles Memorial Playhouse and La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts; Dakin Matthews, Water & Power, Mark Taper Forum; Camille Saviola, Zorba, Reprise! Broadway's Best at UCLA's Freud Playhouse

Ensemble Performance: The Brothers Karamazov, Circle X Theatre Co. at [Inside] the Ford; The Marvelous Wonderettes, El Portal Forum Theatre

Scenic Design: Brian Sidney Bembridge, The Brothers Karamazov, Circle X Theatre Co. at [Inside] the Ford; Tom Buderwitz, Equinox, Odyssey Theatre

Lighting Design: Brian Sidney Bembridge, The Brothers Karamazov, Circle X Theatre Co. at [Inside] the Ford; Robert Wilson, The Black Rider: The Casting of the Magic Bullets, Ahmanson Theatre

Costume Design, Hair, Wigs & Makeup: Thomas G. Marquez (hair, wigs & makeup), Beehive, Valley Musical Theatre at the El Portal Theatre

Sound Design: Robbin E. Broad, The Brothers Karamazov, Circle X Theatre Co. at [Inside] the Ford; Jon Gottlieb, iWitness, Mark Taper Forum; Robert Oriol, A Picture of Dorian Gray, The Theatre @ Boston Court

Choreography: Janet Miller, The Marvelous Wonderettes, El Portal Forum Theatre

Solo Performance: Lynn Redgrave, Nightingale, Mark Taper Forum

CGI & Video Projections: William Dudley, Hitchcock Blonde, South Coast Repertory

Jan Hartley (projection design) and Alice Brooks (cinematography), iWitness, Mark Taper Forum

The 2006 special award recipients are as follows:

The Margaret Harford Award for sustained excellence in theater will be awarded to the Troubadour Theater Company. The award is accompanied by a $500 check funded by the American Academy of Dramatic Arts.

The Ted Schmitt Award for the world premiere of an outstanding new play will be awarded to Richard Montoya for Culture Clash for Water and Power. The award is accompanied by an offer to publish and a $500 check funded by Samuel French, Inc.

The Polly Warfield Award for an excellent season in a small to mid-size theater will be awarded to the Chance Theater. The award is accompanied by a $500 check, funded by the Nederlander Organization.

The Bob Z Award for career achievement in set design will be awarded to Joel Daavid. The award is accompanied by a $500 check, funded by Back Stage.

The Angstrom Award for career achievement in lighting design will be awarded to Christian Epps. The award is accompanied by a $1000 check, funded by Angstrom Lighting.

The Joel Hirschhorn Award for outstanding achievement in musical theatre will be awarded to Gerald Sternbach. The award is accompanied by a $500 check, funded by Variety