Award shows: a fundamental right of passage in the entertainment industry, whereby celebrities, who do not get enough recognition and worship as is, are gifted with golden statues for literally just doing their jobs well. Now, I understand that other professions give out awards and have ceremonies to celebrate the accomplishments of people in their field, but let’s get one thing straight: they don’t matter. The National Teacher of the Year Award, the AMA Excellence in Medicine Award, or National Society of Accountant’s Accountant of the Year Award—they’re all meaningless awards, for meaningless careers. The only ones who matter are entertainers and blog writers, amen.
Fortunately, I have the privilege to cover entertainers and evaluate all that they do at Cabaret throughout the year. I’ve officially seen all 10 productions in total (since I was given the opportunity to get a sneak peek at OPF, which opens this Friday), and I have been witness to an incredible breadth of talent and performances. In my professional opinion, this Cabaret season set a new standard that the Cabaret seasons in years must strive to meet; yet…I am sad.
I’ve been given no real opportunity to pit these performances against each other in an objective and definitive competition.
If you didn’t know, Cabaret used to host “The Cabbies” in order to award productions for various merits; however, the award ceremony became defunct and left no outlet to reward the best of the best and leave everybody in the middle feeling utterly incompetent and relatively worthless. But I will not stand for this. As my last official duty as Cabaret Theatre’s Blog Writer (RIP), I am bringing back the Cabbies, baby!!! (in blog-form. Call it the Blobbies)
Here are the criteria this time around:
1) Awards can only be granted to pieces from the 2017-2018 Cabaret Theatre season
2) Festivals, showcases, or sketch shows, as a whole, are not eligible for awards, but their specific short plays and sketches are
3) My word is bond
Best Allusions to Porn Without Ever Mentioning It
Nothing makes me cringe so much as thinking about other people masturbating (it literally makes me uncomfortable putting that line into print). And yet, that’s what Blyat plays off of so successfully for its humor.
According to director Moshin Sharif, “Put simply, mine is the one about porn. I like to call it the Porn PieceTM, but that’s just me. Essentially, a father and son come to the mutual realization that they both have adult film fixations, and they soon realize they must hide that fact from the overbearing mother of the house.”
Yet, masterfully, the piece never explicitly refers to porn, but merely suggests it through such profoundly highbrow humor.
“You can probably tell that John Lerman wrote it,” says Moshin.
Yeah, sure, it’s actually a total farce (thank you to my English degree for making sure I use that word properly), but it’s nonetheless the piece everybody will likely relate to the most. Its characters show a family dynamic that is (very unfortunately) identifiable—masturbatory plot or no masturbatory plot—which makes me so sad to admit, but so happy that I’m not alone.
“I was thrilled to cast incredibly talented actors who I knew could exceed my expectations. Working with them has made my job so easy and enjoyable– not only are they such genuinely good human beings, they’re astonishingly great performers,” adds Moshin.
Best Descent into Madness
Winner: How They Choose
Throughout this season at Cabaret, I don’t think I came across a single genuine thriller, except for How They Choose (on-stage (whether I would keep this job was a thrill-ride in its own right)).
“My piece explores two metaphysical worlds in which the characters- five best friends- are forced to reveal their biggest fears in a fight to survive,” says director Nishika Bagchi.
It’s a tense, anxious, fear-ridden piece that the Cabaret black box space is perfect for. Surreal and apparently-dystopian, it becomes particularly uneasy to watch its grounded characters descend into madness (and to think I thought I was nuts?).
“Thinking about directing a mainstage makes me want to lie down, but a small play like this one leaves enough room for eustress and creativity,” she says.
Nishika’s direction portrays a very clear and sharp vision, which dramatically heightens the stakes. As the characters confront their fears and fight for their survival, I can’t help feeling as if I would assuredly be the easiest target.
Best Commercial for AA
Winner: The Circle Game
Like most games, I was sad when it ended because I naturally lost. However, what’s great about this story is that, well, everybody loses. Pretty much. At least I think? That’s the feeling I got.
Not because the story is bad or because all of the characters experience a tragic end: no, it just hits ‘ya in the feels.
“It's about alcoholism and the toll that it can take in family members and loved ones. It's very evocative of what can happen in any standard, cookie-cutter family,” says director Colee Bellmay. “The characters are all very human and the cast really does a fantastic job portraying each of their characters.”
Quite possibly the most authentic drama in this year’s OPF, the story is an extremely good reminder of why you shouldn’t drink every day, despite your inclination to, given the world’s seemingly catastrophic state. The performances are rendered so palpable that I’m immediately starting my juice cleanse ASAP.
“The actors constantly leave me in awe and I am honestly so proud of the work and effort they have put into this show,” Colee adds, “I feel like the proud parent of a herd of spelling bee-championship-winning children with fifteen honors society bumper stickers in the back of my Honda Odyssey.”
Given that this is an awards show/blog, it feels appropriate to pause and honor those who we have lost this season. Please, allow a moment of silence for the fallen heroes of the 2017-2018 Cabaret Season:
David Novis (Blog Writer)
Katie Siegel (Tyrant)
Okay, now that I got those out of the way, back to the good stuff…
Best Use of a Nuclear Holocaust as a Pretext for a Romantic Drama
Winner: Sam & Alex
You would think that a story in which an actual nuclear blast wipes out Los Angeles would be about the aforementioned nuclear blast that WIPES OUT Los Angeles and focus on the people who are RIGHT FREAKING THERE and have to deal with it, right? No, WRONG.
“My piece is about how the fallout from a nuclear apocalypse changes a couple’s relationship,” says John Hennessy, director.
The piece shows how events go beyond their immediate, well, blast zone, and have the potential to be consequential in areas and with people far removed from the immediate event.
All the way at ‘ye old Rutgers, a couple is forced to deal with their own mortality and face existential dread (a normal Wednesday for most of us). Will their relationship face a similar nuclear fallout? Will their chemistry (like that of a nuclear bomb) prevail? Please, clap at my puns, and find out for yourself.
“Sam & Alex is a roller coaster of emotions. As an audience member, you get to see the dynamics of this relationship put to the test with the news of a nuclear apocalypse,” says Emily Pretsby, Sam.
Best Lesson of Things I Never Learned Because I Am a Cis-White Male Who Went to Both a Catholic Grammar and High School
Wow, hey, woah! Yet another OPF piece taking home an award!!!
It’s only fitting that Sex-Ed gets this award though, considering I got woke, stayed woke, and had 14 years of conservative teachings totally undermined in less than 15 minutes.
“Sex-Ed is a play that tries to show that sexual education isn’t just for teenagers, many grown adults are still clueless about their bodies and intimacy,” says director, John Lerman, “It is an exploration of the nuances of modern sex and how we as a society need to start talking more openly about sexual issues previously considered taboo.”
Sex-Ed also takes home the award for “Best Use of Swear Words that Shouldn’t Necessarily Be Swear Words, but because We Have Misconstrued and Institutionalized Them in a Negative Manner They Are Considered ‘Bad’” this evening, because of how effortlessly the cast pulls off making the characters and their dialogue not preachy, but undoubtedly human.
“The characters represent a spectrum of Americans, liberal to conservative, the sexual progressives to those still repressed and insecure about getting freaky. The characters, like Americans, still have a lot to learn about sex and how to have healthy discussions about it,” adds Lerman.
Well, would you look at that! That’s all the awards we have for this evening—and, hey, woah, wow, it looks like this the short plays from this year’s OPF makes a clean sweep! Woah! In that case, you should probably totally catch it, Friday, April 20, and Saturday, April 21, at 8:00 PM, and Sunday, April 22, at 7:00 PM at, you guessed it, Cabaret Theatre!! Tickets are currently available at: https://bit.ly/2vkGNle
“Every person who has worked on this year’s OPF has put such a distinct mark on the production which really shines through. I have never seen a collection of plays that have had me choking on my own laughter one minute and wiping away a salty tear the next. This one is all about the emotions, folks, so if you need to feel some stuff, be there this weekend,” says Moshin.
All photos courtesy of Paolo Arceo.