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STAGE WATCH

Critics Pick Best Drama Candidates

March 07, 1985|LAWRENCE CHRISTON

Three unconventional productions, "In Trousers," "In the Belly of the Beast" and "Tamara," lead the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle list of 1984 award nominees announced today.

At the head is William Finn's musical, "In Trousers," the "prequel" to Finn's "March of the Falsettos" (which also did well two years ago), in which we saw what Marvin experienced with girls before he decided on boys. "In Trousers," which earned seven nominations for distinguished achievement (the organization doesn't award "bests"), was also produced at an Equity Waiver house, the Callboard.

"In the Belly of the Beast" at the Mark Taper Forum's Taper, Too was next, with six nominations. Director Robert Woodruff did some tinkering with Adrian Hall's script, which was drawn from the anthologized letters of convicted murderer Jack Henry Abbott, and buttonholed us with a truly terrible dilemma: When a misguided, unrepentantly dangerous man is made more so by the prison system, what hope is there for him? And what hope is there for civilized society to reabsorb him?

The production, which played last February, later went to the Sydney Festival in Australia, and in the interim it held such a powerful after-image for Taper staffers that when a slot opened up in the Mainstage season, it was voted in for a March 28 opening. Woodruff is staging it again, and Andrew Robinson is back as Abbott (both are up for awards).

"Tamara," probably the most unusual entry since "The James Joyce Memorial Liquid Theater," earned five nominations. An environmental piece that someone described as "a walk-through movie," "Tamara" depicts the political and sexual intrigues of a group of trashy aristocrats and assorted flunkies assembled at an Italian villa during the reign of Mussolini. The action is literally where you find it, as the audience moves from room to room at random, peeking in on people's lives and experiencing the vicarious thrill of eavesdropping.

One curious note: Only a single writer, Caryl Churchill, was deemed eligible for an award. Churchill's "Top Girls" had its West Coast debut at the South Coast Repertory, which took the unprecedented action (for it) of moving it to a full commercial production at the Westwood Playhouse, where it did not survive.

The Drama Critics' award ceremonies will be held in conjunction with a buffet supper and a musical show at the Variety Arts Center on April 22. The show is called "Theatre Sings Theatre" and is directed by David Galligan, who did a bang-up job at last year's ceremonies with a Stephen Sondheim retrospective.

Following is the complete list of nominees:

Production: "Are You Now or Have You Ever Been," produced by Laura Zucker at the Back Alley Theatre; "In the Belly of the Beast," produced by Madeline Puzo for Center Theatre Group/Mark Taper Forum at Taper, Too; "In Trousers," presented by Roger Berlind, Franklin R. Levy and Gregory Harrison in association with Catalina Production Group; co-producers David R. Brymer and Jeanne Troy; at the Callboard Theater; "Tamara," produced by Moses Znaimer and Barrie Wexler for Maple Interactive Entertainment Ltd.; at Il Vittoriale.

Direction: Gwen Arner, "Passion Play," Mark Taper Forum; Paul Benedict, "Beyond Therapy," L.A. Public Theatre/Coronet Theater; Matt Casella, "In Trousers"; Paul Giovanni, "Light Comedies," Ahmanson Theatre; Richard Rose, "Tamara"; Clyde Ventura, "Like One of the Family," Theatre West; Robert Woodruff, "In the Belly of the Beast."

Writing: Caryl Churchill, "Top Girls."

Literary Adaptation: Adrian Hall and Robert Woodruff, "In the Belly of the Beast."

Musical Score: William Finn, "In Trousers"; Randy Newman, "Maybe I'm Doing It Wrong," Roxy.

Concept: John Krizanc and Richard Rose, "Tamara."

Lead Performances: David Abbott, "Kingdom of Earth," Theatre West; Steven Berkoff, "Decadence," L.A. Theatre Works/Pilot Theater; Matthew Broderick, "Biloxi Blues," Ahmanson Theatre; Bud Cort, "Endgame," Mayfair Theatre; Richard Dreyfuss, "The Hands of Its Enemy," Mark Taper Forum, Huntington Hartford; David Dukes, "Light Comedies," Ahmanson; Gerald Hiken, "The White Crow," Los Angeles Actors' Theatre; Elizabeth Huddle, "Second Lady" (part of "Solo Flights"), Zephyr Theatre; Jenifer Parker, "Top Girls"; Charles Pierce, "Charles Pierce," Mayfair Theatre; Andrew Robinson, "In the Belly of the Beast"; Jonathan Silverman, "Brighton Beach Memoirs," Wilshire Theatre; John Snyder, "Vicious," 2nd Stage.

Featured Performance: Charles Cioffi, "Brighton Beach Memoirs"; Joan Copeland, "Brighton Beach Memoirs"; Karen Hensel, "Top Girls"; Kenneth Tigar, "The Coming of Stork," Santa Monica Playhouse.

Ensemble Performance: Kathy Garrick, Sherry Hursey, Bill Hutton and Linda Nichols, "In Trousers"; Margot Dionne, Sue Glosa, Marilyn Lightstone, Wendel Meldrum, Leland Murray, John P. Ryan, William Schallert, Helen Shaver, Michael Stefani and Robert Thaler, "Tamara."

Creation/Performance: Penn Jillette and Teller, "Penn & Teller," L.A. Stage Co.

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