Best New Drama (2006)


J.T. Rogers is a major new American talent, and his Madagascar is a ravishing new play. It is witty and literate, serious yet also seriously entertaining, a daring nonlinear tale that crisscrosses time with Proustian ease, a poignant sonata of grief that proved immensely moving in its Florida premiere at the New Theatre, directed by Ricky. J Martinez with dramatic talent. The plot of this devastating little masterpiece is simple: Someone has disappeared, perhaps forever, possibly to some exotic place like Madagascar. This mysterious premise generates many more questions than it answers, about memory and loss, about human resilience -- and about theater itself. The Florida premiere at the New Theatre had everything: the spectacle of a young playwright's work allowed to blossom to full splendor; a directorial tour de force; superb acting by the trio of Kathryn Lee Johnston, Angie Radosh, and Bill Schwartz; and the constant surprise of a perfect chamber piece carrying monumental emotional echoes. This one stays with you. A playwright needs a safe place to go from page to stage, and this is the place in South Florida to get the news from the frontiers of American drama. Intimate, intense, and consistently, immensely enjoyable, New Theatre is true to its mission of discovery at a time when too many companies around the country shy away from new plays. Does everything work? Of course not. But the thrill is in the search, and the actors and directors in this little powerhouse in the Gables at their best make a persuasive case for nurturing dramatic talent. The search paid off in Madagascar. And it's probably no accident that New Theatre is also the place to rediscover the genius of Shakespeare as summer rolls around.


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