The Carbonell Awards

At the Carbonell Awards last night, my boyfriend and I sat right next to a cameraman in the Amaturo Theater at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts. We wore tuxes, and we looked cute.

Everybody else looked cute, too. The real winner at last night’s Carbonell Awards was actress Tara Vodihn’s husband, whose name might be either Doug or Fred (it was loud at the Carbs, and it didn’t seem worth asking the guy to repeat himself). She was the most radiant thing in the hall, and I say this with all the objectivity vis a vis the female form that my queer little libido can muster. She wore a gown that was classy in front, showed a helluvalot in back, and was made of sequins comprising every variation of the color red known to man. Tara did not win her award last night (she was up for Best Actress for I Have Before Me a Remarkable Document Given To Me By a Young Woman From Rwanda), but people who look like her don’t need awards.

Unfortunately, most people do not look like Tara Vodihn, and discussing the brute facts of the Carbonells may well be less pleasant than an idle contemplation of Tara’s overwhelming hotness. The Carbonells are SoFla’s most prestigious theater awards, but last night their execution was a tad wonky, and the judges’ tastes… well, the judges probably have reasons for doing what they do, but I don’t understand them. Many talented theaterfolk were rightfully honored last night, but many more were robbed.

Rightful Honors

Best Ensemble Production: Glengarry Glen Ross at The Mosaic Theatre

Wise move from the Carbonell folk. We thought so, way back in spring ’07. The cast was fast, in sync, and always one step ahead of the audience. And they were disturbingly convincing. If they had some land in Florida, who knows, we might invest.

Best Actress: Lela Elam, for In The Continuum

A tough call! Ask me, and I’ll tell you that Pilar Uribe’s performance in 9 Parts of Desire was just as good, but you can understand why the judges went for Lela. She’s younger, and that makes the subtleties of her performance substantially more impressive. Her portrayal of teen from South Central LA who’s both pregnant and HIV positive was effortlessly graceful in a way that bespoke real empathy from Ms. Elam, and the whole thing was devastating.

Best Supporting Actor: Jim Ballard, for Urinetown

As a nasty cop in a water-starved totalitarian regime, Jim Ballard was an incarnation of dumb meathead evil. When he danced, he was boneless meathead evil. And he was funny. Good show!

Best Director for a Play: Joseph Adler, for Lieutenant of Inishmore

Totally! I mean, Inishmore has gotta be a pain in the ass to produce. Every ten seconds there’s a cat exploding or a head being shot—somebody’s gotta figure out how to get all of that blood dispersed on time, and see to the proper peppering of severed limbs around the stage. This is the kind of work Joe Adler’s good at — that, and making debased carnage seem not only funny, but somehow wholesome.


Best Actor: Todd Allen Durkin, for Lieutenant of Inishmore

Yeah, maybe his portrayal of a free-associating neurotic in the one-man Thom Paine was better, but still—how can any role be as exciting as the lead in Lieutenant? And how could any actor be better-suited to a part than Durkin was to this mass-murdering cat lover? Nobody acts lunacy like Durkin, and nobody writes lunacy like Martin McDonagh. Should have been a gimme.

Best New York: Juan C. Sanchez’s Red Tide

Man, Red Tide was so cool. The audience had no idea what the hell was going on half the time — as far as they knew, the three characters onstage were all lying every time they opened their mouths — but we loved watching anyway. There was something balls-to-the-wall in Promethean’s production that the company hasn’t reproduced since, and it may be because of Sanchez’s chilling little script about fucked up people and the layers of artifice they just can’t seem to shed. Using killer red tide as a metaphor is an audacious reach for anybody, but Sanchez’s play was actually better in practice than it was in theory. Why the judges didn’t think so is anybody’s guess.

Best Supporting Actor: Ken Clement, The Faith Healer

I feel wretched about Clement losing this one. First of all, he lost it to a performance that was really more of a leading man thing — Paul Tei in Glengarry Glen Ross — and second of all, shit, I doubt the guy will ever outdo this performance. He was funny and affecting and so very English — an old-school promoter and raconteur, whose life (but not good humor) was sapped away by the faith healer of the title. He could have been the only character in the show, for all I or anybody cared, and he could have stayed on that stage as long as he liked. So long as he had plenty of showbizzy anecdotes, I was happy to stay.

Best Supporting Actress: Pat Bowie in Doubt

Pat Bowie’s character in Doubt is, get this, a mum who knows her kid is probably being molested by a priest, but goes along with it. Seems a son with a priest for an advocate stands a better chance of success in the world. By the time Bowie left the stage, you half agreed with her. Which is a hard thing to sell for a good actress, or even a very great one. Bowie was actually perfect. This is the one and only Carbonell I had money riding on, because it seemed like such a sure thing. Silly me.

While all of this was going on, many more awards were dished out that we’re are not qualified to comment on — especially those musical theater awards that went to Maltz Jupiter Theatre<. Maltz Jupiter Theatre is in Jupiter, you see, and we don’t go that far. So when they swept the musical theater categories — doing a terrible number on Urinetown, which, so far as theater in the three counties goes, was just about as good as musicals can hope to get — we didn’t know how to respond.

It was far easier to criticize the ceremonies themselves, which wobbled from “totally inspired” to “fucking dumb.”

Totally Inspired Ideas

Christine Andreas singing: Tony Award-nominated Andreas has a supernatural voice. Her heavy but lovely vibrato can switch from torch to blow torch faster than you can say “Mary Weiss.” She sang a ditty from The Scarlet Pimpernel that could blow your tits off.

Gina Kreiezmar singing: Currently in town with Forbidden Broadway, she sang that show’s famous “Liza One Note” and got the biggest cheers of the night. Gina does a mean Liza — all big, vacant eyes and tail-wagging grin. And she hits that one note pretty well.

Awarding Jack Zink: Zink is a good critic, a good writer, and a great advocate of the arts. An original Carbonell founder from the 70s — the 70s! Christ! Who knew Florida even needed newspapers back then, never mind theater awards created by newspapermen? Not me — back then, I was just a wad in my papa’s washcloth. But Zink’s had his finger in it all along, and it was touching when he, alone among the night’s speakers, offered a heartfelt thanks to a community that has grown beyond anyone’s expectations. Right on.

Closing the bar at 9: The bar closed at 9, not to be reopened until the Carbs were done. Good move. Actors are drunks.

Fucking Dumb Ideas

Christine Andreas as MC: Remind me—Christine Andreas has what to do with South Florida?

Presenters’ speeches with superfluous plugs: The night was dotted with presenters’ speeches that had almost nothing to do with the categories they were presenting. Instead, there were many invites to come together and experience SoFla’s glorious culture, to dig SoFla’s arts media, and probably a lot of other things. The presenters didn’t seem too comfortable with these scripts, and a lot of it came out awkward unto unintelligibility.

Flip-flops for award presenters: Award presenters should not wear flip-flops at the Carbonells. It’s uncouth.

Speaking of uncouth, here’s the parting shot: Good Carbonell Behavior and Bad Carbonell Behavior.

Good Carbonell Behavior

Lela Elam almost crying: Of all the award winners last night, you got the sense that the award meant the most to Lela. That’s awesome.

Ken Clement’s humility: When I told Clement that he had been robbed, he insisted he hadn’t. Good sport! Of course, he had already emptied the big silver flask he keeps on his person at all times, which has a way of killing the pain. Talk to me in the morning, Ken.

Bad Carbonell Behavior

Paul Tei’s talking and talking and sniffing: Most everybody else stuck to the prescribed time limits in their acceptance speeches. When Tei won his awards, he blabbed and blabbed—at one point, even doing some kind of jazzy trade-off with the orchestra, which was in the process of trying to drive him off the stage. The orchestra did its get-off-the-stage riff; Paul replied with some speechifying; the orchestra riffed; Paul speechified. It was kind of cute. It also seemed a little disrespectful. Especially when Tei started talking about cocaine, for whatever reason. Not that there’s anything wrong with cocaine, but you’ve gotta figure the average age of a Carbonell attendee is somewhere in the high 60s. They are not equipped to deal with these things, Paul. Why would you put them through that? Aw, fuck it. It’s your moment. Do as you please.

That pink boa-wearing bitch sitting next to me: She didn’t think Paul should do as he pleased. The moment Paul assumed the stage, she and her husband began saying things like “Oh, what an idiot,” and “Get him offa there!” C’mon, people. What have you done for theater lately? -- Brandon K. Thorp

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Elvis Ramirez

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