Monday, May 14, 2007

From the other shore

The Outer Critics Circle awards have been announced: see Playbill. Eve Best won in Jennifer Ehle's category, but Coast of Utopia scored six gongs, the most for the season. Congrats!
[...] Among its honors are Outstanding New Broadway Play, Outstanding Director of a Play (Jack O'Brien), Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play (Martha Plimpton), Outstanding Lighting Design (Brian MacDevitt, Kenneth Posner and Natasha Katz), Outstanding Set Design (Bob Crowley and Scott Pask) and Outstanding Costume Design (Catherine Zuber). [...]
There are now some photos up from the Drama League awards at BroadwayWorld; Utopia was represented by Ethan Hawke, Brian F. O'Byrne and Billy Crudup. Here are the boys at the meet and greet. At Stage Notes, you can see a shot of some of Team Utopia from the Broadway Show League.

Tonys predictions are stepping up, with Utopia quite prominent. The Record's Robert Feldberg is tipping it for Best Play and Mr O'Byrne for Lead Actor; Jacques Le Sourd of the Journal News and Michael Kuchwara of AP more or less concur. Michael Riedel of the NY Post goes straight to the source, gauging Tonys temperature from some nominators; according to them, Utopia will be battling Frost/Nixon and Radio Golf for Best Play. Steve on Broadway's poll comes up with the same.

Bloggers are getting in on the predictions as well: Carajoy of Full Force Theater Musings considers Jennifer Ehle a lock in Featured (spin round, spit thrice!) along with some other Utopians in their categories, while Josh R at Edward Copeland on Film thinks Martha Plimpton is a chance:
[...] I'm starting to really like Martha Plimpton's chances for Featured Actress in Play - she was absolutely brilliant in Salvage, which was the last play in the Utopia cycle and consequently the last one voters will have seen (Ehle's triumph came in Part 2). Of course, I love Ehle, but actually, it's a close call for me - and of course, Jennifer has her Tony, so I won't be upset if Martha takes her out. [...]
Michael Baker of Lunar Gemini bats for a few Utopians too. Another blogger, mole_underfield, went to see Voyage especially for Ms Ehle. He missed her at the stage door but says nice things about her "intelligence and her compassionate persona" in Pride and Prejudice. Peter saw the last Salvage performance, enjoying the acting and production. Manderson at The Art of Possible posts this wrapup:
[...] Of everything this season, I only missed one show... nothing has been as amazing and overwhelming that is the journey with the cast of The Coast of Utopia.

The sets, the lights, the costumes, and the most remarkable cast of 44 actors make this an experience unlike any other. Guided by, I am going to say it - Theatrical Genius, Jack O'Brien, The Coast of Utopia takes the amazing words of the fabulous Tom Stoppard and turns them into the most captivating philosophical drama I have ever experienced. [...]
A wee description of Utopia I liked from Chris Jones' review of Arcadia in the Chicago Tribune:
[...] Stoppard’s “The Coast of Utopia,” which recently finished its run at New York City’s Lincoln Center, has that riveting, hopelessly impassioned quality. [...]
And possibly the highest praise one can give a writer chez Sacha:
[...] I'm over the moon. The actors in this ensemble are storytellers on an elite level, Stoppard is gutsy and unsparing and assumes his audiences' intelligence, the light designer painted with light, shade after shade drawing me in, and the music wrapped the whole passionate, noisy, glorious mess in an embrace. Jack O'Brian, the director, had a vision and it was one that as many people as possible should see, love it or hate it. The productions were more than worth every cent I spent, every minute spent on the cancellation line . . . what line? Any memory of that left as soon as my eyes met the stage. What a wonderful, miraculous thing this is, stories told on stage. The very best ones scoop you up, and take you into their world, forcing you to forsake the daily life you have just for a few hours. And when you come back, even the real world has changed as a result of seeing good, very good storytelling. If I ever got a chance to really meet Tom Stoppard, I'd tell him that. He altered the way I see people, my world, choices, and events and that I'm disturbed by this, and I'm glad. And I think he'd be one of those people who could take something like that as a compliment. [...]
Elsewhere in blogland, love for Utopia and funny comments at Allison Williams' LJ, plus some general "saw it, liked it" from Tom & Alissa and Sandy. On the forums there's a sweet "Farewell to Utopia" thread at BroadwayWorld about how it's inspired people, some discussion of accents at All That Chat and another thread where daveylow writes about the last Salvage performance:
[...] I also found Salvage much more involving today, much sadder. The whole cast was in tears this afternoon. I was in the second row center so I was thrilled to be there. [...]
Anthony Grafton reviews Utopia for the New York Review of Books. It begins with observations about some marathoner' reactions:
[...] The marathon version of Tom Stoppard's Russian trilogy is charged with excitement. When I saw the three plays in one day at the end of March, virtually the entire audience stayed until the end. Some of those present—who ranged from eager students to slippered pantaloons—clutched battered blue copies of Isaiah Berlin's Russian Thinkers. Others congratulated one another enthusiastically on seeing plays "that are so much more demanding than the usual." One young man who passed me during an interval on the plaza outside the Vivian Beaumont, talking and gesturing as wildly as the young Russian intellectuals in the first of Stoppard's plays, cried "Knowledge! I want more knowledge" as he went by, smiling seraphically.

When the audience gave the actors a standing ovation—something that happens more often than it should these days—the actors applauded the audience in their turn. Some of them even appeared in costume after the show and joined the ushers in handing out buttons that read "I ran the mara-thon." The ties of feeling that bound cast and audience were almost visible and broke slowly. An older man, behind whom I walked to the subway after the third play came to an end, used his cell phone to give a friend or loved one an urgent, detailed, scene-by-scene account of what we had just watched. [...]
In the "links that fit nowhere else" category, have a read of Aileen Kelly's introduction to Isaiah Berlin's Russian Thinkers, posted at Slow Muse. Also, Dying City playwright Christopher Shinn was asked his opinion on Utopia at one of the Platform Series sessions. Oh yeah Brits, tune your tellies to BBC2 this Monday at 11.50pm to see Bedrooms and Hallways.

Phew, that's the news done! Now for the navel-gazey of Sunday, the grand Utopian voyage has finally come to an end. There have been more than 200 performances of the show, which must add up to a hell of a lot of sacrifice, man hours and creative energies spent so that hundreds of thousands of spectators could experience this epic event. Congratulations to every single person in the Utopia family - cast, creative team, crew, admin. And thank you. I can't do justice to the scope of this momentous achievement; surely there will be an elegy for Utopia in the NY Times or something. We all need some closure!

On our part, we've been chronicling the show from June 2006 when it was announced that Jennifer Ehle was cast (see hysterical post). Since then, it became an almost daily part of our lives as we hunted down every snippet of Utopia news and opinion available online. It's been a joy watching it take flight.

A lesser milestone passed a couple of weeks ago, the blog's second anniversary. We made it! Hilarious, wristslitty, absurd, humbling, hectic, exhilarating...that hardly begins to describe the year. For me personally, this was the year that web fandom converged with real life as I had the privilege of seeing Utopia with some fellow fans. It was incredible. The report from this is criminally overdue but on the verge of completion.

Said report contains an announcement I've been meaning to make for some time now. The short version is that I am soon stepping down from blog management, passing the torch to Abi and Kate. Officially I'm staying until the Tonys, but impending exam madness means my departure will be a gradual decrescendo rather than an abrupt silence come June. Afterwards I will still be around to enjoy my successors' work and help with technical hitches if necessary, but the blog will be in Kate and Abi's capable hands.

There are many thanks due to everyone who's helped with the blog over the past couple of years, but I think I'll keep my list of specific acknowledgments til June to avoid repetition. For now, thanks to you, dear readers, for your silent support. The little numbers ticking over on our visitor counter has been great reassurance that we're not talking into a void.

PS. Sorry about the weird popup, not quite sure how to get rid of it.


Abi said...

Really lovely post Tez! I'll never be able to write better than you! You are the female Stoppard! (But considerably younger, of course...)


Kate said...

Tez, I second the female Tom Stoppard comment! We will all miss your wit and style and dedication. It's the end of an era :(

T said...

Aww thanks Bez & Wez, you're sweet. Thomasine Stoppard...if only! He's on a whole different plane of humanity.

I'm so glad to have found two other people in the world (three, including Chez) with just the right amount of crazy & commitment to foster my baby :)

Chelsea said...

Can't believe you yourself created this wee kingdom. We've sort of grown up with this blog :)