Theater critics salute Kissel, local prod'ns

SOUTHBURY, Conn. — With Brian Dennehy attending as guest of honor on his night off from Broadway’s “Long Day’s Journey Into Night,” the Boston Theater Critics Assn.’s 21st Elliot Norton Awards were presented May 19 at Boston’s downtown Emerson Majestic Theater.

Event marked the 100th birthday of the Emerson Majestic and Elliot Norton, the retired Boston theater critic for whom the awards are named.

The Norton prize for sustained excellence in the Boston theater went to Jeremiah Kissel, called “an actor of phenomenal versatility” over more than 20 years.

Winning visiting productions were, by a large company, Deborah Warner’s “Medea,” presented in Boston by Broadway in Boston/Clear Channel Entertainment, and, by a small company, the Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater’s production of Gip Hoppe’s “A New War.”

For resident companies, the American Repertory Theater’s production of Rinde Eckert’s “Highway Ulysses” (large) and the Nora Theater Co.’s production of Pinter’s “Betrayal” (small) were winners.

The Theater Cooperative’s production of Rebecca Gilman’s “Spinning Into Butter” took the local fringe production prize. Winner as musical production was SpeakEasy Stage Co.’s “Bat Boy,” by Brian Flemming and Laurence O’Keefe.

Other winners: solo performance, Annette Miller in Shakespeare & Co.’s production of William Gibson’s “Golda’s Balcony”; new script, Ronan Noone’s “The Blowin’ of Baile Gall,” produced by the Boston Playwrights’ Theater; director, large company, Anne Bogart for ART’s production of Marivaux’s “La Dispute”; director, small company, Paul Daigneault for SpeakEasy Stage’s “Bat Boy” and Sondheim’s “Passion.”

Also split between large and small companies: set design, David B. Gordon for the Huntington Theater Co.’s production of Darko Tresnjak’s “The Blue Demon” (large) and Richard Chambers for “The Blowin’ of Baile Gall” (small); actress, Fiona Shaw for “Medea” (large), Laura Latreille for SpeakEasy’s production of Neil LaBute’s “The Shape of Things” (small) and Naeemah A. White-Peppers for the Zeitgeist Stage Co.’s productions of Thomas Gibbon’s “Bee-Luther-Hatchee” and Pearl Cleage’s “Chain” (fringe).

Arliss Howard won an actor trophy for ART’s “Uncle Vanya” (large). While in the small category, Billy Meleady won for the Sugan Theater Co.’s “Howie the Rookie,” by Mark O’Rowe, and Ronan Noone’s “The Lepers of Baile Baiste,” and the Boston Playwrights’ Theater’s “The Blowin’ of Baile Gall.”

A video presentation recapped highlights of centenarian critic Norton’s career during the presentation ceremony. He was a drama critic on Boston newspapers for 48 years and moderated “Elliot Norton Reviews” on WGBH-TV for nearly 25 years. In 1971, he received a special Tony Award from the League of American Theaters & Producers.

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