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With Carbonells come kudos and kvetching

CarbonellSo the nominations for the 33rd annual Carbonell Awards have gone public, and though Monday is dark and a holiday, I can vividly picture the joy and rage flowing through South Florida's theater world.

Happiest, I'd guess, are the folks at Palm Beach Dramaworks, the small but artistically adventurous West Palm Beach company that got more nominations -- 15 -- than any other company (including several far larger theaters) in South Florida.  Primarily because of its widely-lauded production of Eugene Ionesco's The Chairs and Stephen Temperley's Souvenir (about tone-deaf opera diva wannabe Florence Foster Jenkins), Dramaworks earned smirking rights. How many of those nominations will turn into egg-shaped bronze awards on April 6 when the Carbonells are bestowed remains to be seen, but Dramaworks deserves whatever champagne its artists might be quaffing tonight.

Adding Machine His miserable look in the Adding Machine publicity photo aside, Oscar Cheda is probably celebrating too (ditto best actress nominee Maribeth Graham, she of the wagging finger).  Cheda got two acting nominations, one for Adding Machine, the GableStage musical that got more nominations -- 12 -- than any other show of 2008.  The dense, challenging musical paid off for artistic director Joseph Adler, who was nominated for his staging of Adding Machine but got shut out of nominations for best director of a play -- an award he has won five times since 2002.  Despite his record of artistic excellence and his winning streak, the opinionated Adler has never been shy (as if) about criticizing what he sees as flaws in the Carbonell system.  So who knows? Maybe the Carbonell judges bit back a little this year.

I wouldn't know -- though I participate in the program as a nominator, I'm not a judge, so I have no say in who gets nominated,nor in who wins.  But I'm a critic, so of course I have opinions. And so I'll share a few.

For the most part, I think the judges got it right.  Nothing on the nominees list jumps out as a what-were-they-thinking choice, though there were a few egregious omissions.  Work at most of the region's good companies (with the exception of Miami's Mad Cat, which is one of South Florida's boldest troupes) got noticed.  New Theatre's decision to focus on new plays paid off with four "best new work,"  to the misfortune of Seafarer Manalapan's Florida Stage, which has a far longer (and, I'd argue, better) track record of bringing new scripts to life (Nilo Cruz's Pulitzer Prize-winning Anna in the Tropics at New Theatre being a glorious exception).  I might have put Jessica Goldberg's Ward 57 at Florida Stage into the new work category instead of Jules Tasca's The Mission at New Theatre, for instance. But I wasn't one of the "deciders."

Likewise, I would have included the cast of the Women's Theatre Project's Jar the Floor in the best ensemble nominations.  I would have given GableStage's Blackbird a best play nod.  I would have nominated Ken Clement as best supporting actor for Mosaic's The Seafarer.  And so on.

But as noted, I'm not a judge. So I'll be just as surprised as the rest of the theater community when the Carbonells are divved up at the Broward Center in April.  Tickets this year are cheaper, just $25 (or $20 each, if you have a group of 10), and they go on sale Feb. 27 via the Broward Center web site.  For a complete list of nominees, check the Herald online.