The 1999 Okies

A new century, an old art form, a cheap trophysincerest regards

With that said, the guy who had the most toys wins. Chambers made us look at Molière's antique comedy in an extraordinary new light: it was somber; it was sobering; it was downright scary. Religious hypocrisy has never felt this important. And it was still funny.

Best Production

WINNER: Orphans, International City Theatre.

NOMINEES: Saint Genet, The Language of the Wall, Empire Theater; Tartuffe, SCR; Twelfth Dog Night, Troubadour Theatre Company at Grove Theatre Center; Two Sisters and a Piano, SCR.

Oh, we can hear the naysayers already. Aren't these the OC Weekly Theater Awards? And isn't the producing agent of Orphans, the International City Theatre, in Long Beach? Yep on both counts. But this production of Lyle Kessler's 1983 dark comedy of two brothers and the mysterious man they kidnap was such a complete and utter joy to watch that it would be a travesty not to honor its brilliance. The three-person cast—Pedro Balmaceda, Joshua Hutchinson and Barry Lynch—was electrifying. Elina deSantos' direction was near-flawless. And the cumulative effect was nigh close to staggering. Did we mention that we really, really liked it?

THE GEORGE JEFFERSON AWARD

WINNER: Stages and ART

This award, bestowed in honor of the famed laundry-store owner who moved from the slums to a deluxe apartment in the sky, was given to the two theaters who took the biggest strides this year in terms of physical space. Both Stages and ART moved into much larger, cleaner and better-located environs this year. In a year when several theaters opened their doors and one—the Theatre District—sadly closed theirs, it's fitting to honor two companies that decided to take big financial risks in their ongoing mission to do theater.

THE GRANDE HUEVOS AWARD

WINNER: Rude Guerrilla Theater

Rude Guerrilla's slate of plays was challenging, disturbing and by far the most provocative of any in the county. From the gruesome raw-liver scene in 'Tis Pity She's a Whoreand the dark broodiness of Unidentified Human Remainsto its risky choice to mount the gay passion play Corpus Christi and the taste of artistic director Dave Barton in inviting Arthur Hanket to Orange County to mount his searing one-man show about Jean Paul Genet, this company never stopped cranking out the surprises. Opinions are just that, and you can take issue with any of these plays in terms of quality and consistency, but you can't argue that few theaters in 1999 were as talked about—or worth talking about—as Rude Guerrilla.

The Helen Modjeska Award for contribution to Orange County Theater

WINNER: Alex and Rick Golson, Orange Coast College

In honor of the Polish-born actress who called Orange County home in the late 1800s, our lifetime achievement award goes to two brothers, Alex and Rick Golson. The Golsons, who launched the Orange Coast College Repertory Theatre in the late 1970s, attended OCC a decade before and have inspired countless students to pick up the theatrical baton. If there's a mantra among their many and varied lessons, it's "Do more with less." Their ability to teach passion and dedication are far more more important than big budgets and has helped spawn at least two of the county's most interesting theaters—Rude Guerrilla and the Hunger Artists. Dozens of other Golson protégés are pursuing their dream elsewhere.

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