L. A. Theater Wins Prove Less Is More : Awards: Small productions are big with drama critics, earning 25 of 30 honors. 'The Visit' and 'Counsellor-at-Law' garner seven each.


Small theaters swept the Los Angeles Drama Critics' Circle awards announced Monday evening, taking 25 of 30 honors. Tied for most awards, with seven each, were two intimate revivals: the Pacific Resident Theatre Ensemble's production of Friedrich Durrenmatt's "The Visit," and Interact Theatre's staging of Elmer Rice's "Counsellor-at-Law."

Both revivals were recognized for outstanding production, as was another small theater show, Matrix Theatre's "The Seagull." "Counsellor-at-Law" also achieved the unusual distinction of being honored with three awards in a single category--featured performance--with Mary Carver, Jane Lanier and Marilyn McIntyre all getting awards. (Because the critics' circle does not designate "bests," there can be multiple recipients, or none, in any category.)

Center Theatre Group and South Coast Repertory, the two large resident theater companies that usually dominate the awards, made only a scant showing, with Center Theatre Group receiving only one honor--musical direction for "Smokey Joe's Cafe," an Ahmanson at the Doolittle Theatre production--and South Coast taking none.

The remaining awards for large-scale shows included three for the touring production of "The Who's Tommy" at Universal Amphitheatre and one for "Sayonara," part of the now-defunct musical series at the Alex Theatre, for costume design.

With the seven awards garnered by Interact's "Counsellor-at-Law," which is still playing in North Hollywood, and the three earned by "Tommy" for its Universal City run, it was an unusually strong showing for productions in the San Fernando Valley.

Other smaller productions given multiple awards include three for Actors Co-op's just reopened nostalgic musical, "The 1940's Radio Hour"--which had earned eight nominations, as had "Tommy"--and two each for "The Seagull" and the Theatre Group's "Dylan" at the Skylight Theatre. As previously announced, "The Collected Plays of Justin Tanner" at the Cast Theatre received two special awards.

The awards were announced during a dinner ceremony at the Sportsmen's Lodge in Studio City, emceed by Lynn Redgrave.

The award recipients:

* Production: "Counsellor-at-Law, Interact Theatre; "The Seagull," Matrix Theatre; "The Visit," Pacific Resident Theatre Ensemble.

* Direction: Alan Johnson, "The 1940's Radio Hour"; Milton Katselas, "The Seagull"; John Rubinstein and Anita Khanzadian, "Counsellor-at-Law"; Stephanie Shroyer, "The Visit."

* Writing: Scott McPherson, "Marvin's Room," Tiffany Theatre.

* Lead Performance: Nancy Linehan Charles, "The Visit,"; Pat Destro, "Dylan"; Marilyn Fox, "Awake and Sing," Odyssey Theatre; Dave Higgins, "Dylan"; John Rubinstein, "Counsellor-at-Law."

* Featured Performance: Mary Carver, "Counsellor-at-Law"; Jane Lanier, "Counsellor-at-Law"; Marilyn McIntyre, "Counsellor-at-Law."

* Creation Performance: Colin Martin, "Virgins & Other Myths," Theatre Geo.

* Scenic Design: John Arnone, "The Who's Tommy"; Matthew C. Jacobs, "The Visit"; Bradley Kaye, "Counsellor-at-Law."

* Lighting Design: Deena Lynn Mullen, "The Visit"; Chris Parry, "The Who's Tommy."

* Costume Design: Jonathan Bixby, "Sayonara," Alex Theatre; Cara Varnett, "The Visit."

* Sound Design: Alan Faulkner, "The 1940's Radio Hour."

* Musical Direction: Brian Miller, "The 1940's Radio Hour"; Louis St. Louis, "Smokey Joe's Cafe," Ahmanson at the Doolittle Theatre.

* Choreography: Wayne Cilento, "The Who's Tommy."

* Music and Lyrics: Stephen Sondheim, "Assassins."

* Original Music: Tom Gerou, "The Visit."

* Ted Schmitt Award: Justin Tanner, "Pot Mom."

*Margaret Harford Award: Theatre 40.

* Angstrom Lighting Award: Ken Booth.

* Special Awards: The Cast Theatre and Justin Tanner for "The Collected Plays of Justin Tanner"; Tim Miller and Highways.

* Lifetime Achievement: Betty Garrett.

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