Banshee scores best direction award for 'The Crucible'

Last Monday night, the local theater community gathered for the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Awards at the recently opened, multimillion-dollar A Noise Within venue in Pasadena. Among the winners was the Burbank-based Theatre Banshee company, which took home three awards for the 2011 season.

Banshee co-founder Sean Branney picked up an award in best direction for the company's staging of Arthur Miller's “The Crucible,” already honored recently in the same category with a Back Stage Garland Award. The critically acclaimed production, which recreates the Salem witch trials as a scathing indictment of McCarthy-era persecution, also won a McCullough Award for Best Revival.

“We stay away from viewing previous productions of the show,” Branney said of the Banshee's approach to familiar source material without falling into the trap of remaking what's been done before. It's obviously a successful game plan, winning the company the McCullough Award for its 2008 revival of John Steinbeck's “Of Mice and Men.”

On Monday, Banshee rounded out its trifecta of LADCC honors with an award to actress Casey Kramer for her featured performance in “Dolly West's Kitchen.” In the play, Kramer appeared as the wildly confrontational matriarch of the fictitious West family. Her win is all the more impressive given that her character dies at the end of the first act.

Branney is currently directing Banshee's “The Merchant of Venice,” which runs March 24-May 13.

As the awards season comes to a close, it will be interesting to see how Banshee fares on April 2 at the L.A. Weekly Theater Awards with four nominations — two each for “The Crucible” and last season's “The Walworth Farce.”

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