Best of WNY 2011: Out & About Part I
MusicalFare's "My Fair Lady"
Best fulfillment of artistic mission (gallery)
Albright-Knox Art Gallery
In today’s shifting economic realities, the Albright-Knox has demonstrated imagination and panache by continually creating fresh contexts for its rich in-house collection that cut across diverse aesthetic terrain. The gallery’s signature pieces serve as foundations for frequent “remixes” that mine some deep archives for little-seen works, casting a revealing new light on the whole collection. The result is art presented more like the ongoing dynamic process it is, rather than a fixed set of sacred historic relics.
Must-See Art Exhibition of 2010-11
Heatwaves in a Swamp (Burchfield Penney Art Center)
This much-lauded traveling exhibition organized by UCLA’s Hammer Museum became the Charles Burchfield Show for People Who Didn’t Think They Cared Much for Burchfield. Curator Robert Gober, himself a renowned sculptor, cast new light on previously unsung aspects of the watercolorist’s work, configuring the exhibition as a large-scale installation—with ample amounts of bonus material courtesy of the BPAC crew, who know a thing or two about the subject themselves. The show put Burchfield (back) on the national radar, in the process providing one of WNY’s most consistently innovative museums with a completely fresh spin on their namesake.
Coolest non-art museum or historic site
People are drawn to the water and will find their way to the shore no matter what barriers nature or the New York State Thruway Authority place before them. There is a lot to love about Canalside, but the best thing may be that it exists at all. The Erie Canal and specifically the restored Commercial Slip are the WNY equivalent of the Alamo, monuments to a point when the history of the United States became the history of a continent. This is a great place to contemplate history or to enjoy a breeze off the lake. The historical markers are unusually well done, particularly the transparencies.
Best fulfillment of artistic mission (theater)
Irish Classical Theatre Company
While remaining distinctively Irish (Shining City) and Classical (James Joyce’s The Dead), the ICTC’s very intriguing twentieth anniversary season stayed true to itself, yet still offered something old (Cat on a Hot Tin Roof), something new (The Cant), something “borrowed” (Playboy of the Western World—from an earlier season), and something blue (The Mandrake). Guided by constant local favorite Vincent O’Neill (ICTC artistic director), Irish Classical’s output is a true gift to the WNY community. And after twenty years of outstanding productions, she still looks great. Let’s keep her.
Most underrated theater production
My Fair Lady (MusicalFare)
It was easy to grow accustomed to the face of bright new talent Edith Grossman as one of the best Eliza Doolittles in years. This condensed production of the Lerner and Loewe classic was refreshingly brisk and wonderfully executed. Director Susan Drozd orchestrated an efficient piece of summerfare (so to speak) that was indeed “loverly.” With a little bit of luck, we’ll see more from this team soon.
Most unique theater space
The Liberty Building and environs
Legendary director Peter Brook once said, “I can take any empty space and call it a stage.” While WNY has no shortage of versatile venues—including the home bases of Alt., Buffalo Lab Theatre, BUA, and Torn Space—the most unique stage in 2010 was the normally empty space between the twin Statues of Liberty high atop one of the city’s most iconic buildings on the late-summer evening when Didier Pasquette took a not-so-leisurely stroll along a tightrope to kick off Beyond/In WNY. Equally unique was the audience configuration: oddly positioned pockets of crowded sidewalk scattered throughout an otherwise underpopulated downtown. It was a Brooks-worthy coup.
Best theater production
The Last Days Of Judas Iscariot, (Road Less Traveled Theatre)
Though Ujima’s Ruined and Alt’s Gutenberg! The Musical! were notable standouts, Road Less Traveled’s Judas Iscariot earns our best production nod for both ambition and across-the-“boards” excellence. Staging anything with fourteen actors (many double- or triple-cast) is a monumental undertaking in terms of both budget and logistics, yet RLTP pulled it off with panache, populating a jaw-dropping set with an all-star cast of Buffalo’s top talent. Under Scott Behrend’s steadfast direction, the seamless ensemble took Stephen Adly Guirgis’ complex script and skillfully mined it for its wealth of humor and ideas, never sacrificing one for the other. Judas was more than a show; it was an experience. We hope you didn’t miss it.