The Circle Theatre production of "When the Rain Stops Falling," a prismatic drama by Andrew Bovell set in Australia, and "Smokey Joe's Cafe," a rocking musical revue of the songs of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, emerged as the big winners at Monday night's Non-Equity Jeff Awards, each winning multiple awards including, respectively, best production of a play and best production of a revue.
Circle Theatre spent most its history in west suburban Forest Park but recently relocated to Chicago. "Smokey Joe" was a production of the Rogers Park-based Theo Ubique Theatre Company, long a favorite of the Jeff Committee. A number from the show rocked the house Monday night at the Park West nighterie.
"Under a Rainbow Flag," a new musical about gay servicemen staged by the relatively new Pride Films and Plays, was named best musical of the 2012-13 non-Equity season, with an additional Jeff going to its author, Leo Schwartz, in the category of best new work.
The Den Theatre, another relatively new group, also did well Monday night, winning three Jeff Awards for its production of "City of Dreadful Night."
Monday's ceremony featured a variety of presenters chosen to honor the 40th anniversary of the Non-Equity Jeff Awards, including Roberts Falls and Mike Nussbaum. The best acceptance speech came from Linsday Pearlman. Pearlman, a winner as best actress, delivered a ththoroughly beguiling speech mixing shock, gratitude and panic.
The Jeff Award for best ensemble — traditionally one of the most coveted awards in a theater community that celebrates ensemble work — went to the acting company of the Sideshow Theatre Company production of "Idomeneus." Honored leading actors of the night included Lindsey Pearlman, Jeremy Trager, Kelli Harrington and Peter Oyloe, with Blake Montgomery winning a Jeff for his solo performance at the Building Stage.
The 2013 Non-Equity Jeffs were held Monday night at Park West, the usual home for the ceremony — which honors theaters that operate without a contract with the Actors' Equity union and thus often feature younger artists. Unlike in previous years, no categories (other than specialization) had multiple winners.
A special Jeff was given to the clearly moved Rich Cotovsky, a colorful fixture on the non-Equity scene in Chicago for decades and artistic director of the venerable Mary-Arrchie Theatre Company. Cotovsky described the storefront scene as "ripe for taking over."
"Keep up the good work," he said.
Winners of the 2013 Non-Equity Jeff Awards
PRODUCTION PLAY: "When the Rain Stops Falling," Circle Theatre
PRODUCTION MUSICAL: "Under a Rainbow Flag," Pride Films and Plays
PRODUCTION REVUE: "Smokey Joe's Cafe," Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre
ENSEMBLE: "Idomeneus," Sideshow Theatre Company
DIRECTOR PLAY: John Gawlik, "When the Rain Stops Falling," Circle Theatre
DIRECTOR MUSICAL OR REVUE: Brenda Didier, "Smokey Joe's Cafe," Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre
ACTRESS IN A PRINCIPAL ROLE PLAY: Lindsey Pearlman, "Never the Bridesmaid," Polarity Ensemble Theatre
ACTOR IN A PRINCIPAL ROLE PLAY: Jeremy Trager, "Hauptmann," Bohemian Theatre Ensemble
ACTRESS IN A PRINCIPAL ROLE MUSICAL: Kelli Harrington, "Aspects of Love," Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre
ACTOR IN A PRINCIPAL ROLE MUSICAL: Peter Oyloe, "Hank Williams: Lost Highway," Filament Theatre Ensemble