- BEST PERFORMANCES OF 2007-2008
- by Tim Treanor
Imagine an actor of such power, of such imagination and self-control, that he transforms the stage into a palace, and the steaming heat of downtown Washington into an icy winter’s day in 1352. Such an actor needs no set, or special effects, or lighting beyond bare illumination. The words, written by Shakespeare or Arthur Miller or Moliere, come rolling out of this actor as though he had just thought of them this minute. I am describing the actors I have designated with an “honorable mention” in my compilation of the best performances in the 2007-2008 theater season – extraordinary work that still doesn’t make it to the top ten.
Why does Washington have such great actors? Of course, sometimes we see great performances from out of town, but the home-grown supply is wonderful. It’s tempting to attribute this abundance to Washington’s primary industry: spin. In a town where people habitually summon outrage, patriotism, remorse, and other profound emotions on cue, why shouldn’t the acting be good? Likely, there are more pedestrian explanations, such as the wave of MFAs roaring out our immense local academic talent factories. Whatever the explanation, it was an astounding treat for me to see these performances in the season just past.
The Best of the Best 2007 – 2008 Season
#10. Esther Stilwell, the Lady of the Lake, Spamalot, (National Theatre). In a night given over to frivolity and supreme silliness, Stilwell was sexy, alluring, golden-throated…and insane.
#9. Andrew Long, Marc Antony, Julius Caesar, (Shakespeare Theatre). It is unusual to see such a classic role delivered with such a stunning new twist. Long and director Michael Kahn collaborated on an Antony who was all cunning and ambition. A breakout performance from a Helen Hayes laureate.
#8. Karen Eleanor Wight, Toadpipe, The Screwtape Letters, (Fellowship of the Performing Arts at Lansburgh Theatre). Wordlessly, Wight gives us a true picture of Hell while the title character, a senior demon, postures as a sort of Polonius of devils. I have never seen a character so well represented before on stage purely through carriage and gesture, and I expect not to see one again.
#7. Janet Lorraine, several roles, Cookin’ at the Cookery (Metrostage). In this wonderful musical biography of the great Alberta Hunter, Lorraine morphs from one character to next with such speed and precision as to make one wonder whether she is one of those shape-shifters we read so often about. Particularly notable: when she becomes Louis Armstrong.
#6. Adams Jones Segaller, Kit Marlowe, Kit Marlowe (Rorschach Theatre). Marlowe, as Segaller presents him, is as juicy as life itself, full of joy and energy in a world mired in treachery and cynicism. A stunning Washington debut for an actor who has since established a solid reputation.
#5. Jim Jorgenson, Satan, Last Days of Judas Iscariot (Forum Theatre). This is Satan as Satan should be – charming, elegant, witty, and as terrifying as a cobra in your bedclothes. Jorgenson has here crowned a career of playing men who are attractive and supernally evil. We will miss him, and his wife, Charlotte Akin, profoundly.
#4. Kimberly Gilbert, all roles, The K of D (Woolly Mammoth). Alone, on a nearly bare stage, Gilbert told a sad and horrifying story in such a dark, moving way that it is hard to shake the shadows off, several months later. She effortlessly inhabited males, females, children, killers. Writing a one-actor play for someone else to perform is an act of courage, but with Gilbert as the actor, it’s the safest thing in the world.
#3. Alexander Strain, Caligula, Caligula, (Washington Shakespeare Company).. Before I saw him in this performance, I thought Strain was merely a great actor. With this performance, Strain established himself as one of the few actors who can make his character seem more alive and real than we in the audience are.
#2. Karl Miller, Adam, This Storm Is What We Call Progress (Rorschach Theatre). Miller gave a supremely natural performance in a strange and haunting play; he was a man, not a character, and thus made even the invocation of Kabbalah and the magical atmospherics seem as reasonable and credible as the Metro schedule.
#1. Edward Gero, John, Shining City( Studio Theatre). Gero was a stone wonder in this role – an Irish working man, drunk on guilt, faintly ridiculous but never worthy of ridicule, a human, for better or worse. Much was made, deservedly, of his twenty-minute monologue at the play’s crisis point, but at every moment Gero was flawlessly human and real. I did not like this play at all, but Gero’s performance made it worth the price of admission.
Honorable mention (in alphabetical order):
- James T. Alfred, Dante, redshirts, Round House Theater;
- Rene Auberjonois, Argan, Imaginary Invalid, Shakespeare Theatre;
- Sara Barker, Lily, This Storm Is What We Call Progress, Rorschach Theatre; Matt Baughman, Charley, Flowers for Algernon, Landless Theater;
- John Brennan, Sir Francis Walsingham, Kit Marlowe, Rorschach Theatre;
- Frank Britton, Pontius Pilate, Last Days of Judas Iscariot; Forum Theater;
- Rena Cherry Brown, nameless woman, This Storm Is What We Call Progress, Rorschach Theatre;
- Patrick Bussink, Jesus, Last Days of Judas Iscariot, Forum Theatre;
- Rusty Clauss, Grandma Scully, Portia Coughlin, Solus Nua;
- Cyana Cook, Multiple Roles, Goodnight Moon, Adventure Theatre;
- Natascia Diaz, Monica P. Miller, Rooms, MetroStage;
- Conrad Feininger, Kissinger, Nixon’s Nixon, Round House Theater;
- Michael Feldsher, thug/lover, Dark Rapture, Spooky Action Theater;
- Dan Ferretti, Wilbur Turnblad, Hairspray, NETWorks Presentations, LLC at Warner Theatre;
- Rich Foucheaux, Willie Loman, Death of a Salesman, Arena Stage;
- Danny Gavigan, Daniel, Waverly Gallery, Didactic Theatre;
- Ed Gero, Nixon, Nixon’s Nixon, Round House Theater;
- Michael Glenn, Tennessee Williams, Theories of the Sun, Longacre Lea;
- Heather Haney, Hedda Gabler, Hedda Gabler, Washington Shakespeare Theatre;
- Brian Hemmingsen, Caiphas, Last Days of Judas Iscariot, Forum Theatre; Christopher Innvar, Petruchio, The Taming of the Shrew, Shakespeare Theatre; Dave Jourdan, Pat, The Hostage, Keegan Theatre;
- Greg Keller, Mike, 33 Variations, Arena Stage;
- James Konicek, Assassin, Edward II, Shakespeare Theatre;
- Christopher Lane, Lenny, Of Mice and Men, Olney Theatre;
- Stephen LaRoque, James Tyrone, Long Day’s Journey Into Night, Quotidian Theatre;
- Jason Lott, Dr. Giraud, Theories of the Sun, Longacre Lea;
- David Manis, Multiple Roles, Imaginary Invalid, Shakespeare Theatre;
- Anderson Matthews, Daniel, A View from the Harbor, Contemporary American Theater Festival;
- Cedric Mays, Jahzeel Wilson, redshirts, Round House Theatre;
- Jason McCool, Judas, Last Days of Judas Iscariot, Forum Theatre;
- Scott McCormick, Yousef El-Fayoumy, Last Days of Judas Iscariot, Forum Theatre;
- Frank Moorman, Butch Honeywell, Last Days of Judas Iscariot, Forum Theatre; Gia Mora, Angelique, Imaginary Invalid, Shakespeare Theatre;
- Greg Norman, Edna Turnblad, Hairspray, NETWorks Presentations, LLC at Warner Theatre;
- Vayu O’Donnell, Piers Gaveston, Edward II, Shakespeare Theatre;
- Timothy Pabon, Thom Pain, Thom Pain (based on nothing), Rep Stage;
- Robert Petkoff, Sir Robin, Spamalot, Ostar Enterprises and Bob Boyett at the National Theatre;
- Zachary Pinkham, L. Ron Hubbard, A Very Merry Unauthorized…, Landless Theater;
- Brooklyn Pulver, Tracy Turnblad, Hairspray, NETWorks Presentations, LLC at Warner Theatre;
- Chita Rivera, Claire Zachanassian, The Visit, Signature Theatre;
- Nancy Robinette, Linda Loman, Death of a Salesman, Arena Stage;
- Nancy Robinette, Toinette, The Imaginary Invalid, Shakespeare Theatre;
- Cynthia Rollins, Rose, Neglect, Journeyman Theater Company;
- Steve Schmidt, Tony Blair, Stuff Happens, Olney Theatre;
- Chris Sizemore, Ruteledge, 1776, Round House Theater;
- Michael Tolaydo, Narrator, St. Mark’s Gospel, Theatre Alliance;
- David Emerson Toney, Dr. Joseph Levay, Stick Fly, Contemporary American Theater Festival;
- Jon Townson, Bazerov, Nothing Sacred, Firebelly Productions;
- Irini Tsikurishvilli, Carmen, Carmen, Synetic Theatre;
- Stewart Walker, Eddie, Fool for Love, Spooky Action Theater;
- Regina Marie Williams, Prof. Bigelow, redshirts, Round House Theater