Monday, December 29
Scattered amid the general dross this year in theater was some pure gold; gems of performance, direction and design. Here they are.

"Noteworthy" performances, direction and design are listed in order of being seen.

Actors

Two actors share best actor honors this year — David Adkins and Stephen DeRosa, as, respectively, Vladimir and Estragon in Anders Cato's luminous production of Samuel Beckett's "Waiting For Godot" in Berkshire Theatre Festival's Unicorn Theatre. In this wonderfully seamless pair, one began where the other left off. They were inseparable and, at the same time, distinctive. Inspired and unforgettable.

Honorable mentions:

J. Tucker Smith for his stunning performance as Ray, a man who cannot break free of his shocking past, in "Blackbird" at TheaterWorks in Hartford, Conn.; and Dylan Chalfy as Howie, a father trying to hold things together in the wake of tragedy in "Rabbit Hole," also at TheaterWorks.

Other noteworthy performances:

Jonathan Epstein, "The Caretaker" (BTF); James Barry, "The Caretaker" (BTF); Tommy Schrider, "The Caretaker" (BTF); Kevin Anderson, "The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore" (Hartford Stage); Michel Gill, "Candida" (BTF); Brooks Ashmanskas, "She Loves Me" (WTF); Mark Nelson, "She Loves Me" (WTF); Marc Victor, "She Loves Me" (WTF); Wendell Pierce, "Broke-Ology" (WTF); Alec Silberman, "Rabbit Hole" (TheaterWorks); Steve Ray Dallimore, "Three Sisters" (WTF); Richard Howe, "Bedroom Farce" (Oldcastle Theatre Company); Reg Rogers, "The Understudy" (WTF); David Schramm, "Waiting For Godot" (BTF); Randy Harrison, "Waiting For Godot" (BTF); Thomas Kee, "The Goatwoman of Corvis County" (Shakespeare & Company); Martin LaPlatney, "Falling: A Wake" (Stageworks/Hudson); Dean Nolen, "The Seafarer" (TheaterWorks); Edmond Genest, "The Seafarer" (TheaterWorks).

Actresses

Beth Wittig, a young actress from Albany, N.Y., made a wrenching, unforgettable professional stage debut as the anguished, deeply wounded Una in "Blackbird" at TheaterWorks in Hartford, Conn. Wittig didn't miss a beat in her portrayal of a hugely complicated woman who has been made damaged goods by a relationship 15 years earlier, when she was only 12, with a man nearly twice her age. I can't wait to see what the future holds for this actress.

Honorable mentions:

Gretchen Egolf, a memorable Amanda Prynne in Barrington Stage Company's "Private Lives"; and Erika Rolfsrud as a mother coping with the death of her 4-year-old son in "Rabbit Hole" at TheaterWorks.

Other noteworthy performances:

Henny Russell, "The Scene" (Hartford Stage); Christy McIntosh, "The Scene" (Hartford Stage); Maggie Lacey, "The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore" (Hartford Stage); Kate Burton, "Beyond Therapy" (WTF); Jayne Atkinson, "Candida" (BTF); Joey Parsons, "Rabbit Hole" (TheaterWorks); Jo Twiss, "Rabbit Hole" (TheaterWorks); Daryl Kenny, "Bedroom Farce"(Oldcastle Theatre Company); Keira Naughton, "The Goatwoman of Corvis County" (Shakespeare & Company); Susan Greenhill, "Falling: A Wake" (Stageworks/Hudson)

Directors, choreographers

With extraordinary finesse, director Amy Saltz navigated the intense layers of David Harrower's harrowing "Blackbird" at TheaterWorks with exceptional skill and understanding. The result was 78 minutes of the most compelling, riveting, profoundly unsettling theater I've seen in some time.

Honorable mentions:

Anders Cato for his inventive, liberating approach to "Waiting For Godot" at BTF; Rob Ruggiero, who was at the top of his form with his delicately shaped production of "Rabbit Hole" at TheaterWorks.

Other noteworthy direction:

Eric Hill, "The Caretaker" (BTF); Joe Colarco, "The Mysteries of Harris Burdick" (Barrington Stage Company); Nicholas Martin, "She Loves Me" (WTF); Thomas Kail, "Broke-Ology" (WTF); John Rando, "A Flea in Her Ear" (WTF); Laura Margolis, "Falling: A Wake" (Stageworks/Hudson).

Musical direction:

Vadim Feichtner, "The Mysteries of Harris Burdick" (Barrington Stage Company).

Honorable mention — Brian Usifer, "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" (Barrington Stage Company)

Choreography:

Denis Jones, "She Loves Me" (WTF).

Honorable mentions — Dan Knechtges, "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" (Barrington Stage Company); Tralen Doler, "Dames at Sea" (C-R Productions)

Designers

Sets:

Luke Hegel-Cantarella, "Rabbit Hole" (TheaterWorks).

Honorable mentions — Luke Hegel-Cantarella, "Blackbird" (TheaterWorks); Richard Howe, "Trying" (Oldcastle Theatre Company); Jonathan Wentz, "The Caretaker" (BTF); Abe Phelps, "How the Other Half Loves" (The Theater Barn); Hugh Landwehr, "Candida" (BTF); Brian Prather, "The Mysteries of Harris Burdick" (Barrington Stage Company); James Noone, "She Loves Me" (WTF); Donyale Werle, "Broke-Ology" (WTF); Allen Moyer, "Three Sisters" (WTF); Wilson Chin, "The Violet Hour" (Barrington Stage Company); Alexander Dodge, "The Understudy" (WTF); Lee Savage, "Waiting For Godot" (BTF); John Pollard, "Falling: A Wake" (Stageworks/Hudson); Adrian W. Jones, "The Seafarer"(TheaterWorks).

Lighting:

Jeff Davis, "Waiting For Godot" (BTF).

Honorable mentions — Chris Lee, "The Mysteries of Harris Burdick" (Barrington Stage Company); Kenneth Posner and Philip Rosenberg, "She Loves Me" (WTF); Kenneth Posner, "Three Sisters" (WTF); Kenneth Posner, "The Understudy" (WTF); Frank Den Danto III, "Falling: A Wake" (Stageworks/Hudson).

Costumes:

Yoshinori Tanokura, "The Caretaker" (BTF). Honorable mentions — Michelle Blanchard, "How the Other Half Loves" (The Theater Barn); Robert Morgan, "She Loves Me" (WTF); Clint Ramos, "Three Sisters" (WTF); Janet Sussman, "Falling: A Wake" (Stageworks/Hudson).

Sound:

Will Severin, "Falling: A Wake" (Stageworks/Hudson).

Honorable mentions — J Hagenbuckle, "Blackbird" (TheaterWorks); J Hagenbuckle, "The Caretaker" (BTF); Drew Levy and Tony Smolensky, "She Loves Me" (WTF); Walter Trarbach, "Three Sisters" (WTF); Scott Killian, "Waiting For Godot" (BTF)

Original music:

J Hagenbuckle, "The Caretaker"(BTF).

Honorable mentions — Michael Friedman, "Three Sisters" (WTF); Will Severin, "Falling: A Wake" (Stageworks/Hudson).

Special mentions

Some images remain indelibly etched in my memory.

1. A moment in Oldcastle Theatre Company's production of Alan Ayckbourn's "Bedroom Farce" in which, with not a word spoken, actress Daryl Kenny beautifully caught the isolation and loneliness of a married woman named Kate who unexpectedly finds herself considering, after years of marriage, what the future holds for herself and what appears to everyone, including herself, to be a happy and successful marriage

2. A sizzling seduction scene in the Hartford Stage production of "The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore" between Kevin Anderson's wanderer, Chris Flanders, and Maggie Lacey's starchy personal assistant, Blackie, that, by the end, left the two of them as naked and exposed as if they had actually disrobed.

3. That carefully calibrated moment in "Falling: A Wake" at Stageworks/Hudson that called for the play's two living characters to both be absent from the stage at the same frighteningly long time.

4. In "Rabbit Hole" at TheaterWorks, Darin Chalfy's Howie sitting alone in the living room of his house late at night, hours after having tried, unsuccessfully, to seduce his wife, silently watching a video of his son, who died eight months earlier in a senseless accident.

To reach Jeffrey Borak: jborak@berkshireeagle.com; (413) 496-6212