Berkshires theater's best storytellers in 2018

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Stories don't tell themselves, especially in theater where storytelling is a collaboration among writers, composers, lyricists, performers, directors and designers. So, here's a shout-out to the stage artists who, in my opinion, told stories in uncommonly accomplished ways in 2018.

One note: "Honorable mention" and "noteworthy" designations are listed in order of having been seen. "Special mentions" are listed in no particular order.

                                                                 PERFORMANCES

ACTORS

For me, the most accomplished performance by an actor in 2018 was Jonathan Epstein's galvanic portrayal of Gustav, a man on a take-no-prisoners mission in Shakespeare & Company's production of August Strindberg's "Creditors." A consummate professional, Epstein was at the top of his form in a powerful, commanding performance that left no psychological or emotional stone unturned.

Honorable mentions: Brooks Ashmanskas went for broke without self-indulgent excess in "The Closet" at Williamstown Theatre Festival; Ray Anthony Tyler was endearing, affecting and authentic as the title-role character in "Artney Jackson," also at Williamstown; David Adkins brought elegance, grace and poignancy to the conflicted philosophical Alan Squier in Berkshire Theatre Group's production of "The Petrified Forest"; and Bill Mootos delivered a seamless, touching, beautifully calibrated performance in Shakespeare & Company's "Mothers and Sons."

Noteworthy:

— Jamison Stern, "The Legend of Georgia McBride," TheaterWorks

— Tom Whaley, "QWERTY," Mixed Company

— Graham Rowat, "Church & State," Berkshire Theatre Group

— Will Hochman, "The Sound Inside," Williamstown Theatre Festival

— Andrew Cekala, "Hair," Berkshire Theatre Group

— Christopher Innvar, "A Doll's House, Part 2." Barrington Stage Company

— Andrew Samonsky, "Lempicka," WTF

— Sean Ewing, "West Side Story," BSC

— Tyler Hanes, "West Side Story," BSC

— Malcolm Ingram, "Heisenberg," Shakespeare & Company

— Miles Mykkanen, "Candide," Tanglewood

— Paul Urriola, "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee," The Theater Barn

— Xavier McKnight, "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee," The Theater Barn

— Mark "Monk" Schane-Lydon, "The Decorator." The Theater Barn

— Adam Huff, "HIR," Shakespeare & Company

— Thomas Silcott, "The Royale," Capital Repertory Theatre

— Mark W. Soucy, "The Royale." Capital Repertory Theatre

— Martin Jason Asprey, "Long Day's Journey Into Night," Oldcastle Theatre Company

— Peter Francis James, "Henry V," Hartford Stage

— Billy Carter, "The River," TheaterWorks

ACTRESSES

Male or female, the standout performance of 2018 for me was Mary-Louise Parker's stunning Bella Baird in Adam Rapp's "The Sound Inside" — a master class in the art and craft of acting. Parker navigated the emotional tightrope on which Bella was precariously balanced with a richly nuanced, haunting combination of wry wit, self-realization, curiosity, certainty, uncertainty, acceptance, loss and longing. Parker went deep beneath the skin of a complex character trying to come to terms with some loose ends in her life as her art and the reality of her life came together. Breathtaking. Simply breathtaking.

Honorable mentions: Deann Halper as Elmira in a haunting, gripping, expertly constructed monologue that was part of Joan Ackerman's evening of four short plays under the umbrella title "QWERTY," at Mixed Company; Debra Jo Rupp who definitely was on her game as a baker in a small town in North Carolina who is faced with unexpected challenges in "The Cake" at Barrington Stage Company; Eden Espinosa in a riveting performance as Tamara de Lempicka in "Lempicka" at Willimstown Theatre Festival; a luminous Rebecca Brooksher as an at-once knowing and ingenuous Gabby Maple in BTG's "The Petrified Forest"; and an absolutely inspired Harriet Harris as Sister Mary Ignatius in Christopher Durang's "Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All for You" at BTG's Unicorn Theatre.

Noteworthy:

— Keri Safran, "The Run-On Sentence," Barrington Stage Company (10X10 Festival of New Plays)

— Yvonne Perry, "Blithe Spirit," Capital Repertory Theatre

— Eileen Schuyler, "Blithe Spirit," Capital Repertory Theatre

— Judy Jerome, "Church & State," Berkshire Theatre Group

— Nemuna Ceesay, "The Cake," BSC

— Portia, "Artney Jackson," WTF

— Carmen Cusack, "Lempicka," WTF

— Marielle Young, "Mary's Wedding," Chester Theatre Company

— Roslyn Ruff, "The Member of the Wedding," WTF

— Jennifer Van Dyke, "The Petrified Forest," BTG

— Alexa Renee, "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee," The Theater Barn

— Ella Loudon, "As You Like It," Shakespeare & Company

— Myxolydia Tyler, "Well Intentioned White People," BSC

— Kathleen Carey, "The Decorator," The Theater Barn

— Elizabeth Aspenlieder, "HIR," Shakespeare & Company

— Ramona L. Alexander, "The Royale," Capital Repertory Theatre

— Felicity Jones Latta, "Henry V," Hartford Stage

— Andrea Goss, "The River," TheaterWorks

SPECIAL MENTIONS

— Daniel Osman, for his performance in "White Rabbit, Red Rabbit" at Chester Theatre Company

— The casts of "Artney Jackson," "Seared," "Dangerous House" at Williamstown Theatre Festival, and "The Petrified Forest" at BTG and "Candide" at Tanglewood — for their extraordinary sense of ensemble in the fullest sense of that word

                                                                           DIRECTION

DIRECTORS

The best: By far the most accomplished work was David Cromer's delicate, penetrating work on "The Sound Inside" at Williamstown and Alison Moritz' bold, imaginative, inventive, theatrical work on "Candide" at Tanglewood.

Noteworthy:

— Maggie Mancinelli-Cahill, "Blithe Spirit," Capital Repertory Theatre

— Jennifer Chambers, "The Cake," BSC

— Laura Savia, "Artney Jackson," WTF

— Rachel Chavkin, "Lempicka," WTF

— Moritz Von Stuelpnagel, "Seared," WTF

— David Auburn, "The Petrified Forest," BTG

— Matthew Penn, "Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You" and "The Actor's Nightmare," BTG

— Marc de la Concha, "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee," The Theater Barn

— James Warwick, "Mothers and Sons," Shakespeare & Company

— Megan Sandberg-Zakian, "The Royale," Capital Repertory Theatre

— Rob Ruggiero, "The River," TheaterWorks

CHOREOGRAPHY

The best: Robert La Fosse, "West Side Story" (BSC); and John Heginbotham, "Candide" (Tanglewood)

Noteworthy — Lisa Shriver, "Hair" (BTG); Raja Feather Kelly, "Lempicka" (WTF); Marc de la Concha, "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" (The Theater Barn); and Kyle Vincent-Terry, fight choreography, "The Royale" (Capital Repertory Theatre)

MUSIC DIRECTION

The best: Eric Jacobsen, "Candide" (Tanglewood)

Noteworthy — Eric Svejcar, "Hair" (BTG); Charity Weeks, "Lempicka" (WTF); and Ollie Townsend, "Pump Boys and Dinettes" and "The 2r5th Annual Putnam County Spelling bee" (both at The Theater Barn)



                                                                                DESIGNERS

LIGHTING

The best: Heather Gilbert, "The Sound Inside" (WTF)

Noteworthy — Ken Billington, "Murder on the Orient Express" (Hartford Stage); Travis McHale, "Blithe Spirit" (Capital Repertory Theatre); Oliver Wason, "The Chinese lady" (BSC); Bradley King, "Lemopicka" (WETF); Daniel J. Kotlowitz, "The Petrified Forest" (BTG); and John Lasiter, "The River" (TheaterWorks)

SCENIC

The best: Alexander Woolcott, "The Sound Inside" (WTF); Tim Mackabee, "The Cake" (BSC); and Brian Prather, "The River" (TheaterWorks)

Noteworthy — Beowulf Boritt, "Murder on the Orient Express" (Hartford Stage); Brian Prather, "Blithe Spirit" (Capital Repertory Theatre); Cristina Tedesco, "Macbeth" (Shakespeare & Company); Arnulfo Maldonado, "Artney Jackson" (WTF); John McDermott, "Creditors" (Shakespeare & Company); Riccardo Hernandez, "Lempicka" (WTF); Wilson Chin, "The Petrified Forest" (BTG); Patrick Brennan, "Mothers and Sons" (Shakespeare & Company); Carolyn Mraz, "HIR" (Shakespeare & Company); and Antje Ellerman, "Make Believe" (Hartford Stage)

COSTUMES

The best: Amanda Seymour, "Candide" (Tanglewood); Montana Levi Blanco, "Lempicka" (WTF); and William Ivey Long, "Murder on the Orient Express" (Hartford Stage)

Noteworthy — Howard Tsvi Kaplan, "Blithe Spirit" (Capital Repertory Theatre); Emilio Sosa, "Artney Jackson" (WTF); Deborah Brothers, "Creditors" (Shakespeare & Company); Hunter Kaczorowski, "The Petrified Forest" (BTG); and Govane Lohbauer, "As You Like It" (Shakespeare & Company)

SOUND

Fabian Obispo, "The Chinese Lady" (BSC)

ORIGINAL INCIDENTAL MUSIC

Alexander Sovronsky, "The Cake" (BSC); and Francis Obispo, "The Chinese Lady" (BSC)

SPECIAL MENTION

Tommy Kurzman, wig and make-up design for "Candide" at Tanglewood

     

     




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