Best Of :: Arts & Entertainment
Some firefighters like to make movies. And what better topic for a firefighter's movie than, well, a fire? That was Rob Bieber's idea, anyway; the Denver firefighter and a cinematographer partner made Ricky's Rib Shack in order to convey to an audience what it's really like to be in the middle of a blazing inferno. Because Bieber was on the fire department at the time they were making the film, they had unprecedented access to burning buildings while following 24 recruits through an intense, five-month-long fire academy. They were so close, in fact, that some cameras suffered damage. That's hot.
In this odd, enigmatic play by Edward Albee, Terry Burnsed played Julian, a humble priest destroyed by a Lawyer, a Cardinal, a Butler and a seductive benefactress named Alice, who may all have been acting on behalf of a corrupt and unimaginably vicious God. Burnsed's portrayal was at the heart of Tiny Alice's power and success; in fact, he acted with such integrity and passion that you wondered how he could endure repeating the role again and again through the run.
Tyee Tilghman brings dignity, subtlety and intelligent understatement to almost everything he does on a stage. This year's triumphs included a hardened street person in Curious's The Denver Project; a small but telling role in the Denver Center's Merry Wives of Windsor, where his low-key humor contrasted nicely with all the crazed hijinks going on around him; and a gravely beautiful portrayal of Orpheus in Sarah Ruhl's conceptually daring version of the Orpheus-Eurydice myth, staged — again — by Curious.
Doubt is about a priest who may or may not be molesting a young boy at his school, and the nun who, convinced of his guilt, is determined to bring him down. Jeanne Paulsen made Sister Aloysius every bit as stern and judgmental as the script required, but she also showed us there was something admirable about the woman's strength, single-mindedness and lack of sentimentality — as well as her bracing and ironic sense of humor. Every now and then, there was even a flicker of tenderness. She was, in short, riveting.
All three divas in 3 Mo' Divas sang pieces that ranged from opera to blues to disco with great authority and power. All were sensational. But Nova Y. Payton stood out. When she gave her sexy, playful, yearning rendition of Gershwin's "Summertime," you felt as if you'd never heard the song before, and she stripped "My Funny Valentine" of its corniness. Her phrasing was original and her voice a wonder. Note to Denver directors: Bring her back to us.
Two knock-it-out-of-the-park performances, and another acting display so good it almost saved a not-very-convincing play — that was Emily Paton Davies's contribution to the theater scene this year. In Crimes of the Heart, she played ditsy husband-killer Babe. Describing the killing, this girl was so sweetly and transparently reasonable that you really understood why she'd had to make herself a jug of fresh lemonade immediately afterward (she was thirsty) and then offered her husband a glass as he writhed on the carpet (it was the mannerly thing to do). In Love Song, Paton Davies showed us that she could be tough, funny, brittle and deeply tender. This actress has been on the scene for quite a while, and she gets more versatile and talented with every year that passes.