It might be difficult to understand why the main character in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird willingly subjects himself to vilification, but an actor who portrays Atticus Finch must also contend with the unsettling realization that he inhabits a role that earned Gregory Peck an Oscar in the 1962 film version. Happily, Paul Borrillo's turn in the Arvada Center's sold-out production radiated with conviction, charisma and, most of all, abiding self-respect. Whether he was dealing with his children's day-to-day crises, the community's brewing concerns or the legal system's intricate workings, the local stalwart endowed each scene with an empathy that humanized his character's professorial musings. And rather than transform Atticus's famous closing argument into a fiery lecture, Borrillo delivered a heartfelt appeal to common decency, giving full expression to a form of human goodness that Abraham Lincoln referred to as "the better angels of our nature."

It might be difficult to understand why the main character in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird willingly subjects himself to vilification, but an actor who portrays Atticus Finch must also contend with the unsettling realization that he inhabits a role that earned Gregory Peck an Oscar in the 1962 film version. Happily, Paul Borrillo's turn in the Arvada Center's sold-out production radiated with conviction, charisma and, most of all, abiding self-respect. Whether he was dealing with his children's day-to-day crises, the community's brewing concerns or the legal system's intricate workings, the local stalwart endowed each scene with an empathy that humanized his character's professorial musings. And rather than transform Atticus's famous closing argument into a fiery lecture, Borrillo delivered a heartfelt appeal to common decency, giving full expression to a form of human goodness that Abraham Lincoln referred to as "the better angels of our nature."

Sara Smith is that rare teenage performer whose precocious nature charms even as her performer's maturity refreshes. The gifted actress, who earlier this year enchanted Arvada Center theatergoers with her brave turn as Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird, exuded girlish curiosity and upright determination while starring as Mary Lennox in the Town Hall Arts Center's production of The Secret Garden. Wisely stopping short of pushing the melodramatic limits of either role, Smith responded to each new revelation -- and each subsequent dilemma -- as though it were a necessary, though ill-fitting, piece in life's jigsaw puzzle, conveying a young girl's dreams and complexities without a shred of petulance or angst.

Sara Smith is that rare teenage performer whose precocious nature charms even as her performer's maturity refreshes. The gifted actress, who earlier this year enchanted Arvada Center theatergoers with her brave turn as Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird, exuded girlish curiosity and upright determination while starring as Mary Lennox in the Town Hall Arts Center's production of The Secret Garden. Wisely stopping short of pushing the melodramatic limits of either role, Smith responded to each new revelation -- and each subsequent dilemma -- as though it were a necessary, though ill-fitting, piece in life's jigsaw puzzle, conveying a young girl's dreams and complexities without a shred of petulance or angst.

Seven months after his father suffered a stroke, Arthur Kopit tried to understand his dad's altered state by penning a series of surreal episodes that revolve around a former aviatrix's post-stroke experiences. Propelled by Terry Dodd's masterful direction, Martha Greenberg's superb portrayal proved a moving account of one woman's struggle to find her place in a strange, yet achingly familiar, world. Whether she was trying to comprehend the non sequiturs barked out by hospital aides or piecing out her own imperfections during the gratifying final scene, Greenberg maintained an iron grip on the ancient navigator's bedeviled wonderment. Backed by Charles Dean Packard's eerie lighting design and El Armstrong's unobtrusive sound effects, Greenberg's performance allowed Kopit's play to soar.

Seven months after his father suffered a stroke, Arthur Kopit tried to understand his dad's altered state by penning a series of surreal episodes that revolve around a former aviatrix's post-stroke experiences. Propelled by Terry Dodd's masterful direction, Martha Greenberg's superb portrayal proved a moving account of one woman's struggle to find her place in a strange, yet achingly familiar, world. Whether she was trying to comprehend the non sequiturs barked out by hospital aides or piecing out her own imperfections during the gratifying final scene, Greenberg maintained an iron grip on the ancient navigator's bedeviled wonderment. Backed by Charles Dean Packard's eerie lighting design and El Armstrong's unobtrusive sound effects, Greenberg's performance allowed Kopit's play to soar.

Paul Page's seemingly native ability to shoot down highfalutin ideas with a gliding, three-note "Yah" contributed to his ingratiating portrait of an armchair-philosophizing fisherman in the Aurora Fox Theatre Company's production of The Ice-Fishing Play. He conferred an easy complexity on native Minnesotan Kevin Kling's look at the intimate lives of sportsmen, at the same time touching upon every man's fear that emotional closeness invariably results in a loss of independence. Page also jerked a few tears when he related a tale that was as profound as a haunting boreal glow radiating beneath an evening squall. And regarding his attempts to remain authentic in speech and behavior, a true Minnesotan would probably say, "Oh, you betcha!"

Paul Page's seemingly native ability to shoot down highfalutin ideas with a gliding, three-note "Yah" contributed to his ingratiating portrait of an armchair-philosophizing fisherman in the Aurora Fox Theatre Company's production of The Ice-Fishing Play. He conferred an easy complexity on native Minnesotan Kevin Kling's look at the intimate lives of sportsmen, at the same time touching upon every man's fear that emotional closeness invariably results in a loss of independence. Page also jerked a few tears when he related a tale that was as profound as a haunting boreal glow radiating beneath an evening squall. And regarding his attempts to remain authentic in speech and behavior, a true Minnesotan would probably say, "Oh, you betcha!"

While director Ed Baierlein's Noh-theater-style approach initially took some getting used to, Germinal Stage Denver's production of Suddenly Last Summer proved that Tennessee Williams's powers of suggestion are surprisingly compatible with ancient Japanese drama. In keeping with Noh tradition, GSD's entire production was performed on a raised, square platform made of simulated polished cypress wood. Despite the fact that mastering the art of Noh performance requires years of training and a lifetime of experience, Baierlein elicited mesmerizing performances from the cohesive ensemble. Clad in costumer Sallie Diamond's tasteful creations, the actors properly conjured feeling rather than describing it to death, inspiring the staunchest Williams purist to think about vocalizing a Southern-style "Om."

While director Ed Baierlein's Noh-theater-style approach initially took some getting used to, Germinal Stage Denver's production of Suddenly Last Summer proved that Tennessee Williams's powers of suggestion are surprisingly compatible with ancient Japanese drama. In keeping with Noh tradition, GSD's entire production was performed on a raised, square platform made of simulated polished cypress wood. Despite the fact that mastering the art of Noh performance requires years of training and a lifetime of experience, Baierlein elicited mesmerizing performances from the cohesive ensemble. Clad in costumer Sallie Diamond's tasteful creations, the actors properly conjured feeling rather than describing it to death, inspiring the staunchest Williams purist to think about vocalizing a Southern-style "Om."

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