Following a season in which he played a series of demanding leading roles, John Hutton took a backseat to his fellow Denver Center Theatre Company actors and, in the process, introduced audiences to his performing persona's seldom-seen byways. The lanky leading man rendered an authoritative portrait of a browbeaten bliss juggler in the world premiere of A Hotel on Marvin Gardens, and although The Winter's Tale provided him with precious few scenes in which to project Leontes's tragic depths, Hutton perfectly captured the "diseased mind" of a character often referred to by critics as an Othello who is his own Iago. In Side Man, he veered through the part of a trombone-playing heroin addict with cooler-than-hep fluidity. As Hutton himself has often done in the past, his multifaceted creations intrigued without casting a harsh glare on peripheral concerns.

Following a season in which he played a series of demanding leading roles, John Hutton took a backseat to his fellow Denver Center Theatre Company actors and, in the process, introduced audiences to his performing persona's seldom-seen byways. The lanky leading man rendered an authoritative portrait of a browbeaten bliss juggler in the world premiere of A Hotel on Marvin Gardens, and although The Winter's Tale provided him with precious few scenes in which to project Leontes's tragic depths, Hutton perfectly captured the "diseased mind" of a character often referred to by critics as an Othello who is his own Iago. In Side Man, he veered through the part of a trombone-playing heroin addict with cooler-than-hep fluidity. As Hutton himself has often done in the past, his multifaceted creations intrigued without casting a harsh glare on peripheral concerns.

For the past several seasons, Mercedes Perez has deftly portrayed supporting parts while maintaining each role's proper place in a play's grand scheme, showing her ability to be an artful team player in a business that increasingly

values novelty over craft. And this past year saw her unique talents showcased as never before. She lit up the stage as Anita in the Arvada Center's exuberant production of West Side Story and was a divine presence as a thrice-appearing choric figure that replaced the stodgy role of Father Time in the Denver Center's lavish Winter's Tale. Although she's since relocated to Aspen (where her husband is the new artistic director of Theatre-in-the-Park), Perez will, we hope, migrate periodically from the land of pointy-headed stars to play an even more supportive role in Denver's burgeoning professional scene.

For the past several seasons, Mercedes Perez has deftly portrayed supporting parts while maintaining each role's proper place in a play's grand scheme, showing her ability to be an artful team player in a business that increasingly

values novelty over craft. And this past year saw her unique talents showcased as never before. She lit up the stage as Anita in the Arvada Center's exuberant production of West Side Story and was a divine presence as a thrice-appearing choric figure that replaced the stodgy role of Father Time in the Denver Center's lavish Winter's Tale. Although she's since relocated to Aspen (where her husband is the new artistic director of Theatre-in-the-Park), Perez will, we hope, migrate periodically from the land of pointy-headed stars to play an even more supportive role in Denver's burgeoning professional scene.

It's one thing to give a sentimental nod to an esteemed veteran who for nearly fifty years has earned his living as an actor while instructing generations of up-and-comers. More than a first-rate performer and teacher, however, Tony Church consistently tries to embrace each new role as an opportunity to further his command of the craft. And throughout his nine years with the Denver Center Theatre Company, he's triumphed in

that pursuit. This past season, the former Royal Shakespearean lent insight to the role of Camillo in The Winter's Tale and delightfully ambled through the part of Johnnypateenmike in The Cripple of Inishmaan. But it was his tour de force in Give 'em a Bit of Mystery: Shakespeare and the Old Tradition that epitomized his uncanny ability to forge new magic out of old. The one-man show reawakened the ghosts of Shakespearean acting while fixing Church's place in a proud tradition of consummate -- and always gracious -- skill.

It's one thing to give a sentimental nod to an esteemed veteran who for nearly fifty years has earned his living as an actor while instructing generations of up-and-comers. More than a first-rate performer and teacher, however, Tony Church consistently tries to embrace each new role as an opportunity to further his command of the craft. And throughout his nine years with the Denver Center Theatre Company, he's triumphed in

that pursuit. This past season, the former Royal Shakespearean lent insight to the role of Camillo in The Winter's Tale and delightfully ambled through the part of Johnnypateenmike in The Cripple of Inishmaan. But it was his tour de force in Give 'em a Bit of Mystery: Shakespeare and the Old Tradition that epitomized his uncanny ability to forge new magic out of old. The one-man show reawakened the ghosts of Shakespearean acting while fixing Church's place in a proud tradition of consummate -- and always gracious -- skill.

Although the character of Martha in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is typically portrayed as a menopausal beast, newcomer Sheila Ivy Traister took a different tack that, within the context of Shadow Theatre Company's contemporary setting, proved just as valid. Filled with verbal buoys signaling undercurrents of antipathy, Traister offered up a remarkable interpretation that colored the multiracial production with a thick tincture of '90s commentary. She also summoned the unspeakable bitterness of a self-centered loner out to destroy anything that eludes her grasp. And her stylish performance in the Theatre Group's The Blue Room bestowed similar virtuosity on playwright David Hare's study of modern-day sexual ruins. Playing everything from a slinky girl who just wants to have fun to a duplicitous matron with refined political instincts, Traister shed a few inhibitions (along with her clothes) while making each character's intimate musings seem as natural and unforced as breezy pillow talk.
Although the character of Martha in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is typically portrayed as a menopausal beast, newcomer Sheila Ivy Traister took a different tack that, within the context of Shadow Theatre Company's contemporary setting, proved just as valid. Filled with verbal buoys signaling undercurrents of antipathy, Traister offered up a remarkable interpretation that colored the multiracial production with a thick tincture of '90s commentary. She also summoned the unspeakable bitterness of a self-centered loner out to destroy anything that eludes her grasp. And her stylish performance in the Theatre Group's The Blue Room bestowed similar virtuosity on playwright David Hare's study of modern-day sexual ruins. Playing everything from a slinky girl who just wants to have fun to a duplicitous matron with refined political instincts, Traister shed a few inhibitions (along with her clothes) while making each character's intimate musings seem as natural and unforced as breezy pillow talk.
Whether professional or amateur, mainstream-minded or avant-garde, a theater company rises or falls on its willingness to reconcile commercial interests with artistic demands. And while engaging a pail of local Equity actors would normally be considered a financial risk for smaller theater companies, that's exactly what the Aurora Fox Theatre Company did for its final show of the season. That calculated -- and laudable -- gamble capped a successful string of highly entertaining, modestly professional efforts. From the hauntingly poetical Wings to the zanily philosophical The Ice-Fishing Play to the bitingly satirical Nixon's Nixon, the publicly funded troupe discovered newfound potency by injecting itself, as well as its audiences, with a healthy dose of creative Viagra.

Readers' choice: Denver Center Theatre Company

Whether professional or amateur, mainstream-minded or avant-garde, a theater company rises or falls on its willingness to reconcile commercial interests with artistic demands. And while engaging a pail of local Equity actors would normally be considered a financial risk for smaller theater companies, that's exactly what the Aurora Fox Theatre Company did for its final show of the season. That calculated -- and laudable -- gamble capped a successful string of highly entertaining, modestly professional efforts. From the hauntingly poetical Wings to the zanily philosophical The Ice-Fishing Play to the bitingly satirical Nixon's Nixon, the publicly funded troupe discovered newfound potency by injecting itself, as well as its audiences, with a healthy dose of creative Viagra.

Readers' choice: Denver Center Theatre Company

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