Best Original Script 2003 | Nagle JacksonBernice/Butterfly: A Two-Part Invention | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
This play celebrates the kind of vanishing small-town eatery that once functioned as the heart of its community. Nagle Jackson's script was smart, literate, absorbing and feelingful. But part of its success laid with the actors, Kathleen M. Brady and Jamie Horton, for whom Jackson specifically wrote the play as tribute to the trio's long association. Brady and Horton created multi-dimensional, vulnerable characters who animated this funny and touching show and left a lingering sense of sweetness.
The LIDA Project developed this play through improvisational exercises, and the result was a hallucinatory and grimly humorous exploration of a feverish time in North American history and politics. You could see the months of rehearsal in the way the actors worked together on stage, strong in their individual segments, comically synchronized when they were singing and dancing, sometimes seeming like the tentacles of one breathing creature. Every performer, from Guy Williams as a mind-blowing Manson to Jadelynn Stahl as vicious Sexy Sadie, gave a deeply committed performance.

Best Tragic Gay Love Story Playing at a Punk-Rock Club

Hedwig and the Angry Inch

After a run at the Wave nightclub, the East German misfit who married an American G. I. belted out the borscht about the inequities of the rock-star life at the Climax Lounge, one of Denver's newest independent music venues. Do those angry young men and women dancing in the aisles know how far equal opportunity entertainment has come? You betcha!

Usually when Americans mess with anything British, we ruin it. But this musical version of

the award-winning 1997 film stayed true to what really is a generous-hearted fairy tale with perceptive and thoughtful things to say about the human condition. And among an excellent and well-seasoned cast, Christian Anderson was truly a standout, providing genuine feeling in the often sterile big-musical genre. He came off as a convincing working-class stiff -- graceful in a boyish, macho way, and appropriately awkward when he was actually trying to dance. He's a fine actor, a good singer and a complete charmer. Too bad the coy, backlit ending prevented us from really assessing the quality of his behind.

Mary Louise Lee's evocation of doomed, legendary jazz singer Billie Holiday was the kind of performance that stays with you for weeks. She shouted out her jokes and awarded them her own raucous laughter. She communicated raunchiness, pain and vulnerability. Her voice was smooth as glass, her phrasing sinuous as she brought the standards and a host of lesser-known songs to life. "God Bless the Child" was radiant and pure, and "Strange Fruit" chilled to the marrow.

We first met Geoffrey Nauffts when his character, Malcolm, was attempting suicide. Once resuscitated, Malcolm remained as swoony, strange, dreamy and off-kilter as when his car's exhaust was working on him. And his coming-out love affair with a fellow worker melted your heart -- at the same time it gave hope to true romantics everywhere. Bottoms up!

Charles Weldon gave Jim Becker, the uptight protagonist of August Wilson's play about life in a cab company, paternal gravitas and a rare, generous smile that seemed to forgive the sins of the world. Then -- just in case anyone thought this performance was a fluke -- he seduced the audience of King Hedley II this year as the raffish, silken con man Elmore.

Mare Trevathan Philpott is always a joy to watch, and in Skriker, she got to strut almost all her stuff in one evening. The Skriker is a strange, shape-changing, atavistic fairy creature who talks nonstop in a mix of puns, metaphors, rhymes and allusions. She manifests herself differently to each individual she encounters -- wheedling, seducing, empathizing and bullying as needed. In a tour de force performance, Philpott did all of this with clarity, feeling and intelligence.
Harvey Blanks has given two brilliant performances in plays by August Wilson this year, and he wins for his work as the strange, affable, dangerous Turnbo in Jitney. Blanks can be incredibly funny or full of emotion. Whatever the sentiment, he gives it everything he's got -- heart, soul, voice and body.

Roslyn Washington played the kind of best friend every woman wants: warm and empathetic, full of dumb, endearing jokes. And her humorously faked orgasm was far richer and funnier than Meg Ryan's gasps and twitches in When Harry Met Sally....

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