Hi-Hat Hattie was a sentimental, one-dimensional piece of theater, but Sheryl Renee made it work. She's a fine actress, but it was her vocal abilities that transfixed us as she sang a mix of blues, funk and show music. At times, Renee's voice emanated from the depths of her being; at others, it soared operatically high. Her phrasing was sophisticated, and she could be funny, silkily seductive or downright tragic at will.

Randy Moore's Scrooge was pinch-mouthed and mean, but he was also an aging child, with a child's unconcern for decency and politeness, as well as a vulnerability. Although Moore has played the role for several years, this was his most joyous and deeply felt performance. When the reformed Scrooge humbly asked the charitable couple he had turned away in the first scene, "Will you come and see me?," all the loneliness of his empty, money-grubbing days yawned beneath the words. When he took a deep breath and said, "To be alive...," the next words could just as well have described his performance: "It's glorious."

Anna is one-half of a prickly lesbian couple that forms the heart of Boston Marriage, David Mamet's first play to feature female protagonists. She likes falling dramatically onto the chaise lounge, having the vapors, exploring flights of self-pitying fantasy, and tossing off acerbic witticisms. In a tour-de-force performance, Annette Helde did all this with feeling, wit and precision.

The Fourth Wall featured a housewife so distressed by contemporary politics that she arranged the furniture to create an invisible fourth wall in her living room. Rhonda Lee Brown played Julia, a brittle interior decorator from New York, brought in by the protagonist's husband to help unravel her motives. Affected by the stagy living-room setup, Julia began acting as if she were indeed on stage, trying on various characterizations and making up the plot as she went along. Maintaining the difference between acting and Acting is a difficult task for a performer, but Rhonda Lee Brown did it to bitchy, preening perfection.

Tongue of a Bird is a pretentious, forgettable play about a woman pilot searching the mountains for a lost child. But it had a bright spot in teenage actor Brittany Heileman. She appeared to the protagonist in visions, her face bloodied, in a performance that was sharp, quick, cheerful and without a trace of sentimentality. Heileman is that rarest of beings: a young actor you really want to watch.

In one of the funniest, sweetest scenes in Kafka on Ice, Erin Rollman skated on a floor of artificial ice, skidding, gliding and falling cutely about as a Chaplinesque Kafka (played by Gary Culig) sped to her rescue again and again. Rollman is one of Denver's most inspired comic actresses; in Kafka on Ice, she was able not only to reveal her gift for caricature, but also to venture more deeply into character -- which, paradoxically, made her performance even more hilarious.

Playwright Mary Zimmerman incorporated large segments of poetry into Metamorphoses, including passages from Ovid and Rilke's extraordinary "Orpheus. Eurydice. Hermes." The poems lend the script much of its power, but they can also be a mouthful. Elocution isn't taught much these days, and many actors scorn verbal precision and fluidity. Trina O'Neil has these qualities in spades. Her beautiful lucidity made Rilke's words resonate long after the play was over.

The dying Prior in Angels in America is often whiny, snappish or unreasonable, but he has intellect and dignity, too. In the Bas Bleu/OpenStage Theatre and Company production, Todd Coulter gave all these characteristics their due. Late in the play, Prior receives a reprieve, thanks to new AIDS drugs, and from then on, he becomes a kind of guide into the future. It was wonderful to watch this revivification, and Coulter's final blessing was touching.

Good impressionists don't just mimic their subjects, they become them -- and Frank Gorshin simply was George Burns in this production. He had the man's walk and mannerisms, and also seemed to possess his spirit.

In Paul Robeson, a one-man show detailing the life of the scholar/athlete/performer of its title, Russell Costen held the stage for over two hours on his own. Robeson was a tall, powerful man with a rumbling bass voice, while Costen is shorter and more muted. Still, Costen communicated Robeson's gravitas and found his measured vocal cadences. Though this was a highly skilled performance, it was about far more than skill: It was a generous and openhearted act of tribute.

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