Dallas is flush with acting talent. Here’s a rundown of the year’s best
In some ways, 2008 was a better year for actors than it was for plays.
Sure, there were enough good productions to make coming up with a very respectable top 10 list a worthwhile venture, but many North Texas actors and actresses — many of them members of the gay community, either formally or by association — turned in wonderful work in some less-than-great plays.
Case in point: Coy Covington and B.J. Cleveland, who made the creaky warhorse "Legends" comedic brilliance with their flawless interplay. In the current production of the ho-hum "Trysts in Toledo" at Theatre Three, Jeff Swearingen and Gregory Lush show star-making bravado. Lush and Cedric Neal proved to be the best things in "A Dog’s Life," and both delivered stellar work in "The Who’s Tommy" — especially Neal, who was never better.
Maxey Whitehead emerged as equally skilled at comedy ("House and Garden") and drama ("Snake Eyes at the Mardi Gras Motel"), while Dallas’ best comedienne, Marisa Diotalevi, took poignant slapstick to hysterical levels alongside Whitehead in "House and Garden."
There were, in fact, many ensembles that stood out this year — often in Uptown Players productions: The actors in "The Facts of Life: The Lost Episode," "Zanna, Don’t!" and "Bare: A Pop Opera," as well as the casts of "A Year with Frog and Toad," "Nine," "The Pillowman," "Sick," "Look What’s Happened to Pixie DeCosta," "The Goat" and "Tommy" collectively wowed audiences.
Russell DeGrazier did ensemble work in three shows, and each time he soared above hit-and-miss productions, as did Kimberly Whalen — first in "West Side Story," then immediately again in "The Light in the Piazza."
Terry Martin, artistic director of WaterTower Theatre, acts far too infrequently, as his excellent performance in the drama "Blackbird" showed. And Rene Moreno — another actor who has spent most of his time directing — returned full-force to the boards as "Richard III."
Cameron Cobb’s scary-convincing performance as a homicidal mentally retarded man in "The Pillowman" still lingers with me, as does Jerry Russell’s achingly true portrayal of Norman Thayer in "On Golden Pond." Regan Adair and M. Denise Lee set the bar high at the start of the year with their immersive performances in "Edmond" and "Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill" respectively, then paired up for excellent work in "Doubt" in October — both just as good as the stars of the new film version.
But for me, the actor that real set the tone of 2008 was Kevin Moore. His performance in "Bent" was revelatory — heartbreaking, intense, even sexy. Then he immediately turned around and played Jo in "The Facts of Life: The Lost Episode" with dykey delight. From Nazi drama to camp drag without missing a beat? That’s acting — and that’s the actor of the year.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 26, 2008.