‘Take A Bow’ Part 1: The Staff of DCMetroTheaterArts’ Favorite Spring/Summer 2016 Performances

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Here’s Part 1 of the staff of DCMetroTheaterArts’ favorite Spring/Summer 2016 performances. To our honorees:  TAKE A BOW!

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Stephanie Atha as Winifred and Sofia Bordner as Jane Banks in Mary Poppins at Phoenix Festival Theater.

Special praise should be given to the performances of Stephanie Atha and Sofia Bordner. As the mother Winifred Banks, Atha beautifully sang “Being Mrs. Banks” in a voice as rich and smooth as honey. Bordner, as daughter Jane Banks, was positively delightful and has the acting and singing abilities for someone far beyond her years!-Lauren Honeycutt.

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Cleavant Derricks as Chimney Man in Jelly’s Last Jam  at Signature Theatre.

Cleavant Derricks (Chimney Man) with Kara-Tameika Watkins, Eben K. Logan, and Nova Y. Payton. Photo by Christopher Mueller.
Cleavant Derricks (Chimney Man) with Kara-Tameika Watkins, Eben K. Logan, and Nova Y. Payton. Photo by Christopher Mueller.

Cleavant Derricks gave a knockout performance as Chimney Man, the narrating spectre who foretells Jelly Roll Morton’s misfortunes as a man unwilling to confront his demons. Derricks played this role with power and gravitas that reminded me of Marley’s Ghost of Christmas Past on Soultrain steroids. As narrator for Jelly’s Last Jam, Derricks unfolds the story line about a gifted jazz piano player struggling to come to terms with his racial identity and he gives life to this scintillating production with a booming presence that anchors the entire show.-Ramona Harper.

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Shannon Dorsey and Erika Rose as Minnie and Dido in An Octoroon at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company.

Left to Right: Erika Rose and Shannon Dorsey. Photo by Scott Suchman.
Left to Right: Erika Rose and Shannon Dorsey. Photo by Scott Suchman.

Brandon Jacobs-Jenkins’s An Octoroon is among the most acclaimed recent works by playwrights of color that lampoon America’s endemic racism with disarming cheek and wit. Two performers who deliver the play’s irony with particularly delightful drollery are Shannon Dorsey as Minnie and Erika Rose as Dido, two slaves on the plantation where the play is set. The sight gag that starts their first scene  stops the show: Dido (Rose) is earnestly sweeping a floor clear of loose cotton while Minnie (Dorsey) is looking on lackadaisically and lazily eating a banana. Adding to the joke, the two speak in contemporary idiom. Here and in their subsequent scenes together, Dorsey and Rose are a bitingly funny team, and the comic contrast between them is priceless.-John Stoltenberg.

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Darius McCall as Romeo in One Man Romeo at The Capital Fringe Festival.

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Darius McCall‘s memorable performance as Romeo is exquisitely sensitive. With remarkable physical presence and riveting facial luminescence, he seems to act from deep within each moment’s emotion, such that at times the character becomes newborn before our eyes. Remarkably McCall brings Romeo’s ardor for Juliette to life so beautifully and tenderly that one forgets she’s not there. Especially touching is the scene at the masked ball when Romeo first beholds Juliette. McCall’s sweet tearful kisses are not to the air; they are to someone beloved who in his heart and ours is as real as can be.-John Stoltenberg.

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Shannon O’Neill in We Know How You Die at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company.

L to R: Shannon O’Neill, an audience member, Brandon Scott Jones, Connor Ratliff, and Molly Thomas in ‘We Know How You Die.’ Photo by Teresa Castracane.
L to R: Shannon O’Neill, an audience member, Brandon Scott Jones, Connor Ratliff, and Molly Thomas in ‘We Know How You Die.’ Photo by Teresa Castracane.

Shannon O’Neill‘s performance in the Upright Citizens Brigade’s We Know How You Die couldn’t have been more skillful. First, she quizzed the Woolly audience, found three finalists, pulled one on stage and then carried out an in-depth interview, and all the while keeping the festivities funny and fast-paced–that’s what Shannon did. And that was before show “proper” even began (sure she had three backups throwing in the occasional glib remark, but she did all the heavy, humorous lifting).-Robert Michael Oliver.

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Joey Parsons as “Not” Medea in the Contemporary American Theater Festival’s production of Allison Gregory’s Not Medea.

Joey Parsons in 'Not Medea.' Photo by Seth Freeman.
Joey Parsons in ‘Not Medea.’ Photo by Seth Freeman.

Joey Parsons as “Not” Medea in the Contemporary American Theatre Festival’s production of Allison Gregory’s Not Medea brought vim and vigor to a dangerously precarious script. Ms. Parsons bounced back and forth between your local single mom doing her best to keep her head above water and that infamous legend of Greek mythology who left town on a flaming chariot. To be sure, Rachael Balcanoff and Ben Chase helped keep the story clear, but Parsons gave it, and us, its vital ride across the sky.-Robert Michael Oliver.

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Bradley Foster Smith and Matthew Keenan. Photo by Cameron Whitman Photography.
Bradley Foster Smith and Matthew Keenan in ‘The Lonesome West.’ Photo by Cameron Whitman Photography.

Bradley Foster Smith as Detective Ariel in The Pillowman at Forum Theatre and Valene Connor in The Lonesome West at Keegan Theatre.

 Bradley Foster Smith (Ariel) in 'The Pillowman.' Photo by Teresa Castracane Photography.
Bradley Foster Smith (Ariel) in ‘The Pillowman.’ Photo by Teresa Castracane Photography.

This season Bradley Foster Smith appeared in two works by that master of dark comedy Martin McDonagh—as Detective Ariel, an unhinged interrogator in a surreal police state, and as Valene, an Irishman who’s at near-fratricidal odds with his brother. Both characters are high-strung, on edge, quick-tempered, haunted, yet somehow Smith finds a distinct physicality and vocal timbre for each, even as his signature lock on McDonagh’s language comes through loud and clear. A few seasons back Smith played the dweeby hotel clerk in Keegan’s production of McDonagh’s A Behanding in Seattle, a hilarious performance that was also, ahem, disarmingly good. It may be time for Bradley Foster Smith to claim the title of ‘DC’s Most Balls-Out Interpreter of a Role Written by Martin McDonagh.’-John Stoltenberg.

LINKS:
‘Take A Bow’ Part 1: The Staff of DCMetroTheaterArts’ Favorite Spring/Summer 2016 Performances.

‘Take A Bow’ Part 2: The Staff of DCMetroTheaterArts’ Favorite Spring/Summer 2016 Performances.

‘Take A Bow’ Part 3: The Staff of DCMetroTheaterArts’ Favorite Spring/Summer 2016 Performances.

‘Take A Bow’ Part 4: The Staff of DCMetroTheaterArts’ Favorite Spring/Summer 2016 Performances. (Coming).

‘Take A Bow’ Part 5: The Staff of DCMetroTheaterArts’ Favorite Spring/Summer 2016 Performances.