‘Take A Bow!’ Part 1: The Staff of DCMetroTheaterArts’ DC/MD/VA Fall 2016 Favorite Performances/Directors/Designers

take-a-bow-logo-200x200Here is the staff of DCMetroTheaterArts’ first series of ‘Take A Bow!’ Fall 2016 honorees:

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Edwin Aparicio, as Choreographer, Flamenco Dancer, and Co-Director of Salvador, at GALA Hispanic Theatre.

Edwin Aparicio. Photo courtesy of GALA Hispanic Theatre.

Edwin Aparicio. Photo courtesy of GALA Hispanic Theatre.

The great Flamenco choreographer and dancer Edwin Aparicio delivered an astonishing performance in Salvador, the full-length autobiographical dance that celebrated its world premiere at the opening of the 12th annual Fuego Flamenco Festival at GALA Hispanic theatre.

Aparicio, who wrote and directed Salvador with longtime partner Aleksey Kulikov, takes the stage toward the end of the production—which begins with his childhood El Salvador and concludes with his mastery of Flamenco in Madrid—in a tour de force of dance as powerful as it is glorious. It is an earth-shaking demonstration of the beauty of Flamenco and its ability to speak to its audience.-Ravelle Brickman.

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Christine Nolan Essig as Penny Pennywise, in Urinetown at Constellation Theatre Company.

mily Madden, Jenna Berk, Amy McWilliams, Vaughn Ryan Midder, and Christine Nolan Essig (Far right). Photo by Daniel Schwartz.

Emily Madden, Jenna Berk, Amy McWilliams, Vaughn Ryan Midder, and Christine Nolan Essig (Far right). Photo by Daniel Schwartz.

A dynamo, Christine Nolan Essig’s Penelope Pennywise sets a high bar for vocals early in Urinetown. She delivers “It’s a Privilege to Pee” with a booming voice and commanding stage presence and she shows off another side of her impressive vocal skills in “I’m Not Sorry.”-Nicole Hertvik.

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Annie Grier as Jenny, in The Christians at Theater J.

Annie Greer and Michael Russotto. Photo by C. Stanley Photography.

Annie Grier and Michael Russotto. Photo by C. Stanley Photography.

As Jenny, a single mother who can hardly make ends meet, Annie Grier delivers a heart-rending plea that cuts through the rhetoric of this play about changing religious beliefs. It’s a cameo role, yet Grier makes it a showstopper. She is passionate in her faith—which is all she has—that there is no room in heaven for those who are not God-fearing Christians. In her simplicity, she communicates both the congregation’s shock at the very idea of change, and its power to undo the minister whose change of heart sets the play into action.-Ravelle  Brickman.

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 Staceyann Chin as herself, in MotherStruck at The Studio Theatre.

Staceyann Chin in ‘MotherStruck.’ Photo by Daniel Corey.

Staceyann Chin in ‘MotherStruck.’ Photo by Daniel Corey.

I have never seen a solo performer who blew me away the way Staceyann Chin did with her autobiographical detonation, MotherStruck. Chin—an acclaimed author and spoken-word artist—enters down an aisle, connecting to the audience with all emotion guns firing from the get-go. She starts to tell her heart-racing story: Born in Jamaica. Realizes she’s attracted to girls. Gets assaulted by homophobic teen boys. Moves at 19 to Lower East Side New York to escape the thuggery. Falls in with poets and dreamers and finds her LGBTQ tribe. After multiple lesbian affairs that don’t last, falls deeply in love with and marries a gay man. Then she decides to have a baby. And she is determined. Really determined. With a desire that drives this funny, furious, fast-paced show and Chin’s supercharged performance in it like a combusting propellant.-John Stoltenberg.

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A.J. Guban for His Set and Lighting Design, and Robert Croghan For His Costume Design, For Urinetown at Constellation Theatre Company.

AJ Guban. Photo courtesy of Constellation Theatre Company.

AJ Guban. Photo courtesy of Constellation Theatre Company.

A.J. Guban’s masterful set and lighting – a grungy collection of corrugated metal, brick and chainlink highlighted by green spotlights emanating from sewers were of one piece in truly enhancing this production.

Robert Croghan. Photo courtesy of TheatreWashington.

Robert Croghan. Photo courtesy of TheatreWashington.

Set and lighting created an ambiance of squalor while Robert Croghan’s costume design did a great job of separating the “haves” from the “have-nots” and his cartoonish costumes for the despicable Urine Good Company officials accentuated the show’s satirical nature.-Nicole Hertvik.

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Saleh Karaman as Shavi, in I Call My Brothers at Forum Theatre.

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 When an actor with a special charisma makes a connection with the audience at the top of a show, it’s as if we have been personally invited into the world of the play even before we have a clue what’s going on. Such was Saleh Karaman’s remarkable performance in a supporting role as Salvi. Karaman engaged the audience from his very first scene, talking on the phone with his best friend the main character (who fears he is the suspect in a terrorist bombing). Each time Salvi appeared thereafter, whatever he was saying or doing, it was as if we were subliminally brought back to that bond in a way that transcended the character as written. Whatever that elusive quality is called, Karaman brought it, and I Call My Brothers was all the better for it—more relatable, more recognizable, even as the story got more and more troubling and stark special effects intensified.-John Stoltenberg.

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Carolyn Faye Kramer as Anne Frank, in The Diary of Anne Frank, at Olney Theatre Center.

Carolyn Faye Kramer, as Anne Frank. Photo by Stan Barouh.

Carolyn Faye Kramer, as Anne Frank. Photo by Stan Barouh.

Carolyn Faye Kramer plays Anne Frank with the frenetic energy of a young girl brimming with life and enthusiasm and makes us feel the high drama of adolescence forced to play out in a claustrophobic attic. At the same time, her nuanced performance captured the qualities that set Anne apart. Kramer’s Anne was a thinker, a feeler, an observer; someone destined for great things if only given the chance to live.-Nicole Hertvik.

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Deidra LaWan Starnes as Myrna, in Milk Like Sugar at Mosaic Theater Company of DC.  

Diedra LaWan Starnes (Myrna) and Kashayna Johnson (Annie). Photo by Ryan Maxwell.

Diedra LaWan Starnes (Myrna) and Kashayna Johnson (Annie). Photo by Ryan Maxwell.

Although the plot centers around a group of inner-city high school girls who decide to get pregnant—they think it’s a cool way to gain status in a world that doesn’t value them at all—one of the most startling roles is that of Myrna, the mother of the girl whose ambivalence is at the heart of the play.

Helen Hayes Award winner Deidra LaWan Starnes is breathtaking in her portrayal of the worn-out parent who is too tired to pay attention to the daughter who needs her.

Starnes does a stunning role reversal—from caring but negligent “good”mother to the vindictive furor of every child’s worst nightmare—and bears testimony to the sorrow of a woman forced to bear children too soon. It’s a memorable role, brilliantly performed.  –Ravelle Brickman.

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Lolita Marie as Lena, in brownsville song (b-side for tray) at Theater Alliance.

Lolita Marie and Avery Collins. Photo by C. Stanley Photography.

Lolita Marie and Avery Collins. Photo by C. Stanley Photography.

Lolita Marie plays Lena, the grief-stricken grandmother of Tray. Lena begins the play just after Trey has been shot and died. She has a monologue, a direct address to the audience. She wants us to understand that her grandson was a good kid. Not a gang member. Nothing to do with drugs. He had a promising future. “He was not the same old story,” she says. And from Marie’s very first words, we are in the presence of an astounding actor, one who is playing the part as if from the depths of Lena’s soul. For the next 90 minutes there will not be a nanosecond when Marie is onstage that we are not enthralled by her.-John Stoltenberg.

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Alan Naylor as Sylvia St. Croix, in Ruthless! The Musical at Creative Cauldron.

Sophia Manicone and Alan Naylor. Photo by Photo by Keith Waters, Kx Photography.

Sophia Manicone (Tina Denmark)  and Alan Naylor (Sylvia St. Croix). Photo by Photo by Keith Waters, Kx Photography.

Alan Naylor waltzed onstage drenched in fur and jewels as Sylvia St. Croix and the energy never stopped. A scene-stealer from the moment the show started, he energized the show with constant humor, great stage presence, and strong and fierce vocals on “Talent” and “I Want The Girl.” And he looked damned good in heels.-Nicole Hertvik.

LINK:
Meet the Cast of ‘Ruthless! The Musical’ at Creative Cauldron: Part 4: Alan Naylor by Joel Markowitz.

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Andrus Nichols as Beatrice, in A View From the Bridge at The Kennedy Center’s Eisenhower Theater.

Andrus Nichols and Frederick Weller. Photo by Jan Versweyveld.

Andrus Nichols and Frederick Weller. Photo by Jan Versweyveld.

Andrus Nichols delivered a pensive and absorbing performance as the “world-weary” wife Beatrice in Arthur Miller’s tragic A View From the Bridge. Nichols moved with a physical grace and authority on the minimalist spare stage of Scenic Designer Jan Versweyveld. Her Nichols’ defiant and emotion-filled cries of pain at her husband’s obtuseness when confronted with the truth are both stirring and psychologically soul-shattering.-David Friscic.

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Nick Olcott for His Direction and Michael Bobbitt for His Choreography, for Knuffle Bunny at Adventure Theater MTC.

Director Nick Olcott. Photo courtesy of 1st Stage.

Director Nick Olcott. Photo courtesy of 1st Stage.

Michael J. Bobbitt. Photo by DJ Corey Photography.

Michael J. Bobbitt. Photo by DJ Corey Photography.

Nick Olcott and Michael Bobbitt are masters of making grand use of small spaces. In Knuffle Bunny, they cleverly transform the stage into a bustling New York cityscape with the use of a few clever props and smart staging.

Bobbitt’s choreography brings an extra dose of razzmatazz to Knuffle Bunny. Cleverly conceived dance moves somehow turn this cast of five into a dazzling spectacle, especially in the show’s big number “Washy, Washy.”-Nicole Hertvik.

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Lisette Oropesa as Marie, in The Daughter of the Regiment at the Washington National Opera.

Marie (Lisette Oropesa) and all her 'fathers' in 'The Daughter of the Regiment.' Photo by Scott Suchman.

Marie (Lisette Oropesa) and all her ‘fathers’ in ‘The Daughter of the Regiment.’ Photo by Scott Suchman.

Lisette Oropesa’s thrilling and sensitive Soprano gave life to all the soaring arias she sang in The Daughter of the Regiment presented by the Washington National Opera at The Kennedy Center’s Opera House.  Ms. Oropesa was charming, engaging and charismatic throughout this finely-produced Opera.  Her opening aria: “Chacun le sait. Chacun le dit”/”Everyone knows it , everyone says it” was a particular delight as Lisette Oropesa exuded such unabashed joy in her singing.-David Friscic.

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JC Payne as Con, in Stupid Fucking Bird at Silver Spring Stage.

JC Payne as Con. Photo by Harvey Levine.

JC Payne as Con. Photo by Harvey Levine.

JC Payne delivered a powerful performance as Con, the lovesick would-be writer in Aaron Posner’s Stupid Fucking Bird. He was the perfect tortured soul in his love scenes and delivered a vigorous final monologue.-Nicole Hertvik.

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Jonathan M. Rizzardi As The Emcee, in Cabaret at Kensington Arts Theatre.

Jonathan M. Rizzardi (The Emcee). Photo by McLaughlin Photography.

Jonathan M. Rizzardi (The Emcee). Photo by McLaughlin Photography.

Jonathan M. Rizzardi lead Kensington Arts Theatre’s production of Cabaret as an energizing Emcee. His performance showcased strong vocal skills, inspired dance moves and infectious energy in the show’s famous numbers “Wilkomen” and “Two Ladies.” As the Emcee who oversees Berlin’s raucous Kit Kat Club on the eve of the Nazi takeover of Germany, his performance imbued the show with the perfect balance of bawdiness and foreboding.-Nicole Hertvik.

LINK:
Come to KAT’s ‘Cabaret’: Part 4: Meet Jonathan M. Rizzardi by Joel Markowitz.

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John Sygar as the Puppeteer in Knuffle Bunny, at Adventure Theatre MTC.

John Sygar, Suzanne Lane, and Emily Zickler. Photo by Michael Horan.

John Sygar, Suzanne Lane, and Emily Zickler. Photo by Michael Horan.

In this supporting role, John Sygar proved to be a total scene-stealer. Without distracting from the main action onstage, Sygar’s supporting roles, whether as mailman, dog walker, ensemble dancer or, my favorite, giant pink dancing bra, added immense interest and humor to the show. I was a big fan of Sygar’s performance in last year’s Floyd Collins at 1st Stage, so I was excited to see him back onstage in Knuffle Bunny and I hope to see him in many other productions in the future.-Nicole Hertvik.

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Jill Tighe as Cat, in Tame. at WSC Avant Bard.

Jill Tighe and Karen Lange. Photo by DJ Corey Photography.

Jill Tighe and Karen Lange. Photo by DJ Corey Photography.

Jill Tighe as Cat in Tame., at WSC Avant Bard, was like a wounded animal, lashing out at everyone around her. It was magnificent acting. Her character’s passion drives the play, and whether snarling “Mother-r-r-r” or tussling physically with local youth pastor Patrick (Brendan Edward Kennedy), or hissing at sister Bea (Madeline Burrows), she will rock you. For those who enjoy stage portrayals of rebellious women, this is how it’s done.-Sophia Howes.

LINK: 
Meet the Cast of Avant Bard’s ‘TAME.’ Part 3: Jill Tighe by Joel Markowitz.

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Michael Tisdale as Matt, in Straight White Men at The Studio Theatre.

Michael Tisdale, Avery Clark, and Bruch Reed in Straight White Men. Photo by Teresa Wood.

Michael Tisdale, Avery Clark, and Bruch Reed in Straight White Men. Photo by Teresa Wood.

Michael Tisdale as Matt, in The Studio Theatre’s production of Young Jean Lee’s Straight White Men, gives a great portrayal of a middle-age man who can’t find a meaningful grown-up perch in the world. A Harvard Ph.D. of unlimited promise, Matt now lives with his Dad and does temp work for a social justice organization. Tisdale’s interpretation of Matt’s unraveling at a family Christmas celebration combines excruciating physical tension with a convincing dose of psychological paralysis. The net result is an exquisite portrait of a privileged straight white man in an acute mid-life crisis. Tisdale skillfully elicits his audience’s empathy along with a measure of tough love.-Amy Kotkin.

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Vato Tsikurishvili as Dante, in Dante’s Inferno at Synetic Theater.

Tori Bertocci and Vato Tsikurishvili. Photo by Koko Lanham.

Tori Bertocci and Vato Tsikurishvili. Photo by Koko Lanham.

Vato Tsikurishvili gives Dante a large passion: his physical control and acrobatic movements bring that passion into Grotowski-like embodiment. We see on stage not so much the character of Dante, but the inner workings of his soul as he wrestles with despair, loss, desire, and yearning. Tsikurishvili’s performance could be remembered for its endurance alone if it were not so utterly shaped by precision and rapt commitment.

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Matthew Vaky as Tommy in The Night Alive at Quotidian Theatre Company.

L To R: Matthew Vaky and Joe Palka . Photo by StJohnn Blondell.

L To R: Matthew Vaky and Joe Palka . Photo by StJohnn Blondell.

Oh how I loved Matthew Vaky as Tommy in The Quotidian Theatre Company’s production of Conor McPherson’s The Night Alive! Disheveled and at times desperate, Vaky takes us deep into the heart and soul of an imperfect man. By any objective measure, Tommy has failed as both a businessman and a patriarch. Nonetheless, Vaky allows us to experience the essential humanity that shines through Tommy’s bluster, allowing him to re-create a true, and new, sense of family amid decidedly less-than-modest circumstances. Bravo for Vaky’s bluster and impulsive, restless movement throughout the play. They serve him, and us, very well.-Amy Kotkin.

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Cheyanne Williams as Lupita, in Aliens with Extraordinary Skills at 4615 Theatre Company.

L to R: Julia Hurley (Nadia) and Cheyanne Williams (Lupita). Photo by Anne Donnelly.

L to R: Julia Hurley (Nadia) and Cheyanne Williams (Lupita). Photo by E-Hui Woo.

Cheyanne Williams’ no-nonsense, nothing’s-going-to-stop-me Dominican exotic dancer anchors the cast with an excellently focused performance with plenty of nuance. From motivational monologues to self in front of her mirror to serious negotiations with Bob about the price of a couch, her Lupita shines brightest.-Robert Michael Oliver.

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SPRING/SUMMER 2016 IN WASHINGTON, DC, MARYLAND, AND VIRGINIA HONOREES:

‘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.

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

‘Take A Bow’ Part 6: The Staff of DCMetroTheaterArts’ Favorite Spring/Summer 2016 Performances.

Take A Bow’ Part 7: The Staff of DCMetroTheaterArts’ Favorite Spring/Summer 2016 Performances.

SPRING/SUMMER 2016 IN PHILADELPHIA, NEW JERSEY AND DELAWARE ‘TAKE A BOW!’ 2016 HONOREES:

Take A Bow’ Part 1 in Philadelphia: The Staff of DCMetroTheaterArts’ Favorite Spring/Summer 2016 Performances by Deb Miller.

‘Take A Bow’ Part 2 in Philadelphia: Staff of DCMetroTheaterArts’ Favorite Spring/Summer 2016 Performances by Deb Miller.

‘Take A Bow’ Part 3 in Philadelphia: Staff of DCMetroTheaterArts’ Favorite Spring/Summer 2016 Performances by Deb Miller.

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