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The 2013 Houston Theater Awards: Celebrating the Best in Local Theater

An exceptional year brings new work and performances center stage.

Finalists: Jeffrey Bean in Clyborne Park (Alley Theatre), Greg Dean in Waiting for Godot (Catastrophic Theatre), Phillip Lehl in Macbeth (Stark Naked Theatre Company), Benjamin Reed in As You Like It (University of Houston's Houston Shakespeare Festival), Guy Roberts in Henry V (Main Street Theater/Prague Shakespeare Festival) and Colton Wright in Sweeney Todd (Stage Door Inc.).

Best Actress:

Detria Ward in The Nacirema ­Society

(Ensemble Theatre)

Detria Ward channeled a bit of Rosalind Russell from Auntie Mame for her performance as matriarch Grace Dunbar in the romantic comedy The Nacirema Society at The Ensemble Theatre, but just a tiny bit. Echoes of Russell's statuesque elegance were obvious, but Grace's steel-rod backbone and gritty resolve to make the world around her as genteel as possible — even if she had to connive and conspire with hilarious results to do it — were all Ward. It would have been easy to let Grace, a member of Montgomery, Alabama's African-American upper class during the civil rights era, become a caricature. After all, Grace made manipulation into an art form and spent her time happily imposing her formidable will on everyone around her. But Ward dug deeper. In her skilled hands, Grace became a three-dimensional woman with understandable reasons for her excessive — and comical — need for control. And the epiphany she had at the play's climax became more than just a device to move the action along; Grace grew.

Finalists: Danica Dawn Johnston in Wild Party (Bayou City Theatrics), Rachel Logue in Dollhouse (Stages Repertory Theatre) and Kim Tobin in God of Carnage (Stark Naked Theatre Company).

Best Supporting Actor:

David Matranga in ­Macbeth

(Stark Naked Theatre Company)

Winning the role of Macduff in Macbeth was just the first hurdle for David Matranga. Then he was faced with the task of breathing life into a complex and important character who spent only a relatively short amount of time onstage. Calling on his training, skill, talent, intelligence and not a little bit of instinct, Matranga did so brilliantly. In one crucial scene, Macduff learns that his wife and children have been killed on Macbeth's orders. Matranga underplayed the character's anguish beautifully, letting the audience feel Macduff's pain through his silence rather than by relying on tears or other physical signs of agony. There is a definite arc to Macduff, who goes from being a loyal and faithful follower of the king to being a ruthless avenger, reckless in his efforts to retaliate. Matranga had just a few scenes to show audiences each step in Macduff's improbable path. That was all he needed.

Finalists: Zach Averyt in I Capuleti e I Montecchi (Opera in the Heights), Ty Doran in Kimberly Akimbo (Mildred's Umbrella Theater Company), John Gremillion in God of Carnage (Stark Naked Theatre Company), Matt Lents in Body Awareness (Stark Naked Theatre Company) and Drake Simpson in Body Awareness/God of Carnage (Stark Naked Theatre ­Company).

Best Supporting Actress:

Josie de Guzman in The Hollow

(Alley Theatre)

Talk about someone going for it. Josie de Guzman was the brightest spot in the Alley Theatre's production of Agatha Christie's The Hollow. All eyes were on her as Lucy, the dotty Lady Angkatell, anytime she walked across the stage. Despite absentmindly misplacing things as well as forgetting why she'd entered a room, Lady Angkatell was a good judge of character and events and de Guzman made the most of the clever lines she was given. De Guzman threw herself into the role — not in a campy way, but in total belief in her character and what she was doing. As a result, she was the most believable actor onstage and rendered her part a triumph.

Finalists: Joyce Anastasia in The Nacirema ­Society (Ensemble Theatre), Elizabeth Bunch in Elephant Man (Alley Theatre) and Judy Frow in Company (Texas Repertory Theatre).

Best Breakthrough:

Kenn McLaughlin

(Stages Repertory Theatre)

Producing Artistic Director Kenn McLaughlin took on a different kind of role when he acted the part of Martin Luther in David Davalos's seriocomic play Wittenberg. As one of two professors — the other being hedonist Doctor Faustus — vying for the heart, mind and soul of Prince Hamlet (Ryan Schabach) at Wittenberg University, McLaughlin played the moral leader with the requisite amount of religious fervor and justification, but with nuance as well. He might not approve of Faustus, but they were friends even in competition. McLaughlin hadn't planned to act in the play, but volunteered to read the Martin Luther part during auditions. Director Josh Morrison says the pairing of McLaughlin with Luis Galindo's Faustus clicked immediately and a star was born. "Louie is such a powerful actor, in order for the play to work, I needed to have someone who goes head to head with him," Morrison says. Speaking of heads, McLaughlin went all in for the role, getting his hair shaved in semi-tonsure, which certainly must have attracted attention when he went out into the streets, leaving behind his stage persona.

Finalist: Into the Woods (Bayou City ­Theatrics)

Best Costumes:

Alejo Vietti for Sherlock Holmes and the ­Adventure of the Suicide Club

(­Alley Theatre)

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3 comments
Ryan Cope
Ryan Cope

That photo… That was an awesome awesome play.

slumpville
slumpville

I would love to see a category or even categories for new work next time around. I am really surprised Tiffany Fuller wasn't nominated for costume design for last year's Panto at Stages. It was one of the most amazing costume designs I have ever seen. I was also surprised that John Dunn wasn't nominated for his role in Chinglish with Black Lab Theater. He learned Chinese for the role and gave an amazing performance.

 
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