2013 Rogue's Gallery, Part 4
September 4, 2013
The Rogue in Rogue's Gallery

Supporting Actor (Comedy)

Rob Pantano, Laughter on the 23rd Floor, Jewish Ensemble Theatre
•Ryan Carlson, I Hate Hamlet, Tipping Point Theatre
•York R. Griffith, A Skull in Connemara, The Abreact
•Greg Harris, Antigone in New York, Elizabeth Theatre
•Brian Sage, Lend Me a Tenor, The Encore Musical Theatre Co.

A bullying victim–turned–cop with something to prove, Griffith nursed the chip on his shoulder with smug superiority and pathetically funny petulance. While everyone around him flailed to get a handle on the situation, lucky Sage sailed naively through, benefitting at every turn while understanding none of it, and had the time of his life. Carlson’s fake-smiling Hollywood sleaze so confidently mistook his opinions for fact, he boomeranged past reprehensible and almost back to boorishly charming. Mute Harris fleshed out his ensemble, getting big laughs from a laborious physical performance without visibly moving a muscle. But two actions by Pantano ultimately give him the nod for his interpersonal train wreck/profusely brilliant comedy writer: first, stealing the scene, and second, giving it back.

Supporting Actress (Comedy)

Yolanda Jack, A Paradise of Fools, Detroit Repertory Theatre
•MaryJo Cuppone, Good People, Performance Network Theatre
•Allie McCaw, Laughter on the 23rd Floor, Jewish Ensemble Theatre
•Maggie Meyer, Becky Shaw, Performance Network Theatre
•Chelsea Ortuno, Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet), Hilberry Theatre

There’s something about Meyer — her over-shares like beacons for validation, her insistence on being picked apart and punished by people rejecting her — that struck an understated, yet mesmerizing tone. The token woman in her workplace, McCaw admirably flung herself headlong into thorny material…without succumbing to the same fate in her testosterone-packed ensemble. Similarly, Ortuno bucked the conventionally passive interpretation of Desdemona, making her adventuresome and warlike alternative feel organic and entirely probable. Keep your friends close and live wire Cuppone at your back, in the hope that when — not if — she flies off the handle, she’ll do worse to your enemies than to you. Yet in a crowded field, Jack comes out on top for her innocent words belied so expertly by her knowing, laughing eyes; this was a practically bilingual performance.

Lead Actor (Comedy)

Sebastian Gerstner, Lend Me a Tenor, The Encore Musical Theatre Co.
•Patrick Hanley, Antigone in New York, Elizabeth Theatre
•Quintin Hicks, Fish Dinner: Second Helping, Planet Ant Theatre
•Phil Powers, Brill, Performance Network Theatre
•Peter Prouty, Mrs. Mannerly, Tipping Point Theatre

Hicks’s solo sequel was marked by character work, comic timing, and entertainment value so potent and pure that modern science still hasn’t discovered a way to measure it. Traversing the tricky duality of present-day narrator and flashback protagonist, Prouty’s affable versatility championed a prose-y composite of storytelling and story-showing. The expressive Hanley spoke softly (and carried a big stiff), commanding attention with his highly selective wit and gently hopeful wisdom. At first blush a jaded career hack, Powers introduced subtle tactics and near-imperceptible movements to expertly flesh out an acerbic, enchanting dreamer for the viewer to love immeasurably. What edged Gerstner above the rest was flexibility — both the chops to excel as a doltish straight man and a slick champion of farce as the scene demanded, and the literal dexterity of his gut-busting slapstick.

Lead Actress (Comedy)

Cheryl Turski, The Constant Wife, Meadow Brook Theatre
•Luna Alexander, Pookie Goes Grenading, The New Theatre Project
•Sandra Birch, 10:53, Williamston Theatre
•Julia Glander, Shirley Valentine, Williamston Theatre
•Suzi Regan, Good People, Performance Network Theatre

Glander’s self-actualizing heroine was proof positive that the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single spud. Sugar and spice and everything combustible were the hallmarks of Alexander’s fearlessly incorrigible teen artiste. Regan rolled a lifetime of hard knocks into a luckless, truth-bombing single mother, whose unflinching bluntness hilariously (but cogently) made the argument that tact is a luxury item. Vigilant, sleep-deprived Birch heightened her character’s unfiltered self-awareness to the point that her hyperkinetic processing of conflicts rivaled the conflicts themselves. But Turski was untouchable as she layered gentility and quiet satisfaction through the pettiest of plot machinations, making her emboldened and liberated society woman a rootable force to be reckoned with.

Best Comedy

Detroit, Hilberry Theatre (director Lavinia Hart)
boom, Williamston Theatre (director Tony Caselli)
End Days, Williamston Theatre/Jewish Ensemble Theatre (director Tony Caselli)
Looking, Tipping Point Theatre (director Kate Peckham)
Pookie Goes Grenading, The New Theatre Project (director Emilie C. Samuelson)

The brilliantly bonkers Pookie Goes Grenading drove its every messy, absurd component to parallel excesses for a harmonious, pleasantly cacophonous whole. In boom, carefully cagey performances and inconceivable technical spectacle made for a wild ride through a world — and a premise — blown to smithereens. The charm of tangential details and personal-feeling stakes elevated the sweet Looking into a highly polished gem as hearty as it was jovial. End Days gave its all to each of the myriad belief systems and stories explored, bolstered by an effortless blend of fantasy and reality that made everything seem possible. Yet the winner must unquestionably be Detroit: a riveting piece of bitterly funny theater in its own right, the production was transcended by beautiful concept and design, which drove a powerful conversation about perception and ownership of a beleaguered city and its image.

Article originally appeared on The Rogue Critic (http://www.roguecritic.com/).
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