From an actor who plays on variations of innocence to an ensemble that uses highly theatrical po-mo techniques to look at social and scientific movements, from emerging and established performers to a respected publisher, our top artists thrilled local audiences with their work.
1 MICHELLE MONTEITH
The girlish innocence that Monteith projects has an ambiguous, nuanced underside, sometimes sensual, sometimes hard-edged, creating a tension that keeps an audience on the edge of its collective seat. In The Russian Play, the humanity of her flower seller curdled as life proved disappointing, while in Crave her vulnerable character, A, suggested hurts too painful to examine. My favourite was Revisited, where Monteith's character suffused the intimate theatre space with freshness and grace, meeting death with a shy, brave, accepting smile.
2 SARAH DODD
A Stratford vet, Dodd shines both in the classics and contemporary works. Her funny Egeus in A Midsummer Night's Dream was a high-powered matriarch of family and industry, while her skill with language proved another dream in the multi-layered Age Of Arousal. Dodd reprised her beaten-down wife in A Whistle In The Dark and won a Dora for her work in Marion Bridge as a nun who relishes playing the martyr in her own family.
3 HANNAH MOSCOVITCH
Skilful dialogue, sly, ironic comedy and narrative that takes surprising turns are the hallmarks of Moscovitch's writing. They made the chilling The Russian Play an instant hit (it makes its mainstage debut next February) and the sharp-edged East Of Berlin a sellout (it also returns next year). But Moscovitch's scripts don't only reference such big issues as the Russian Revolution and the Holocaust. The funny and upsetting Mexico City explores a couple's disintegrating relationship during a holiday south of the border.
4 BRENDAN GALL
The tall Gall has just the right timing and moves for a fine comic performer. As a lovestruck teen in In Full Light, an investigator of Newtonian principles in I Keep Dropping Sh*t and a little-boy innocent in Action, Gall kept fascinating us with his humorous, chameleon-like transformations. But the talented actor added a dark edge to the comedy as a repressed husband in Mexico City and the guilty, sardonic son of a Nazi doctor in East Of Berlin. As if he didn't have enough to do, he contributed a script to the smash Fringe hit The Gladstone Variations.
Photo By R. Jeanette Martin
Small Wooden Shoe's Jacob Zimmer helped revolutionize po-mo theatre this year.
5 SMALL WOODEN SHOE
Think postmodern analysis makes for poor theatre? Then you don't know the work of Small Wooden Shoe, helmed by the clever Jacob Zimmer. The troupe's been doing small shows under the series title Dedicated To The Revolutions, which explores seven events that have shaped our modern consciousness. This year we saw Connect The Dots, a look at the computer age using tin cans, string and oversized Tinker Toys, a debate about the Gutenberg revolution called Reasonable People, Reasonably Disagreeing and I Keep Dropping Sh*t, a series of experiments that blended Copernican theory and social systems. Smart, funny and a theatrical breath of fresh air.
6 ANGELA REBEIRO
You've never seen her performing, she doesn't direct or design, but Rebeiro, retiring at the end of December, has for 17 years been one of the major supporters of Canadian theatre. As publisher at Playwrights Canada Press (PCP), the intrepid, energetic Rebeiro has literally spread the word about hundreds of Canadian plays (the past three drama Governor General's Award winners have come from PCP) and won Theatre Ontario's Maggie Bassett Award for her work.
7 NANCY PALK
A founding member of Soulpepper, Palk stood out in five of its productions this year because of her skill with text, emotional truthfulness and sheer vitality. Bookending the season with performances as a drink-loving Mrs. Peachum (The Threepenny Opera) and the most athletic Madame Arcati (Blithe Spirit) we've ever seen, Palk brought regality and sensuality to Elizabeth I in Mary Stuart, homespun truth to Mrs. Gibbs in Our Town and created various engaging figures in a doll-centred version of John Gabriel Borkman.
8 TARA BEAGAN
There's a flood of human warmth and compassion in anything Tara Beagan creates. In Quilchena, the simple, moving tale of a murdered native girl who relives her last hours on earth, she used expressive imagery to paint a consciousness that moves from innocence to experience. As head writer, co-director and performer in the collectively created The Fort At York, Beagan helped shape a site-specific journey through time and space, connecting today's audiences with characters who fought at Fort York in
1813. If you want theatre with heart, Beagan's a sure bet.
9 ANDY MORO
You only see Moro onstage in his role (with partner Gabriella Caruso) as producer and firebreather at the grassroots Festival Of Lights in Kensington Market. But this year we've also caught his work as designer in The Saskatchewan Rebellion, where he used blocks of light, shadow and blackness to vibrant effect, and as collaborator on Quilchena, where he seared our eyes and ears with his lighting and sound creations. Oh, and he won a Dora for lighting in Here Lies Henry.
10 JEFF LILLICO
It's not just the vets who impress in Soulpepper productions. Lillico knows how to touch the emotions and tickle the funny bone. He wasn't always centre-stage in the five productions he performed in, but he was always on our radar. In his best work, Lillico suggested the many feelings simmering inside the wide-eyed George Gibbs in Our Town and the downtrodden but rebellious Ben in Leaving Home, while he showed stamina, stand-up technique and dancing skills as Harry, a small-time entertainer, in The Time Of Your Life.