1 Maria Vacratsis Hysterica; Slavs!
No local actor switches between the twin masks of comedy and tragedy as deftly as vacratsis. She started the year as a commanding Greek matriarch in hysterica, bringing focus to a flawed take on King Lear. Like Lear, she injected a note of comedy into the tragedy of a mind unhinged. Vacratsis ended the year with a series of roles in Slavs!, first hysterically funny as a theory-spouting street sweeper and the world's oldest living Bolshevik, then hugely touching as an angry mother whose ailing daughter suffers due to soviet nuclear blunders.
2 Daryl Cloran I Might Be Edgar Allan Poe; Sweet Phoebe; Cloud Nine The fast-rising young director -- whose sideline is a digital production studio -- had three hits this year, beginning with the engaging and ultimately spooky one-man show I Might Be Edgar Allan Poe. He followed it up with sweet phoebe, a Summerworks success performed in a claustrophobic, sweaty room that perfectly suited the play. In the fall, he took on the imaginative, time-travelling, gender-bending cloud nine and showed that it's far from a period piece.
3 Keira Loughran The Yoko Ono Project; Alice; She Never Bought Me An Easybake Oven; Sheroes Few actors offered such different sorts of characters as Loughran did. In a year, she ranged from a wide-eyed Asian woman in the Yoko Ono project to a cynical stripper with a scarily rational view of the world in Sheroes. In between she played Lewis Carroll's playful, mischievous, curious creation in a troubled production of Alice and was part of the ensemble in the mother/daughter tribute She Never Bought Me An Easybake Oven.
4 Darren O'donnell Boxhead; White Mice Think theatre can't be full of stimulating ideas? O'Donnell proved that thoughtfulness and entertainment can go hand in hand, as writer/performer in Boxhead, in which a scientist with a box on his head meets his clone and also his makers, and in a welcome revival of white mice, featuring two furry rodents who debate the insidious effects of racism and capitalism.
5 Yanna McIntosh Belle; Shrew; Lambton, Kent Here's a performer who combines feeling, text and character analysis in breathtaking fashion. She supplied myriad shades to the title character in belle, a former southern slave who finds life isn't much easier in the "liberated" north, and then had a hoot swaggering around as petruchio in shrew, a sexually upside-down version of shakespeare's classic. While playing shrew, mcintosh moonlighted in lambton, kent as an african anthropologist who finds strange rituals and attitudes in rural ontario.
6 Christopher Morris I Might Be Edgar Allan Poe; Salmon Miranda Warmth is a hallmark of morris's style, a trait he revealed in a pair of contrasting roles. First, the actor played a possibly hallucinating asylum inmate who gives life to some difficult poetry and the short story the tell-tale heart in i might be edgar allan poe. Later, he brought to life a charming, warm and funny pickup who reveals a dark side to his shy companion in the romantic comedy salmon miranda.
7 Diane D'aquila the diary of anne frank; titus andronicus; elizabeth rex D'aquila stole the season at the Stratford Festival this year with three memorable performances, beginning with Mrs. Frank, the noble, quiet core of family stability in the diary of Anne Frank, and continuing with the vengeful Goth queen Tamora in Titus. But what will linger in my memory for decades is her magnificent Elizabeth I in Elizabeth Rex, a troubled monarch debating femininity, love and royalty with members of Shakespeare's own troupe. Why doesn't a Toronto theatre hire her?
8 Scott Mccord Weldon Rising; Paralysis; Easy A trio of roles allowed mccord to shine with dangerous, electric energy. In weldon rising he played a flamboyant transvestite prostitute in dire need of a relationship -- or a lay. He followed that with two fringe shows, as a new york-style noir detective in paralysis and a drugged-out and desperate boyfriend in easy.
9 Marjorie Chan The Vic; Grace; Titus Andronicus Faithful in delivering a character's innermost emotions, chan provided a steady heartbeat as cara, a teen videotaping her unhappy life story in the vic, and as paula, a nervous poet who makes tentative connections to others in grace. She was as eloquently communicative -- though called upon to act without words for much of the production -- as the mute, raped and mutilated lavinia in shakespeare in the rough's titus andronicus.
10 Ken Macdonald The Overcoat; Hysteria The Vancouver designer's work draws on fantasy elements, as if he were showing us into the jumbled subconscious of a play's characters. In the Dora-winning and wonderfully physical The Overcoat, MacDonald created a series of windows through which shadowy figures watched the onstage action, which included a pair of huge descending pens that established an office of overworked flunkies. For Hysteria, he outfitted Freud's study with huge banks of white filing cabinets, most shut tight, some spilling open with the submerged memories of the psychoanalyst and his visitors.
Other Winners Diane Flacks (Sibs, Smudge); Yashoda Ranganathan (Six Characters In Search Of An Author, The Daughters Of Sheherzad); Brent Carver (Fiddler On The Roof, Elizabeth Rex); Brenda Robins (Patience, The Mill On The Floss, Slavs!); Steve Lucas (The Emotionalists, Sheroes); Kelli Fox (Six Characters In Search Of An Author, Easy Virtue, Slavs!); Mary Francis Moore (Girls And Horses, Bittergirl); Julain Molnar (The Crimson Veil; Fireweeds); Rebecca Picherack (The Offering, Geometry In Venice, Five Fingers); Nora Mclellan (Music For Contortionist, Time And The Conways). JON KAPLAN * firstname.lastname@example.org
Diane Flacks (Sibs, Smudge); Yashoda Ranganathan (Six Characters In Search Of An Author, The Daughters Of Sheherzad); Brent Carver (Fiddler On The Roof, Elizabeth Rex); Brenda Robins (Patience, The Mill On The Floss, Slavs!); Steve Lucas (The Emotionalists, Sheroes); Kelli Fox (Six Characters In Search Of An Author, Easy Virtue, Slavs!); Mary Francis Moore (Girls And Horses, bittergirl); Julain Molnar (The Crimson Veil; Fireweeds); Rebecca Picherack (The Offering, Geometry In Venice, Five Fingers); Nora McLellan (Music For Contortionist, Time And The Conways). JON KAPLAN *