Theater Sports

The first SF Weekly Black Box Awards

Terri Kasch, Verbatim
Exit Theater
When a father and bookseller discovers that he's an entry in a dictionary, a battle of definitions begins that slowly destroys his family. A first-time playwright, Kasch plunged into the world of family dynamics and the way language shapes us with a striking mix of intellectual acumen and emotional depth.

Stanley Rutherford's The Chinese Art of Placement
Phoenix Theater
Rutherford's monologue closed out the Phoenix Theater's tenure at its SOMA location on Eighth Street. In John Robb's hands it was both hilarious and emotionally terrifying, a portrait of a lonesome "ex-poet" obsessing over the arrangement of his furniture and trying to organize a wine-and-cheese party no rational guest would attend.

Actor

Sarah Bennett, SkyScraper
Red Rocket Theater
The acid-tongued blonde bit into the role of Peppermint, the jaded "credit manager," with unremitting ruthlessness.

Robert Elross, Death of a Salesman
Actors Theater
In December and January, Elross played Willy Loman with shaded, human touches that made him really tragic. It was nice to see an actor give so much respect to a hero who's turned into America's driest emblem of conformity. He made the show worth reviving and watching again.

Eli Marienthal, The Cryptogram
Magic Theater
Young Eli Marienthal was the soul of David Mamet's family drama, playing a young boy, John, sheltered by his desperate mother, who lies to, bribes, and drugs him with cough syrup trying to protect him from a dying marriage. Yet John remains acutely aware of the decay rotting into his once happy childhood, and plays his own manipulative games trying to wean attention from his mother. Many complex, self-destructive characters crossed the S.F. stage this year, but Marienthal's was especially memorable.

John Robb
It's been said that Robb has "a great instrument" -- a cragged but elastic face, a powerful gravelly voice -- but he also has access to depths of emotion to give his instrument range. He has the slightly crazed look of a homeless man, and his authority onstage comes from a feeling of controlled but unpredictable anger. See separate story.

Charles Shaw Robinson
Charles Shaw Robinson is so convincing in his roles that it's easy to forget how often you see him. Robinson graced San Francisco stages as countless characters in the Aurora Theater/Magic's quick-change farce The Mystery of Irma Vep; as the reptilian villain Krogstad in Nora; and as the romantic lead as the fetal-tissue collector in the dark comedy The Pharmacist's Daughter. Forget De Niro, Pacino, et al., Robinson proves subtlety is just as potent in performance.

Greta Sanchez-Ramirez, Fur
Campo Santo
The twentysomething gal with peekaboo eyes and a churlish voice spent two hours naked in a cage growling, spitting, and salivating over her female keeper. The play didn't make very much sense, and the rest of the cast seemed ill-at-ease with the gloomy carnival-esque abstraction, but Sanchez-Ramirez stole the show in the most unlikely of roles.

Danny Scheie, The Mystery of Irma Vep
Aurora Theater
Among his many roles, he played a mincing Victorian lady, a mummy, and an Igor-eyed groundsman. The performance was impeccably nuanced and relentlessly campy.

Actor in a small role

Richard Ciccarone, Someguy
Venue 9
Playing a homeless man named Sanity, a barely coherent Ciccarone sputtered, conjuring a moment when the stage opens up and you fall inside yourself.

Reid Davis, Henry V
Shotgun Players
As the Dauphin in Shotgun's Henry V, Reid Davis was capricious, arrogant, and slightly camp, making the haughty prince appropriately annoying and funny; a standout in a solid ensemble cast.

Tina Jones, How I Learned to Drive
Berkeley Repertory Theater
Jones played a lecherous cartoon of a grandmother and an utterly credible 11-year-old child, eclipsing the solid cast with her willingness to make strong choices no matter how tiny her moment.

Alexis Lezin, The Stand Up
Theater Rhinoceros
As a wigged German talk-show host and a Hawaiian-shirt-clad retiree, Lezin exhibited an uncanny ability to create snap characterizations with an emotional punch.

Marin Van Young, Henry V
La Val's Subterranean Theater
In the Shotgun Players' excellent Henry V she played four roles -- Mistress Quickly, Princess Catherine, Sir Thomas Grey, and a French soldier -- but she was fetchingest as the princess, chirping in French and resisting King Harry after he conquered her father.

Direction

Margo Hall, Joy Ride
Intersection for the Arts
In her first attempt at direction this accomplished actress mastered the difficult Word by Word genre: committing a fiction story -- in this case Greg Sarris' Joy Ride -- to the stage. By breaking the long passages of narrative into rhythmic, dancing dialogue thrown between characters, she managed to infuse the first-person story with a tug-of-war of perspectives. For an often invisible art, her work shone through each moment and colored it distinctly.

Ron Mangrazite, A Midsummer Night's Dream
UC Berkeley Theater Arts Department
There were so many things that shouldn't have worked in this production: rapping fairies, a goth Oberon, Titania with a spark of Diana Ross, and the lovers' quarrel played as a raucous talk show. What could have been a postmodern nightmare came together with sex-starved student energy and sharp humor. Mangrazite directed laughs and life back into an overworked and often abused comedy.

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