2014 Post-Gazette Performer of the Year: Patrick Jordan
January 11, 2015 12:00 AM
Patrick Jordan, right, founder and chief of barebones productions, is the 2014 Post-Gazette Performer of the Year for roles including a volatile cop in "A Steady Rain," with David Whalen (Performer of the Year '07).
Former PG Performer of the Year Tami Dixon as Blanche with 2014 honoree Patrick Jordan as Stanley in barebones productions' "A Streetcar Named Desire."
Jeffrey Carpenter as Mitch in barebones productions' "A Streetcar Named Desire" was the standout Supporting Actor among Pittsburgh theater performances of 2014.
James FitzGerald, left, with Alan Stanford in PICT's "Waiting for Godot" is a runner-up for 2014 Performer of the Year.
Teagle F. Bougere flew solo in "An Iliad" to wow audiences at Pittsburgh Public Theater.
Quantum Theatre's "Tamara," the PG's top play of 2014, featured, from left, Ethan Hova, Tammy Tsai, Cathryn Dylan, Thomas Constantine Moore, Robert Turano and Ken Bolden.
City Theatre's "Tribes" featured one of 2014's top ensembles, including, from left, Laurie Klatscher, Tad Cooley, John Judd, Robin Abramson and Alex Hoeffler.
Karen Baum, left,and Nike Doukas in PICT's "Woman and Scarecrow" were a top stage duo in 2014.
Jeff Swensen for Point Park Univ
Jeff Howell, a runner-up for Performer of the Year, in "Souvenir" (Playhouse Rep) opposite Jill Keating.
in PICT's "Macbeth," from left, Erin Whitcomb, Cassidy Adkins and Lily Davis share Lead Actress honors. In the background are David Whalen, Macbeth, and Justin R.G. Holcomb as Banquo.
By Christopher Rawson and Sharon Eberson / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The Post-Gazette Performer of the Year for 2014 is Patrick Jordan, who scored big in two plays by his own company, barebones productions. In “A Steady Rain,” he paired with David Whalen (Performer of the Year in 2007), for a taut, spare drama about two Chicago cops, originally played on Broadway by Daniel Craig and Hugh Jackman. And in “A Streetcar Named Desire,” perhaps the most elaborate production mounted in barebones’ 11 years, he played the iconic role of Stanley Kowalski.
As an actor, Mr. Jordan has made his mark in edgy contemporary plays, guilty pleasures laced with unsettling humor. His own roles are often dark, wry around the edges, such as Roma in “Glengarry Glen Ross,” the title character in “Killer Joe” or the furious, befuddled Jackie in “The Mother****** with the Hat.” This year, his Denny in “Steady Rain” seemed frank and funny to start, but dark, scary passions gradually emerged. As Stanley, though, Mr. Jordan’s chief achievement was a defensive normality that gave his climactic assault on Blanche an enigmatic (if still horrifying) twist.
In 2014, he also played a vigorous, straightforward Macduff in “Macbeth” (PICT) and the frantic/comic Defendant in David Mamet’s “Romance” (Kinetic), while acting in several movies, as well; and at year’s end, he even performed as groom in his own wedding. It was a good year. But in addition to all this, Mr. Jordan’s chief claim on our admiration remains his artistic directorship of barebones, which he founded and sustains with unwavering imagination and energy.
This is the 31st time the Post-Gazette has named a stage performer of the year. (Note that the award is not to a performance but a performer, although occasionally one performance has won the day.) The award is always based on shows produced in Pittsburgh and generally goes to an actor based here. Of the 33 previous Performers of the Year (including ties), 12 appeared on Pittsburgh stages in 2014: Helena Ruoti, Rick McMillan, Larry John Meyers, Maria Becoates-Bey, Tom Atkins, Martin Giles, David Whalen, Robin Abramson, Laurie Klatscher, Tami Dixon, Mary Rawson and Daina Michelle Griffith. We have never repeated the award.
It also was a very good year for James FitzGerald, a skilled character actor who rose to admirable heights in one famous lead role and a couple of significant others. The first was as a thoughtful Vladimir, patiently waiting for Godot in the play of that name (PICT). His other substantial roles were in the prison drama “Heads” (Playhouse Rep), the strange “Woman and Scarecrow” and the epic “Great Expectations” (both for PICT).
Other runners-up were Ken Bolden, excellent in “Tamara” (Quantum) and “Great Expectations” (PICT); Nike Doukas in “Woman and Scarecrow” (PICT); and Jeff Howell in “Souvenir” and “By the Way, Meet Vera Stark” (both Playhouse Rep).
Among the memorable, even inspirational theater events of 2014, the 1989-90 Performer of the Year, Rick McMillan, who has incurable cancer, returned from Canada with his wife, Anne Louise Bannon, to do “Love Letters” as a benefit for a University of Pittsburgh theater scholarship.
Another special evening was Pittsburgh Musical Theater’s gala dedication of its refurbished home in the West End to Ken Gargaro.
The theater community gathered to roast actor/director/playwright Martin Giles, who sat smiling while he was satirized with comic ferocity by a cadre of theater friends, including David Whalen, Jarrod DiGiorgi, Patrick Jordan, Sheila McKenna, Gayle Pazerski Stephenson and, from the Big Apple, Joe Schulz.
Among other such visits, alum Dagmara Dominczyk came back to talk to drama students at CMU, bringing along her husband, Patrick Wilson. Corey Cott (“Newsies,” the upcoming “Gigi”), also visited CMU and saw his brother, Casey Cott, in Front Porch Theatrical’s “Parade.”
Of former Performers of the Year, no one was better on stage in 2014 than Daina Michelle Griffith (five shows at as many different companies), Mr. Whalen (five shows, four companies), Robin Abramson (four shows, three companies) and Mr. Giles (four shows for PICT).
Notable world premieres: Ed Dixon, “L’Hotel” (Public); Willy Holtzman, “Smart Blonde” (City); Michael Kooman & Chris Dimond, “Judge Jackie Justice – A New Musical Comedy” (CLO Cabaret); Russ Babines, “The Great One” (Pittsburgh Playwrights); Barry Kornhauser, “The Devil’s Arithmatic” (Prime Stage); Phil Real, “Cactus” (12 Peers); Alki Steriopoulos, “21” (Point Park); and “Hamlet (The Notes),” a Dan Jemmett workshop.
Also new was “An American in Paris,” co-executive produced by the CLO’s Van Kaplan, premiered in (of course) Paris on its way to a 2015 spring debut on Broadway.
It was a Tennessee Williams fall, with “The Glass Menagerie” (Public) and “Streetcar” (barebones); there had been another “Glass Menagerie” earlier at CMU, plus a “Menagerie” on Broadway starring CMU grads Cherry Jones and (Pittsburgh native) Zachary Quinto.
The Pittsburgh Savoyards did Gilbert & Sullivan’s rarely seen “Utopia, Limited” (1893) at the same time Prime Stage was doing Oscar Wilde’s often-seen “The Importance of Being Earnest” (1895) – a double-dip in late Victorian comic satire – the first in Andrew Carnegie's lovely little musical hall in Carnegie (1901), the second at the first Carnegie Music Hall (1889), now the New Hazlett.
Lead actor: Top performances included: Tad Cooley, part of the “Tribes” ensemble (City); Robert Turano and Ethan Hova, Finzi and Dante, part of the fine “Tamara” ensemble; Leandro Cano, Lennie, “Of Mice and Men” (Playhouse Rep); Manuel Stark, Ren, “Footloose,” and David Elder, Don Lockwood, “Singin’ in the Rain” (both CLO); Peter Matthew Smith, Javert, “Les Miserables” (Pittsburgh Musical Theatre); Mitchell Edwards, Floyd, “Seven Guitars” (CMU); and Reed Worth as “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” (Point Park).
Lead actress: Individually, you’d call them supporting players, but as a trio, they loomed large: Erin Whitcomb, Cassidy Adkins and Lily Davis as the three weird sisters in “Macbeth” (PICT).
Others of note: Andrea Burns, Judy Holliday, “Smart Blonde” (City); Erika Cuenca, Aphra Behn, “Or,” (Off the Wall); Helena Ruoti, Dotty/Mrs. Clackett, “Noises Off” (Public); Lynne Wintersteller, Amanda, “Glass Menagerie” (Public); Amy Landis, “Orlando” (Unseam’d Shakespeare); Emily Lynn Miller, Princess Fiona, “Shrek” (PMT); Maria Becoates-Bey, title role, “By the Way, Meet Vera Stark” (Playhouse Rep); Julia Zoratto, Hannah, “The Devil’s Arithmetic” (Prime Stage); and Jill Keating, Florence Foster Jenkins, “Souvenir” (Playhouse Rep).
Supporting actor: Best of all was Jeffrey Carpenter’s Mitch, “Streetcar” (barebones). Also special were the comic villainy of Tim Hartman, both as Lord Farquaad in “Shrek” and Thenardier in “Les Miserables” (PMT), and of Tony Bingham as the dictators in “Pantagleize” (Quantum).
Others of note: Evan Zes, the waiter, “L’Hotel” (Public); Alan Stanford, Pozzo, "Godot" (PICT); Shaun Cameron Hall, Billy, “A Feminine Ending” (Off the Wall); Gregory Lehane, King Philip, “Fixing King John” (No Name Players); John O’Creagh, Burgess, “Candida” (Public); Matt DeCaro, judge, “Romance” (Kinetic); and Jonathan Brody and Adam Heller, many roles each in “Smart Blonde” (City).
Supporting actress: Dee Hoty, Vi Moore, “Footloose” (CLO); Ingrid Sonnichsen, “Feminine Ending” (Off the Wall); Karen Baum, Scarecrow, “Woman and Scarecrow” (PICT); Bria Walker, Lottie, “Vera Stark”; Maggie Carr in “Evil Dead, the Musical” (No Name); and Amy Landis, Mrs. Reed, “The Small Room” (Off the Wall).
Solo: Teagle F. Bougere in “An Iliad” (Public) was outstanding. Also of note: Tressa Glover, “The Great One” (Pittsburgh Playwrights); Randy Kovitz, “Underneath the Lintel” (12 Peers); Kelly McAndrew, “Grounded” (City); and Leslie Ezra Smith in his own “Book of Ezra” (Pittsburgh Playwrights).
Duo: Albert Jones and Bianca LaVerne Jones (no relation) as Martin Luther King and a motel employee (but not just that) in “The Mountaintop” (City). Also Ron Menzel and Megan Byrne as laggard lovers in “Outside Mullingar” (City).
Trio: Larry John Meyers, Helena Ruoti and Melinda Helfrich in the Pinteresque “Madagascar” (Quantum).
Ensemble: The best was in “Tamara” (Quantum), where 10 actors had to sync up scenes happening simultaneously in a dozen rooms. Also “Tribes” (City), “Noises Off” and “Company” (Public); “Spamalot” (Pittsburgh CLO); and “Observe the Sons of Ulster” (PICT).
Director: John Shepard rises to the top, for skillfully (along with stage managers, the invisible glue of all theater) keeping “Tamara” on track. In addition, he directed “Heads” (Playhouse Rep) and “Or,” (Off the Wall), three very different plays.
Also of note: Tome Cousin, “Vera Stark” and “Souvenir” (both Playhouse Rep); Jed Harris, “Pantagleize” (Quantum) and “Trojan Women” (CMU); Melissa Martin, both plays at barebones’ and Stuart Carden, “Tribes” (City).
Design: The imaginative work by Jesse Sedon-Essad, who does projections and video for the Playhouse, was on display in “Heads” and “Vera Stark. Set designs always excel at the Public Theater (for example, ”An Iliad,“ ”Company“ and ”L’Hotel). Cat Wilson’s lighting was a highlight of “Macbeth” (PICT), and there was nothing barebones about Richard Parsakian’s costumes for “Streetcar.” Pittsburgh’s busiest set and lighting designers remained Tony Ferrieri and Andy Ostrowski — “The Mountaintop” (City) marked the former’s 500th produced set design in a nearly 40-year career.
Now onto 2015! ... oh, we’re already there.
Christopher Rawson: email@example.com and 412-216-1944; Sharon Eberson: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1960.
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