The list of actors we want to see more of on Dallas/Fort Worth theater stages this year includes a few we've seen a lot of in recent productions -- a lot, as in their frontal and backal parts sans costume.
Nudity has become so common among local theater companies, it's no big deal anymore. There are some actors around these parts whose parts we've seen so many times, we can map their tattoos.
But this is about naked talent, not bare bodkins. Here are the actors we hope to see trod the boards, clothed or not, in 2012.
Alex Organ was part of the trio of hot young thesps who starred in Second Thought Theatre's sexy-sizzling drama Red Light Winter last season. But he turned right around and showed off his comic chops as the sadistic dentist in WaterTower Theatre's Little Shop of Horrors. In Shakespeare Dallas' weird, post-World War II Hamlet, he played the Prince of Denmark's pal Horatio, speaking his few lines with such crisp, classical verve (he's a Yale Drama grad), he made us wish he had the leading role. He needs some good ones this year. Max Swarner got our attention as the lead in Uptown Players' Equus two seasons ago, but he finally found a perfect fit for his twinkly personality playing Finch, the ambitious corporate climber in ICT Mainstage's snazzy production of the musical How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying. Still a theater student at SMU, Swarner is a dandy young song-and-dance man, the kind of likable, triple-threat performer directors ought to love.
Whitney Hennen is pretty, funny and not cast often enough in roles that show her off. She had her best role last year in Uptown's Victor/Victoria, playing Norma, the squealing kewpie doll who does a comic strip tease in the second act. She didn't just steal the show; she committed grand musical comedy larceny. Not giving her a starring part this year would be a crime. Gregory Lush is a fearless leading man who's worked a lot at Theatre Three and Uptown Players (where his tight derriere was recently bared in the play The Temperamentals). We've seen him in a string of serious roles, but it's time Lush got more shots at comedy. That impish grin hints at a classic clown just bursting to get silly.
Adam Garst was the actor everyone was talking about last fall after his breakout performance in WaterTower's production of the musical Spring Awakening. Playing Moritz, the second male lead, Garst, a recent Baylor drama grad, hit the audience hard with two hot rock solos in the second act. This guy should be high on local directors' must-see lists this year.
Angel Velasco has grown up on Dallas stages over the past few seasons, starting with small roles in musicals at Uptown and moving gradually into starring parts in small musicals elsewhere, including a charming performance in Theatre Too's John Bucchino revue, It's Only Life. A career shift toward non-musical dramas and comedies could elevate Velasco's profile as a young leading man.
Aidan Langford, age 10, was a standout in Dallas Theater Center's To Kill a Mockingbird, playing Dill, the obnoxious little kid who visits the Finch family. A prolific painter and busy professional actor, Langford's already got a good career going. We're just wondering what his next starring role will be.
Akron Watson drew good reviews for his role in The Shipment at Undermain and as wrongly accused field hand Tom Robinson in DTC's Mockingbird. His performance at DTC was so good, we started wish-casting him as Othello and Macbeth, something large-scale and classical to make use of his imposing posture and vocal heft. May the audition gods take note.
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Diana Sheehan and James Crawford starred together with ease in WaterTower's gentle two-hander comedy Shooting Star last June. Now if only someone would cast them opposite each other in a revival of something classy and Coward-y like Private Lives. Crawford's a whiz with accents and Sheehan's a whippet with light comedy. Just a thought.
Lulu Ward has long been a local fave for her ability to make difficult speeches sound off-the-cuff. She was never better than in last season's production of Paul Rudnick's The New Century, part of the gay theater fest at Uptown Players. Talking nonstop for most of an hour, Lulu performed a mother's monologue that touched on the joys of crafting, the tragedies of AIDS and 9/11 and other topics that came together with a wallop. That we laughed through our tears was proof of Ward's gift for layering emotions through whatever she's doing. Oh, that she gets more chances to shine soon.
Larry Randolph caught critics and audiences off-guard with his intense turn as an aged drag queen talking to the ghosts of his past in One-Thirty Productions' entry in the Festival of Independent Theatres, Lanford Wilson's short drama The Madness of Lady Bright. Usually cast as the goofy grandpa, Randolph, we know now, has depths as an actor he's only begun to explore.
Ben Bryant seems to work constantly, but we liked him best last year as the mentally disabled son in One-Thirty's Greetings! and in three different roles, including female ones, in Pocket Sandwich Theatre's Sylvia. Right now you can see him in Pegasus Theatre's black-and-white show, The Frequency of Death! at the Eisemann. But isn't it about time he was lured away from comedy and into something serious? He plays down his leading man bone structure, but one of these days some smart director will cast him in a hubba-hubba part in some dark drama. Wait and see.