Stage and screen star Annette O'Toole, who is currently starring in The Public Theater production of Southern Comfort, a folk and bluegrass-inspired musical that explores transgender life, shares the performances that most affected her as part of the audience.
Michael McKean in Superior Donuts
I saw my Michael disappear into the character of Arthur P, proprietor of Superior Donuts. I watched him play this part at Steppenwolf and at the Music Box many times, but each time he became a man I did not know—broken, lonely, quietly drowning. (He told me not to put him in this list. He is not the boss of me.)
This was one of those times where I just shook my head leaving the theatre. The power of the story itself and the gargantuan power of the lone actor telling/living it, made me weak in the knees.
Audra is the gold standard. This performance moved me so much that I was a wreck for days afterwards. She was Bess, but she was Every Woman, too. And my God, that voice. I adore her.
Reed is so good in everything he does that it's hard to pin down just one performance as the one that I love the most. In Casa Valentina, he was a shark. In The Humans, he is a beached dolphin. Don't know why I went with the ocean metaphors—maybe because the ocean is so deep? Like Reed.
Dame Edna Everage in Dame Edna: Back with a Vengeance and Dame Edna: The Royal Tour
I have seen Dame Edna four times. She is hilarious, sweet, brilliant, and has incredible gams. My husband is my witness: I have never laughed harder in my life than I have watching her dance. She once threw a gladiola from the stage to me. I brought it home and kept it like a Palm Sunday frond until it disintegrated.
I saw Dame Angela play Mame at the Ahmanson in Los Angeles from the nosebleed seats (all I could afford). She was spectacularly wild, sexy, and everything I always wanted to be. She still is.
Lois Smith is my favorite actress. There is no way to describe what she does (especially in The Trip to Bountiful) or how it affects me. She is life itself.
John Glover in A Foreign Body
It was thrilling to see John in this site-specific play. It's the latest in his lexicon of brilliant performances. He was creepy, sweet, mesmerizing—just everything you want in your Polish auteur. And, man, he looks great in just a towel.
Cast of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Booth Theatre 2012
Paxton Whitehead in The Miser at the Old Globe Theatre, San Diego
A few years ago in a word association game, my husband asked me to name my favorite performance. I immediately said, "Paxton Whitehead in The Miser." It was on the outdoor stage at the Old Globe in 1982, and I am still laughing. He played a thoroughly horrible human being with crazy zest. It was heavenly.
Cast of August: Osage County
I have to go to 11, of course…Directed by Anna D. Shapiro.