Their Favorite Things: Tony Nominee and Rose Star Kathleen Chalfant Shares Her Theatregoing Experiences

Favorite Things   Their Favorite Things: Tony Nominee and Rose Star Kathleen Chalfant Shares Her Theatregoing Experiences Kathleen Chalfant, the Tony-nominated Angels in America actress who will be seen Off-Broadway in Laurence Leamer's solo play about Rose Kennedy, Rose, beginning Nov. 21, shares the performances that most affected her as part of the audience.
Kathleen Chalfant
Kathleen Chalfant
Kathleen Chalfant
Kathleen Chalfant

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Uncle Vanya

At Circle in the Square with an all-star cast including George C. Scott, Nicol Williamson, Julie Christie, Elizabeth Wilson, Lillian Gish, Cathleen Nesbit and Barney Hughes — I had just moved to New York, and this was the first Broadway show I saw. I was lucky because everyone showed up that afternoon and gave a magical performance that I can still see in my mind's eye. Cathleen Nesbit was 90 years old, I think, and commanded the stage and was heartbreakingly beautiful.

Nicol Williamson with George C. Scott in <i>Uncle Vanya</i>
Nicol Williamson with George C. Scott in Uncle Vanya

Sherlock Holmes with John Wood

His performance was absolutely riveting — it wasn't so much that he disappeared into the character as that the character took him over and demanded your full attention.  I'd never seen acting like that.

John Wood as Sherlock Holmes
John Wood as Sherlock Holmes

Brace Up! at The Wooster Group 

This was the Wooster Group's revolutionary take on The Three Sisters using Paul Schmidt's unequaled translation as well as many special elements including a dinosaur and sometimes Willem Dafoe on television. But the most riveting  moments were when Masha and Vershinin approached one another. Ron Vawter as Vershinin was definitive.

<i>Brace Up!</i>
Brace Up!

Caroline, or Change with Tonya Pinkins

The combination of a remarkable cast led by Tonya Pinkins and the perfectly matched beauties and revelations of the words by Tony Kushner and the music by Jeanine Tesori just tore my heart out.

Chandra Wilson, Tonya Pinkins, and Anika Noni Rose in <i>Caroline, or Change</i>
Chandra Wilson, Tonya Pinkins, and Anika Noni Rose in Caroline, or Change Photo by Michal Daniel

FELA! conceived and choreographed by Bill T. Jones

From the moment you walked into the theatre until you were forced to leave, this show picked you up and shook you and filled you with joy and terror. The dancers were quite literally unbelievable.

Sahr Ngaujah and company in <i>Fela!</i>
Sahr Ngaujah and company in Fela! Photo by Tristram Kenton

The Apple Family Plays by Richard Nelson at the Public Theater

There has never been a better cycle of plays about a family. The production was wonderful and every actor, including me, in New York who didn't have a part in it wanted one. We all thought the Apple Family should have lots of neighbors who dropped in from time to time.

Sally Murphy, Jon DeVries, Laila Robins, and Maryann Plunkett in <i>The Apple Family Plays: Scenes from Life in the Country</i>
Sally Murphy, Jon DeVries, Laila Robins, and Maryann Plunkett in The Apple Family Plays: Scenes from Life in the Country Photo by Carol Rosegg

Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill with Audra McDonald

This was a perfect performance in every possible way... Ms. McDonald did disappear into this character and make her live and sing and suffer and invade the souls of the audience.

Audra McDonald in <i>Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill</i>
Audra McDonald in Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill Photo by Evgenia Eliseeva

Uncle Vanya at the Soho Rep

Well, here the combination of Annie Baker and Sam Gold and Chekhov and those actors illuminated the play in a way I didn't think possible. It happens that I have seen this play more than any other play, and it was as if I'd never seen it.

<i>Uncle Vanya</i> at the Soho Rep
Uncle Vanya at the Soho Rep

Fun Home at the Public Theater and then Circle in the Square

I saw both productions (I've seen the play three times) and was completely undone every time. The courage of the writing, the way the music absolutely served the story and the great honesty and simplicity of the acting all under the very sure hand of Sam Gold make this play sing and compel no matter what the composition of the audience is.

10 out of 12 by Anne Washburn, directed by Les Waters at Soho Rep

This play let everyone in on what it feels like in TECH for everyone involved. Thomas Jay Ryan delivered the most harrowing monologue on the theatre I've ever heard and delivered it flawlessly. The rest of the production was up to that standard, too.

Thomas Jay Ryan, Gibson Frazier, Sue Jean Kim, and Nina Hellman in <i>10 out of 12</i>
Thomas Jay Ryan, Gibson Frazier, Sue Jean Kim, and Nina Hellman in 10 out of 12 Photo by Julieta Cervantes
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