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Arts & Entertainment

Staff Pick

Best Performance by an Actress 

Kari Ely, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, St. Louis Actors' Studio

Kari Ely (in red) carves another slice off her guests.

John Lamb

Kari Ely (in red) carves another slice off her guests.

Kari Ely brought everything she had to the role of Martha, the viperous wife in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Braying insults, cackling her way through another drink, slitting her eyes to a razor's edge, slinging one-liners — she did it all, and all in service to the play. As a disappointed and bitter woman who has retreated into the glass, Martha can easily push an incautious actor into histrionics, but Ely hewed to the truth of the character. She was vicious and lascivious in the role, but there was also the faint impression of the pain that festered inside her. Her Martha was not a one-dimensional she-demon, but rather a fully developed person, one who slashed her way through other people's psyches, yes, but one for whom you ultimately felt a deep sadness. It was a stunning performance that grew richer over the course of the show. By the end of the night, the monster was a person — a sad, lonely, disappointed person whom you pitied more than feared.

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