Best Theater Surprise

Alexis Kinney in The Wonderful World of Dissocia - Webster University Conservatory of Theatre Arts

Alexis Kinney has been producing a fulsome sound from her diminutive frame for so many years now she should have lost her ability to surprise. Her powerful and affecting singing voice has long been a cause for astonishment. But this past March she pulled off a surprise of jaw-dropping proportions without singing a note. Kinney's portrayal of a young woman suffering from dissociative disorder in Anthony Neilson's acclaimed drama The Wonderful World of Dissocia was stunning. How does any actor find the courage to tap such a deep and dark reservoir of pitiless emotion and then stand emotionally exposed in front of strangers? There was no sense of "performance" here; what occurred onstage was so relentlessly true, a viewer felt like a voyeur to even be watching such pain. This, in an unpublicized senior show directed with imagination and passion by fellow Webster Conservatory student Matt Wills. Although theatergoers always hope for the unexpected, we never know when it will strike. But at evening's end Kinney left the audience feeling numb, exhausted — and exhilarated by the privilege of having attended a play.

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