Best Actress (2011)

Karen Stephens

Too often, the single-actor, multicharacter show is a compromised novelty, inherently restricted by the limitations of both the performer — who can't handle the enormity of the undertaking — and the playwright, who doesn't spend enough time on each character to develop him or her in three dimensions. Sarah Jones' Bridge and Tunnel shattered both of these preconceived notions in its short run at the Women's Theatre Project. Karen Stephens was a revelation, portraying 14 characters inhabiting New York City's diverse melting pot. She played men and women, blacks and whites, Jews and Muslims, elderly yentas and aspiring rappers, all brought together under the creative auspices of an open-mic poetry night. Each of Stephens' avatars spoke, dressed, and emoted with the utmost authenticity, hoisting the bar for how successful these otherwise-gimmicky shows can be.