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BWW Feature: MASH NOTE TO THE LATE HENRY MOSS at Firehouse Theatre Project

BWW Feature: MASH NOTE TO THE LATE HENRY MOSS at Firehouse Theatre Project I'm back in 2008 again, and thinking about the Artsies. It was the first year for the awards, and there was a ton of great theater to give awards to.

Swift Creek had done "Urinetown," and it won best musical, best director (Tom Width), best supporting actress (Debra Wagoner) and best choreography (Brandon Becker), despite being up against Barksdale's wonderful "Guys and Dolls" (for which Scott Wichmann and Jason Marks won Artsies).

And among the plays we had "The Seagull," done by Henley Street; "Doubt: A Parable" and "The Little Dog Laughed" from Barksdale; "Spinning into Butter" from Firehouse; "A Streetcar Named Desire" from Sycamore Rouge; and several nominated plays from Richmond Shakespeare, including "Henry IV, part 2" and "Richard II."

But the best play winner that year--over all that competition--was Firehouse's "The Late Henry Moss," in an excellent production directed by Morrie Piersol.

The cast included the venerable Bill Patton in the title role, with Justin Dray and Daniel Moore explosive as his battling sons Earl and Ray. (Dray won an Artsie for his performance, too). Though Shepard is often opaque, at least to me, this is a relatively straightforward play for him; still, all the seething family emotion is very much on display in the work. There's comedy, too, and Piersol was masterful at highlighting that.

The big memories for me are how believable Patton, Moore and Dray were as alcoholic father and angry sons, and how fearless Jen Meharg was as Patton's last paramour, Conchalla Lupina.

I think this show also marked the origin of one of the tools the Richmond Theatre Critics Circle uses to make tough decisions on who gets Artsies--the impassioned plea. It's not used often. Sometimes it's been about the relative seriousness or challenge of one show versus another; sometimes it's been about a more obscure production that fewer critics saw but that was nonetheless outstanding. If you can make your case, sometimes you squeeze a vote or two from your colleagues and bring attention to a deserving show.

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From This Author Susan Haubenstock