Saturday, January 10, 2009

Wisey Best Supporting Actress: Vilma Silva

The nominees for best supporting actress for 2008 were:

Chelsey Rives as Stella Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire. Intiman Theatre.
Kimberly Scott as Mammy in The Further Adventures of Hedda Gabler. Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
Vilma Silva as Emilia in Othello. Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
Vilma Silva as Beatrice in A View From the Bridge. Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

And the winner is….Vilma Silva, Oregon Shakespeare Company, for Othello and A View From A Bridge.

If the best supporting actor award can go to two actors in one show, the best supporting actress award can go to one actress in two shows. Vilma Silva, a 14-year veteran of the company, has become one of our favorites after turning in a spirited and believable Kate in Shrew at OSF in 2007 and for the two great performances in 2008 for which she is awarded the Wisey.

This year we saw her in the Arthur Miller play A View From A Bridge as Beatrice and as Emelia in Othello. As different as those characters are, they have in common that they are observers and truth-tellers in their respective plays.

Set in a neighborhood of immigrants in New York, Beatrice watches – and encourages – her niece growing up and away. She also watches her husband fall apart. She tries to hold her marriage and her extended family and community together. Silva plays a perfect counterpoint to Armando Duran’s intensely taut Eddie.

In Othello, you would never think in the first few acts how important Emelia’s role will be, until she becomes the one to put the pieces together and finally call bullshit on Iago. Silva’s Emelia is by turns clueless, earnest, resigned, and principled.

We’re impressed by her ability to embody such different characters, across a wide span of ages, dictions, and mannerisms, that it has us wondering “can that really be the same actress?” It’s also impressive that she can convey so much subtlety on the big outdoor Lizzy. We’re looking forward to seeing her next year as Queen Katherine in Henry VIII.

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