Best Actress (2013)

Shawna Franks in Uncle Vanya at Space 55

Some performers are like the J.D. Salinger of acting — hard to catch. (Usually it's because they're working very hard doing other things that generally are none of your business.) But one of Shawna Franks' conflicts, as artistic director of Space 55 Ensemble, understandably eats into her available time to appear in plays. We're happy when we do get to see her act, and sad the rest of the time, because we aren't watching her act. See, she's got mad chops, partly from her training days in Chicago (at the former Goodman School at DePaul and on the mean streets).

In March, Franks played the beautiful, idle, self-loathing Elena in an adaptation of Anton Chekhov's Uncle Vanya. (Everyone in Chekhov, as in life, is self-loathing — but anyway . . .) Her trajectory through the evening appeared entirely inevitable (for the character) and effortless (for the performer). This is pure toil that should look like the random machinations of nature, and that's what Franks accomplishes.


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