Best Supporting Actress (2009)

Lela Elam

This award could easily have gone to a dozen other actors from Judas Iscariot, whose characters were as big, bright, and sharply drawn as only a three-hour play with an almost perfect cast can allow. But Lela Elam brought it with an intensity rare even for her (which is saying something), as she played both an eternally grieving mother and Saint Veronica. Her mother bit was moving, subtle, fragile, almost silent, but her Saint Veronica was another thing entirely. Veronica was the driving force of the play — an enactment of a long-overdue trial for Judas Iscariot, begun because Veronica believes Iscariot got a bad rap — and she was entirely credible: a personality of such blazing force that you figure, yeah, she could totally reverse a divine judgment. In a single breath, she was bawdy in an entirely 21st-century, hip-hop kind of way; hilarious; trenchant; and scary. It was a hard part that Elam handled with relish. An actress this good probably has a difficult time finding roles worth sinking her teeth into. Thank heavens for Guirgis.

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