There are plenty of reasons Actors' Playhouse's Murder Ballad was the best musical of the year, including a stunningly reimagined set design, outstanding musical direction, and superb lighting. But without a cast that could perfectly translate the show's whirlwind of lust, death, longing, and mordant humor, it would have been all for naught. And this quartet of actors was so exceptional that they should take this production on tour. Chris Crawford brought seething rage and sexual inhibition to his Manhattan bartender, Blythe Gruda convincingly portrayed a young woman torn between domestic security and forbidden pleasure, and Mark Sanders made plausible the tragedy of his spurned lover and the dawning acceptance that violence is his only recourse. Mariand Torres kept these wild egos and libidos in check as the narrator, a goth-chic barkeep whose dark sense of mirth cut everybody down to size. Collectively, they were like the four panes of a window into the complicated human heart — broken though it may be.