The tricky thing about assessing an actor’s skill is that sometimes he can be so good at something that he always gets cast to do that one thing, and we don’t get a chance to see what else he is capable of. For too long this has been the case for the ubiquitous Brian Keith Russell, who is so good at playing lovable (and often drunken) oafs such as Sir Toby Belch (Twelfth Night) or Arms and the Man‘s Major Petkoff that one might think that’s all he can do. Fortunately Domenique Lozano saw through the bluster and dared to cast him as the priggishly intellectual yet emotionally menacing art critic John Ruskin in CenterREP’s production of The Countess, allowing Russell to reveal a completely different side. His Ruskin was word-perfect, showing that in addition to his naturally big, charismatic stage presence he could pull off complex, troubled characters as well as the other actors who made their mark last year (Richard Louis James and Cassidy Brown in The Death of Meyerhold, Bruce MacKenzie in Measure for Measure, David Arrow in Partition). While we’ll doubtless see plenty of jovial Russell in future, let’s hope more directors take a chance on giving him juicy, difficult roles such as this one.