Hartford Stage, Broadway, TV Film Actor James Colby Dead At 56

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This is a hard one to write about. James Colby was an actor I admired, who was full of talent, warmth and kindness, who filled all the roles of his life with authenticity and grace.

James Colby, who starred in many productions at Hartford Stage under the artistic direction of Michael Wilson, died last week. He was 56.

 Alyssa Bresnahan, James Colby and Annalee Jefferies in "A Streetcar Named Desire" at Hartford Stage

Alyssa Bresnahan, James Colby and Annalee Jefferies in "A Streetcar Named Desire" at Hartford Stage

Colby first starred as Stanley in "A Streetcar Named Desire" in 1998 where he met his future wife, Alyssa Bresnahan, who played Stella. He then went on to star in leading man roles in a series of Tennessee Williams productions at the theater including Kilroy in "Camino Real," the Rev. Shannon in "Night of the Iguana" (with Bresnahan as Maxine) and Brick in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," opposite Bresnahan as Maggie. He also starred with Bresnahan in Eugene O'Neill's "A Moon for the Misbegotten" at Hartford Stage. 

 James Colby and Alyssa Bresnahan in "Streetcar"

James Colby and Alyssa Bresnahan in "Streetcar"

 

For "Camino Real," Markland Taylor wrtiting in Variety praised "...the absolutely right Kilroy of James Colby. He’s the quintessential broken-down boxing champ, none too bright, none too well-educated , an innocent among the overly sophisticated, world-weary Camino Real denizens. Colby’s Kilroy anchors this production to the stage and to some semblance of reality."

 James Colby in "Camino Real"

James Colby in "Camino Real"

Colby most recent was in the Pulitzer Prizer winning play "Sweat" on Broadway last year. David Rooney writing in The Hollywood Reporter noted his "sensitive work... as the rueful barkeep attempting to be the voice of reason."

 James Colby and Alyssa Bresnahan in "A Moon for the Misbegotten begotten" at Hartford Stage 

James Colby and Alyssa Bresnahan in "A Moon for the Misbegotten begotten" at Hartford Stage 

Colby also played Bernardo in the 1992 Broadway production of "Hamlet." 

Of his performance as Stanley, critic John Simon wrote in New York magazine: "James Colby is the best Stanley in years because he allows the character his ordinariness. Not trying to demonize him or -- as some have done -- poeticize him, he gives us a common but not unduly vulgar man, with brightness and obtuseness intermingled."

 James Colby and Alyssa Bresnahan in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" at Hartford Stage

James Colby and Alyssa Bresnahan in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" at Hartford Stage

Of his performance and the Rev. Shannon in "Iguana," Hartford Courant critic Malcolm Johnson wrote: "James Colby's dissipated, despairing Rev. T. Lawrence Shannon also sets out a very different persona from his rough-edged Stanley. Looking older and seedily debonair, he exudes a ruined nobility and an air of self-torment."

 James Colby in "Camino Real" at Hartford Stage

James Colby in "Camino Real" at Hartford Stage

Other stage credits include off-Broadway's "The Butterfly Collection, "The Day Emily Married," "Dividing the Estate," "Blade to the Heat," "Labor Day," "The Devils" and "The Food Chain."

The Bridgewater State University and Brooklyn College grad has continuing characters in the TV series "Empire," "Taxi Brooklyn" and "Waterfront."

 Jamnes Colby in "The Dat Emily Marrie" off-Broadway 

Jamnes Colby in "The Dat Emily Marrie" off-Broadway 

Other TV credits include "Jessica Jones," "Divorce," Chicago P.D.," "Limitless," "Madoff," "Gotham," "The Blacklist," "Person of Interest," "The Big C," among many others, and multiple appearances on various "Law & Order" series.

 James Colby (center) in Broadway production of "Sweat"

James Colby (center) in Broadway production of "Sweat"

The Arlington, Mass. native's film credits include ""Patriots Day," , "Safe," , "The Amazing Spider-Man 2,""Tower Heist," and "The Peacemaker."

He married Bresnahan in 2008 and they have a seven-year-old daughter Shannon Rose, 7. 

 James Colby in "Sweat"

James Colby in "Sweat"

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James Colby