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