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Don Aucoin’s theater picks of 2013

■  Most dramatically flared nostrils: Varla Jean Merman in title role of “Mildred Fierce,’’ Ryan Landry and the Gold Dust Orphans, at Machine.

■  Most creative use of cake during a solo performance: Stephanie Burlington Daniels as a deranged academic in “Birth Breath Bride Elizabeth,’’ Sleeping Weazel, at ArtsEmerson.

■  Most entertainingly over-the-top Scottish accent: Tony Estrella as King James I in “Anne Boleyn,’’ Gamm Theatre.

■  Best performance while wearing a nun’s habit: Ta’Rea Campbell as an on-the-run Deloris Van Cartier in “Sister Act,’’ Broadway in Boston, at Boston
Opera House.

■  Wardrobe most likely to cause retina damage in audience: Karen MacDonald’s attire as a forbidding but fashion-challenged matriarch in “Other Desert Cities,’’ SpeakEasy Stage Company.


■  Most adroit scene-stealing: Nikko Kimzin as the frisky housekeeper in
“La Cage aux Folles,’’ North Shore Music Theatre.

■  Most complete audience involvement: “Society,’’ by Miranda July, at Institute of Contemporary Art.

■  Most moral complexity embodied by a single actor at a single time: Bryan Cranston, portraying President Lyndon Baines Johnson in American Repertory Theater’s “All the Way,’’ maneuvering to win passage of landmark civil rights legislation, at the same time TV viewers were watching final episodes of AMC’s “Breaking Bad,’’ featuring Cranston as drug kingpin Walter White.

■  Best performance while being pursued by very large dogs: John Bolton, “A Christmas Story, the Musical,’’ Citi Performing Arts Center, Wang Theatre.

■  Production most likely to make you want to hit the bars afterward for a good stiff drink: “The Cocktail Hour,’’ Huntington Theatre Company.

Don Aucoin can be reached at aucoin@globe.com