Talk about your extremes.

Tucson theater over 2011 defines it: We had a musical that dealt with murder and cannibalism ("Sweeney Todd"), another about an innocent young woman on the brink of love and life ("Daddy Long Legs").

Comedies about families falling apart ("Reckless") and coming together ("Lost in Yonkers").

And dramas that travel to the future ("Pillowman") and to the past ("As I Lay Dying").

Theater over the past year has given us much to ponder. And much to consider when handing out the Star's annual Mac Awards, presented for the best in theater. The awards are named after the late Mary MacMurtrie, who spent much of the last century turning Tucson children into actors, directors, stage technicians and audiences that appreciate heart, honesty and intent as well as excellence.

Drumroll, please. ... Here are our nominations and winners for the 2011 Mac Awards.

Best musical

Nominees:

• Arizona Onstage Productions' courage and expertise was evident in its staging of "Sweeney Todd."

• "High Crimes," a one-act musical by recent University of Arizona grad Damian Hudson, staged by Etcetera, the late-night arm of Live Theatre Workshop, wasn't perfect, but it was a hint at the brilliance Hudson (now an actor pursuing a career in New York) is capable of. It was a funny, gutsy piece.

• The Arizona Repertory Theatre's production of "Into the Woods" was full of surprises and talent.

The Mac goes to ...

Arizona Theatre Company's production of "Daddy Long Legs." The musical is a sweet adaptation of the sweet book by Jean Webster. Tony-winner John Caird wrote and directed it, and Paul Gordon wrote the music and lyrics. Beautifully performed, it was a production that swept you away to another time and place.

Best comedy

Nominees:

• Noel Coward's "Hay Fever" received a sublime staging at Arizona Repertory Theatre.

• Rogue Theatre's "Major Barbara" was a delicious production of the George Bernard Shaw classic.

• Live Theatre Workshop's production of "Kimberly Akimbo" was a touching, tender comedy performed well.

• LTW's "The Foreigner" was packed with heart and laughs.

• Also at LTW, the black, black comedy "Reckless" gave us surprising and delicious pleasure, and a new way to mark the holidays.

• Invisible Theatre's "Circle Mirror Transformation" was a funny insight into the lives of actors and wannabe actors.

• ATC reminded us why Neil Simon is so popular with its production of "Lost in Yonkers."

The Mac goes to ...

Rogue's production of the Tom Stoppard comedy "The Real Inspector Hound." It was performed with gleeful abandon and full attention to playwright Stoppard's lush language.

Best drama

Nominees:

• Arizona Onstage Productions' "Masterclass" was a clear example of the excellence that a small company is capable of.

• The Rogue showed it was willing to go out on a limb to bring Tucson quality theater with its production of William Faulkner's "As I Lay Dying." It should not have worked (it's Faulkner, for goodness' sake!), but it did. Beautifully.

• Winding Road Theatre Ensemble's "Talley's Folly" was sweet, tender and a riveting 90 or so minutes of theater.

• Arizona Onstage Productions' "The Member of the Wedding" was heartbreaking and hopeful.

• The Now Theatre's "The Pillowman" is not an easy play to stage. It is frightening, it is funny, it is complicated. It deserves a beautifully acted and directed production, and Now Theatre gave it that.

The Mac goes to ...

Live Theater's production of "How I Learned to Drive." The play is harrowing and hopeful, and this production was beautifully acted and directed.

Best actress

Nominees:

• Peg Peterson's portrayal of a 16-year-old in a 60-year-old's body in Live Theatre's "Kimberly Akimbo" was so deeply rooted we were able to ignore her white hair and lined (well, barely lined) face to see the teen hungry for life.

• Judy Kaye gave full life to the conflicted grandmother in Arizona Theatre Company's production of "Lost in Yonkers."

• Jacinda Rose Swinehart's Mrs. Lovett in Arizona Onstage's production of "Sweeney Todd" was dark and delightful.

• Holli Thenhaus' Li'l Bit in Live Theatre's "How I Learned to Drive" was painful, poignant and spot-on.

• Rhonda Hallquist was flawless in Live Theatre's "Reckless," and in Beowulf Alley Theatre's "Beauty Queen of Leenane."

• Dylan Page fashioned a cold and powerful Evelyn in Arizona Rep's "The Shape of Things."

• Cynthia Meier was a complete hoot in Rogue's "Real Inspector Hound."

• Betsy Kruse Craig perfectly captured the sophisticated and flighty character Perri in Invisible Theatre's "In the Mood."

The Mac goes to …

Daria Berg for her performance in Arizona Onstage's "The Member of the Wedding." Berg made the pain and angst of childhood palpable as the preteen Frankie, and her performance was honest and eloquent.

Best actor

Nominees:

• Rick Shipman showed a keen sense of timing and big heart in his role as Charlie in Live Theatre's "The Foreigner."

• Also at Live Theatre, Keith Wick hit us up with solid performances a couple of times this year: as the lovesick mortician in "Three Viewings" and Lloyd, the oddball character in a play full of oddballs, "Reckless."

• Matt Bowdren gave a chilling performance as the calculating detective in Now Theatre's "The Pillowman," and a funny one in Rogue's "The Real Inspector Hound."

• Remi Sandri was a sublime Holmes in ATC's "Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Suicide Club."

• David Greenwood brought vivid life to the patriarch Anse in Rogue Theatre's "As I Lay Dying."

• Christopher Johnson was mesmerizing in Etcetera's one-man play, "Thom Pain."

• James Cockrell's performance as the young John Henry in "The Member of the Wedding" was completely unaffected.

The Mac goes to ...

Lee Rayment, who played the difficult role of Katurian in Now Theatre's "Pillowman." Katurian is not a likable character, but Rayment gave him a tenderness and empathy that made the audience embrace him. It was a most memorable performance.

Best director

The nominees:

• David Morden won us over with his direction of The Rogue Theatre's swift and funny "Major Barbara."

• David Ira Goldstein's direction of the world premiere of "Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Suicide Club" beautifully allowed the suspense to build and the humor to shine.

• Kevin Johnson took on a massive project with his direction of Arizona Onstage Productions' "Sweeney Todd" and proved that a small company can do big theater.

• Nic Adams' direction of "The Pillowman" at Now Theatre allowed the story to unfold with a chilling purity.

• Sabian Trout directed Live Theatre Workshop's productions of "How I Learned to Drive" and "Reckless" - polar opposites, but her direction was tailored to get the most out of each production.

• Susan Claassen shaped a fast-moving and very funny "In the Mood" at Invisible Theatre.

• Rob Gretta pulled beautiful performances from his student actors in Arizona Repertory Theatre's production of "Into the Woods."

• Carol Calkins reminded us of what is so wonderful about Carson McCullers' storytelling with her direction of "A Member of the Wedding," an Arizona Onstage production.

• Tony-winning director John Caird did a beautiful job with "Daddy Long Legs" at ATC.

• Terry Erbe's thoughtful direction of Winding Road's "Talley's Folly" brought home the tenderness and humanity of the play.

The Mac goes to ...

Joseph McGrath's direction of "The Real Inspector Hound" at Rogue. The playwright, Tom Stoppard, isn't easy to perform or direct. But when done well, the rewards are plentiful. McGrath did this extremely well.

Contact reporter Kathleen Allen at kallen@azstarnet.com or 573-4128.