The best of the best from the 2008 season at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

A friend tells me they're selling $15 tickets for "A View From the Bridge" just as I'm going out of town. Figures. I believe the production of Arthur Miller's modern tragedy that opened in the Oregon Shakespeare Festival's Angus Bowmer Theatre in July is the best thing at the festival this year and one of the best in many years.

It was directed by Libby Appel, who a year after retiring as the festival's artistic director came back at the invitation of Bill Rauch, who now has the helm.

The production is visceral, a punch to the gut. In a weird way it has no style. That is to say Appel's style in it is transparent. She seems to be channeling Miller. Her directorial choices have become invisible, and the play, throbbing with life, stands revealed anew.

Great plays live and then they die. They have their life in an extended moment and then, unlike, say, movies, they vanish. A particular sense of pungency you sometimes feel in the theater comes from that evanescence and what it implies.

If I were going to be in town Tuesday, I would cancel whatever else I had going and get myself to Ashland to see "A View From the Bridge."

The critic's job is to write first impressions immediately after openings. You're still in the hot flush of first reaction. You do it in a couple of hours and do the best you can. Then time passes and sometimes plays rearrange themselves in your mind. Things fade, others come into focus. It all settles in a part of your brain that's maybe deeper than artistic judgment.

Not everything at OSF this year worked. In retrospect, you can see the gears grinding away like the mighty Oz behind his curtain.

This isn't about those things. This is our little awards show for the things that worked very well indeed.

In addition to naming "View" the best play in the season ending Saturday, I'm voting for Appel for best director and Armando Durán, who played poor, tragic Eddie Carbone, for best actor. Durán nosed out Charles Robinson, who played another rather tragic character, Troy Maxson in August Wilson's "Fences."

Directors Mark Rucker ("A Midsummer Night's Dream") and Laird Williamson ("Coriolanus") came close in the directing category.

The best actress award goes to Robin Goodryn Nordli for her performance as Hedda in the very smart "The Further Adventures of Hedda Gabler," which I liked better than almost everybody I talked to.

I'm tempted to split Nordli's prize with Kimberly Scott, who played Mammy in the same play. You could also name Scott best actress in a supporting role. If so she'd just beat out Robynn Rodriguez for her chilling Volumnia in "Coriolanus."

Best supporting actor is Dan Donohue as Iago in "Othello," with strong showings by Christopher DuVal as Tesman in "Hedda Gabler," David Kelly as Buddy in "Welcome Home Jenny Sutter," and Juan Rivera LeBron as Rodolpho in "View."

The award for best scenic design goes to Walt Spangler for "A Midsummer Night's Dream," edging out Christopher Acebo ("The Clay Cart") and Scott Bradley ("Fences"). Best costume design is Katherine Roth for "Midsummer," beating out Deborah Dryden ("The Clay Cart") by the skinniest of margins.

Best musical score goes to Sterling Tinsley (with assists from Penny Metropulos, Linda Alper, Darcy Danielson and Kay Hilton) for "The Comedy of Errors." It was close, with Todd Barton, Ken Roht and Kay Hilton ("Midsummer") and Andre Pluess ("Clay Cart") right behind.

Best movement and fight direction was John Sipes and U. Jonathan Toppo in "The Clay Cart." A special special-effects award goes to ZFX Inc. for making Sandra Marquez really fly in "Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner."

Reach reporter Bill Varble at 776-4478 or e-mail bvarble@mailtribune.com.