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How ‘Dawson’s Creek’ Stars Measure Up on Stage, From Joshua Jackson to Michelle Williams

The New York theater scene is halfway to a “Dawson’s Creek” reunion. Thirteen years after the WB teen drama called it quits, Michelle Williams, who played Dawson’s neighbor Jen, is starring opposite Jeff Daniels in “Blackbird” on Broadway, while just a few blocks over, Joshua Jackson, who starred in “Dawson’s” as best-pal Pacey, is headlining Off Broadway’s “Smart People,” which opens tonight.

Jackson, Williams, James Van Der Beek (Dawson) and Katie Holmes (Joey), the four original stars of “Dawson’s Creek,”  have all tried their hand at stage work since the end of “Dawson’s” — and had a mixed bag of luck with the critics. Here’s how they fared.

JOSHUA JACKSON
Eleven years ago, Jackson starred alongside Patrick Stewart in a West End production of David Mamet’s “A Life in the Theatre.” Lydia Diamond’s “Smart People,” now playing at Second Stage Theater, marks his first theater work since then. It’s already making old Pacey fans pant with a glimpse of full frontal during a locker room scene.
Thumbs up: “beautifully relaxed and funny” … “slow-burn drollness” — Paul Taylor, the Independent, “A Life in the Theatre,” 2005
Thumbs down: “the thoroughly blank Jackson” — Matt Wolf, Variety, “A Life in the Theatre,” 2005

MICHELLE WILLIAMS
Before Williams began turning heads on the big screen, she’d grabbed the attention of the theater community with well-reviewed performances Off Broadway (“Smelling a Rat,” 2002) and at the Williamstown Theater Festival (“The Cherry Orchard,” 2004). Critics were more mixed on her 2014 Broadway debut in “Cabaret,” but anticipation is high for “Blackbird,” a spare, unflinching drama that seems right in the actress’s wheelhouse.
Thumbs up:Ms. Williams, known for the television series ‘Dawson’s Creek,’ has been blossoming as a stage actress for several seasons.” — Ben Brantley, the New York Times, “The Cherry Orchard,” 2004
Thumbs down:
Inspiration flagged, however, in casting Michelle Williams, so soft and vulnerable in ‘My Week With Marilyn,’ as wild and reckless party girl Sally Bowles. … the sweet-faced thesp doesn’t get her [character’s] girlish sexiness…” — Marilyn Stasio, Variety, “Cabaret,” 2014

JAMES VAN DER BEEK
Some of Van Der Beek’s earliest professional credits are in Off Broadway productions (“Finding the Sun,” 1993; “My Marriage to Ernest Borgnine,” 1997).  Like Jackson, the actor has kept busy on TV since “Dawson’s,” but in 2013 he starred in “The Gift” at the Geffen Playhouse.
Thumbs up:
“‘The Gift’ might very well fall apart without Van Der Beek’s carefully calibrated performance. It’s subtle, but he withholds so much right from the get-go that he immediately becomes the play’s dark center, and the promise of something ready to be revealed, if not explode, drives the play.” — Robert Hofler, Variety, “The Gift,” 2013
Thumbs down: “The smooth and rather bland-looking acting job by Van Der Beek leaves us strangely unconvinced that he’s any kind of a struggling artist.” — Paul Birchall, Stage and Cinema, “The Gift,” 2013

KATIE HOLMES
Holmes, who’s appeared on Broadway twice, has perhaps had the most turbulent time with theater critics. Her debut in the 2008 revival of “All My Sons” earned tepid notices, but her 2012 stage return in Theresa Rebeck’s “Dead Accounts” garnered a more respectful response.
Thumbs up: “Katie Holmes is ideally cast in ‘Dead Accounts.’ Not because she’s that Katie Holmes, but because the fresh-faced star effortlessly projects the Midwestern virtues of honesty and moral integrity that scribe Theresa Rebeck celebrates.” — Marilyn Stasio, Variety, “Dead Accounts,” 2012
Thumbs down: “Ms. Holmes delivers most of her lines with meaningful asperity, italicizing every word … I didn’t believe for a second that she really loved the honorable, naive Chris [her character’s love interest].” — Ben Brantley, the New York Times, “All My Sons,” 2008

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