Angela Reed most wanted to "nail . . . the grittiness," as the consumptive courtesan Marguerite in "Camille." In rehearsals, she sought the character's rough edges first, then "tried to layer on top of that -- when she was a lady and when she was a duchess and when does all of that get shed," Reed says. "Being a lady gets her what she wants, which is the attention and admiration of very wealthy men."

Playwright Neil Bartlett's lean, sometimes mean, adaptation of the 19th-century novel "La Dame aux Camelias" by Alexandre Dumas, fils, runs at Round House Theatre's Bethesda stage through Oct. 9.

Perhaps it was Reed's athletic youth near Denver, but the New York-based actress (she is married to actor Todd Cerveris, who was in "True West" and "Hallelujah, Baby" at Arena Stage) says physicality lights her path into most roles. "I have to find where characters live in my body," she says. In rehearsals, "when physically things are happening for me, I don't have to think so much. If I start thinking a lot, it often means it's because I don't know what I'm doing physically."

For a performer who likes to move freely, the addition of costumes late in the process represented a speed bump, but she used the feeling. She has worried less about how to wear costume designer Rosemary Pardee's lavish gowns and more about how to be in them.

"You suddenly lay on wigs and jewelry and costumes, and sometimes I feel incredibly . . . tied down. . . . It's not the fault of the costumer. It's just what we're dealing with," Reed says. Then she decided Marguerite would feel the same. "If she feels frustrated by all of these accouterments, then go with being frustrated," the actress says.

Her death scene, by contrast, has been liberating. "I have on just a very simple smock and it feels so wonderful," Reed says. "The closer she gets to dying, the freer she becomes, in a way, to let go of all that stuff and all the expectations and the need to be what others expect her to be."

The Upside of Anger

With his portrayal of the angry, word-drunk teen Justin in Woolly Mammoth's "After Ashley," Mark Sullivan has joined the rarefied ranks of rising twenty-something male leads in Washington theater who move easily between small and large companies to often enviable reviews. That exclusive group also includes Aubrey Deeker (the love-struck Armand in Round House's "Camille") and Karl Miller (now assaying multiple roles in Arena Stage's "Passion Play, a Cycle").

Sullivan, 26, grew up in Chantilly and set aside plans for law school when the acting bug bit. At Woolly, he has played a pair of troubled teens from dysfunctional, and often delusional, families -- Justin in Gina Gionfriddo's "After Ashley" and Gary in Mickey Birnbaum's "Big Death and Little Death" this past spring.

"In some ways they're very similar," Sullivan says; both have major parental issues. Although for Gary, "a lot of the frustration was coming from the fact that he couldn't articulate his emotional needs," Justin is "hyper-articulate," the actor says.

Gary, "a heavy drug user . . . didn't have the tools to really handle what he was going through," Sullivan says. Justin, in a "very similar situation . . . has turned his anger . . . into a constant attack on everything around him."

Sullivan gives a lot of credit for his performance to Gionfriddo's script. "Karl Miller once described a role that he had as 'actor-proof.' I kind of felt like that was Justin. He was so well-written, it was kind of hard to not do him justice."

Playing such out-there guys has given him an early "chance to be blown away by what theater is," Sullivan says, although the parts have also demanded much of him. "They're such complex roles that you go home and you're still processing," he says.

"After Ashley" runs through Oct. 9. Sullivan will next act in "Measure for Measure" at the Folger Theatre.

Follow Spots

* Scott Bakula will star in the Ford's Theatre revival of the musical "Shenandoah," March 17-May 21. In addition to the TV series "Quantum Leap," "Murphy Brown" and "Star Trek: Enterprise," Bakula was in such films as "American Beauty" and "Life as a House." He was a Tony nominee for the 1988 musical "Romance Romance."

* Theater of the First Amendment at George Mason University will donate half the proceeds from its Thursday performance of "Three Hotels" to the Red Cross for hurricane relief. Visit www.gmu.edu/cfa.

* African Continuum Theater Company will hold a post-show discussion Sunday after the 2 p.m. matinee of "I Have Before Me a Remarkable Document Given to Me by a Young Lady From Rwanda," with Jerry Fowler of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum's Committee on Conscience. ACTCo performs at the Atlas Performing Arts Center. Call 202-529-5763 or visit www.africancontinuumtheatre.com.

* Playwright Jon Klein will talk about "T Bone N Weasel" after the 8 p.m. show Friday at Rep Stage in Columbia. Call 410-772-4900.

* Forum Theatre & Dance is presenting the world premiere of "UpShot," a dark comedy on momentous themes by Ami Dayan ("A Tale of a Tiger"), through Oct. 16 at the Church Street Theater. Call 202-518-9516 or visit www.forumtheatredance.org.

* Rorschach Theatre has set up a blog -- www.rorschachtheatre.blogspot.com -- to chronicle rehearsals for its Oct. 22-Nov. 19 production of Amy Freed's "The Beard of Avon," a take on the debate about who really wrote Shakespeare's plays -- he, or some earl or other.

* Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company has amended its schedule. The new musical "Horse Opera," judged too big a project for the company's inaugural season in its new space, will be held until next season. Woolly will reprise a past hit, "The Gigli Concert," by Tom Murphy, April 3-May 7, 2006. Tom Prewitt will direct original cast members Mitchell Hebert, Kimberly Schraf and Artistic Director Howard Shalwitz. The closing show will be "The Faculty Room" (June 5-July 9, 2006). Visit www.woollymammoth.net.

* The very first Capital Fringe Festival of experimental performances has set its dates -- July 20-30, 2006.

"I have to find where characters live in my body," says Angela Reed, with Aubrey Deeker in Round House's "Camille."Mark Sullivan, right (with Paul Morella, left, and Bruce Nelson in "After Ashley") is making a name for himself.Scott Bakula will step away from any TV and film roles to star in "Shenandoah" at Ford's in March.