Gavin Lawrence thrilled audiences on Twin Cities stages in 2012 with a pair of impressive leading roles. In Carlyle Brown's Are You Now or Have You Ever Been..., Lawrence became Langston Hughes, the legendary African-American poet whose appearance before Joseph McCarthy's anti-communist witch-hunt committee is the trigger for an epic self-examination on the nature of his art. Playing historical figures is always a tricky proposition, but Lawrence crafted a character that was immediate and nuanced. Whether drinking in the lyricism of Hughes's poetry or defending his art before a group of white men mainly obsessed with his role as a radical black voice, Lawrence made it all come alive. In The Brothers Size, Lawrence reprised his role as Elegba in Tarell Alvin McCraney's thick theatrical gumbo, where the stage directions are spoken and the dialogue can be as lyrical as Hughes's poetry. As a character, Elegba is the wedge that comes between the two brothers of the title. As an actor, Lawrence presented a remarkable give-and-take with two colleagues — Namir Smallwood and James A. Williams — while never losing sight of his own character's motivations and needs.