Bright Half Life is Living Well at The Strand Theatre

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy

Running Time: Approx. 90 minutes with no intermission

Love is love. No matter who it happens to or how it happens, love is love, plain and simple. I’ve heard it said that there’s someone for everyone in this crazy world and you never know when and where you’ll find them. Sometimes it comes as quite a shock to those who do. Regardless, when that “one” is found, what does that do to us as individuals? The Strand Theatre’s latest offering, Bright Half Life by Tanya Barfield and Directed by K. Tony Korol-Evans gives us a glimpse into one love story that spans the years and asks us to think about our own relationships and what we’re willing to sacrifice and compromise for someone else.

In a nutshell, Bright Half Life concerns itself with Vicky and Erica, a couple who meet when they’re young, working for some corporation, Vicky a supervisor and Erica a temp. They move on from a professional relationship to a personal one and begin a forming a life together. Both seem to have different views of the world and of themselves. Vicky is stable, but her idea of a good time is spinning around a Ferris wheel and jumping out of planes while Erica is afraid of heights. When marriage, kids, and half a life together are thrown into the mix, where does that leave them?

Katherine Vary and Ayesis Clay. Credit: Shealyn Jae Photography

Director K. Tony Korol-Evans took on double duty of Set Designer and this design fits the bill perfectly. Since the story is told in chunks that ping-pong through time, it needed to be simple and simple it was, not dull, but minimal and it worked nicely for this production. Locations and props were more insinuated rather than physical and it’s a wise choice considering how quickly the scenes change in time and space. A kitchen table and chairs, a few bar stools, a futon in the corner and a couple of wooden boxes is all that is needed to simply allude to where and when these characters are and it all flows together nicely.

Lighting Design by Robert Brooks and Sound Design by Brad J. Ranno work beautifully, in tandem, to set the mood for each scene for audience and we are transported transported to each location and time seamlessly. Neither design hinders the action going on onstage but enhances it sometimes subtly and sometimes in a flash making for a well put-together design from both. Kudos to Brooks and Ranno for their efforts.

Direction by K. Tony Korol-Evans is on point, especially with this type of text that bounces back and forth throughout the piece. She has a tight grasp on this material and the story that is being told. Her vision is clear and her staging is precise making for great pacing and audience engagement. It’s an intimate space, but she’s managed to use this intimacy in her staging. The character work is impeccable, as well, and her presentation of this material is entertaining and thoughtful.

Moving on to the performance aspect of this piece, the two actors chosen to portray these characters, Katharine Vary as Erica and Ayesis Clay as Vicky, give polished, dedicated performances and each have their individual character and both play their parts splendidly. Unfortunately, the intimacy and connection between the two characters doesn’t seem to be 100% believable. Both work well together, but the chemistry is more friendly than romantic, which is tough on an actor, and I just wish it had been a bit more authentic. However, I reiterate… both actors play their parts quite well.

Vary is comfortable in her role as Erica and she plays her confidently and energetically. She understands the turmoil and conflict of her character and her portrayal is heart wrenching and delightful at the same time. Within the drama, her comedic timing is spot on as she knows the line of playing it straight enough to be funny. Kudos to Vary on a wonderful portrayal.

Likewise, Clay is phenomenal as Vicky and gives a standout performance. Her natural delivery and confident stage presence makes this character believable and likable. Clay understands her character and the compromises Vicky makes as she navigates through a tough relationship not only with her partner but with her family and Clay doesn’t miss a beat. Overall, her performance is strong, confident and she should be commended for her outstanding efforts.

Final thought… Bright Half Life is a quirky but poignant love story. It jumps around, but after a few minutes, you get the rhythm of the piece and it’s not so jarring. The story is well told and the ability of the writer to fit practically a lifetime (or half a lifetime) into 90 minutes is no small feat and quite impressive. The performances are top notch and the staging is spot on. The two actors have a tight grasp on the material and the Director seems to have a deep understanding of the material making for an entertaining, thoughtful evening of theatre that is not to be missed.

This is what I thought of The Strand Theatre’s production of Bright Half Life… What did you think? Please feel free to leave a comment!

Bright Half Life will play through September 29 at The Strand Theatre, 5426 Harford Road, Baltimore, MD. For tickets, call the box office at 443-874-4917 or you can purchase them online.

Email us at backstagebaltimore@gmail.com

Like Backstage Baltimore on Facebook

Follow us on Twitter and Instagram

Things Are Getting Wild at Greenbelt Arts Center with The Wild Party

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy

Running Time: Approx. 2 hours and 15 minutes with one intermission

It certainly was a different time, the 1920s. Before social media, before computers, before logging on, people had to find other ways of connecting and connect they did. People had planned parties and sometimes the connection was good, sometimes it was bad, but it was a personal connection. People talked face to face and sometimes even danced in a living room of a small one bedroom apartment. We get a little glimpse of this bygone era in Greenbelt Arts Center’s latest offering, The Wild Party (Book, Music, & Lyrics by Andrew Lippa) with Direction by Jeffery Lesniak, Music Direction by Elizabeth Alfort, and Choreography by Rikki Howie Lacewell.

The Ensemble of The Wild Party. Credit: Kris Northrup

In a nutshell, The Wild Party concerns itself with Queenie and Burrs, two volatile lovers who throw the party of parties in their Manhattan apartment. The guest list is diverse with many living on the fringes of society and Queenie takes a fancy to a newcomer, Mr. Black. Burrs’ jealousy is tested and his rage overcomes him and those around him. The booze is flowing, the music is hot, steamrolling us towards an intense conflict where guns are a-blazing, but… who’s been shot?

I must say, The Wild Party, though revered and loved by many, is really not my cup of tea. I don’t hate it per say, or even dislike it, but I certainly have to be in the mood for it. However, this particular production kept me engaged and entertained the entire time. It’s a heavy piece of theatre, raw, raunchy, and dark, but this production hit the nail on the head in its presentation. The actors know their characters and objectives and are able to take us through the story seamlessly making for an intensely entertaining evening of theatre.

Lindsey Litka. Credit: Kris Northrup

A Set Designer is not mentioned, but it’s worth saying whomever is responsible for this design knows this intimate space well and has managed to create a small apartment with suggestions of different rooms with simple furniture pieces and levels. It’s neutral and homey and is just right for this production. Kudos, whoever you are, on a splendid Set Design.

Costuming a period piece, and this is definitely a period piece, can be daunting, but Costume Design by Rikki Lacewell and Shemika Berry show no signs of an issue. Each character, especially the ladies, are dressed to the nines in 1920s fashions and each look is natural and authentic. Even the gentlemen, who can usually just find a nice suit and tie to wear has an air of the 1920s style and the entire plot works fabulously adding great value to the production. Kudos to Lacewell and Berry for jobs very well done.

Lindsey Litka and Brian Dauglash. Credit: Kris Northrup

Rikki Howie Lacewell takes on double duty as Costume Designer and Choreographer and, if I had any slight criticism, it would be in the choreography. Now, this isn’t the sole fault of Lacewell as the space is a floor level thrust with quite a few obstruction points, albeit small obstructions. This is quite a challenge for any production, and, I can imagine, quite challenging for any choreographer. With dance being such a large part of the culture of the 20s (we weren’t chained to our smart phones or TV, so we had to find something to do!) there are many high points in the choreography, but, most of it lays a little flat for me. A lot of unison group movement, pockets of dancing, but nothing really caught my attention. Now, that’s not to say there weren’t some great numbers. For example, “Raise the Roof” and “A Wild, Wild Party” are two numbers that stick out simply because of the energy and variety in the choreography so, overall, the movement is entertaining and Lacewell is to be commended for her work on this production.

Matty Montes and Lindsey Litka. Credit: Kris Northrup

Most of this music is of the time and jazz was king so, just like Choreography, music can be tricky. However, Music Direction by Elizabeth Alford is absolutely on point. She takes this score and presents it beautifully with this cast and orchestra completely nailing the style of this jazzy score. There’s not a lot of fluff in this score and Alford takes the reigns and keeps it in check. Alford should be applauded and commended for her work with this challenging piece.

A special shout out to the orchestra for their efforts as well! This orchestra consists of Elizabeth Alford (Piano/Conductor); David Booth, Phil Cannon, Stan Potter (Reeds); Earl Smith (Trumpet); Tyler Golsen (Guitar); Chip Racster (Bass); and Larissa Hannon (Drums). Job well done ladies and gentlemen!

Jessie Duggan and Judah Canizares. Credit: Kris Northrup

Continuing with the challenging material, Direction by Jeffery Lesniak is spot on and there’s no other way to state it. His vision is clear and his staging is brave, raw, and his instincts are honed for this piece. There is a disclaimer of partial nudity and other adult themes and, boy, they ain’t kidding! But I’m glad that Lesniak and Greenbelt Arts Center have not watered this piece down because I don’t think it would have worked as well. The Wild Party needs the girt and dirt. It needs the raunch and rage, and Lesniak has left it in to flourish. He has a tight grasp of this material and what it means and he keeps it chaotically controlled with his superb staging making for an absolutely wonderful piece of theatre. A special mention should be made Intimacy Consultant Stephanie Davis as she had her work cut out for her with this one. However, each intimate scene comes off without a hitch and is not forced but natural and in sync.

Moving to the performance aspect of this production, it’s worth saying this entire ensemble puts 100% effort into their work. It’s a nice sized cast and everyone is working in tandem and knows his or her character. Special nod to Judah Canizares and Jessie Duggan who portray odd coupled Eddie and Mae, as their characters, for the most part, break up the drama with a bit of comedy and they are charming in their featured number “Two of a Kind,” which they perform confidently and beautifully.

Melanie Kurstin. Credit: Kris Northrup

To mention a few featured performers, along side this stupendous ensemble we have Brian Dauglash who takes on the role of Black and Melanie Kurstin, who tackles the complex role of Kate. Both of these apt and able actors embody these characters and take them to the next level. Dauglash pulls off the suave, but caring Black in a way that you are rooting for him the entire time while you can’t help but feel pity and sorrow for Kate in the way Kurstin portrays her. Vocally, both of these performers are dynamos and make one stand up and take notice. Dauglash has a smooth baritone that resonates throughout the theatre and he shines is such featured numbers as “Poor Child,” “Of All the Luck,” and the poignant, “I’ll Be Here.” Likewise, Kurstin knocks it out of the park with her renditions of featured numbers like the upbeat, energized “Look At Me Now” and second act opener, “Life of the Party.” Dauglash and Kurstin know these characters well and have a deep understanding of their roles making them absolute highlights in this production.

Matty Montes. Credit: Kris Northrup

Rounding out this ensemble are standouts Matty Montes as Burrs and Lindsey Litka as Queenie. I can confidently say, it seems these two were born to play these parts.

Montes, who becomes this character, Burrs, uses just the right amount of sleaziness and rage to portray this troubled, unstable character. His intensity is instinctive and every movement is calculated but natural and, vocally, this man is a powerhouse with an impressive range. He effortlessly vocalized through his featured numbers such as “What is it About Her?” and “Let Me Drown.” He’s comfortable in this multifaceted role and this makes this character easier to swallow. His ability to bring high emotion to every song is impeccable and his consistency with his character makes for a strong, confident performance that is not to be missed.

Lindsey Litka. Credit: Kris Northrup

Watching Litka’s performance is worth the price of admission. She delves deep to get to the nitty-gritty of this character, and it pays off in her portrayal. From the moment she walks onto the stage, she is Queenie and her character is consistent throughout. She comfortable with this part and though the role requires a cracked moral code, Litka seems to bring out the innocence and delicacy of this hard woman. She gives a brave, no nonsense performance that makes her a standout. Vocally, Litka gives a solid, powerful showing with a stunning voice that fills the theatre. Her stylings of high energy “Raise the Roof,” the somber, “Maybe I Like it This Way,” and the heartbreaking “How Did It Come to This” show her range and ability to not only sing, but act out a song that makes for a smashing performance overall.

Final thought…  The Wild Party at Greenbelt Arts Center is not a show you want to miss this season. For a show that I have to be in the mood for, this production has changed my  tune. I was able to see nuances I missed before and I appreciate it even more than I did in the past and that’s what impressed me so much. The staging is on point, the vocals are superb, and the story is thought provoking. I admit, I’m all about the song-and-dance, fluffy, happy-ending shows and this show doesn’t have much of that, BUT… it is engaging and intense which and I’m glad for the experience. Get your tickets now. Seriously.

This is what I thought of Greenbelt Arts Center’s The Wild Party… What did you think? Please feel free to leave a comment!

The Wild Party will play through September 15 at Greenbelt Arts Center, 123 Centerway, Greenbelt, Maryland. For tickets, call the box office at 301-441-8770 or you can purchase them online.

Email us at backstagebaltimore@gmail.com

Like Backstage Baltimore on Facebook and Follow us on Twitter and Instagram!

Proof at Everyman Theatre Proves They’re on Their A-Game

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy

Running Time: Approx. 2 hours with one intermission

Mental illness and care seems to be in the forefront these days, as well it should be. For too many years, we’ve turned a blind eye to mental illness and it hasn’t done us or those who suffer any favors. It’s all around us and sometimes it’s a little too close for comfort especially when it’s a family member and even more so when it’s a parent. Everyman Theatre touches on these topics and more in their 2019-2020 season opener, Proof by David Auburn, Directed by Paige Hernandez.

(l-r) Bruce Randolph Nelson, Jeremy Keith Hunter, Katie Kleiger, and Megan Anderson. Credit: DJ Corey Photography

In short, Proof concerns itself with Robert, an unstable but famous mathematician, his daughters Catherine, who has cared for him for years, Claire, a well put-together adult living her own life, and Hal, a former student turned professor. After Robert’s death, Catherine has to deal with her capricious emotions, her estranged and level-headed sister, and the blossoming affections of Hal. All this on top of 103 notebooks her father left behind in which Hal hopes to find valuable work. During this long weekend, Catherine has to figure out what or how much of her father’s mental instability or genius she has inherited.

It’s an important piece in the way it portrays a family in distress because of mental illness and the uncertainty it brings to surviving members of the family and the questions it raises. It also highlights the tendency to think women are not as apt in fields such as science and math that is still, unfortunately, prevalent thought in today’s modern society. However, it also helps to begin to answer not all, but a few questions such as inheritance or propensity of mental illness and how women are actually quite apt with unlimited ability in the world of math and science. Though almost 20 years old, this play is still as relevant and though-provoking as when it was first written.

Jeremy Keith Hunter, Katie Kleiger, and Bruce Randolph Nelson. Credit: DJ Corey Photography

Set Design by Daniel Ettinger has done it again and it’s not big surprise. His design is both modern and practical but transports the audience to whichever location he chooses. The stage is no longer a stage, but the back porch of an old Chicago home that needs a little TLC but is livable and homey. The aged furniture adds to the feel and overall notion of what Ettinger was going for and this design is top-notch.

At the helm of this production is Director Paige Hernandez, who happens to be an Everyman Resident Company member, as well. It’s clear Hernandez has a deep comprehension of this material and has presented it in an easy to follow and authentic manner. The characters are fleshed out and polished and the staging is natural and smooth, making for a near flawless production. It’s clear Hernandez knows her way around the stage as well as in guiding a successful production. Her vision is clear and makes for a successful and strong production. Kudos to Hernandez for her efforts.

Bruce Randolph Nelson. Credit: DJ Corey Photography

Moving on to the performance aspect of this production, it’s worth saying this small quartet of actors are perfectly cast for their roles. They each have a tight grasp on their characters and work quite well with and off of each other making for a solid ensemble to tell this poignant story.

Resident Company Member Bruce Randolph Nelson tackles the role of the unstable genius, Robert. Nelson takes this role and completely makes it his own with every subtle move and facial reaction making for a natural, real portrayal of a troubled man. His delivery of this dialogue is effortless and he portrays this character as someone you feel comfortable with, regardless of the situation. Robert is both fatherly and child-like and Nelson’s portrayal is nothing short of impeccable as he tackles this tough, emotional role.

Katie Kleiger, Megan Anderson. Credit: DJ Corey Photography

Another Resident Company Member, Megan Anderson as Claire, the older, stable sister knocks it out of the park with her portrayal. She’s what I would think of as any overly helpful, condescending older sister would be. For a bit of trivia, Anderson actually tackled the role of Catherine a few years back, so, she has a good grasp on how Claire should be reacting to Catherine and it shows. Her character work is splendid and she gives a strong, confident performance overall.

Katie Kleiger, Jeremy Keith Hunter. Credit: DJ Corey Photography

Jeremy Keith Hunter takes on the role of Hal, the former student who is searching through 103 notebooks to find something of value from his former teacher. Hunter fits nicely into this role and plays it authentically with just the right amount of comedy and poignancy. His comedic timing is on point as is his ability to switch into more dramatic material seamlessly. He understands this character and his place in this piece and plays it to the hilt.

Katie Kleiger as Catherine is a standout in her portrayal. A new Resident Company Member, she comfortable in this role giving a strong, confident performance and a polished portrayal. Her grasp of the character is apparent and her delivery is natural and smooth making for a solid performance. The chemistry between her and the rest of the ensemble is authentic and makes for a tight presentation of this characters relationships with the other characters. Overall, Kleiger becomes this character and portrays her uncertainties, conflicts, happiness, and crisis beautifully and delicately that makes for a praiseworthy performance.

Final thought…  Proof at Everyman Theatre is a poignant, thoughtful look at a family relationship and dynamic and how it is effected by mental illness. It also touches on the misogyny that still exists in the sciences and scientific fields but handles both mental illness and the misogyny delicately and powerfully. The Set Design is superb, the staging is near flawless, and the small ensemble is perfectly cast with an abundance of chemistry that adds an authenticity to the entire production. This is quite the opener for Everyman Theatre and I, for one, can’t wait to see what the rest of the season holds. Get your tickets now as you don’t want to miss this well put-together, polished production.

This is what I thought of Everyman Theatre’s Proof… What did you think? Please feel free to leave a comment!

Proof will play through October 6 at Everyman Theatre, 315 W Fayette Street, Baltimore, MD. For tickets, call the box office at 410-752-2208 or you can purchase them online.

Email us at backstagebaltimore@gmail.com

Like Backstage Baltimore on Facebook and Follow us on Twitter and Instagram!

A New Theatre (Showcase on Main) Gives Us Songs for a New World

By Jennifer L. Gusso

Running Time Aprrox. 1 hour and 20 minutes with one intermission

Showcase on Main is a new venue in Elkton, and Songs for a New World was the inaugural production in their new space. Veteran director S. Lee Lewis takes this opportunity to spotlight the strengths that his new company will be bringing to the community. Although there were a few hiccups in the current production, some due to the issues of moving into a new space and getting started, this was a solid first production that hinted at the possibilities of greatness to come.

Songs for a New World is an interesting piece, in that is a series of songs that are loosely connected around a theme, and there is no clear plot line that connects them to each other. This creates some issues with just the material itself, as it can be hard to connect to characters and moments when they are constantly changing. Additionally, some of the songs simply lend themselves to performance better than others. Some of the numbers really do tell a standalone story and give the performer something to work with or connect to, whereas other songs are unclear or seemingly incomplete in what they are trying to convey. Lewis tried to provide some clarity in the pairing of the songs with multimedia images. In some cases, this did help to provide and drive the narrative in the song; although, in other cases, it just heightened the confusion.

The production was performed more as a staged reading/concert version, as the performers were working with sheet music in front of them on stands. There were times when the performers were able to make the stands disappear with their interpretation of or connection to the piece; however, there were other times in which they were obviously reading the music and made it feel more like watching a rehearsal than a polished performance piece. Additionally, the sound balance seemed underprepared at places, but this was definitely one of the items that was a result of the newness of the space.

Issues aside, the five performers that were bringing these songs to life all demonstrated impressive vocal talents and all had at least one song or moment where they truly connected with one of the songs and really brought a character and story to life. For Tori Healy, that moment was “Surabaya-Santa.” The clever lyrics allowed her to put her comedic timing to work, and she had the audience laughing out loud. Malcolm S. Richardson had several songs that allowed him to show off his impressive range. Richardson also had an infectious smile that was endearing and allowed him to win over the hearts of the audience. He often had the audience bopping along in his upbeat numbers like “King of the World.” Brendan Sheehan definitely struggled the most with making eye contact with the audience, and several good songs/stories were lost with him focused on the music stand. However, when he finally looked up and out and felt what he was singing in “I’d Give It All for You,” it was truly magical. Kristin Sheehan really gets to show her strengths and tell a story best in “I’m Not Afraid of Anything.”

With a lot of strong moments and numbers, though, the one number that really transcends it all is Christy Wyatt singing “Stars and the Moon.” The well-crafted piece really allows her to tell a story that is both humorous and touching and to create a character. Wyatt takes that opportunity in the material and maximizes everything that it has to offer. She brings the story and a distinct character to life in those few minutes.

Overall, the strength of the cast really shows that, once a few bugs are worked out, Showcase on Main will be a place to go and see strong vocals, performances, and storytelling.

This is what I thought of Showcase on Main’s Songs for a New World… What did you think? Please feel free to leave a comment!

Songs for a New World ended on September 8 at Showcase on Main, 112 W. Main Street, Elkton, Maryland.

Email us at backstagebaltimore@gmail.com

Like Backstage Baltimore on Facebook and Follow us on Twitter and Instagram!

Everything is Nearly Perfect with Perfect Arrangement at Fells Point Corner Theater

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy

Running Time: Approx. 2 hours with one 15-minute intermission

Picture it, 1950; Washington, D.C. The war is over, the U.S. has come out of it victoriously, and Korea is just a thought. Nuclear families are popping up all over, with their white picket fences, and everything just seems to be right and polite. It was a simpler time… or was it? If you didn’t fit the norm, was it so simple? Could you make it simple? These are the questions touched on by Fells Point Corner Theatre’s latest production, and the first of their 2019-2020 season, Perfect Arrangement by Topher Payne, Directed by Patrick Gorirossi. It’s a funny, sad, uplifting, and poignant roller coaster about how you never really know what happens behind closed doors.

(l-r) Ari Eckley, Shamire Casselle, Holly Gibbs, and Nate Krimmel. Credit: Shaelyn Jae Photography

According to Samuel French, “It’s 1950, and new colors are being added to the Red Scare. Two U.S. State Department employees, Bob and Norman, have been tasked with identifying sexual deviants within their ranks. There’s just one problem: Both Bob and Norma are gay, and have married each other’s partners as a carefully constructed cover. Inspired by the true story of the earliest stirring of the American gay rights movement, madcap classic sitcom-style laughs give way to provocative drama as two ‘All-American’ couples are forced to stare down the closet door.”

From the start, I had a feeling this production was going to yield good things because Set Design by Bruce Kapplin is top notch. This design completely transports the audience back to 1950 Georgetown in Washington D.C. and Kapplin’s attention to detail is second to none. From the mid-century-style furniture to the fireplace and mantel on the back wall, and subtle colors, this set is a character all on its own and Kapplin deserves a hefty round of applause for his outstanding efforts.

Costume Design by Heather Johnston impeccable. As we’re nicely into the 21st century, any 1950s piece can be considered a “period piece” and those can be tricky to costume. However, Johnston has done it and managed to put these actors in the time period without skipping a beat. Her choices for each character made them individuals and believable. From formal wear to every day duds, Johnston has pulled off a brilliant design and deserves all the kudos.

Patrick Gorirossi takes the reigns of this production and it is well in hand. Aside from a few “too hokey” bits dealing with advertising that go a little over the top (thought it may have been written this way), this is a tight, well put-together production. Gorirossi knows this material and has a deep comprehension of the text and this is clear in his staging and character work from his ensemble. A truly phenomenal production from a truly skillful director.

(l-r) Ebony N. Jackson, Gabe Fremuth, David Forrer, HOlly Gibbs, Nate Krimmel, and Ari Eckley. Credit: Shaelyn Jae Photography

I’ve got to begin the next part of this review, concerning performances, by stating every single one of these performers held their own in this ensemble piece. Their chemistry was exquisite and they seemed to know their characters quite well making for great performances all around.

David Forrer as Theodore Sunderson and Ebony N. Jackson as Kitty Sunderson, are the seemingly elder characters; he’s the boss and she’s the bosses wife. Forrer and Jackson have these characters down pat. They are both totally believable in these roles and grasp the slight naiveté of folks who may have come of age in a different, earlier time. Forrer plays Theodore with a tough nosed man’s man and boss, but with a compassionate underbelly that does shine through making his character likeable and unlikeable at the same time. He’s confident in this role and has a great presence. Jackson is an absolute highlight in this production as Kitty. She performs the 1950s housewife (albeit rich housewife) flawlessly and knows how to get around the stage. Her comedic timing is on point and she’s certainly one to watch in this particular production.

Another strong performance comes from Shamire Casselle, who is a standout as Barbara Grant, the antagonist turned friend. This character is out of the ordinary for the time and she really doesn’t seem to care about what others think or say about her and is willing to fight for what she believes, even if it goes against the grain. Casselle is extraordinary in this roll and gives a strong and impressive showing.  She knows her character and has a good grasp on what this woman is trying to accomplish making for a praise-worth performance all around.

Moving to the central characters of this piece, we have Nate Krimmel as Jim Baxter, Holly Gibbs as Norma Baxter, Gabe Fremuth as Bob Martindale, and Ari Eckley as Millie Martindale. These four performers are near-perfectly cast and play well off of and with each other making for an authentic portrayal of their complicated relationships.

Nate Krimmel as Jim Baxter does well with his character, but there are times I feel he’s trying a bit too hard for the laugh. He gives off more of a childish behavior throughout that is, frankly, somewhat annoying but… he makes up for this with his heart-felt performance towards the end of Act 2. His character seems to become deeper, in a way, and Krimmel’s portrayal  shows his understanding of this character and this character’s place in the story.

Ari Eckly, who takes on the role of Millie Martindale, gives a confident performance but, at times, seems uneasy with the comedy. Thier dramatic performance is remarkable and they have a good grasp on the material and this character, but the comedy is not the strongest. However, that’s not to say their performance isn’t up to par, because it most certainly is. Their portrayal is believable, as is their portrayal of the secret relationship their character has with Holly Gibbs’ character, Norma. The chemistry between these two make for an authentic relationship.

Speaking of Holly Gibbs, she knocks it out of the park and is a standout in the role of Norma. She takes this role and makes it her own with a deep understanding of the turmoil within this character. Norma is the first to vocalize how fed up she is with the “arrangement” and wants to live her life in a way she sees fit and Gibbs’ mannerisms and delivery are on point to make this clear. She is comfortable on the stage with a strong presence, giving way to an impeccable performance.

Another standout is Gabe Fremuth in the role of Bob Martindale, the more level-headed, if not staunch member of this unfortunate quartet. His uptight take on this character is just what it needs and his portrayal of a conflicted man, wanting to protect what he has as well as uphold his beliefs (which seem to clash) is incredible. His chemistry with Nate Krimmel as Jim, his secret lover, is good and he plays off of and with Eckly and especially Gibbs, quite nicely. The conflict in his character of wanting to keep the world and the U.S.A. moral but living a life that is thought of, at the time, to be amoral, and Fremuth’s portrayal of that conflict is what makes this performance so poignant as well as infuriating. Kudos to Fremuth for his efforts and work.

Final thought… Perfect Arrangment, is right up my alley when it comes to shows. It’s a drama heavy show but throws in an abundance of comedy to balance it out and the balance in this script is spot on. The cast is top notch and have great chemistry and the staging and Set Design bring it all together got make for a phenomenal production. It’s an important story that needs to be told and it’s still quite relevant in 2019. This is not a show you want to miss and Fells Point Corner Theatre has hit the ground running and set the bar high with this production. Get your tickets now. You won’t be sorry.

This is what I thought of this production of Perfect Arrangment at Fells Point Corner Theatre.… what do you think?

Perfect Arrangement will play through September 22 at Fells Point Corner Theatre, 251 S Ann Street, Baltimore, MD 21231. For tickets, call 410-276-7837 or purchase them online.

Email us at backstagebaltimore@gmail.com

Like Backstage Baltimore on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter and Instagram!