Review: The Book of Joseph at Everyman Theatre

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy

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

(l-r) Megan Anderson, Helen Hedman, Beth Hylton, and Bari Hochwald. Credit: ClintonBPhotography

There are secrets in every family whether close or estranged. There are untold stories and questions we may have about or family we just let go of because we either don’t want to know or we don’t know where to find the information and with the current rage of DNA testing and ancestry more and more folks are finding answers to the questions they have about their own families. Everyman Theatre’s latest offering, The Book of Joseph by Karen Hartman is Directed by Noah Himmelstein and is based on the book The Life of Joseph A. Hollander and His Family by Richard Hollander. It is a journey of discovery of a man who was a father, son, brother, uncle, and husband who kept his past in letters and documents that tell an

The Cast of The Book of Joseph. Credit: ClintonBPhotography

extraordinary story of the bonds of family and an unconditional love.

In a nutshell, The Book of Joseph concerns itself with the story of Joseph Hollander, a Polish immigrant who happens to be Jewish, and his correspondence with the family he left behind during World War II, as the Nazi Party took over most of Europe. The story is told by his son, Richard, as he discusses the book he wrote about these correspondences he discovered after the death of Joseph. The thing is, it took years for Richard to read these correspondences because of the fear he had of what he might find out about his family after noticing the Nazi emblems on the letters in his father’s briefcase. Richard had managed to tell the story with kid gloves, glazing over the horrible parts and concentrating on the good parts, while possibly adding a bit of his own optimism. However, Richard’s son, Craig, is determined to get the truth about what happened, even if it means facing a darkness that has been hidden within the family.

Daniel Ettinger’s Set Design is, once again, impeccable, and helps move the story along nicely allowing for easy exits and entrances with thoughtful use of projections and dark colors to express the poignancy of the story. The turntable that takes the audience from one setting to the next is clever and makes for smooth transitions between scenes. Ettinger has created yet another successful design.

(l-r) Wil Love, Beth Hylton, Hannah Kelly, Danny Gavigan, and Bari Hochwald. Credit: ClintonBPhotography

Working in tandem with the Set Design, the Sound Design by Elisheba Ittoop and Lighting Design by Cory Pattak is superb and sets the mood of not only entire production but each scene as well. Pattak uses rays of isolated light and subtle dimming of light to represent the dreariness and uncertainty in the story as well as brightening to express the more uplifting points. Working with the lighting Ittoop’s sound design blends perfectly into the production and may not be noticeable until she wants you to notice it which makes for an intelligent design. Her original compositions are faintly heard in the background during certain scenes, but are fitting and well-thought out. Together, these aspects of light and sound do not hinder the production and performances but enhance and help them along.

David Burdick rarely disappoints and his Costume Design for this production is no different. His attention to detail is immaculate and, being a period piece that requires a specific style, Burdick’s design is spot on. His choice of wardrobe for each character gives them an individuality and the modern and bygone era styles are presented flawlessly and transitions smoothly from one scene to the next. Kudos to Burdick for his work on this production.

Noah Himmelstein takes the helm of this superb production and presents the story clearly with a focused vision. It’s obvious he has a great comprehension of the text, the characters represented, and the message of the story. Himmelstein has amassed a balanced, well-rounded cast with a chemistry that is second to none and his staging is engaging, making for spot on pacing that is just about perfect. Himmelstein should be applauded for his impeccable work on this production.

Danny Gavigan as Joseph (foreground) and Cast. Credit: ClintonBPhotography

Commenting on the performance aspect of this production, it’s worth mentioning that, according to this story, the Hollander family is a family driven by strong women, with Joseph being the only male amongst supportive females. Hellen Hedman as Berta, the matriarch of the Hollander family, plays her character as a woman who has an unencumbered faith in family and puts on a show of strength for her daughters and only son. Hedman is comfortable with her role and plays it with confidence.

In the same vein, Bari Hochwald plays Mania, the eldest sister, and she plays it in a way that makes this character relatable to anyone who has an older sister, like myself. She seems to portray this character as an obligated caretaker, as many eldest children feel, having a nice blend of being both strict and stern as well as compassionate for her family. The match with Everyman Theatre Resident Company member Wil Love as Salo, her husband, is brilliant and Love’s portrayal of a loving and supportive husband with a gentle demeanor is believable and charming.

Bruce Randolph Nelson. Credit: ClintonBPhotography

Beth Hylton, an Everyman Theatre Resident Company member takes on the role of Klara, Joseph’s next eldest sister who seems to be a tough cookie, as well as Felicja Hollander, the first wife of Joseph. Playing these two vastly different characters is a representation of Hylton’s impressive skills as she plays Klara with a rough-around-the-edges but soft on the inside kind of sister and mother who manages to get along no matter what life throws at her and the snooty, uptight Felicja. Kudos to Beth Hylton on a remarkable performance. Along with Hylton’s Klara, Hanna Kelly tackles the role of Genka and the gender-bending role of Boy Arnold. Much like Hylton, Kelly’s portrayal of these roles is a natural and believable switching flawlessly between the anxious and nervous young immigrant, Boy

Arnold, and the young, optimistic, and hopeful Genka.

Megan Anderson and David Gavigan. Credit: ClintonBPhotography

Two highlights in this production are Everyman Theatre Resident Company members Megan Anderson and Daid Gavigan. Anderson takes the roles of Dola, Joseph’s sister to whom he seems to be closest, and Vita, Joseph’s second wife and lifelong love, and Gavigan takes on the titular role of Joseph, the man who kept correspondence with his family and tried to help them immigrate to the United States for as long as he possibly could. Anderson brings her usual energy and confidence to her roles that make her a joy to watch and she has a tight grasp on her strong, independent characters making for a remarkable performance. Gavigan, too, understands the nuances of his character, a conflicted and worried young man who is desperate to help his family. He has a good presence and is confident in this role and it makes for a fantastic performance that is the backbone of this production.

Bruce Randolph Nelson as Richard and Elliott Kashner as Craig. Credit: ClintonBPhotography

Rounding out the cast are two more highlights – Elliott Kashner as Elliott, Joseph’s grandson, and Everyman Theatre Resident Company member Bruce Randolph Nelson as Richard, Joseph’s son. Both these actors bring the modern into this production amidst the flashbacks and memories and they do it seamlessly and they both have a deep comprehension of their characters and the text. Nelson brings a certain levity to this poignant piece that fits in perfectly without making a mockery of the story and his rollercoaster of emotions is clear making for an authentic performance that is a delight to experience. Kashner, who enters later in the piece, is absolutely believable with a great mix of flippancy that makes you want to smack him, a yearning to know his own history, and a compassion for his father. He has a confident presence on stage and it makes for an admirable performance, overall.

Final thought… The Book of Joseph is a poignant, heart-wrenching look into the life of one family during the turbulent and uncertain times during WWII. The story is well framed and structured even though it hops through time, it’s easy to follow in the way the script is laid out. It’s a story that incorporates hope, regret, love of family, survival, and moving on under extreme circumstances. It also has a certain amount of levity mixed in with the tragedy that gives the audience emotional peaks and valleys that make for great theatre. It reminds us of the untold stories of war and strife that don’t come to light until years later when those involved are long gone and we only have letters and documents to put the pieces of the past puzzle together. The performances are extraordinary and the script is well put-together making for a thoughtful and entertaining production as a whole. Once again, Everyman has not disappointed and you don’t want to miss this final production of the 2017-18 season.

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

 The Book of Joseph will play through June 10 at Everyman Theatre315 W. Fayette Street, Baltimore, MD. For tickets, call the box office at 410-752-2208 or you can purchase them online.

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Review: Big Fish at Silhouette Stages

By Yosef Kuperman

Running Time: 2 hours and 30 minutes with one Intermission.

If you’ve ever wanted to be someone you’re not or wanted to do things you think you can’t do, usually, you make up big beautiful stories in your head, to help you, to get you by, or just to take yourself away for just awhile. In Silhouette Stages latest offering, Big Fish, with Book by John August and Music & Lyrics by Andrew Lippa, Directed by TJ Lukacsina, with Music Direction by Michael Tan, and Choreography by Rikki Lacewell – this is exactly the case. This 2013 Broadway musical adaptation of a 1998 novel by Daniel Wallace and 2003 film of the same name.

Don’t be put off by this being an adaption. You don’t need to know the Big Fish movie or novel to get this show and still enjoy it. I think I saw the movie once, but can’t remember anything besides the name. I hadn’t realized a book existed until I Googled it, but that didn’t matter. John August and Andrew Lippa did their job so well that you don’t need to be familiar with the source material.

(l-r) Christa Kronser, Missy Spangler, Samuel Greenslit, John Machovec, Luis Matty Montes, Drew Sharpe, Emily Machovec, Emily Alvarado, Emily Mudd. Credit: JOhn Cholod

Briefly, Big Fish concerns itself with Edward Bloom, who is a dying old man who tells improbable self-aggrandizing comical stories to his son, Will Bloom. Will finds this habit aggravating as his is a reporter interested in the historic truth and what actually happened. He responds to his father’s fatal diagnosis by digging into his father’s past, looking for historic truth amid the lies. He eventually discovers his dad has anti-skeletons in his closet including the fact he helped his neighbors rebuild after a flood. This leads him to accept his dad’s use of exaggeration and story telling to avoid talking about painful subjects.

This story is a good drama. You feel the conflict between father and son, the bitterness it causes, and the catharsis.

Emily Mudd, Luis Matty Montes. Credit: John Cholod

Putting it on the table, I’m a brand new reviewer, trying something new. I just see a lot of shows so I figured I’d try my hand at reviewing. I don’t play an instrument, build sets, or act. I just watch lots of plays. So umm… The Set Design by Alex Porter looked cool and the live orchestra and cast sounded great. The performers sang and moved well, including Luis Montes as Edward Bloom, Michael Nugent as Will Bloom, and Emily Mudd as Sandra Bloom, the little dysfunctional family. Nothing broke, the lights came on when they were supposed to, so, when all is said and done, the production value is top notch, but I love theater for the story telling, so I’ll focus on that.

Big Fish balances between being funny and being serious and, in the process, it tells a story about the power and purpose of the stories people tell about themselves.

(l-r) Luis Matty Montes, Samuel Greenslit. Credit: John Cholod

As the story of Big Fish progresses, Will finds a series of stories Edward tells about himself. These are exaggerated tall tales are funny, nonsensical, and increasingly fictional and are presented to the audience in scenes and musical numbers. For instance, Edward says he learns of his demise from a Witch (Emily Alvarado), takes up with a giant named Karl (Nick Rose), learns how to swim from a mermaid (Emily Mahovec), discovers his circus boss, Amos (Richard Greenslit) is a werewolf, and gets shot out of a cannon, among other situations.

These stories are good comedy. They’re feel good, funny, and well delivered and they blend in smoothly with the frame story’s heavier material.

For its conclusion, Big Fish ties the stories together and, finally, Will discovers the truth. His father is hiding a disappointed former sweetheart, Jenny Hill (Christa Kronser). He makes peace with his father’s casual approach to historic fact. We assume the tall tales are false. Then Karl the Giant shows up at the funeral. So what if anything was true?

Big Fish asks, “Who cares what the actual truth is?” Big Fish asks. The now enlightened Will embraces exaggeration, tall tales, and myth as modes of communication. The historic truth is no longer the only truth he cares about.

(l-r) Emily Machovec, Christa Kronser, Emily Alvarado, Luis Matty Montes, Grace La Count. Credit: John Cholod

However, there’s another story that Silhouette Stages could have told and didn’t – a dark reflection of the cheerful and upbeat production they actually staged. One might also see Big Fish as a story about the alluring power of fake news. Here’s another equally true reading:

Edward Bloom has a reckless disregard for historic facts. He tells so many tall tales that maybe he doesn’t know or remember the “real truth”. He definitely doesn’t care and he just tells the story that matters to him. His son, a reporter, finds this infuriating. When Edward gets his fatal diagnosis, Will’s investigative reporting leads him to a witness, Jenny Hill, Edward’s allegedly jilted high school sweetheart. Jenny tells Will about how awesome his lying father really is.

Well… does Jenny tell the son the historic truth? Her story sounds like fake news. Did Edward really buy his high school sweetheart a house to sooth her broken heart? Oh, come on! Will suspects an affair and that sounds way more probable than the Jenny’s version. She even suggests she doesn’t want to ruin Will’s image of his father before telling him a transparent whopper.

(l-r) Michael Nugent, Missy Spangler, Emily Mudd, Luis Matty Montes. Credit: John Cholod

But Will accepts the tall-tale about how his dad magically moved a town without anyone posting it on the internet (Will’s smartphone actually gets used a few times as a prop and he’s got Google installed). Why? Because Will realizes that the lies let everyone get along better. He could confront his dying father and his grieving mother with the affair. But why? The truth will make everyone miserable, not free. So he says nothing and humors his dying father, like a normal well-adjusted human. The story then shows us that Edward Bloom really had a very big friend named Karl. Fact and fiction have blended and the audience can no longer tell the true story from the tall tales,  or fact from fiction. In the final scene, we see the reporter son has abandoned his dream of teaching his son to crave and search for truth and instead embraces telling tall tales to keep people happy. That’s #2018 for you.

(l-r) Richard Greenslit, Emily Machovec, Emily Mudd, Grace La Count. Credit: John Cholod

Now, Silhouette Stages and TJ Lukacsina didn’t go there and, considering the production’s superb, I’ll write that down as a good call! But you can see this darker story peaking out over the wooden stage fencing around the live orchestra’s box on stage.

Regardless of how you see this story, if you’re familiar with it or not, Silhouette Stages has put together an entertaining, well produced production that shouldn’t be missed this season! You won’t be disappointed!

Big Fish will run through May 27 at Silhouette Stages, Slayton House, 10400 Cross Fox Lane, Columbia, MD. For tickets, call 410-637-5289 or purchase them online.

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2018 Tony Award Nominations Announced

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy

Well, folks, it’s that time of year again and the theatre world is buzzing about with predictions, satisfaction, and outrage (of course) about the Tony Award nominations announced yesterday by the lovely duo of Katherine McPhee and Leslie Odem, Jr.

For musicals, Mean Girls and SpongeBob SquarePants: The Musical lead the running with 12 nominations each while, for plays, Angels in America leads with 11 nominations but Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts One and Two follow closely behind with 10 nominations under their belt! So, without further ado, let’s recap the nominees!

 

Best Book of a Musical
The Band’s Visit, Itamar Moses
Frozen, Jennifer Lee
Mean Girls, Tina Fey
SpongeBob SquarePants: The Musical, Kyle Jarrow

Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre
Angels in America, Music: Adrian Sutton
The Band’s Visit, Music & Lyrics: David Yazbek
Frozen, Music & Lyrics: Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez
Mean Girls, Music: Jeff Richmond, Lyrics: Nell Benjamin
SpongeBob SquarePants: The Musical, Music & Lyrics: Yolanda Adams, Steven Tyler & Joe Perry of Aerosmith, Sara Bareilles, Jonathan Coulton, Alex Ebert of Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, The Flaming Lips, Lady Antebellum, Cyndi Lauper & Rob Hyman, John Legend, Panic! at the Disco, Plain White T’s, They Might Be Giants, T.I., Domani & Lil’C

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play
Andrew Garfield, Angels in America
Tom Hollander, Travesties
Jamie Parker, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts One and Two
Mark Rylance, Farinelli and the King
Denzel Washington, Eugene O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play
Glenda Jackson, Edward Albee’s Three Tall Women
Condola Rashad, Saint Joan
Lauren Ridloff, Children of a Lesser God
Amy Schumer, Meteor Shower

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical
Harry Hadden-Paton, My Fair Lady
Joshua Henry, Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Carousel
Tony Shalhoub, The Band’s Visit
Ethan Slater, SpongeBob SquarePants: The Musical

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical
Lauren Ambrose, My Fair Lady
Hailey Kilgore, Once on This Island
LaChanze, Summer: The Donna Summer Musical
Katrina Lenk, The Band’s Visit
Taylor Louderman, Mean Girls
Jessie Mueller, Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Carousel

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play
Anthony Boyle, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts One and Two
Michael Cera, Lobby Hero
Brian Tyree Henry, Lobby Hero
Nathan Lane, Angels in America
David Morse, Eugene O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play
Susan Brown, Angels in America
Noma Dumezweni, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts One and Two
Deborah Findlay, The Children
Denise Gough, Angels in America
Laurie Metcalf, Edward Albee’s Three Tall Women

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical
Norbert Leo Butz, My Fair Lady
Alexander Gemignani, Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Carousel
Grey Henson, Mean Girls
Gavin Lee, SpongeBob SquarePants: The Musical
Ari’el Stachel, The Band’s Visit

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical
Ariana DeBose, Summer: The Donna Summer Musical
Renée Fleming, Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Carousel
Lindsay Mendez, Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Carousel
Ashley Park, Mean Girls
Diana Rigg, My Fair Lady

Best Scenic Design of a Play
Miriam Buether, Edward Albee’s Three Tall Women
Jonathan Fensom, Farinelli and the King
Christine Jones, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts One and Two
Santo Loquasto, Eugene O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh
Ian MacNeil and Edward Pierce, Angels in America

Best Scenic Design of a Musical
Dane Laffrey, Once on This Island
Scott Pask, The Band’s Visit
Scott Pask, Finn Ross & Adam Young, Mean Girls
Michael Yeargan, My Fair Lady
David Zinn, SpongeBob SquarePants: The Broadway Musical

Best Costume Design of a Play
Jonathan Fensom, Farinelli and the King
Nicky Gillibrand, Angels in America
Katrina Lindsay, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts One and Two
Ann Roth, Edward Albee’s Three Tall Women
Ann Roth, Eugene O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh

Best Costume Design of a Musical
Gregg Barnes, Mean Girls
Clint Ramos, Once on This Island
Ann Roth, Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Carousel
David Zinn, SpongeBob SquarePants: The Musical
Catherine Zuber, My Fair Lady

Best Lighting Design of a Play
Neil Austin, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts One and Two
Paule Constable, Angels in America
Jules Fisher, Peggy Eisenhauer, Eugene O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh
Paul Russell, Farinelli and the King
Ben Stanton, Junk

Best Lighting Design of a Musical
Kevin Adams, SpongeBob SquarePants: The Musical
Jules Fisher, Peggy Eisenhauer, Once on This Island
Donald Holder, My Fair Lady
Brian MacDevitt, Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Carousel
Tyler Micoleau, The Band’s Visit

Best Sound Design of a Play
Adam Cork, Travesties
Ian Dickinson for Autograph, Angels in America
Gareth Fry, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts One and Two
Tom Gibbons, 1984
Dan Moses Schreier, Eugene O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh

Best Sound Design of a Musical
Kai Harada, The Band’s Visit
Peter Hylenski, Once on This Island
Scott Lehrer, Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Carousel
Brian Ronan, Mean Girls
Walter Trarbach and Mike Dobson, SpongeBob SquarePants: The Musical

Best Direction of a Play
Marianne Elliott, Angels in America
Joe Mantello, Edward Albee’s Three Tall Women
Patrick Marber, Travesties
John Tiffany, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts One and Two
George C. Wolfe, Eugene O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh

Best Direction of a Musical
Michael Arden, Once on This Island
David Cromer, The Band’s Visit
Tina Landau, SpongeBob SquarePants: The Musical
Casey Nicholaw, Mean Girls
Bartlett Sher, My Fair Lady

Best Choreography
Christopher Gattelli, My Fair Lady
Christopher Gattelli, SpongeBob SquarePants: The Musical
Steven Hoggett, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts One and Two
Casey Nicholaw, Mean Girls
Justin Peck, Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Carousel

Best Orchestrations
John Clancy, Mean Girls
Tom Kitt, SpongeBob SquarePants: The Musical
AnnMarie Milazzo & Michael Starobin, Once on This Island
Jamshied Sharifi, The Band’s Visit
Jonathan Tunick, Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Carousel

Best Play
The Children
Farinelli and the King
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts One and Two
Junk
Latin History for Morons

Best Musical
The Band’s Visit
Frozen
Mean Girls
SpongeBob SquarePants: The Musical

Best Revival of a Play
Angels in America
Edward Albee’s Three Tall Women
Eugene O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh
Lobby Hero
Travesties

Best Revival of a Musical
My Fair Lady
Once on This Island
Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Carousel

Special Tony Awards for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre
Chita Rivera
Andrew Lloyd Webber

Special Tony Awards
John Leguizamo
Bruce Springsteen

Regional Theatre Tony Award
La MaMa E.T.C., New York City

Isabelle Stevenson Tony Award
Nick Scandalios

Tony Honors for Excellence in the Theatre
Sara Krulwich
Bessie Nelson
Ernest Winzer Cleaners

So… what are your predictions? Go on our Facebook page to take polls and post your opinions!

The 72nd Annual Tony Awards will be hosted by Sara Bareilles and Josh Groben on Sunday, June 10 at Radio City Music Hall. The live broadcast will air on your local CBS channel from 8:00pm-11:00pm (EST).

WANTED: Reviewers for Upcoming Shows

Do you love theatre? Do you love writing? Do you love writing ABOUT theatre or have you always wanted to try? Then we’re looking for YOU!

Seeking reviewers to cover local community and professional theatrical productions in Baltimore, DC, and the vicinity! Everyone has an opinion, especially when it comes to theatre, so, why not write yours down and get it published all the while helping promote theatre in Baltimore and its vicinity?

The only requirement are you must be able to express your opinion, in writing, clearly with honesty and tact. An ideal reviewer will be able to see the “big picture” of a production, commenting on not only the performance, but the technical aspect of a production pointing out flaws and successes taking each production on a case by case basis.

A thorough review does not only recap the synopsis of a piece, but includes what the reviewer thought of the piece. Published reviews can be viewed at www.backstagebaltimore.com, for ideas on what kind of reviews we like to publish.

This is a volunteer position, currently, BUT… you get complimentary tickets to discover new theatre and experience familiar theatre in new ways. You can review as many shows as you like or only a one or two a month, your review schedule is what can fit into your already busy personal/professional schedule! No pressure!

For more information, please feel free to contact Jason Crawford Samios-Uy, Founder and Editor of Backstage Baltimore, at jason@backstagebaltimore.com, and he’ll be happy to answer any questions and address any concerns! Hope to hear from you soon!

Review: SOON at Highwood Theatre

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy

Running Time: Approx. 90 minutes with no intermission

We have a tendency to think we are invincible and every day, we let special moments slip by us and we postpone what’s important because, in our heads, we’ll get to it “soon.” We do this not thinking that sometimes “soon” is too late and that we have to think of the present as precious because we are not guaranteed a tomorrow and there’s a chance that “soon” will never come. The Highwood Theatre’s latest production SOON with Book, Music, and Lyrics by Nick Blaemire and Directed by Cate Caplin, with Vocal Direction by Jade Brooks-Bartlett, concerns itself with this question. What happens when you deny yourself those special moments or let the important things slip away day to day? It’s not a question we think of in the moment, but maybe it should be.

Julia Capizzi and Andrew Overton. Credit: The Highwood Theatre

In a nutshell, SOON is about a young girl, Charlie, who has recently become a shut-in and watches the world end before eyes through the television. Apparently, Wolf Blitzer on CNN is running stories about how the seas are rising and the land is burning. She stops going outside, because of fear, and though the people around her, including her mother, Adrienne, her roommate, Steven, and a new love interest, Jonah go about their business like nothing is happening, she tries to explain how serious their predicament is but, they don’t seem to understand and the relationship that Jonah is trying to build is being thwarted by this fear of the inevitable. But is the end of the world what it seems?

The story itself is a very clever story and well structured. It’s easy to follow and Nick Blaemire weaves a very charming story with witty dialogue and a great arc that is important for any story. Blaemire is an able musician and his tunes fit the piece perfectly and are placed nicely but I’m wondering if this wouldn’t be more successful as just a play instead of a musical. The script is good enough to stand on its own so the music, at times, seems like fluff or filler. That’s to say the musical aspect of this piece is bad, because it isn’t. His style shines through and the tunes are pleasant.

Set Design by the team of Fiona Lipczenko, Dante Stasio, and Simon Ellerbe is impeccable. They really capture the coziness of a small New York apartment and the attention to detail is superb with a living room, and small kitchenette, including a sink and refrigerator. According to the program this team is made up of students from 5th grade, 7th grade, and 11th grade and, I must say, this is quite impressive for such young designers. The authenticity of the set adds great value to the production and Lipczenko, Stasio, and Ellerbe should be applauded for their efforts.

(l-r) Andrew Overton, Julia Capizzi, and Daniel Westerbrook. Credit: The Highwood Theatre

Ashlee Albertson’s Vocal Direction is superb as this cast does sound just about flawless. It’s always a challenge as there is rarely a reference recording but Albertson has managed to help the ensemble capture the essence of each song. Going along with the music aspect of this piece, the pit orchestra consists of only two able players, including Kevin Kearney on Piano and Cecilia Russell (9th grade student… wow!). It’s worth mentioning this is a phenomenal duo who gives a brilliant performance and remarkably backs up this ensemble.

Cate Caplin takes the helm of this piece and she has put together a very smart production. She seems to have a good grasp of the material and keeps the pacing on point. She keeps it simple and guides this able ensemble to relatable characters with whom the audience can connect.

(l-r) Andrew Overton as Steven, Julia Capizzi as Charlie, Daniel Westerbrook as Jonah, and Karen Harris as Adrienne. Credit: Highwood Theatre

Moving on to the performance of this piece, this four-actor ensemble works well together and off of each other to tell this story clearly and with 100% effort.

Andrew Overton who takes on the role of Steven, Charlie’s carefree roommate who seems to just want to have a good time with his rich boyfriend, and though Overton takes it over the top to the point of camp, he still seems to understand the character and pulls him off authentically. He does have some very touching moments with his cast mates and makes Steven a likeable character. His presence is strong and he is confident in the role making for an admirable performance.

Jonah, the hapless love interest of Charlie, is played aptly by Daniel Westerbrook, and his transition from awkward delivery boy to confident boyfriend is commendable. His character is trying to break through walls of another and Westerbrook plays this subtle frustration that comes along with that very nicely. Vocally, Westerbook seems to be challenged by the higher notes in his register, breaking into falsetto, often, but he still gives a strong vocal performance that is to be applauded.

Charlie, our apprehensive and anxious heroine, is played beautifully by Julia Capizzi and she knocks it out of the ballpark with this role. She completely embodies this character and one can see in her face and gestures she is really feeling these mixed emotions and trying to figure everything out. This character seems to be the only one concerned about the end of the world and that urgency and anxiety are very apparent in this performance, as they should be. Capizzi’s standoffishness toward Jonah is clear and her change of heart toward him is presented gradually, adding to the authenticity of her performance. Vocally, she’s a powerhouse who makes one take notice in each number in which she is featured. Overall, Capizzi gives a strong, confident performance that is an absolute highlight in this production.

Last but not least, we have Karen Harris who takes on the role of Adrienne, Charlie’s brash and brassy mother, and she too is a highlight in this particular production. Harris has this role down pat and is natural and confident in its presentation. It’s clear she’s comfortable in this role because of the ease in her performance and she plays Adrienne as a funny, yet complex character making for a phenomenal performance. Her vocal performance is just as impressive as she acts through her songs nearly effortlessly, especially in her featured number “Bohemian Paradiso” in which her storytelling and vocalese is highlighted. All in all, Harris’ performance is solid and not one to be missed.

Final thought…SOON is a touching look at how one individual copes with her own mortality by escaping into her own imagination and twisting it. It’s a funny, poignant, real look at how we deal with death or the knowing of our demise in terms of months or days and Highwood Theatre’s production is well put together and simple, allowing the material to shine through with impressive performances of a small ensemble.  The story is engaging, the script is intelligent, and the music is appropriate but left me with no hummable tunes whilst leaving the theatre. However, it’s new theatre and well thought-out and executed superbly so it’s definitely worth checking out.

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

SOON will run through April 29 at The Highwood Theatre, 914 Silver Spring Ave, Silver Spring, MD. For tickets, purchase them at the door or online.

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Review: Sweet Charity at Heritage Players

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy

Running Time: Approx. 2 hours and 40 minutes with one 15-minute intermission

Most of us just want to be loved, right? I say “most” because there are some folks out there who are content and happy (or claim they are) without the love of others. However, this is not the case with the title character of Heritage Players latest offering Sweet Charity, with a Book by Neil Simon and Music and Lyrics by Cy Coleman and Dorothy Fields, respectively. This production is Directed and Choreographed by Timoth David Copney with Music Direction by Mari Hill.

Briefly, Sweet Charity concerns itself with the romantic goings on of Charity Hope Valentine, a taxi dancer (a profession that teeters precariously on the line of prostitution) in a seedy dance hall in New York City. Her surroundings may be drab but Charity’s optimism, romanticism, and upbeat attitude seem to get her through tough times. She’s been dumped, robbed, and insulted by lovers and boyfriends but she still sees a better life for herself. She meets Oscar, a neurotic, shy fellow, is it possible she has found true love at last… or is the other shoe just waiting to drop?

Bailey Wolf as Ursula, Daniel Douek as Vittorio Vidal, and Katherine Sheldon as Charity, and Kamryn Polastre Scott as Doorman. Credit: Shealyn Jae Photography

Set Design by Ryan Geiger is minimal but absolutely appropriate, using moving set pieces to represent various locations on a simple black stage. I don’t mind the black stage, but the stage is a bit unkempt with the use of sheets or curtains of different shades of black and different, ununiformed lengths which is a bit of a distraction. Overall, however, the set worked for this piece as there is heavy choreography and you don’t want a bulky set in the way of that. Geiger used his space wisely and the unkemptness may very well be a part of the design as a lot of the action takes place in the seedier-looking parts of New York City.

Andrew Malone’s and Lanoree Blake’s Costume Design is on point for this period, 1960s piece. Every stich of clothing on this ensemble is well thought-out and authentic to the time. The bright color palate, the styles and crazy prints, the hair… everything just oozed the mid to late 60s and I love it. Kudos to Malone and Blake for their efforts and superb design.

Mari Hill’s Music Direction is concise and she has this cast and orchestra sounding tight. Since quite a few of these songs are standards, it’s a good chance most or at least some of the audience will at least be familiar with the tunes but Hill doesn’t let that deter her and she has guided this ensemble to perform these songs well and true to the original compositions. The orchestra that has convened for this production is led by the able and well-apt Patty DeLisle, who doubles as both Conductor and Keyboards, sounds sweet and strong. The orchestra consists of: Will Zellhofer on Keyboards, Mari Hill, Matt Elky, Dan Longo, Katie Marcotte, and David Booth on Reeds, Erica Bright and Jon Bright on Trombone, Randy Whittenberger, Kevin Shields, and Allyson Wessley on Trumpet, Billy Georg on Percussion, Maxwell Kazanow on Guitar, and Thomas Jackson on Bass Guitar.

“I’m a Brass Band” with Katherine Sheldon as Charity and the Cast of Sweet Charity. Credit: Shealyn Jae Photography

It’s worth mentioning that Sweet Charity was given a successful 1969 film adaptation (depending on who you talk to) staring Shirley McClain and Chita Rivera (not to mention Sammy Davis, Jr. and Ricardo Montalbán) and directed and choreographed by the legendary Bob Fosse. That being said it, it can be a challenge to recreate a well-known piece and present it in a fresh light. Timoth David Copney stepped up and took on this challenge not only as Director but doubling as Choreographer and his efforts are not in vain. Copney presented this piece in a more traditional setting, as written, and didn’t mess much with the original script/score. His choreography is impeccable and is prominent in moving the story along. For “Rich Man’s Frug,” it’s clear he makes an homage to the film adaptation with near exact chorography. On a side note, Libby Burgess (Lead Frug Dancer) tears up the stage with concise and tight movement that adds great value to this intricate dance number. He knows his cast and has created movement that makes them shine rather than hinder their performances. That being said, it seems Copney concentrated mainly on choreography (because it really is brilliant) and less on blocking and scene work. The pacing is a bit lagging, especially in lengthy scenes with most of the ensemble onstage, but still, the story is so cleverly written, the dialogue helps with the pacing. Handmade signs between scenes poking out of the side of the stage are a bit hokey and barely legible if you are more than three rows back, but, thankfully, their not too, too important to the production. Overall, Copney’s efforts are commendable are and are to be applauded as it seems he has a good comprehension of both the text and the story as a whole making for a good showing.

“The Richman’s Frug” with the Cast of Sweet Charity, featuring Libby Burgess. Credit: Shealyn Jae Photography

Moving on to the performance aspect of this production, I’d be amiss not to mention that the entire ensemble of this piece gives 100% effort and is dedicated to this piece and all should be commended for their efforts, including Apollo, the beautiful and well-behaved canine who makes a couple of cameos and is an absolute natural!

Taking on role of Vittorio Vidal, the Italian movie star with whom Charity has a chance encounter, is Daniel Douek, and he fully embodies this suave, yet tender character very nicely and exudes that beautiful balance of debonair playboy and lovelorn schoolboy giving an authentic and thoughtful performance, especially in his featured number, “Too Many Tomorrows.” Oscar, Charity’s main love interest, is played by Adam Abruzzo who plays this neurotic, shy character near perfectly. Abruzzo may not be the strongest, vocally, but his portrayal is delightful and his comedic timing is spot on making for a charming performance.

Anwar Thomas takes on the challenging role of Daddy Brubeck, the charismatic leader of the cult-ish religion of the Rhythm of Life, but he pulls it off quite well. His performance is confident as he tackles the facets of this kooky character and though, vocally, he could be stronger, especially in his featured number, the high-energy “The Rhythm of Life,” what he lacks in vocalese, he absolutely makes up for and shines in his dancing. This man is no joke when it comes to a dance number and he makes each move look effortless making for a strong performance, overall.

Katherine Sheldon as Charity Hope valentine. Credit: Shealyn Jae Photography

Katherine Sheldon takes on the title role of Sweet Charity, otherwise known as Charity Hope Valentine, our upbeat, hopeful heroine. Sheldon seems to have a tight grasp of this character and plays her to the hilt. She portrays a good blend of optimistic innocence and a lifetime of broken hearts very well and it’s that perfect blend that makes this character work. It’s easy to see she’s worked hard for this role and her solo dancing and comedic timing is on point. She gives a good showing, vocally, in such numbers as the standard “If My Friends Could See Me Now” and “Where Am I Going?”, but struggles a bit with the higher notes. However, that could very well be the result of her intense concentration on choreography, which she nails. Overall, Sheldon is confident and dedicating, making for a strong performance.

One highlight of this production is Jim Gerhardt, who takes on the role of Herman, the proprietor of the seedy dance hall ii which Charity works. This character certainly has a rough exterior, but deep down, is a big softy who cares about the girls who work at the hall and Gerhardt knocks it out of the ballpark with his portrayal giving us that perfect character in his mannerisms, stereo-typical “New Yorker” dialect, and his authenticity. Vocally, he shines, both while speaking and his featured musical number, “I Love to Cry at Weddings.” Gerhardt is certainly one to watch in this show.

Megan Mostow as Helene, Ashley Gerhardt as Niki, and Katherine Sheldon as Charity. Credit: Shealyn Jae Photography

Last but certainly not least, we have our hands down standouts Megan Mostow as Helene and Ashley Gerhardt as Nickie. These two ladies are superb in their roles and they work well off of each other making for a heartfelt and true performance that makes you want to be friends with both of them because you feel as though they’ll always have your back and that’s what makes a great portrayal. Mostow moves naturally onstage and embodies this character of Helene completely. Her delivery of the material is on point and it’s she’s comfortable with the character and has a strong presence making for a brilliant performance. Gerhardt, too, is confident and comfortable with and impeccable portrayal of this rough-around-the-edges character who has a heart of gold. Her dialect work is near perfect and she really has a good grasp on her character and her wants and needs.

Vocally, both actresses are powerhouses and their performances in numbers such as “There’s Got to Be Something Better Than This” and their featured parts in the popular and well-known “Big Spender” will make you stand up and take notice while the poignant “Baby Dream Your Dream” will have you near tears with their touching performance. Overall, Mostow and Gerhardt are two who bring this production to the apex and their dedication to their characters and the production as a whole is quite apparent. Kudos to both for jobs very well done.

Final thought…Sweet Charity is a fun romp through a colorful, jazzy bygone era of what seems like a simpler time with interesting fashion choices. The story is cute, but not extremely deep, but it’s witty and funny with a book by Neil Simon, so, you can’t go wrong! The music is damn catchy and a few of these tunes are recognizable standards and this production doesn’t skimp nor cut corners with the dancing. Most of the characters are relatable and it’s a piece with which anyone who has a love of theatre should be acquainted. I recommend checking it out! You won’t be sorry you did!

This is what I thought of Heritage Players production of Sweet Charity… What did you think? Please feel free to leave a comment!

Sweet Charity will run through April 29 at Heritage Players in the Thomas-Rice Auditorium on the Spring Gove Hospital Campus, Catonsville, MD. For tickets, purchase them at the door or online.

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Review: 10x10x10 at Fells Point Corner Theatre

By Mike Zellhofer

Top row (From left to write): Tom Piccin, Dana Woodson, Dickey Wilson, Jon Meeker, Holly Gibbs, Parker, Dianne Hood and David Shoemaker.
Bottom Row: Natalie Dent and Barbara Madison Hauck. Credit: Shealyn Jae Photography

If you are searching for a hidden gem, then search no more, and get out to Fells Point Corner Theatre’s 10X10x10. This is a wonderful evening of ten plays, written by local playwrights, ten minutes in length, and performed by ten actors. You get to vote for your top three and the winner receives the “Audience Selection Award”.

Let me address a few administrative issues. This being the third year of the competition, I expect that some things are still being worked out and new ideas being tried, but here is my input:

  • The website states that the cash prize is $150. “That’s 10 TIMES the price of admission!” However, the price of admission is $19 opening weekend and Sunday’s and $24 on Fridays and Saturdays. So, let’s make the cash prize $250 and call it even.
  • It was nice to have the bios of the playwrights hanging in the lobby. However, if you are going to include bios for the actors in the program, then extend the same courtesy to the playwrights. After all it is a playwrighting competition.
  • I feel that if you are going to host a play writing competition, then the voting should be based on the merit of the plays themselves. This can best be done with a read through, with the director reading stage directions. No sets, no lighting, no sound, no costumes. As much as they added to the enjoyment of the evening, they took away from the spirit of the competition.
  • Give more information in the program, i.e. history of the competition, past winners, number of submissions, dates for next year, etc. I took time to speak to a staff member, but not every audience member has that luxury.
  • Have an opening night event with light refreshment prior to the show, and a talk back with the actors and playwrights at the end of the night.

David Shoemaker (Left) and Holly Gibbs (Right) in “WHILE IN A PARALLEL DIMENSION
CLOTHES HANGERS CONSPIRE” written by R.A. Pauli and directed by Andrew Porter with ast. dir. by Sarah Burton. Credit: Shealyn Jae Photography

Since this is a competition, I feel that it would be unfair to review, reveal my selections, or give my opinion of the plays themselves. Suffice it for me to say that every play was entertaining, well written and that the playwrights brought the “A” game. I’m sure that review over 100 submissions from over 70 authors, and selecting only ten, could not have been an easy task for the committee.

One thing is for sure, you will enjoy an evening of fine entertainment. The ideas that this group of playwrights have penned will have you laughing, crying, scratching your head and wondering. I was so grateful that I was able to see genius come to life.

Barbara Madison Hauck in “Crito,” directed by Meghan Stanton and written by Alice Stanley. Credit: Shealyn Jae Photography

Mark Scharf – The Last Ten

Alice Stanley- Crito

MJ Perrin- Open Mic

Rich Espey- In Memory of Mrs.Mary Brown

Rufus Dawlings- Mr. Shells Gets Shipped East for Beef

Daniel Collins- What’s the Point

Jennifer Harrison- Shrimp at the Radisson

Richard Pauli -While in a Parallel Dimension

DC Cathro- The Fine Art of Critiquing the Hang of the Shoe

Tatiana Nya Ford- Hello, baby. I miss you.

Tom Piccin (left) and Jon Meeker (Right) in “What’s the Point?” Written by Dan Collins directed by Andrew Porter. Shealyn Jae Photography

The evening would not have been complete without the talents of Dana Woodson, Dickey Wilson, Parker Damm, Dianne Hood, Natalie Dent, Holly Gibbs, Jon Meeker, Tom Piccin, David Shoemaker, and Barbara Madison Hauck. I don’t exaggerate when I say that this cast oozes talent. Their ability to play multiple characters in multiple plays, and to do it as different as night and day is simple astonishing. Pay close attention to the fun loving, huggable Natalie Dent as she makes the transition from Dax to the young woman in Ms. Ford’s production. What she brings to the stage in those two

Natalie Dent in “Hello, baby. I miss you.” Directed by Christen Cromwell and written Tatiana Nya Ford. Credit: Shealyn Jae Photography

contrasting plays alone, should be studied by all freshman theatre majors.

Another major stand out for me was Tom Piccin. His confidence and commanding stage presence leave you hanging on his every word and at the end wanting for more. Yet he plays his roles with such a subtleness, deriving his allure from his fellow actors by letting them have their moments. A few times I thought that I was watching Kevin Pollak, and in both of his plays I kept waiting for Rod Serling to come on stage saying, “You’re traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. That’s the signpost up ahead – your next stop, …”

So, if you are ready for some good, home grown theatre, with interesting stories and amazing actors, head to Fells Point Corner Theatre now through May 6th, and let me know what you thought of 10x10x10.

This is what Mike Zellhofer thought of 10x10x10 at Fells Point Corner Theatre. What did you think?

10x10x10 will play through May 6 at Fells Point Corner Theatre, 251 S Ann Street, Baltimore, MD. For more information log on to fpct.org, or purchase tickets online.

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Review: Titanic the Musical at Scottfield Theatre Company

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy

Running Time: Approx. 2 hours and 30 minutes with a 15-minute intermission

Throughout our human history, many tragedies have struck us unawares but some stand out more than others and become legendary. This is just the case with the RMS Titanic in April of 1912. In 1997, the tragedy was brought back to the forefront of the world psyche with James Cameron’s film, Titanic, that mixed history, historical speculation, and fiction to produce one of the bestselling US films to date earning fourteen Academy Awards and garnering eleven of them. Some may know that same year, about 8 months prior, Broadway opened its own version of the story that swept the Tony Awards, earning five Tony nominations and winning all of them! Titanic the Musical with Music & Lyrics by Maury Yeston and Story and Book by Peter Stone is Scottfield Theatre Company’s latest offering. This production is Directed by Al Herlinger with Music Direction by Niki Tart and Rick Hauf and Choreography by Becky Titelman.

Credit: Scottfield Theatre Company

This version of the story of the ill-fated Titanic is also a mix of historical fact and fiction with many subplots of created characters mixed in with portrayals of actual people who were sailing on the ship. Cameos of the most famous and influential people pop up throughout the production including J.J. Astor, Benjamin Guggenheim, Captain Smith and Crew, and White Star Lines associates Thomas Andrews and J. Bruce Ismay. Curiously, my favorite passenger is omitted from this piece and the notably brash and unsinkable Margaret “Molly’ Brown is nowhere to be found, but I suppose that’s another show in itself. But I digress… sometimes a story can look good on the screen but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll work on the stage and Titanic the Musical might fall in that category. It certainly has its flaws such as the music and lyrics tending to get hokey at times and there are too many subplots going on in a couple of hours, but, if carefully presented, the pros outweigh the cons and this is a show that can turn into a commendable production. The story progresses through the maiden voyage of the ship and the goings on throughout each deck, concentrating on class which, for some, was all the difference between life and death in this tale set toward the end of the Gilded Age and entering the Progressive Age.

Scenic Design by Bob Denton is minimal, but this is a wise choice as there’s only so much one can do with a ship setting, but he does use moving flats cleverly and the opening scene, a sunken Titanic that transforms into a brand new ship on her maiden voyage is impressive.

Picking up Costume Design duties is Elizabeth Marion and her design is impeccable. Her attention to detail is impressive as there is a certain distinction between the classes on board and each character is individual which is no small feat when it comes to a period piece of theatre. Marion is to be commended on her Costume Design efforts.

The Cast of Titanic the Musical. Credit: Scottfield Theatre Company

Choreography by Becky Titelman, a co-founder of the company, is minimal as well, but that’s only because this is a ballad driven show with only a few chances for any complex choreography, but in those few moments, Titelman’s choreography is admirable and energized. She seems to know her cast and instead of hindering their talents, her choreography allows them to shine.

This is a music heavy show where the score takes the lead and Music Direction by Niki Tart and Rick Haugh is praiseworthy. I will say some of the songs are trite with hokey lyrics, having the cast sing through scenes that probably work better as a dramatic scene rather than a musical number, but Tart and Hauf have the cast harmonizing and have handled this heavy score quite well. The orchestra, Directed by Hauf, consists of members Enid McClure, Margaret McClure, Andrew McClure, Keiko Myers, Maddie Clifton, and Dan Vaughan and bring the notes on the page to life in a full, lush sound that accompanies this ensemble beautifully.

Pamela Provins and Wayne Ivusich as Isador and Ida Strauss, and Gabe Ward as Bellboy. Credit: Scottfield Theatre Company

Allan Herlinger, a co-founder of Scottfield Theatre Company, stands at the helm of this production and his comprehension of the material is clear and the first act is a series of vignettes concerning the different characters on board and Herlinger emphasizes this to a slight fault, presenting each vignette almost separately breaking up the flow and pacing of the piece. Instead of melding one scene into the next, there are slight breaks and slow the production down a bit. That’s not to say the pacing is off, because it certainly is not. The production still moves along nicely, but could move along better without the slight breaks between the scenes. SPOILER ALERT (if you don’t know the story of the Titanic already) One flaw that stood out for me is the portrayal of the moment the Titanic encounters the ice berg that would seal its fate. Jess Hutchinson, as Frederick Fleet does an admirable job throughout playing various characters, but in this fateful moment, the iconic words, “Ice berg, right ahead!” falls completely flat and the urgency and energy is lost as the second act moves on. Herlinger’s vision seems to get lost along the way, as well, throughout the second act. However, this being said, his efforts are to be applauded as it is always a challenge to take on a piece about a famous, historical event and give it a fresh presentation for a current audience, but Herlinger has done a fine job in doing so.

Moving on to the performance aspect of this piece, it’s worth stating that this ensemble gives 100% effort and they all work well together. As an ensemble, they bring this poignant, tragic story together superbly and all should be commended for their work.

The Cast of Titanic the Musical. Credit: Scottfield Theatre Company

Some of the characters are important crew members including Sam Ranocchia as Henry Etches, a 1st class valet. Ranocchia is confident in his role but there were times when he seems to take it over the top and the performance becomes stiff. He’s doesn’t give the strongest vocal performance, but he does portray the character quite well. He seems to embody this 1st class valet and makes the most of this time on stage. Two characters that actually keep the ship running are 1st Officer William Murdoch, played by Scott Kukuck and Frederick Barrett, a stoker in the bowels of the ship, played by Charlie Johnson. These two gentlemen have a good comprehension of their character but, unfortunately, their performances fall a little flat. They do an admirable job, but they are both missing a subtle energy that is required of these characters. Johnson takes a “plant and sing” style of portrayal and there are times when Kukuch’s performance seems forced and unnatural, especially the moment his character is at the wheel of Titanci during the collision. Vocally, Charlie Johnson is a powerhouse with a strong tenor that rings throughout the theater and that does make up for the lack of enthusiasm in his portrayal. Along those lines, Scott Kukuch has a confident presence on the stage and is comfortable in his role.

Jesse Hutchinson as Frederick Fleet. Credit: Scottfield Theatre Company

Wireless operator Harold Bride is portrayed by Matthew Tulli and he does an impressive job working with what looks like an actual wireless machine and his featured number “The Proposal/The Night Was Alive,” is performed well, with lots of emotion.

Lisa Rigsby and Donovan Murray tackle the roles of Caroline Neville and Charles Clarke, two secret lovers running away to a fresh start and their characters are important because, historically, many people started new lives in this way – traveling across the ocean and simply starting over. Rigsby and Murray give tender and authentic performances and embody the many folks who were on Titanic, heading for a better life for themselves. They’re poignant moment during “We’ll Meet Tomorrow” is memorable and tugs at the heart, which is exactly what it should do.

Taking on roles of the powers that be on Titanic, Phil Hansel portrays Captain Smith and Matthew Tart takes on the role of  J. Bruce Ismay, President of the White Star Line. Both of these gentlemen give superb performances as these two characters. Hansel not only resembles the real Captain Smith, but carries himself like a leader and gives a natural portrayal. Playing J. Bruce Ismay is a challenge for any actor as this character is seen as the antagonist or villain, whether it’s warranted or not, but Tart plays this character as walking a very fine line between progress and the safety of the passengers. He’s absolutely believable as this character and gives a strong performance.

Elizabeth Marion and Brian Ruff as Alice and Edgar Beane. Credit: Scottfield Theatre Company

A couple of highlights in this particular production are Wayne Ivusich and Pamela Provins as Isador and Ida Strauss. Their story is famous as witnesses state that Ida Strauss wouldn’t leave her husband’s side even though she was repeatedly offered a seat on a lifeboat. Their story is one of a lifetime love and Ivusich and Provins have a great chemistry that make their impressive portrayals authentic and natural and their duet “Still,” can easily bring a tear to your eye or cause your eyes to get watery, at least.

Two more highlights of this production are Brian Ruff and Elizabeth Marion as Edgar and Alice Beane, a second class married couple who are traveling mainly to ease the wanderlust of Mrs. Beane, who wants to see the world and hob-nob with the rich and famous. These two characters, who seem to be complete opposites, work well together and provide some comedy relief to a deep, heavy show. Ruff, who plays the straight man as Edgar Beane, portrays the overwhelmed but patient husband humorously but with realistic flair as he tries to reign in his wife and Marion gives an impeccable performance as the excited, yearning wife who wants more from life than any small town can give her. Marion has great comedic timing and plays the character silly enough to be funny, but serious enough to be moving. Vocally, she does a fantastic job with her featured numbers “The First Class Roster” and the poignant “I Have Danced” and both of these actors add great value to this production as a whole.

Sophia Williams, Isabela Bordner, and Jonathan Cicone. Credit: Scottfield Theatre Company

Two standouts in this production are Isabella Bordner as Kate McGowan and Rob Tucker as Thomas Andrews. Bordner, a senior at C. Miltion Wright High School, is quite impressive as the Irish immigrant, Kate McGowan, who is trying to make it to America to start anew and this young actress has her character and accent down pat. She has a strong, confident presence and is a joy to watch and I’m looking forward to seeing more stage work from this budding actress.

Rob Tucker as Thomas Andrews. Credit: Scottfield Theatre Company

Rob Tucker, who is no stranger to the area stages, takes on the important role of Thomas Andrews, architect of Titanic and the one man who knew every nook, cranny, and bolt on this massive ship. Tucker completely embodies this character and portrays his perpetual worry beautifully. Vocally, Tucker is a dynamo as he belts out his featured numbers, “The Largest Floating Object in the World” and the moving and intense “Mr. Andrews Vision” flawlessly. Both Bordner and Tucker are a joy to watch and are to be commended for their efforts.

Final thought… Titanic the Musical is a poignant telling of the well-known fate of the ship they called the “Ship of Dreams” and though the music is lovely and the performances are admirable, there’s something about this show that doesn’t work. Firstly, the writers are trying to make a horrible event beautiful and, secondly, they seem to try to pack as many stories as they can into a couple of hours, jumping around from sub-plot to sub-plot, affecting the flow of the piece as a whole. As stated, the music is lovely, but there are moments when it is a bit trite and elementary and those moments take away from the soaring harmonies and more complex melodies (that the cast accomplishes quite well) that make a great show. The performance and execution of the show is quite well-done and this ensemble gives 100% effort and I want to make it clear my dislike is with the writing and composition of the show, but… they made it to Broadway, so, what do I know? It is an audience favorite so it’s definitely worth checking out whether you’re a Titanic expert or someone just discovering this legendary ship and its ill-fated journey through the ages.

This is what I thought of Scottfield Theatre Company’s production of Titanic the Musial… What did you think? Please feel free to leave a comment!

Titanic the Musial will run through April 15 at Scottfield Theatre Company, The Cultural Center at the Opera House, 121 N. Union Avenue, Havre de Grace, MD. For tickets, the box office is open one hour prior to performance but it is strongly encouraged to purchase tickets online.

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Review: A Raisin in the Sun at Randallstown High School

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy

 

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

George Santayana once wrote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” We must always learn from our history and experiences and move forward. Much has been written about the African-American experience but near the top of the list is Randallstown High School’s latest offering, A Raisin in the Sun by Lorrain Hansberry, Directed by Lydia West with Assistant Director Marc Stevens and Student Assistant Directors Blossom Onwubiariri and Lukas West, presents this deep look into an average African-American family right smack-dab in the middle of the 20th century and their trials and triumphs as family.

The Cast and Director of Randallstown High School’s A Raisin in the Sun. Credit: Tracey Lanier Thompson

In a nutshell, A Raisin in the Sun tells of the experiences of the Younger family, a poor, but not destitute African-American family in the Washington Park neighborhood in Chicago. Lena, the matriarch of the family receives a $10000 life insurance payout after the death of her husband and it’s a chance for the Younger family to better themselves and give themselves a fresh start. Lena thinks the only way the family is going to move forward is to move out of Washington Park and into a new neighborhood where she puts a down payment on a home and they soon discover they might not exactly be welcomed by the current, white residents. After leaving the responsibility of the rest of the money to Walter Lee with one stipulation of putting aside enough for his sister’s schooling, things take a dark turn and the cold hard truth hits the family hard.

Set Design Anyah Morgan is quite impressive and authentic using the vast space of the Randallstown High School stage wisely. Morgan’s design really gives the feel of a small apartment occupied by more people than it should and, though a unit set, it’s two levels keep the setting interesting and practical. Set Construction by Mr. Thompason Theatre Tech Class (led by Kaila Dangerfield) are to be applauded for their detailed and superb work.

Lydia West, who is no stranger to Baltimore theatre and took a superb turn as Beanatha in this particular performance, has taken the helm of this production as its Director, with Marc Stevens as Assisant Director and Student Assistant Directors Blossom Onwubiariri and Lukas West, and their efforts are to be commended. West and her Assistant and Student Directors seems to have a complete grasp of the Hansberry’s text and her interpretation is easy to follow. The pacing is good and her casting is spot on. It’s always a challenge to present a classic and well-loved piece to a new audience but West and Stevens has stepped up to the challenge with success.

Moving on to the performance aspect, it’s easy to see this entire ensemble gives 100% to this production. Taking on supporting roles, Hope Wells takes on the role of as Mrs. Lindner, the representative of the neighborhood to where the Youngers are planning to move and Warren Boyd portrays Travis Younger, the young son of Walter Lee and Ruth Younger. Wells, though hard to understand at times, makes the most of her time on stage and has a great presence and is confident in her performance. Boyd completely embodies the 10 year-old Travis and has great chemistry with his cast mates giving an admirable performance, overall.

Kalia Leach tackles the role of Ruth Younger and, though I only had the opportunity to see a small sample of her work, she seems to have a good understanding of the character and her frustration with her husband and pulls the part of nicely, overall.

Beneatha, young single lady of the crew is being courted by two young gentlemen, George Muchinson and Joseph Asagai, played admirably by Mekkhi Stevens and Abraham Olaleye, respectively. Both of these young actors give dedicated and confident performances and have great stage presence which works well for these particular characters.

Rounding out this cast is Kaodi Gerry-Ofor as matriarch Lena “Mama” Younger and Caleb Leach as Walter Lee Younger. Both of these young actors, though scripted at times, have a great understanding of the trials and tribulations of these poignant characters and portray them nicely. Gerry-Ofor has a great confidence and plays Lena as a gentle soul, as she should be portrayed, making her a character the audience is able to connect with from the moment she steps onto the stage. Leach gives the challenging character of Walter Lee just enough angst and frustration to make him believable and relatable, as well as a character for whom the audience sympathizes with and roots for. Both of these young actors give praiseworthy performances.

Final thought… A Raisin in the Sun is an important piece of theatre not only because it’s a well written piece that all students of theatre to which all students of theatre should be exposed but it’s a piece that delves into the mid-century African-American experience in America. The kids at Randallstown High School bravely took on the task of presenting it and it has, hopefully, open their eyes to the continuing struggle of people in this country today. The production is well put together, the ensemble is dedicated, and the performances are commendable making this a thoughtful evening of theatre.

This is what I thought of Randallstown High School’s production of A Raisin in the Sun… What did you think? Please feel free to leave a comment!

A Raisin in the Sun will play through April 8 at Randallstown High School, 4000 Offutt Road, Randallstown, MD. Tickets may be purchased at the door.

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Review: Aubergine at Everyman Theatre

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy

Running Time: Approx. 2 hours with one intermission

(l-r) Glenn Kubota as Father and Tony Nam as Ray. Credit: Stan Barouh

The memories people keep are vast and varied but most people have at least some memories that involve food. Even most of the greatest chefs of our time will remember, are inspired by, and mention his or her “momma’s cooking” and the memories it induces. Breaking bread with someone is one of the most civil acts we, as a species, can participate in to express our humanity toward one another and breaking bread with family is one of the most special and loving acts we commit in our lives. With that being said, we all have different tastes; some like simple cuisine while others enjoy more complex dishes, and even within our own family, our tastes clash and mirror our lives away from the dinner table. In Everyman Theatre’s latest offering, Aubergine by Julia Cho (in association with Olney Theatre Center), Directed by Vincent M. Lancisi, gives us a glimpse into the lives of an Asian-American family in the last days of the father and how even in the most strained and estranged relationships, there’s hope for a reconciliation or redemption when we take the time to learn about one another and see each other from a different angle.

(l-r) Negan Anderson, Tony Nam, and Eunice Bae. Credit: Stan Barouh

Briefly, Aubergine follows the story of Ray, a young Asian-American chef, as he processes the passing and last few days of his father, with whom he’s had a strained and volatile relationship with for most of his life. The father, is a stern, simple man who doesn’t seem to appreciate the more stylish, complex life Ray has chosen to live. When Ray is called to care of his dying father, he reconnects with a jilted lover, Cornelia, who still has strong feelings for Ray, and his estranged Uncle from Korea. Together, through a language and cultural barrier and food, they learn to process the passing of this man they knew at different times and realize the lessons he’s taught them through his actions.

(l-r) Glenn Kubota as Father and Tony Nam as Ray. Credit: Stan Barouh

Technically, Everyman Theatre has not disappointed thus far and Aubergine is no different. Set Design by Misha Kachman is intelligent and appropriate using a unit set that can be used to portray different locations using set pieces that are easily set up and taken away, not interrupting the flow of the piece. The modern setting is authentic and adds value to the piece as a whole. Along with Kachman’s Set Design, Light Design by Harold F. Burgess II and Sound Design by Roc Lee work in tandem to help tell and move this story along. With isolated lighting on various sections of the stage at certain times, Burgess manages to set the mood for each scene beautifully while Roc matches the mood with traditional and modern music, as well as impeccable sound effects to represent certain locations. Overall, Kachman, Burgess, and Lee should be applauded and commended for their efforts in this production.

(l-r) Eunice Bae as Cornelia and Tony Nam as Ray. Credit: Stan Barouh

Vincent M. Lancisi, Founding Artistic Manager of Everyman Theatre, takes the helm of this piece and presents it simply with a clear vision. His staging is superb as the pacing is consistent which moves the story along nicely. This is a tricky subject matter that should be handled with kid gloves, and Lancisi has managed to present it respectfully and with due diligence, but truthfully, as well. His decision to use subtitles is wise as a lot of this dialogue is in Korean and this helps the audience keep up without sacrificing the tempo of the piece. His casting is splendid and his cast comes together as naturally as any real family going through this type of situation. It’s clear that Lancisi has a firm comprehension of this delicate material.

Moving on the performance aspect of this piece, Everyman Theatre Resident Company member Megan Anderson takes on the supporting role of Diane and Hospital Worker and though her stage time is light, she makes the most of it, starting off the show with the first of a few monologues, setting the tone nicely and setting the stage for the piece as a whole.

(l-r) Jefferson A. Russell as Lucien and Tony Nam as Ray. Credit: Stan Barouh

Jerfferson A. Russell takes on the role of Lucien, the hospice nurse assigned to Ray’s father. Russell shines in this role and he seems to completely embody this special type of character who must have a perilous balance of compassion and logic dealing with death and the family members left behind. Russell has a great presence and understands his character and his part in the hospice process, making for a confident and authentic performance.

(l-r) Tony Nam as Ray and Song Kim as Uncle. Credit: Stan Barouh

The son, Ray, has an unlikely support system in this story and Eunice Bae tackles the role of Cornelia, the younger, but just as mature girlfriend and Song Kim takes on the role of Uncle, the brother of Ray’s father who is almost a stranger to Ray, but understands the value of family and travels far to be with him. Both of these actors are standouts in this production. Bae is outstanding in this bi-lingual role and she really grasps the meaning of her character. She plays the character with a natural flare that fits it nicely. Bae understands that this character is kind of the caregiver for the caregiver and, though she is not obligated to take on such responsibility, steps up and does so. Her comprehension of the character is clear and she is comfortable in the role, playing her confidently.

Kim, too, is impressive in his role which requires speaking Korean more than English (having only a few lines or words in English), he manages to play this character in a way we can understand exactly what he is saying (even though there are clear subtitles). This really displays his aptitude as an actor knowing how to communicate non-verbally, but clearly. His chemistry with his cast mates is spot on and his comprehension of the material and his character make for an outstanding performance.

(l-r) Tony Nam as Ray and Glenn Kubota as Father. Credit: Stan Barouh

Lastly, we have Glenn Kubota as Ray’s Father and Tony Nam as Ray, the two characters around whom this entire story revolves. Kubota is absolutely authentic as an immigrated Asian father (I grew up with one, I know all too well) and he hits the nail on the head in his performance. It’s like watching my own father up on the stage and it was both eerie and poignant, for just a moment, seeing my father here with me again. Though Kubota doesn’t have many lines, his performance is stellar. I admit, I may be biased, considering my life experiences, but Kubota wears this character like a perfectly fitting glove. He has a complete grasp on this character and plays it to the hilt making for an incomparable performance.

The character of Ray holds a special place in my heart as well, being a character to whom I can completely and utterly relate. Growing up American with deep Asian roots can be tricky and it’s a delicate balance one must keep and Nam portrays this flawlessly. He embodies his character and emotes the conflict of resentment and love he has for his father, which many folks have, I suppose, and makes it easy for the audience to connect with and relate to him. He has a good command of the stage, a great chemistry with his cast mates, and has a deep understanding of his character making for a splendid performance.

Tony Nam as Ray. Credit: Stan Barouh

Final thought… Aubergine is a heart-wrenching look at strained family relationships and regrets in the last days of a loved one’s life, but it’s also a redemption, of sorts, with new connections and positive self-realizations. It’s an emotional roller-coaster that brings out the best and worst in family relationships, especially between fathers and sons, when they are separated not only by generation but by culture and taste. This one hit home hard for me, experiencing the passing of my own father just last June, but this piece presents the hospice process exceedingly well with poignancy as well as with a pinch of humor, giving a well-blended mix of ups and downs that make for a good drama. The performances are authentic and natural, and the characters are extremely relatable. The staging and pacing is on point making for an impeccable evening of theatre. The passing of a loved one is never easy, no matter how your relationship played out, but this piece is a great account of how things could be handled and what happens in those final days. Do yourself a favor – grab your tissues and get out to experience this show! It’s not one you want to miss this season.

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

Aubergine will play through April 15 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. As an added bonus, use the online code FOODIE18 for a 20% discount on tickets!

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