Review: Detroit ’67 at The Strand Theatre

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy

Running Time: Approx. 2 hours and 20 minutes with one intermission

Some of us are lucky to come from close knit families and they are important parts of our lives. Brothers and sisters the world over have a special bond, sometimes they like each other, sometimes they hate each other, sometimes they don’t understand each other, and sometimes they’re on the exact same page. If you are fortunate enough (or, at times, unfortunate enough) to have a sibling, you know they never cease to amaze whether it be for the good or for the bad. The Strand Theatre’s latest offering, Detroit ‘67 by Dominique Morisseau, Directed by Erin Riley gives us a glimpse into the lives of an African-American brother-sister relationship amidst the strife and change of late 60s Detroit. Part of a trilogy including Skelton Crew and Blue Paradise, Morisseau manages to capture the authenticity of these people and their times in both dialogue and storyline. With the addition of all the great music of the time from The Temptations to Mary Wells to Marvin Gay, this piece promotes a certain nostalgia that makes for a charming evening of theatre.

Shamire Casselle as Chelle and Mack Leamon as Sly. Credit: The Strand Theatre

Detroit ‘67, as the title states, concerns itself with happenings in Detroit, Michigan during the year 1967. Chelle and Lank, sister and brother, try to earn some extra money by opening up their basement as an after-hours joint and everything is running smoothly, if not under the legal radar. One evening, a hurt, broken woman with a mysterious past finds herself into Lank and Chelle’s home and lives and soon the brother and sister are arguing over more than after-hours “business.” Just as their bottled up feelings explode, so does Detroit and they find themselves stuck right in the middle of the Detroit riots of 1967.

Brian Douglas’ Set Design and David Cunningham’s Scenic Art is superb, to say the least. Walking into the theatre, one is transported to a basement of an average home in Detroit and the attention to detail is amazing. From the staircase leading to “upstairs” to the concrete façade on the back wall, including two highly placed windows, places the audience into the action and adds great value to the production. Douglas uses his intimate space wisely and Cunningham, with the help of the script, gives us little touches here and there such as an old painting of a 6 year old adds authenticity to the entire setting. Kudos to Douglas and Cunningham on jobs quite well done.

Lighting Design by Lana Riggins and Sound Design by Carlos Guillen are also stellar adding realism to the piece, as a whole. A good light and sound design are not very noticeable and do not take away from the action, but, instead, blend into the action and this is exactly what Riggins and Guillen have accomplished. The script calls for a hefty sound design as is, with music and songs from the era, but the added effects that are chosen fit in flawlessly and with the lights and sound working in tandem moving the story along, it makes for a well put-together design.

Rachel D. Reckling as Bunny. Credit: The Strand Theatre

When it comes to an overall look of a piece, this era, the 60s, is one of my favorites to experience. With so much fashion and cutting edge designs (for the time), costuming for this period can be daunting but Costume Design by Lori Travis hits the nail on the head. Each character seems to have stepped right out of a late 60s closet but all look totally natural in their threads. Finding period costuming for gentlemen isn’t necessarily easy, but it’s a little easier to find pants and shirts for guys than it is to find particular period styles for the ladies. However, Travis has done it in this piece, especially for the character of Bunny, who seems to be on top of the fashions of the day, and every outfit she appears in is on point. All of the costume choices made for this production are spot on and realistic adding a great deal of value to the entire production.

Erin Riley takes the helm of this production of Detroit ‘67 as Director and it’s clear she has a great comprehension of this piece and understands the material quite well. Her staging is terrific and her casting couldn’t have been better for this particular production. She has a good grasp on the message of family and compromise in this piece and presents it beautifully on this stage. Through her guidance and Morisseau’s script, it makes for a delightful, emotional evening of theatre with peaks and valleys that are required for a great show.

Betse Lyons as Caroline and Troy Jennings as Lank. Credit: The Strand Theatre

Moving on to the performance aspect of this piece, we being with Rachel D. Reckling as Bunny and Mack Leamon as Sly. Both of these actors know their characters and portray them genuinely with little flaw. Reckling is comfortable as Bunny, the fast-talking, quit witted go-to girl of the neighborhood. Though her lack of eye contact can be distracting at times, disconnecting her with her fellow cast mates, her performance, overall, is commendable. She gives just the right amount of attitude, sass, and compassion as required, making her a very likeable character. Leamon, too, is confidant and comfortable in his role as the laid back, helpful best friend and he completely embodies this character. He has a strong presence and gives a great showing making him a character to whom the audience wants to be pals and can relate.

Caroline, the mysterious outsider who has, by a strange fateful meeting, finds herself engrossed in the lives of Chelle and Lank, is played ably by Betse Lyons. Lyons does quite well in this role and seems to have a good grasp of what her character is going through. She portrays the beaten and broken Caroline beautifully, if not a little too timid. The character is afraid for herself and for her new friends but many times, it was hard to follow along with Lyons as she stuttered and mumbled her way through a lot of her lines. However, that’s not to say her performance was bad because it most certainly was not. She’s comfortable on stage and her presence is strong making for an admirable performance, overall.

A certain highlight of this production is Troy Jennings who tackles the role of Lank, a young man just trying to make his way in life who is tired of making ends meet through different odd jobs and wants something stable for himself and his family and friends. Jennings takes this part and makes it his own. He emotes the conflict in Lank and his ideas of what is right and wrong. His chemistry with his cast mates is natural and he moves and speaks with purpose delivering the dialogue as if he were simply holding a conversation, adding legitimacy to his performance, especially in his scenes with Shamire Casselle.

Speaking of Shamire Casselle, she is a standout in this piece as Chelle, the worrying, older sister who likes things the way they are and is resistant to change, but understands it’s inevitable. Casselle is superb in her portrayal of this character. Her ability to show the emotions of her character from happy to upset to angry is spot on. Right away, she is able to connect with her audience making her and endearing character. She gives a solid, robust, and charming performance that makes her one to watch. I’m looking forward to seeing more of Casselle’s work in the future.

Final thought… Detroit ‘67 is a nostalgic and poignant look at a bygone era when the music was great and people helped each other, when in need. Dominique Morisseau has crafted a beautiful piece incorporating humor, tenderness, high emotion, and humanity that crosses time and space. The story takes place in the late 60s and concerns itself with subjects of family, racial tensions, and blurred lines between the races, but it is still quite relevant today. The production is one of the best I’ve seen this season (so far) from the set, to the staging, to the performances, this is not a show you want to miss this season. Get your tickets now, while they last!

This is what I thought of The Strand Theatre’s production of Detroit ‘67… What did you think? Please feel free to leave a comment!

Detroit ‘67 will play through November 18 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.

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Review: Love is a Blue Tick Hound by Rapid Lemon Productions at Baltimore Theatre Project

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy
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Running Time: Approx. 2 hours one 10-minute intermission
There comes a time when we all question our lives. Some do it once in awhile, some do it when things are going crazy, and some do it daily… well, most of us do it daily, and Rapid Lemon Productions‘ latest offering, Love is a Blue Tick Hound by Audrey Cefaly, Directed by Donna Ibale, Lee Conderacci, Betse Lyons, and Lauren Erica Jackson, and Set Design by Reese Siedlecki tries to answer some of those questions through four two-person shorts exposing the lives of folks from different walks of life with very different questions and problems.
In a nutshell, Love is a Blue Tick Hound is a delving introspective on relationships and ask the serious questions of life. The entire production is made up of four short two-person plays that ask life’s questions such as “are we happy or are we settling?” or “am I afraid to be alone or am I okay with that?” with a blend of poignancy and comedy that gives the audience emotional peaks and valleys that make for good theatre.
Set Design by Reese Siedlecki is semi-minimal but quite appropriate to make it easy to present four different stories. Set pieces are brought on and off stage to set the scenes and this design does its job superbly. With the use of lawn chairs, a cafe table, willow weeds, and a living room set transports the audience into the scenes easily. Transitions are a bit lengthy and clunky, but not enough to deter the flow of the piece and the cast is well-rehearsed and precise in the changes.
Light and Sound Design by Allan Sean Weeks and Max Garner, respectively, add great value to this production while Weeks sets the scene and times of day brilliantly with subtle light changes and accents while Garner produces a flawless sound design that puts the audience smack dab in the scene with a well thought-out design that doesn’t hinder, but helps the setting and adds that extra authenticity. Also, I found myself Shazam-ing the transition tunes that were used because, well, they were not only fitting but pretty awesome tunes!

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Lauren Erica Jackson as Euba and Carolyn Koch as Fin. Credit: Rapid Lemon Productions


Moving on to the shorts themselves, we are first presented with Fin and Euba, Directed by Donna Ibale, featuring Carolyn Koch as Fin and Lauren Erica Jackson as Euba. This short concerns best friends Fin and Euba (of course) as they complain about their current situation and dream about changing it but don’t do much to do so, as if they are settling for what they go or are afraid to move forward. Director Donna Ibale has a great comprehension of this text and presents the piece in an authentic, down-home way that works nicely. Koch understands her character and portrays her fittingly as someone who wants so much more but can’t seem to figure out how to get it while Jackson, as Euba, portrays her character beautifully as someone who doesn’t dare to want more. Both actresses have a good chemistry and work well off each other to present a deep connection and dependency upon each other.
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Beste Lyons as Lina and Justin Johnson as Roberto. Credit: Rapid Lemon Productions


Second we are presented with Clean, Directed by Lee Conderacci, featuring Betse Lyons as Lina and Justin Johnson as Roberto. In this piece, food service two co-workers discuss relationships and wants before opening and make certain discoveries about each other that were right in front of them the entire time. Director Lee Conderacci’s casting is spot on and she presents this piece in a minimally, but effectively. Lyons embodies her character and connects with the audience making you empathize with her character’s turmoil and her confidence and onstage presence makes one take notice. Johnson gives a superb performance as the immigrant dish-washer with a secret yearning and common sense way of looking at things. His performance is spot-on making him and this piece a highlight of this production.
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Donna Ibale as Kendra and Aladrian C. Wetzel as Betty. Credit: Rapid Lemon Productions


Next is The Gulf, Directed by Betse Lyons, featuring Donna Ibale as Kendra and Aladrian C. Wetzel as Betty. This short begins with what simply looks like two people on a fishing excursion in a deep southern watering hole. However, we discover Betty, played flawlessly by Wetzel, is trying to better herself with plans of schooling and moving out of wherever they currently are and Kendra, played by an able and intense Ibale, is content to stay right where she is. Director Betse Lyons seems to have a tight grasp on this material and presents it simply and concisely with her choice of setting and casting. Wetzel, gives a glimmer of grace and elegance just under the surface of her character and it works beautifully for the scene. The despair and want this actress exudes makes one want to just take her, hug her, and tell her everything’s going to be okay. Ibale, too, portrays her rough around the edges character impeccably with a smidgen of vulnerability that she tries to hide but can’t help but let show every now and then. This piece and its actresses are certainly standouts in this production with spot on performances.
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Mike Smith as Bob and Lee Conderacci as Maggie. Credit: Rapid Lemon Productions


Finally, the production rounds out with Stuck, Directed by Lauren Erica Jackson, featuring Mike Smith as Rob and Lee Conderacci as Maggie. This short deals with a second date between two people who might not know exactly what they’re looking for and trying very hard to impress others. Director Lauren Erica Jackson gives a good showing in her presentation and her understanding of the material is evident. Conderacci gets the fundamentals of her character, a strong woman who has a definite individuality but still wants to “fit in,” and she portrays this nicely but her delivery gets a little scripted at times, but her energy and confident stage presence makes for a lovely performance. Her partner, Mike Smith is the stronger of the duet and is, hands down, another standout in this production. His portrayal of his character, a nervous young man going into a second date and just wants to make a good impression, is on point and natural. He has a strong stage presence with a good comedic timing making for a performance that is a joy to watch.
Final thought… Love is a Blue Tick Hound from Rapid Lemon Production is a perfect fit for Women’s Voice Theatre Festival and the tries to answer some of life’s questions through a series of four short plays directed by a different director (all of whom are women and double as actors in one of the other plays) and allows for various visions of a main theme and each play is cast nicely with actors who work well together. Presenting this piece in a minimalist fashion is a wise choice as is forces concentration on the text and performances making the scenes uncluttered and more meaningful. Overall, this production is well through-out and well-presented and is worth checking out if your wandering around looking for good live theatre in the Baltimore-Washington corridor.
This is what I thought of Rapid Lemon Productions’ production of Love is a Blue Tick Hound… What did you think? Please feel free to leave a comment!
Love is a Blue Tick Hound will play through January 21 at Baltimore Theatre Project, 45 W. Preston Street, Baltimore, MD and February 9-17 at Logan Fringe Art Space: Trinidad Theatre, 1358 Florida Avenue, NE Washington, DC. For tickets, you can purchase them online.
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Review: 10x10x10 at Fells Point Corner Theatre

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy

Running Time: 2 hours and 15 minutes with one intermission
Having never experienced a short-play event before, I had my reservations. I was hoping I wouldn’t have to sit through short play after short play of pretentious writing, actors too damned serious for their own good, and an evening of writers trying to push the envelope and shock so much that it’s no longer entertaining. HOWEVER, that’s not at all what I experienced at Fells Point Corner Theatre’s latest presentation, their annual 10x10x10, a series of original 10-minute plays by Baltimore authors, in their intimate upstairs Skokal Theatre.

Thom Sinn, Francis Cabatac, and Steve Barroga. Credit: Tessa Sollway


This year, the audience gets to experience an outstanding line up of plays. All of the pieces are strong and send good messages in creative and unique ways. We start off the evening with Hologram by Utkarsh Rajawat which is a session with… you guessed it, a hologram (impressively performed by Betse Lyons) full of fun facts and trivia you might find important to your life but even holograms have feelings, right? Then we get into the funny Kings of the World by Kate Danley that speaks to the idea of change and gives us a peek into a local, seemingly rural bar in a dusty Southern or Midwestern town where two regulars venture into new territory but possibly realize sometimes the traditional is a good, safe thing. The next short consists of the largest cast of the evening, The Second Episode of Dyke Tracy by Dian “MJ” Perrin, and is a fun take on the old fashioned detective stories which impressively has a complete arc in 10 minutes! The actors are dedicated to their roles and the humor shines through in this one. Then the Act I ends with Meridian Trench by Rufus Drawlings which is a confusing, frantic tale of a homeless, dirt-eating woman who is taken in by a dubious gentleman in the park. The material in this last piece of Act I seems a bit pretentious and all over the place, but with that said, the performances from the actors, Crystal Sewell and Francis Cabatac, is superb.

Steve Barroga in Making Time. Credit: Tessa Sollway


Act II begins with the supernatural Dog Years by Peter Davis which is well-wrtten and performed and tells a story of a lost soul and a stranger who wants to make an interesting deal. Then keeping with the supernatural feel, Closing the Door by Nicholas Morrison is a contemporary and fresh look at the Greek Gods and Goddesses and how they handle humans and death. It’s a clever and entertaining piece with a good balance of humor and drama. Next up is Addict Named Hal by Alice Stanley, performed by David Shoemaker. It’s a cautionary tale that peeks into the life of a once recovering addict and the decisions he’s made while he tells us his story as if we are in a Narcotics Anonymous meeting. This piece has a very natural performance from Shoemaker who embodies this character entirely. Nearing the end of the evening we experience Making Time by Mark Scharf which is absolutely one of the standouts in these plays. It’s a touching story of two strangers at a bus stop who make a human connection and realize our journeys may be different, but we’re all heading to the same final destination. This is a powerful piece and is exquisitely performed by Helenmary Ball and Steve Barroga making for a moving and entertaining 10 minutes. Ending the evening is Rising, Rising by Rich Espey which is a quirky tale of transformation and change. Not really my cup of tea, it seems a little absurd at times but that’s probably what Espey is going for. With that said, it’s an interesting commentary on change and the resistance of change to finally giving in and accepting. Mia Robinson and Thom Sinn are dedicated and give strong, confident performances in this piece.

Betse Lyons in Hologram. Credit: Tessa Sollway


Overall, the entire ensemble is strong. They are confident and grasp the pieces they are performing and each give an impressive performances in multiple and vastly different pieces and characters. Kudos to the entire ensemble of this year’s 10x10x10.
The Directors, ustin Lawson Isett, Christen Cromwell, Ben Kleymeyer, Peter Davis, and Alice Stanley do stellar jobs with these pieces as they seem to understand each piece and character and tell the stories clearly and concisely with a steady and even tempo.
Also worth mentioning is the technical side of this production. Light Design and Sound Design by Charles Danforth III and Andrew Porter, respectively, help set the mood for each of the plays and adds value each and, I’ve got to say, the running crew for this production (many of whom were cast members, as well) is on point! The changes between each piece took only seconds, moving the evening along nicely and keeping a good pace.
Final thought… 10x10x10 at Fells Point Corner Theatre is a very well put-together production of 10 plays that can stand on their own and have been well thought out and well written. Some are stronger than others, but it’s a matter of taste, really. Fells Point Corner Theatre has managed to group together 10 short plays that work well together and share the same theme (matching Fells Point Corner Theatre’s them of 2017 – #RescueMe). The plays run the gambit of feels from witty humor to poignant drama. It’s a great showcase of local Baltimore talent both on stage and on the page. It’s also good to just support local theatre, so, get your tickets while they last because this is definitely an event you want to experience this season.
Line up of Plays:
Hologram by Utkarsh Rajawat
Kings of the World by Kate Danley
The Second Episode of Dyke Tracy by Dian “MJ” Perrin
Meridian Trench by Ben Kleymeyer
Dog Years by Peter Davis
Closing the Door by Nicholas Morrison
Addict Named Hal by Alice Stanley
Making Time by Mark Scharf
Rising, Rising by Rich Espey
This is what I thought of Fells Point Corner Theatre’s production of 10x10x10… What did you think? Please feel free to leave a comment!
10x10x10 will play through April 16 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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