Everyman Theatre’s Intimate Apparel Reveals Patterns of Synergy and Commitment to Playwright’s Work
Production Weaves Thematic Threads with Meaningful Community Connections
Baltimore, MD – As though tailor-made for the locally-commissioned play’s Baltimore audience,Intimate Apparel stirs with substance, style and sincerity at Everyman Theatre—October 18 through November 19, 2017—in a quietly commanding production that radiates with powerful performances on-stage and profound local partnerships off-stage, bringing the play’s delicate themes affectingly to life.
Wearing her heart on her sleeve while sewing intimates for her clientele, Esther is the talented African American seamstress in turn-of-the-century New York who has built a savings for herself making beautiful undergarments—while earnestly daydreaming of new beginnings, romantic possibilities, and the lingering affection she shares with a Jewish fabric merchant. But when an egregious deception cuts short heartfelt desires, can class, culture and circumstance outmatch the strength of human spirit? Inspired by a true story, Intimate Apparel is a heart-rending contemporary work in the style of an enduring classic—from Lynn Nottage, the first female playwright to win two Pulitzers.
Intimate Apparel marks the third Lynn Nottage play produced at Everyman Theatre, following 2015’sRuined and 2014’s By The Way, Meet Vera Stark. Intimate Apparel director Tazewell Thompson (who previously directed Great Expectations and Ruined at Everyman, as well as a production of Intimate Apparel at Dartmouth College) brings what Everyman Theatre Founding Artistic Director Vincent M. Lancisi describes as “a dramatist’s eye and a librettist’s ear” to the helm.
“Plays like Intimate Apparel are about bringing the real changing world into the theater,” said Thompson. “They are about making the theater contemporaneous with life; making the theater a leader of perception, not a follower. Intimate Apparel awakens us to the selves within ourselves; allows us to see, hear and understand the lives of, indeed, every man.”
In this spirit, Everyman’s production of Intimate Apparel is augmented by an extensive slate of ancillary programming that fastens topics from the play (including empowerment, entrepreneurship, and evolving trends) to close-knit community collaborations involving local artists, makers and independent entrepreneurs as well as institutions such as MICA, Baltimore School for the Arts, the Baltimore Design School and the Maryland Film Festival’s SNF Parkway Theatre.
“The story on stage can be just the beginning of the journey,” explained Everyman Theatre Managing Director Jonathan K. Waller. “We invite audiences to join us in deepening the experience by exploring how the play’s themes connect to our lives and history here in the Baltimore area. For Intimate Apparel, we have more opportunities to do this than ever before thanks to a growing circle of committed and connected partners.”
Partner projects for Intimate Apparel include an on-site costume exhibit, a tasting involving local restaurants, a film screening and discussion, a community conversation with local/regional fashion designers, a panel discussion about labor and sex work, and a walking tour of Baltimore’s historic garment district—among others. (See below for comprehensive listing.)
The cast of Intimate Apparel reunites several cast members from Ruined, including Resident Company Member Dawn Ursula* (Esther), Jade Wheeler* (Mayme) and Bueka Uwemedimo* (George). Rounding out the cast is Jenn Walker* (Mrs. Dickson), Resident Company Member Beth Hylton* (Mrs. Van Buren), and Drew Kopas* (Mr. Marks) and Steve Polites (Understudy-Mr. Marks).
The Intimate Apparel design team includes director Tazewell Thompson, Donald Eastman (Set Design), Stephen Quandt (Lighting Design), David Burdick (Costume Design), Fabian Obispo (Sound Design & Composition), Gary Logan (Dialects) and Denise O’Brien (Wig Design).
Intimate Apparel runs October 18 through November 19, 2017. Tickets ($10-65) are now on sale online (everymantheatre.org), by phone (410.752.2208), or at the Everyman Theatre Box Office (315 W. Fayette Street, Baltimore, MD).
*Member of Actors’ Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States
On View in the Lobby/Mezzanine
Fashion Exhibit: Boudoir Vignettes
Ongoing (October 20 – November 19, 2017)
Independent designers and matriculating students from MICA, Baltimore School for the Arts and Baltimore Design School have crafted this visual response to the story and setting of Intimate Apparel, which combines their local viewpoint with elements of clothing, including lingerie and boudoir attire. Curated by Caprece Jackson-Garrett.
TNT: Theatre Night for Teens
Tuesday, October 17, 2017 at 6:00 PM
Students in grades 9-12 enjoy a dynamic night out at the theatre featuring pre-show dinner sponsored by Noodles & Company, an Intimate Apparel artist meet-and-greet, and a 7:30 PM preview performance followed by post-show discussion and dessert. Tickets: $10 each (space is limited).
Pay-What-You-Can Preview Performance
Tuesday, October 17, 2017 at 7:30 PM
Pay-What-You-Can to see the first preview performance of Intimate Apparel. Tickets: By donation (cash only), available on a first-come, first-serve basis at the Box Office beginning at 5:30pm. Seating is general admission.
Everyman at the Parkway: Middle of Nowhere
Tuesday, October 24, 2017 at 7:00 PM (at the SNF Parkway Theatre)
One-night-only film screening presented in partnership with the Maryland Film Festival: Written and directed by Ava DuVernay, who won the 2012 Sundance Film Festival Best Director Award for her work,Middle of Nowhere chronicles a woman’s separation from her incarcerated husband and the journey to maintain her marriage and her identity amidst crisis and chaos. Resident Company member Dawn Ursula (Intimate Apparel) will introduce the screening and host an informal discussion following the film. Tickets: $8-10 each (available at mdfilmfest.com).
Taste of Everyman: Classified Cravings
Thursday, October 26, 2017 at 6:00 PM
Taste of Everyman is an artful pre-show experience that combines smarts and samples from some of the hottest talent in Baltimore’s dine and drink scene, including expert knowledge and sample-sized pairings designed (cheekily) to complement the show. Hush-hush hankerings? Top-secret tastes? For even the “foodiest” foodies among us, keeping our favorites quiet is par for the course. In the secret-keeping spirit of Intimate Apparel, join one of Baltimore’s most knowledgeable and passionate food and drink insiders, Amy Langrehr (aka Charm City Cook) for an “off the record” dish on some of Baltimore’s most-loved nosh — including some well known and others still a little bit under the radar. Featured restaurants include Dylan’s Oyster Cellar, Ekiben and Lobo, paired with local beers from Brewer’s Art, Monument City Brewing and Union Craft Brewing. Tickets: $60 each (includes event and 7:30pm performance) or $30 each (event only).
Confessions of a Designer
Friday, October 27, 2017 at 6:00 PM (Reception at 5:30 PM)
Join host, bespoke menswear designer Stephen Wise of SWB Atelier (City Paper 2016 Tailor of the Year), and esteemed local/regional designers, for a community conversation exploring the “inner lining” of the independent fashion design world and its artistic, professional and personal impacts. Participating designers include: Earle Bannister, Adira Bunch, John Cash, Brian Collins, Sally DiMarco, Crystal Joines, Dino Hartfield, Sehar Peerzada, Seleh Rahman, Stacey Stube, Richard Swartz, and Brandon Warren. Tickets: Free to attend, reserve in advance at Box Office.
World of the Play: Unraveling the Threads of Labor and Love, Then and Now
Saturday, November 4, 2017 at 4:30 PM
The characters of Intimate Apparel and their professions provide us with the thematic threads of labor and intimacy to spark discussion with an expert panel, including a local labor historian, a contemporary African-American tailor and menswear designer, and a member of SWOP (Sex Workers Outreach Project). Hosted by Marc Steiner (The Center for Emerging Media). Tickets: Free to attend, reserve in advance at Box Office.
Thursday, November 9, 2017, Post-show
Chat with participating cast members following the 7:30 PM performance of Intimate Apparel, or follow along (and submit questions) via Twitter courtesy of @BWW_Baltimore. Tickets: N/A (free to attend, with ticket to accompanying performance).
Threading History and Place: Bromo District Walking Tour
Sunday, November 12, 2017, 11:00 AM-12:30 PM
Explore invisible public spaces and storied buildings that reflect the history of Baltimore’s fashion industry, department stores and garment district and learn about past and present efforts that shape the neighborhoods contained within the Bromo Arts and Entertainment District. Tour begins and ends at Everyman Theatre (315 W. Fayette St. entrance), where attendees may stay for the 2pm performance at an exclusive discounted rate. Produced in partnership with New Public Sites, Bromo Arts and Entertainment District, and Market Center Merchants’ Association. Tickets: $15 each (tour only), advance purchase required (space is limited).
Boudoir Couture Showcase
Sunday, November 19, 2017, 5:00-6:30 PM
A live activation of the fashion exhibit (Boudoir Vignettes) on view during Intimate Apparel.
Tickets: Free to attend, reserve in advance at Box Office.
About Everyman Theatre
Everyman Theatre is a professional Equity theatre company celebrating the actor, with a Resident Company of artists from the Baltimore/DC area. Founded in 1990 by Vincent M. Lancisi, the theatre is dedicated to engaging the audience through a shared experience between actor and audience seeking connection and emotional truth in performance. Everyman is committed to presenting high quality plays that are affordable and accessible to everyone. The theatre strives to engage, inspire and transform artists, audiences and community through theatre of the highest artistic standards and is committed to embodying the promise of its name, Everyman Theatre.
Intimate Apparel is sponsored in part by Vic & Nancy Romita and the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore, with media support from The AFRO News, The Baltimore Sun Media Group and WYPR. Everyman Theatre’s Pay-What-You-Can nights are supported by Dr. E. Lee & Bea Robbins. The 2017/18 Season is generously sponsored by LifeBridge Health. Everyman Theatre is supported in part by grants from the Maryland State Arts Council and the Baltimore County Commission on Arts and Sciences.
Everyman Theatre is a proud member of the Bromo Tower Arts and Entertainment District, the Market Center Merchants Association and the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance.
Vincent M. Lancisi is the Founding Artistic Director of Everyman Theatre; Jonathan K. Waller is the Managing Director. For information about Everyman Theatre, visit everymantheatre.org, call 410.752.2208, or connect via Facebook (@everymantheatremd), Twitter (@everymantheatre), YouTube (@everymantheatre) and Instagram (@everymantheatre).
By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy
Running Time: 90 minutes with no intermission
The Jazz Age held different experiences for different folks and Harlem, in New York City, became a cultural mecca in the 1920s. Author and activist James Weldon Johnson called it “the greatest Negro city in the world” as there was a predominant African-American population, but underneath the music, dancing, and good times, many experienced the hardships and tribulations of the African-American community or, in general, just trying to get by. Baltimore Center Stage‘s latest offering, The world premiere of Jazz by Nambi E. Kelley, Directed by Kwame Kwei-Armah gives us a glimpse into those hardships that transcend race but are relevant to all human beings throughout time.
Jazz covers a story of generations spanning from the late 1800s through the 1920s and follows Violet, a woman how lost her mother when she was young and sent off into the world to make her own. Along the way, she meets Joe, an eager young man who seems to want the same things in life she wants and they settle in Harlem, in New York City. After years of a seemingly good marriage, Joe strays and falls for the very young Dorcas but, after a short affair, Dorcas falls for another young man and leaves the older Joe with fatal repercussions. After the affair and a quite unfortunate incident, Violet’s life seems to spiral out of control and she tries to find the reasons why it happened while also trying to find answers from the past to explain her current state.
Production value at Baltimore Center Stage is always stellar and Jazz is no different with a minimal but very effective Set Design by Tim Macabee and Projection Design by Alex Basco Koch. The set consists of four large windows that drop in and out and various set pieces to cleverly represent different locations. The simple design helps move the story along and the representation is just enough to help tell the story and crowd the stage with unnecessary set. With help from the cast, scene changes are smooth and it’s easy to determine where each scene is taking place. Koch’s projections add much to the production and help with determining time. His use of what looks like old newsreel footage and vintage photographs gives the piece a surreal feel and moves the story along rather than distract from it. Kudos to Macabee and Basco for the Set and Projection Designs for this production.
Costume Design by David Burdick is spot on representing the styles of the eras this piece covers. His attention to detail is superb with the low waist skirts for the younger ladies and the more conservative look of the older folks. It’s worth mentioning that Burdick does a great job showing the contrast between the fashions of the generations and he understands this piece does not require the glitz and glamour of the Jazz Age, but has managed to put together a wardrobe portraying the middle to low class residents of Harlem and all of his choices give the entire piece a very authentic feel.
This script jumps through time periods and points of view and if I didn’t have the program to give me a timeline of the story, I may have been lost so, I can tell it’s a challenging piece. Through his Direction of this piece, Kwame Kwei-Armah tries to keep it all together, and does for the most part, but the disorienting script is difficult to reign in and the story seems to spill out all over the place. Kwei-Armah keeps the action moving and he seems to have a good comprehension of the material but his choice of using the cast to make the minimal scene changes with no real blackouts to separate scenes might have added to the confusion concerning time periods and points of view. I totally understand his reasoning as it is a 90-minute show with no intermission so, you’ve got to keep the action moving, but perhaps at least a few projections or markers to keep the audience on track may have been helpful. Overall, Kwei-Armah does an admirable job and tells the story as best he can with the material given to him.
The entire ensemble of Jazz is committed and dedicated to this piece an, aside from the material, they all do a commendable job telling this poignant story and work hard to get the message across. Among the able ensemble, Michele Shay takes on the role of Alice Manfred and Leon Addison Brown portrays an older Joe Trace. Shay, though a bit scripted, does a fine job portraying the elderly, more wise female figure with down-home common sense and compassion. She clearly understands her character and keeps it consistent throughout the production. Brown, as older Joe, is also a bit stiff at times, but his comprehension of the character is clear and the emotion he exudes of a man yearning for something more than his lot is impressive.
Warner Miller is comfortable playing the role of Young Joe Trace, an ambitious, go-getter, and gives a believable and confident performance. Miller has a good command of the stage and makes the character likable from the get. Meanwhile, Jasmine Batchelor tackles the role of Dorcas, the young, beautiful “other woman,” and she is the epitome of a young woman in the 1920s. She’s authentic and assured, playing the character with just the right balance of naivete and rebellion that the character requires.
A couple of highlights of this production are Jasmine Carmichael as Young Violet and Shanesia Davis as the older Violet, the character around whom the story revolves. The character of Violet is the most complex and has obvious emotional problems that are not necessarily explained aside from past losses and issues but both of these actresses play the character well and with an intensity needed for the role. Carmichael is outstanding as the Young Violet and seems comfortable and assured in her objectives playing a young girl starting out while Davis portrays the character a little more beat down by the world but who is a survivor and getting by as best she can, while fighting the emotional unbalance in her. Both bring an authenticity to the role that makes the audience feel for their plight and, in the end, root for this character. Both actors have great chemistry with their counterparts (Warner Miller for Carmichael and Leon Addison Brown for Davis), and they work well with their cast mates making for exquisite performances.
Final thought… The World Premiere of Jazz at Baltimore Center Stage is a bit deceiving by name alone as it really does not concern itself with the music style but is a story of love, love loss, and how different humans deal with that loss. The script is a bit trite and jumps around between points of view with no real definition between time periods making the transitions a bit confusing, but most of the performances are top notch and it tells a good story. That being said, the script may need work but the overall production has a beautiful look with its design and complimenting projections and is well-thought out and well put-together, telling a complex story that transcends race and is just as relevant to the 21st century as it was to the early late 19th and early 20th centuries.
This is what I thought of Baltimore Center Stage’s production of Jazz… What did you think? Please feel free to leave a comment!
Jazz will play through June 25 at Baltimore Center Stage, 700 N Calvert Street, Baltimore, MD. For tickets, call the box office at 410-332-0033 or purchase them online.
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Baltimore—May 10, 2017. Baltimore Center Stage is pleased to announce the cast and artistic team for Jazz. This world premiere play is based on the book by Toni Morrison, adapted by Nambi E. Kelley and directed by Baltimore Center Stage Artistic Director Kwame Kwei-Armah.
In Morrison’s exhilarating novel, Joe and Violet move from the Virginia countryside to Harlem at the turn of the century, young and in love. Twenty years later, Joe’s interactions with a young woman set off a series of violent events and unforgivable acts. Peeling back layers and alternating perspectives expose ultimately sympathetic characters, who—like the growing New York neighborhood and the winding woods of their youth—reveal their own rhythms.
“I’m a huge fan of Toni Morrison, and of Jazz in particular. It’s an important chronicle of the human experience, and although it takes place in the 1920s, the story’s themes still resonate today,” said Baltimore Center Stage Artistic Director Kwame Kwei-Armah. “I’m thrilled to direct such a talented group of actors and designers to bring Playwright Nambi Kelley’s vision to life on the stage in Baltimore.”
Kelley has penned plays for Steppenwolf, Goodman Theatre and Court Theatre/American Blues Theater in Chicago, Lincoln Center and the National Black Theatre in New York, and internationally with LATT Children’s Theatre/ Unibooks Publishing Company (South Korea) Teatri Sbagliati (Italy), and The Finger Players (Singapore). The world premiere of her adaptation of Native Son (published by Samuel French) was presented to critical acclaim at Court Theatre/ American Blues Theatre (co-production) and was nominated for five Jeff Awards including best adaptation and production of the year.
The cast includes Jasmine Batchelor* (Dorcas), Jason Bowen* (Henry Lestory), Leon Addison Brown* (Joe Trace), Jasmine Carmichael* (Young Violet/Felice), Shanésia Davis* (Violet), Warner Miller* (Young Joe/Acton), Michele Shay* (Alice Manfred/True Belle), Benja Kay Thomas* (Malvonne), Avery Whitted* (Golden Gray/Parrot), and Greg Boyer* (Trombonist).
The artistic team includes Nambi E. Kelley (Playwright), Kwame Kwei-Armah (Artistic Director/Director), Kathryn Bostic (Music Director and Composer), Tim Mackabee (Scenic Designer), David Burdick (Costume Designer), Michelle Habeck (Lighting Designer), Alex Basco Koch (Projection Designer), Shane Rettig (Sound Designer), Tommy Kurzman (Hair, Wig and Makeup Designer), Paloma McGregor (Choreographer), Arminda Thomas (Dramaturg), Rick Sordelet with Sordelet INK (Fight Choreographer), Pat McCorkle McCorkle Casting, Ltd. (Casting Director), Geoff Boronda* (Stage Manager) and Erin McCoy* (Assistant Stage Manager).
*Member of Actors’ Equity Association.
Jazz opens Friday, May 26, with previews May 19-23, and closes Sunday, June 25. For more information, visit www.centerstage.org or call the box office at 410.332.0033. Press night is Friday, May 26.
Jazz is made possible by a National Endowment for the Arts ArtWorks grant, the Laurents Hatcher Foundation, PNC and the William L. and Victorine Q. Adams Foundation and the Rodgers Family Fund. The Jazz media partner is Maryland Public Television. Baltimore Center Stage is supported by a grant from the Maryland State Arts Council (MSAC), an agency dedicated to cultivating a vibrant cultural community where the arts thrive. An agency of the Department of Business and Economic Development, the MSAC provides financial support and technical assistance to nonprofit organizations, units of government, colleges and universities for arts activities. Funding for the MSAC is also provided by the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency, and the Baltimore County Commission on Arts and Sciences. Baltimore Center Stage’s 2016/17 Season is made possible by The Shubert Foundation and the Baltimore County Commission on Arts and Sciences.
About Baltimore Center Stage
Baltimore Center Stage is a professional, nonprofit institution committed to entertaining, engaging and enriching audiences through bold, innovative and thought-provoking classical and contemporary theater.
Named the State Theater of Maryland in 1978, Baltimore Center Stage has steadily grown as a leader in the national regional theater scene. Under the leadership of Artistic Director Kwame Kwei-Armah OBE and Managing Director Michael Ross, Baltimore Center Stage is committed to creating and presenting a diverse array of world premieres and exhilarating interpretations of established works.
Baltimore Center Stage believes in access for all—creating a welcoming environment for everyone who enters its theater doors and, at the same time, striving to meet audiences where they are. In addition to its Mainstage, Off Center and Family Series productions in the historic Mount Vernon neighborhood, Baltimore Center Stage ignites conversations among a global audience through digital initiatives, which explore how technology and the arts intersect. The theater also nurtures the next generation of artists and theater-goers through the Young Playwrights Festival, Student Matinee Series and many other educational programs for students, families and professionals.
By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy
Running Time: 90 minutes with no intermission
When people who come from different walks of life collide, directly or indirectly, one wonders how the two came together. What journey did they take to place one in the other’s life? Everyman Theatre’s latest offering, the premiere of Los Otros, with Book & Lyrics by Ellen Fitzhugh and Music by Michael John LaChiusa, Direction by Noah Himmelstein, and Music Direction by Jon Kalbfleisch gives us a glimpse into that journey and of the steps two characters take through life to cross each other’s path. I’d like to, if I may, give major kudos to Everyman Theatre, as well, for stepping out of their “comfort zone” of strictly plays and producing not only a musical but a brand new, commissioned musical, at that!
Los Otros revolves around Lillian, a white woman, and Carlos, a Hispanic man, who both live in California and is told in a series of vignettes composed of their memories, reflections, and discoveries about themselves and the world around them between the years of 1938 and 1995. According to Everyman Theatre, “Inspiring, energetic and emotionally charged, this semi-autobiographical work captures a universal story of interconnectedness, love, risk and revelation through the lens of two people’s lives.”
The story of Los Otros itself is engaging and I feel for these characters and am genuinely interested in their lives and the stories they tell. The book by Ellen Fitzhugh is authentic and raw with simple storytelling that makes this piece so charming. For spanning so many years, it’s organized and easy to follow and the ending is certainly fitting and satisfying. Michael John LaChiusa’s music leaps off the page and is absolutely appropriate for this piece. I appreciate the hints of different styles representing different eras and though some of the melodies seem a little elementary, overall, the score is pleasing and well thought-out.
For as good as the music and book are, Lyrics, also by Fitzhugh, though good, in general, could use a little more editing. At points it seems Fitzhugh is trying too hard for a rhyme and over-telling the story through song. A couple of the pieces, such as “Arturo,” which is a still a good song, had many parts that sound more like a recitative that can be been spoken rather than trying to throw it into a song. That being said, Music & Lyrics, aside from a few minor, specific criticisms that may smooth out over time, work very well together for this piece as a whole.
Once again, Everyman Theatre has no disappointed with their beautiful set. Set Design by Daniel Ettinger is simple and minimal, yet elegant and appropriate for a production of compiled vignettes. Each character has his or her own main space on either side of the stage with shared space in the center. The use of sliding lattice and slight levels makes the setting interesting without taking away from the action of the piece. This is yet another fantastic set design from Daniel Ettinger.
Lighting and Sound Design by Nancy Schertler and Ken Travis, respectively, also adds to this piece and does not distract from it. Both work in tandem to set the mood of each vignette and brings the audience into the piece subtly guiding the emotion of the action onstage.
David Burdick’s Costume Design is minimal, as it should be for a piece such as this, and each character is costumed befittingly with an wardrobe that is simple, but versatile enough add a piece or take away a piece to represent the different eras of the five decade timeline.
Music Direction is tackled by Jon Kalbfleisch and I would imagine that taking the musical reigns of a brand new piece can be challenging, even daunting, but if it is, Kalbfleisch does an exquisite job. Under his direction, the vocal performances and orchestra were well-rehearsed, giving us a superb final product.
Everyman Theatre’s new Associate Artistic Director, Noah Himmelstein, takes the reigns of this production and not only took on Direction of this new and re-imagined piece, but also had a hand in development. His vision is unpretentious, but innovative and effective. His vision is evident and he handles the material nicely and makes it relevant for today’s social and cross-cultured environment. The story is told clearly and the characters are precise making for an enjoyable and enlightening evening of theatre.
Both Judy McLane and Philip Hernandez, both experienced, veteran actors of stage and screen do an impeccable job bringing these characters to life and embodying them completely. Their performances are absolutely engaging and their storytelling is top notch. The connection between these two characters is gradual and clear and both McLane and Hernandez follow this connection at and equal pace impressively reaching the climax seamlessly and simultaneously.
Philip Hernandez takes on the role of Carlos, who goes on a journey of sexual identity, defining and finding love, and honoring culture and Hernandez plays it near flawlessly. He has a strong, confident presence and seems to really understand his character. Vocally, he gives an admirable performance with a clear voice that resonates beautifully throughout the theatre. Though, at times, the performance seemed a bit (just a bit) forced, his gradual change in demeanor during his storytelling of his childhood through adulthood is seamless and one is brought into an immersed in the story rather than just sitting on the outside listening making for a commendable and impressive performance.
Judy McLane as Lillian is an absolute joy to watch. She gives an outstanding, natural performance with an exceptional ability to tell a story. McLane presents the authenticity of her character tastefully but with a raw, unabashed undertone throughout the entire production. Life has thrown some curve balls at Lillian and McLane portrays it near perfectly. Her vocal performance is outstanding and strong even while smoothly (and brilliantly) acting her way through her songs. Overall, she gives a solid and remarkable performance.
Final thought… Los Otros at Everyman Theatre is basically a poignant coming-of-age tale spanning many decades and two different cultures. The simple storytelling is what makes this piece work so well and the music is fresh with hints of each decade it represents though the lyrics are a bit hokey and elementary, at times, while at other times, too much. The script is light as the concentration is on the music, but it is engaging and commanding. The journey these characters take us on is mixed with sadness, happiness, smooth sailing, and bumps in the road, but the ending of this story is worth the traveling. It’s always a pleasure and a privilege great to see new and re-imagined works at our larger small theatres in Baltimore and Everyman Theatre is to be commended for their work with this piece. This is definitely a production worthy of your time and consideration!
This is what I thought of Everyman Theatre’s production of Los Otros… What did you think? Please feel free to leave a comment!
Los Otros will play through April 23 at Everyman Theatre, 315 West Fayette Street, Baltimore, MD. For Tickets, call the box office at 410-752-2208 or purchase them online.
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By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy
Running Time: 2 hours and 20 minutes with one 15-minute intermission
We are introduced to Charles Dickens at a very early age, especially around the holidays and, namely, Christmas, with his crazy-popular A Christmas Carol (which, incidentally, is the “scary ghost stories” in that Christmas standard “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year,”… in case you’ve always been wondering) but that is not his only work. Many schools also use his novels in standard curriculum and, as an English major in college, I was yet again exposed to his labors and I’ve got to admit, right here and right now… I was not and am not a fan of Mr. Dickens or his writing, but I do appreciate his stories, which helps… a little.
However, that being said, the latest offering at Everyman Theatre, Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations, Adapted by Gale Childs Daly, Directed by Tazewell Thompson, with Set Design by Yu-Hsuan Chen, Lighting Design by Stephen Quandt, Sound Design by Fabian Obispo, and Costume Design by David Burdick has absolutely given me a reason to be a fan and thoroughly enjoy the work of Charles Dickens. Regardless of your familiarity with this tale, you won’t be disappointed with Everyman Theatre’s production.
In a nutshell, Great Expectations (the novel) is a self-narrated coming-of-age story an (abused) orphan named Pip, and his life journey from poverty to wealth, the people with whom he meets and parts ways, some good, some bad, and some in-between, love, lost love, and his inevitable self-realization and humbling.
As I have stated in previous reviews for Everyman Theatre, they never disappoint when it comes to Set Design and Yu-Hsuan Chen pulled out all the stops for this production. Chen’s use of the space is spectacular, giving the actors ample space to move around to keep the action interesting and the attention to detail is second to none. The set alone sets the mood for this piece and the artistry of this faded, derelict setting is superb. Kudos to Yu-Hsuan for a job well done.
Lighting Design by Stephen Quandt and Sound Design by Fabian Obispo worked nicely in tandem to create a subtle but effective visual and auditory sensory presentation to move the story along, giving the audience perspective of time and space while not confusing the plot and situations therein.
Pulling together the production side of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations is David Burdick’s excellent Costume Design. Designing for a period piece can be challenging but Burdick really has a grasp on the Dickens era and his design is spot on and authentic, adding great value to the production as a whole.
Taking an old classic and making it new for new audiences is tough, especially when it comes to Charles Dickens stories or anything in stuffy, staunch Dickens/Victorian era, really, but Tazewell Thompson takes the reigns and masterfully weaves this for a 21st century audience without really changing the setting or the story, but giving it a fresh look by getting back to basics of story-telling. Thompson gives us a mix of broken-fourth-wall story-telling and re-enactment that meshes perfectly to tell this story in a way that is easy to follow and understand. I will admit, at first, it took a moment to get into the rhythm of this mix but once you are settled in and connect with these storytellers, the story unfolds effortlessly. More importantly, Thompson seems to really understand these characters and their objectives, moving them smoothly through the story. Working with Gale Childs Daly’s able adaptation, Thompson gives us an entertaining, accessible piece that makes for a genuinely enjoyable evening of theatre.
The ensemble work in this piece is outstanding and all of these actors work well with each other and play various roles to tell this tale. Gerrad Alex Taylor and Elizabeth Anne Jernigan, listed as Narrator #2 and Narrator #4 in the program, respectively, also take on the very important roles of Pips friends such as Herbert, Pip’s ever faithful friend and confidant (played by Taylor) and Estelle, Pip’s love interest and main inspiration for acquiring a higher status in life (played by Jernigan). Taylor’s portrayal of Herbert makes him a very likable character and Jernigan plays Estelle with a coldness and bitterness befitting of the character and her presentation of the character’s change is authentic and heartwarming. Both of these actors are very comfortable with their characters and give admirable performances.
Drew Kopas as Pip is charming as he takes his character from boyhood to adulthood. It is easy to connect with this character from the start and Kopas keeps that connection with the audience throughout the entire production. His subtle voice and manner change as Pip grows and journeys through life is quite impressive giving the feel of this young man growing up right before our eyes. Taking on the main character of this piece, Kopas gives an outstanding and intelligent performance that is to be commended.
Brit Herring as Joe is absolutely heart-warming. In the program, he is listed simply as Narrator #5 but, like his cohorts, he tackles multiple roles in this piece but his portrayal as Joe, Pip’s warm and loving brother-in-law, is stellar. His ability to switch between completely different characters and keep them separate makes his performance a joy to watch.
Among the talented and dedicated ensemble, Bruce Randolph Nelson and Franchelle Stewart Dorn are definite highlights.
Bruce Randolph Nelson (an Everyman Theatre Resident Company Member) is listed as Narrator #1 but also takes on the role of Magwitch, a raw, crude convict who happens to run into a very young and helpful Pip and he absolutely nails this character both in physicality and vocality. He also gives a brilliant performance in the role of Uncle Pumblechook, who has a part in moving Pip along during his journey. Unlike the sloth-like, slow, heavy character described in the novel, Nelson makes the choice to take this character in another humorous and flamboyant direction that is making for an undoubtedly successful performance.
Franchelle Stewart Dorn is credited as Narrator #3 but takes on the very important roles of Mrs. Joe, Pip’s much older sister, and Miss Havisham, the bitter, jilted, and wealthy old lady who lives in the very large house down the street. Dorn is an absolute pleasure to watch. As Mrs. Joe, she’s forceful, crude, and loud, as the character requires and as Miss Havisham, she oozes bitterness and contempt, but Dorn manages to get the audience to pity this character she embodies. It’s worth noting, I could listen to this woman talk for hours. Dorn’s voice is smooth and booming as it resonates through the entire theatre and every word is crystal clear allowing for an impressive and superb performance.
Final thought…Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations at Everyman Theatre is a brand new take on an old classic. It’s refreshing, entertaining, and accessible that it opens up to a new generation that may have otherwise let it sit on the bookshelf to collect dust. This adaptation handles the many subplots and twists beautifully with a perfect blend of old-fashioned story-telling and re-enactment while the production itself is well thought-out and the impeccable casting of a very capable ensemble make this a show you want to check out. Whether you’re familiar with Charles Dickens’ work or not and whether you’re a fan or not, this production will introduce you to this story either again or for the first time with a fresh and energizing telling.
This is what I thought of Everyman Theatre’s production of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations… What did you think? Please feel free to leave a comment!
Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations will play through March 5 at Everyman Theatre, 315 West Fayette Street, Baltimore, MD. For Tickets, call the box office at 410-752-2208 or purchase them online.
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By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy
Running Time: 2 hours and 30 minutes with one 15-minute intermission
Family. You always love them but sometimes you don’t like them very much and that’s OK. The latest offering from Everyman Theatre, DOT by Coleman Domingo and Directed by Vincent M. Lancisi, with Set Design by James Fouchard, Lighting Design by Harold F. Burgess II, Sound Design by Elisheba Ittoop, and Costume Design by David Burdick gives us a glimpse into the lives of a middle-class West Philadelphia family who are dealing with illness, change, and individual demons that are trying to get them down. All of these issues thrown into the pot make for an entertaining, bittersweet tale that is relatable and very important, tackling Alzheimer’s disease and Dementia in a way that is accessible to all audiences.
Set in present day in an old neighborhood in West Philadelphia, Dotty is the widowed matriarch of a middle class family with three grown children including two daughters and one son. Recently, the tables have turned and the children are finding they are all of a sudden taking care of mom rather than the other way around. When it comes to family, you deal, you compromise, and you make sacrifices. Family is just plain hard to deal with sometimes but then, nature likes to throw a curve ball and it throws Alzheimer’s disease or Dementia on top of everything else and the ball game changes completely.
As I’ve stated before, Everyman Theatre has not disappointed when it comes to sets for their productions and James Fouchard’s exquisite Set Design is no different. He has managed to recreate an elegant upper-middle class home that is still “homey” with working kitchen appliances and crown molding that’s to die for! Fouchard’s ingenuity shines through as the entire set makes a complete shift to the left during intermission for Act II. What was once a large kitchen and dining room (left to right) becomes ¼ kitchen, dining room, and large living room (left to right) within 15 minutes. His attention to detail from the tchotchkes around the room to the beautifully decorated Christmas tree is superb and authentic and Fouchard is to be commended for his striking design.
Lighting and Sound Design by Harold F. Burgess II and Elisheba Ittoop, respectively, is well thought out and absolutely appropriate to this piece. Burgess’ Lighting Design is spot on giving the audience cues to what time of day it is both inside and outside and sets the mood beautifully throughout the piece. Working in tandem with Lighting Design, Ittoop’s Sound Design works nicely, especially when a good old fashioned vinyl record of a bygone era is played on the record player giving a nostalgic feel to the entire piece. Along with that, whether scripted or otherwise, the song choices for this production near perfect and move the piece along with ease.
Costume Design by David Burdick is superb capturing the contemporary look of this middle-class family in West Philly. Not being a period piece, costumes are pretty much every day styles but Burdick’s design still shines as each character’s style is unique, adding to each character’s presence. Urban elegance is what I would call this costume plot and it works impeccably with this piece, adding to the value of the production.
The script for DOT (by none other than Coleman Domingo, a star of AMC’s Fear the Walking Dead) is touching on a delicate topic and is funny and poignant at the same time so any director has to handle it adroitly but under the bright helm of Director Vincent M. Lancisi, this piece shines. Lancisi really understands this piece and uses the humor of the script wisely, catching the audience off guard, at times, and breaking up the drama of this emotional story. His characters are authentic and his casting makes for great chemistry onstage. He keeps the action moving smoothly and presents an on point and very well put together production.
Moving on to the performance aspect of DOT, this ensemble is impeccable. They work well together, have the right look, and each actor understands his or her character and the inner emotional factors and outside actions that move them.
Ryan Carlo Dalusung takes on the role of Fidel, a more supporting role of caregiver to our titular character, Dot, but just as significant as every other character in this piece. Dalusung gives strong performance as the Kazakhstani caregiver who answered a Craigslist ad and really seems to get his characters purpose of going through a similar situation as Dot, not really understanding everything that is going on at all times with the only difference being his handicap is a language barrier while Dot’s is more physical. I did have slight issue with his accent as I heard it as more South American or Spanish but it very could be Kazakhstani as Kazakhstan is placed smack dab in the middle between Russia, The Middle East, Eastern Europe, and Asia… any one of those accents may have worked. Regardless of the accent, Dalusung gives a believable performance making his character very likable and befitting with the family for whom he works.
The role of Adam, the fussy husband of the only male of the family who has some demons of his own to contend with, is masterfully played by Rob Jansen. Adam is a 40-year-old who is possibly in the beginnings of a mid-life crisis and Jansen’s portrayal is near perfect. He gets this character and he is comfortable on the stage. He manages to show two sides of this character with one being the nagging husband of Donnie as well as the empathetic, sweet son-in-law of Dotty. His delivery may be a bit too careful at times, sounding a bit scripted and unnatural, but overall, his character is congenial he gives a confident and enjoyable performance.
Yaegel T. Welch tackles the role of Donnie, the prodigal (and only) son of Dotty, who is a 40-year-old freelance writer and middle child, who might not like the idea of his mother being sick. Welch’s portrayal of Donnie is absolutely outstanding as he navigates through the emotions of this character, dealing with the possibility of growing apart from his husband, not having a steady job in New York, caring for a sick parent, and wanting children. Throw in an ex-girlfriend and you have the makings of a pretty heavy character, but Welch takes this challenge and runs with it. His mannerisms and overall attitude make for a very authentic and affable character and, comparing to my brother, the middle child in my own family, Welch plays this role beautifully. His chemistry with his fellow cast mates is wonderful and he gives a strong, confident performance.
Shelly, the overbearing, eldest child who is also a stressed out, day-drinking single mom is played by Resident Artist Dawn Ursula, and she pulls off this role flawlessly. Her character, like many caretakers, feels as though she’s the only one of her siblings dealing with the situation of a sick parent while trying to stay afloat in her own life and the gesticulations and emotion that exudes from Ursula’s performance are outstanding. She captures the desperation and stress of this character but also gets the humor that is intertwined making for a very real and relatable. Her delivery might be a bit too forceful in the beginning, sounding too scripted and deliberate, but as the show progresses, her delivery falls into a very good rhythm, fitting in nicely with the show as a whole. I just wish it would have happened from the beginning. Ursula managed to get to the heart of this character and it makes for a very strong, entertaining, touching, and noteworthy performance.
Paige Hernandez takes on the role of Averie, the youngest, brash, lost-all-give-a-f**k, one-time YouTube sensation, and she is a standout in this production. Though the character, with her loud entrances and blunt replies, seems to be the comic relief of the piece, Hernandez pulls off the character with excellence and ease. She is very natural and confident in this role and her comedic timing and delivery are spot on. Being the youngest in my family, I can assure you, her attitude toward and actions in the situations that arise in the show are just about perfect. I think the youngest of any brood has his or her own ideas on how things run and, usually, he or she thinks she absolutely right and Hernandez portrays this in a way that hits home for me. Her performance is definitely funny, but it is also moving making the character of Averie well-rounded and well-performed. Kudos to Hernandez on a great performance.
Another definitely highlight in this production of DOT is Resident Artist Megan Anderson, who takes on the role of Jackie, the high school sweetheart of Donnie and a current hot mess. Jackie has a plethora of problems of her own, but sometimes family doesn’t mean just blood related and she gets sucked into the situations of this family she’s known her entire life. Anderson is so natural in this role and brings a realness to it that it was easy for me to forget she was reading from a script. Her story of life in the big city, infidelity, being single, and coming home for a break from life is just as interesting as the main plot and Anderson carries it well. She plays her character to fit right in with this family and she shines in her performance. Her authenticity and comedic timing are impeccable, as are her emotional scenes, making her character amiable and relatable. Kudos to Anderson for a job very well done.
The pinnacle of this production certainly Sharon Hope, who takes on the titular role of Dotty (or Dot), the elderly, strong matriarch of this crazy family who, by fate alone, is slipping into an inevitable oblivion because of the recent diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. Hope takes this role and makes it her own and it’s hard to imagine anyone else in this role. Though an elderly character, she’s a contemporary character and Hope manages to embrace the old fashioned (and conservative) values of this woman but brings an air of au fait to the character. Her quick transitions from congenial mother to angry, confused woman is on point and poignant. She is able to portray the struggles of one whose mind is slowly slipping away, with no way of coming back while at the same time portraying a woman who loves and enjoys her family and wants to be present for as long as she can. Her performance is top notch and is worth the price of admission.
Final though… DOT at Everyman Theatre is a well-crafted story of an everyday family and is a relatable, poignant, and funny study into an issue that is far from funny, but absolutely present in our current lives. I laughed, I cried, I had all the feels, and whether you’ve experienced Alzheimer’s or Dementia first hand, indirectly, or not at all, you will walk away with a better understanding and perhaps a bit more compassion for our fellow humans, especially those affected by this disease. Get your tickets now because this is not a production that is to be missed this season.
That’s what I thought about DOT, playing at Everyman Theatre… what did you think? Please feel free to leave a comment!
To learn more about Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, please go to Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association.
DOT will play through January 8 at Everyman Theatre, 315 West Fayette Street, Baltimore, MD. For tickets, call the box office at 410-752-2208 or purchase them online.