Review: Charley’s Aunt at Fells Point Corner Theatre

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy

Running Time: 2 hours with one 15-minute intermission

No matter which era, what the situation is, or who it is, it seems that in entertainment, a stereotypical cis male in drag brings down the house in laughter. Why? I couldn’t tell you. Real drag or female impersonation is an art and I know folks who earn a good living doing it and take pride in what they do, and I love it (I may have *ahem* even dabbled in the art form myself sometime ago), but when you throw the cheap, just-for-laughs drag into a script, it adds tons to the comedic value. Fells Point Corner Theatre’s latest offering, Charley’s Aunt by Brandon Thomas, Directed by Kristen Cooley, takes us back to a time when a man could get away with posing as a woman by simply putting on a dowdy dress… and that’s all it took. However, when you need the services of an absent aunt… you take what you can get.

Kellie Podsednick as Kitty Verdun and Jon Meeker as Jack Chesney. Credit: Trent Haines-Hopper/THsquared Photography

Briefly, Charley’s Aunt was written in 1892 and was a smash hit in London, running for 4 years with 1,466 performances which was almost unheard of for productions of the day. The farce concentrates on Lord Fancort Babberley (or Babs, as he’s affectionately known), and his two friends Jack and Charley, who convince him to help them woo two young ladies by posing as Charley’s rich aunt, who was intended to be a chaperone but has changed her arrival date. Other problems and situations include, but are not limited to, the real aunt’s arrival and the attempted seduction of an elderly gold-digger toward the fake aunt, and a plea to give consent for two pairs of young lovers to marry. Got all that? If not, it’s a simple search on Google!

Set Design by Moe Conn is splendid and inovative as he turns the intimate FPCT stage into three locations, including interiors and exteriors. Moving walls and simple set pieces transform easily and smoothly and easily distinguishes each location perfectly. Not only mechanics, but choices of the aforementioned set pieces and colors are authentic and present the time very nicely. Kudos to Conn for a job well done.

Kristen Cooley and Barbara Madison Hauck put together a Costume Design that is on point for this production. Period pieces are always challenging, but Cooley and Madison have taken the challenge head on and have presented an authentic and fitting design that adds great value to the production. From the men in their materials of heavy materials (or at least look like it) to the elaborate gowns of the ladies, every costume is appropriate and makes each character look as though they stepped right out of the late 1800s, England.

Kristen Cooley also takes on the Direction of this piece and it’s easy to see she has a tight grasp on the text and really knows the material. Presenting such a dated piece to a modern audience is tricky, no doubt, but Cooley manages it beautifully. Her understanding of comedy and farce are apparent and her staging in this intimate space works well. She should be commended for her work on this piece.

Alice Gibson as Amy Spettigue and Kellie Podsednick as Kitty Verdun. Credit: Trent Haines-Hopper/THsquared Photography

Moving on to the performance aspect of this piece, two players in supporting roles are Peter Wilkes, who takes on the role of Brassett, the poor butler of Jack Chesney and Jennifer Skarzinski who tackles the role of Ela Delahay, a young fatherless girl who has been taken under the wing of Donna Lucia. Though supporting characters, both Brassett and Ela Delahay have important purposes and keep the story moving along. Wilkes does well portraying Brassett as a loyal employee to a young, brash Jack Chesney who can only roll his eyes, have a drink, and go about his day as his employer gets himself deeper into trouble at every turn. Skarzinski has a good grasp of her character, a naïve, young girl who has a big heart and she portrays her nicely but she looks out of place in the role. She gives a great showing and has great chemistry with her cast mates, but this flaw seems to take away from the authenticity of the character. Overall, however, she has a strong presence and natural delivery making for a delightful, if not completely believable, performance.

Michael Panzarrotto portrays Colonel Sir Francis Chesney, the elder Chesney and though he makes the character likable, he plays this role a bit over the top, but in a way that it seems he’s trying to hard which takes away from the comedy. He’s confident and works well with his fellow cast mates, so, in general, he gives a decent performance and gets the character’s point across nicely. As a sort of cohort to his character, Maribeth Vogel takes on the role of Donna Lucia, Charley’s real aunt who has arrived in a kind of disguise. Vogel is splendid in this role. Her delivery of the material is natural and she seems to have a good comprehension of her character she is portraying. Her presence and confidence allow her to give a strong showing in this piece that is a joy to watch.

Jon Meeker plays Jack Chesney, a scheming, but charming young gentleman and Brandon Richards takes on the role of Charles Wykeham, a lovesick young man who hesitantly goes along with Jack’s plans, after only a little persuading. Richards knows his character and is comfortable with him but his performance falls a little flat. The urgency that is required for this role seems a bit forced and takes away from the quickness needed for this piece. His character is nervous most of the time but he portrays more of a frightened, whiny young man rather than a nervous one. He does, however, work quite well with and off of Meeker, who is the stronger performer of the two, and Richards gets the comedy of the piece, giving an overall respectable performance. Jon Meeker, a fine performance and emotes just the right amount of urgency and worry as required for this character. His movements jand delivery are genuine and he has a strong, confident presence on stage that makes for a commendable performance.

Alice Gibson as Amy Spettigue and Kellie Podsednik as Kitty Verdun are very well cast and play their parts to the hilt. Gibson is cute and flighty as the young Amy and comfortably plays her as if she stepped right out of the time in which this piece takes place. Podsednik as the more mature Kitty is elegant and poised as the character should be. She has tight chemistry with all of her cast mates and gives a strong, assured performance that is one to watch in this production.

David Shoemaker as Lord Fancourt Babberley.

The definite standouts in this production are David Shoemaker as Lord Fancourt Babberley and Tom Wyatt as Stephen Spettigue. Shoemaker, who I’ve seen perform in more dramatic pieces, has near perfect comedic timing and understands the comedic nuances of this piece and presents them beautifully. As the aforementioned man-in-drag character, he doesn’t play this character over the top but takes it serious enough to get the humor across and he will have you laughing as he keeps a straight face throughout. In delivery and authenticity, Shoemaker is top notch and gives an impeccably funny and memorable performance. In the same vein, Tom Wyatt as Stephen Spettigue, the hard-nosed and serious uncle/guardian of the young girls will have you rolling in the isles. Wyatt takes this role and knocks it out of the park. Being almost a supporting character, Wyatt steals the show in many of his scenes with a flamboyancy that is ridiculously funny but he plays this flamboyance in a way that it is not forced making it all the more humorous. From his immaculate delivery to his gestures and facial expressions, he gives a flawless performance that is not to be missed. It’s worth noting that both Shoemaker and Wyatt work extremely well together on this piece and their chemistry and their comprehension of the comedy shine through. Kudos to both David Shoemaker and Tom Wyatt for jobs very well done.

Final thought… Comedy, when done right, is timeless and Charley’s Aunt is a fast-paced, humorous romp and farce of mistaken identity in a bygone era that’s still side-splitting funny in today’s age. Some individual performances are better than others, but this ensemble, as a whole, is a hard-working, well-oiled machine with great chemistry and a prodigious comprehension of the material. The production is polished with a creative Set Design and challenging Costume Design that is on point. Don’t let the fact that it’s a period piece deter you because this is not a production to be missed.

This is what I thought of this production of Charley’s Aunt.… what do you think?

 Charley’s Aunt will play through December 23 at Fells Point Corner Theatre, 251 S Ann Street, Baltimore, MD 21231. For tickets, call 410-276-7837 or purchase them online.

Review: Sex With Strangers at Fells Point Corner Theatre

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy

Running Time: 2 hours with one 15-minute intermission

In the world of billions of people, two sometimes come together whether by chance or a little planning and sparks fly. You only get one chance at a first impression and sometimes you find that the one you love is the one you hated at first sight. I’ve heard we’re drawn to people who help us grow and learn so, in a way, we are drawn to people we need. Sometimes we get what we need honestly and, in the real world, we sometimes get what we need with a little “arranging,” whether we like to admit it or not. In Fells Point Corner Theatre’s latest production, Sex With Strangers by Laura Eason, Directed by Patrick Gorirossi, gives us a glimpse into a somewhat dysfunctional relationship between an older woman and younger man who both need something from the other whether they know it or not.

Matthew Lindsay Payne and Kathyrne Daniels in Sex With Strangers. Credit: David Iden

Sex With Strangers, in a nutshell, concerns a twenty-something blogger, Ethan who finds his writing hero, the older Olivia, in a secluded cabin and they realize they both want what the other has already. A flirty attraction turns to an intimate relationship and they slowly move closer to what each wants from each other. However, through twist and turns, each must go through some self-realization and the sleazy side of climbing the ladder (or falling off the ladder) as each reinvents him and herself to attain their ambitions.

The story, itself, is a good story, very relatable, and can be set in any era. The characters are fleshed out and I found myself liking one over the other then making a complete 180° turn by the end. The dialogue is natural and authentic with no major plot holes or, any plot holes at all. It’s an easy story to follow and the ending, which I won’t give away, of course, leaves the audience thinking, which is always the hallmark of a good, well-told story.

Fells Point Corner Theatre, with its more traditional space, never disappoints when it comes to their sets and David Shoemaker’s Set Design is no different. He knows the space well and uses it wisely, giving us an authentic space for this piece. Everything is strategically placed and natural putting the audience in the scenes making the production more engaging. It’s a simple design, but absolutely appropriate and, from the audience, I feel like I’m looking through the window into a living room of a secluded cabin or a New York City apartment. Kudos to Shoemaker for his impeccable design.

Patrick Gorirossi takes the helm of this production and his Direction and staging is superb and engaging. Having a two-person cast can be challenging but Gorirossi manages to keep the action moving and it’s clear he has a good grasp on the material and the movement on stage is authentic and natural. His casting is top-notch and the production is polished and paced perfectly. Kudos to Gorirossi on a job well done.

Kathryne Daniels as Olivia. Credit: David Iden

Moving on to the performance aspect of this production, it’s worth noting that the two-person cast of Kathryne Daniels as Olivia and Matthew Lindsay Payne as Ethan couldn’t have been cast more perfectly. They both embody this characters completely and have a great comprehension of the text. Neither are merely going through the motions, but are feeling what their characters are feeling and their choices fit the piece flawlessly.

Matthew Lindsay Payne as Ethan. Credit: David Iden

Though it was a bit of a stretch to believe Daniels is a woman in her early forties, she plays the character splendidly. Her transition from obscure, self-doubting writer to confident and ambitious novelist is seamless and occurs naturally. The writing accomplishes this well already, but Daniels brings it to life. Her natural and purposeful delivery makes her performance believable and she has a strong stage presence that works well for this piece. The chemistry she has with Payne is quite good and makes for a solid and refined performance.

Payne, too, gives and honest and solid performance as the twenty-something brash and no-holds-barred blogger who is “plugged in” 90% of the day. He handles his character’s change from beginning to end delicately and smoothly making for a brilliant performance. His comprehension of this character and his conflicts is apparent and his presence is strong making for a terrific performance, overall.

Final thought… Sex with Strangers is a moving, poignant piece that makes one think about relationships and what we need and/or want out of them. It’s also about learning to trust people and learning, sometimes the hard way, about what it is to be betrayed. The production is unassuming but strong and the performances are on point filled with skill and a solid chemistry. The modern setting makes it relatable and the characters and story are timeless making for a show that will be relevant for years to come and makes for a charming, thoughtful evening of theatre. Get your tickets because you don’t want to miss this one.

This is what I thought of this production of Sex with Strangers.… what do you think?

Sex with Strangers will play through October 7 at Fells Point Corner Theatre, 251 S Ann Street, Baltimore, MD 21231. For tickets, call 410-276-7837 or purchase them online.

Review: The Quickening at Fells Point Corner Theatre with The Collaborative Theatre

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy

Running Time: Approx. 2 hours with one intermission

It’s late, you’re safely tucked away in bed… you hear a noise. Is the house settling? The cat looking for a treat? An uninvited critter in the kitchen?… or something more sinister? These are the types of things that can keep you up at night and a good ghost story can have the same effect. Fells Point Corner Theatre’s (in collaboration with The Collaborative Theatre Co.) latest offering, the World Premiere of The Quickening by Mark Scharf, Directed by Ann Turiano, gives us an original ghost story that, with a few jump-scares and cleverly placed effects, will not only raise your pulse and possibly keep you up at night, but also make you think about what happens when we close our eyes for the last time.

Amanda Spellman as Beth and David Shoemaker as Matt. Credit: Shealyn Jae Photography

As stated, The Quickening, is a good old-fashioned ghost story set in present day. The story revolves around Beth, a young pregnant woman in a new neighborhood in a new town who knows the new house she lives in is more than meets the eye. She befriends her neighbor, Philomena (better known as Phil), a logical thinker with an open mind. Matt, Beth’s husband is a Civil War reenactor (a confederate soldier, no less), who believes most of the trouble has to do with Beth’s “condition” and how it effects the way she thinks. Meanwhile, Rosemary, Beth’s mother has come to help prepare for the baby and reveals a family secret that explains some of the strange goings on at the new house. Along with this explanation and a little research by Phil, the real story of the home unfolds with frightening conclusions that makes us question life, death, and the afterlife, if one believes it so.

Cassandra Dutt’s Set Design is phenomenal and uses the space wisely. Her use of levels to present different rooms and locations is wise and her attention to detail is top-notch. The Fells Point Corner Theatre stage is an intimate space but, with such a natural, authentic design, Dutt has managed to bring us into the living space of this young family which makes the audience feel closer to the action, adding to the experience.

Technical aspects for a horror story or ghost story on stage can be tricky and teeter on the line of corny but, working in tandem with Set Design, I’d be amiss not to mention that the Lighting Design by Tabetha White and Sound Design by Devyn Deguzman which is absolutely stellar giving life to this story. White sets the scenes and changes moods with her sometimes subtle, sometimes drastic change in lighting to invoke both calmness and a frenzy with lighting effects. Deguzman, too, adds value to this production with the “bumps in the night” sounds and disembodied voices that go hand-in-hand with ghost stories and would fall flat without them. Both White and Deguzman are to be applauded for their work on this piece.

Ann Turiano, who is no stranger to the stage, on or off, takes the helm of this production and her Direction is exceptional. Bringing a brand new piece to the stage can be a daunting task, but Turiano seems to have taken it in stride with a clear-cut vision and great comprehension of the material. Her handling of this new work is impressive in both staging and overall concept. It’s a modern setting with an intricate story but Turiano has given us a polished, well-presented production that shows and tell the audience a story simply without the bells and whistles but with just the right amount of effects and concentrating more on character and dialogue. It’s also worth saying her casting is on point for this piece. Kudos to Turiano for a job well done.

Marianne Gazzola Angelella as Rosemary. Credit: Shealyn Jae Photography

Award winning Baltimore playwright Mark Scharf has crafted a lovely story that is more about questioning faith, life, and death rather than a simple horror story. The scares are there and the creepiness factor is definitely apparent throughout, but his dialogue is well-thought out and well-researched. A few obligatory mentions of Baltimore seem a bit out of place, but there are only a few and do not hinder the production from moving forward. His in depth explanation of theories of physics and Catholic dogma are on point and actually teach a few things. The script did feel rushed at times – for instance, I would have preferred the realization and acceptance of what was going on in the house to be a little more gradual. It’s as if the characters simply accept the strange goings on with a few objects moving on their own and a strange little boy lurking about. However, that being said, I completely understand, for the sake of time, things need to be cut and the action still moved along smoothly and the story was told completely. Overall, this is an outstanding showing and I’m looking forward to seeing more of Scharf’s work in the future.

Moving on to the performance aspect of this production, we are treated to a strong, small ensemble who brings these characters to life with great authenticity and emotion making for beautiful performances all around. To begin, Mariane Gazzola Angelella takes on the role of Rosemary, the clairvoyant mother of Beth and Amanda Spellman tackles the multi-faceted role of Beth, the tortured and targeted occupant of the house.

Debbie Bennett as Philomena (Phil). Credit: Shealyn Jae Photography

Angelella is perfectly suited for her role as Rosemary, a good ol’ Bawlmer girl, who desperately wants to help her daughter through a tough time. Angelella even produced a good Baltimore accent but those born and raised can easily pick up that it is not a natural accent, but… it’s a hard accent to crack so, all in all, she does a superb job. Her character work is notable, as well, and she seems to have a good grasp on Rosemary, keep the character consistent throughout exuding the emotion of a parent of a child who is hurting in one way or another. Along the same lines, Spellman is excellent as the Beth and plays her to the hilt. Her chemistry with her cast mates adds a realness and natural air to her performance and she, too, has a good comprehension of this character and trials. Though she sounded a bit scripted, at times, overall, she gives a strong, confident performance that is a joy to watch.

A highlight of this production is David Shoemaker as Matt Wells, the doting, logical husband of Beth (and completely outnumbered male). Shoemaker is no stranger to the stage and his natural abilities shine through in his gestures delivery of his dialogue, adding an absolute authenticity to the character. It’s clear he understands his character and his performance helps the audience understand him, as well. He is certainly one to watch in this production.

Last, but certainly not least, Debbie Bennett takes on the role of Philomena (Phil), the kindly neighbor who befriends and helps the family even though her logical side is conflicting with her faithful side and she is the standout in this particular production. This character is the most complex of all the characters because of this conflict and Bennett presents it superbly. Her delivery and portrayal of the character is sincere which adds to her performance. This character seems to be the bridge between the supernatural and the natural in this piece, putting a lot of responsibility on Bennet, but she carries it well and does not falter. I’m looking forward to seeing more performances from this actress.

Final thought… The Quickening at Fells Point Corner Theatre is a scary (or horror) story that is presented in a very well put-together, well thought-out production. The script flows nicely, though at time seems a bit rushed, but overall, is a good story filled with intelligent, natural dialogue and diligent research. Be forewarned, there are a couple of jump scares but the effects are absolutely brilliant. The performances are admirable and the technical aspect is outstanding. Creating characters and bringing a piece to life for the first time can be difficult, but this team has done it beautifully. The entire cast, crew, and playwright are to be commended for their efforts and this is not a production you want miss this season.

This is what I thought of Fells Point Corner Theatre and The Collaborative Theatre Co.’s production of The Quickening… What did you think? Please feel free to leave a comment!

The Quickening will play through July 1 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: 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: 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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Review: Trust at Fells Point Corner Theatre

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy
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Running Time: 1 hours and 50 minutes with one 15-minute intermission
The 90s was a hell of a decade and I would do it all over again, if I could! Amidst the Gulf War, Rodney King Riots, and presidential sex-scandals, there were some pretty cool times, as well, such as The Berlin Wall coming down, the ending of the Cold War with the U.S.S.R. and… the World Wide Web! Fells Point Corner Theatre‘s production of Trust by Steven Dietz, Directed by Michael Byrne Zemarel, with Music Direction by Kristen Cooley, Set Design by Bush Greenbeck, and Lighting Design by Chris Allen takes the audience back to a bygone era where relationships and sex were just “a thing,” Chris Hardwick was hosting Singled Out on MTV and not talking about zombies, and Nirvana dominated the airwaves.

The Cast of Trust. Credit: Chris Hartlove

The Cast of Trust. Credit: Chris Hartlove


In a nutshell, Trust is steamy, raw tale about Cody and Becca, a young engaged couple, and Cody has recently hit it big in the music industry and has graced the cover of the latest issue of Rolling Stone magazine. However, Cody also has the hots for an older faded and jaded star, Leah, who may or may not have a thing for him, too. Gretchen knew Leah back before she was big and had the hots for her, but never told her. Low and behold, Gretchen, who happens to be a dressmaker, is making Becca’s wedding dress may or may not have the hots for Becca and Becca might possibly have similar feelings in return. Enter the young Holly, another outspoken friend of Gretchen’s who adores Cody, the rising star, while Roy, a DJ, has his motor running for Holly. Welcome to love in the 90s.
Bush Greenbeck’s minimal, clean set design works well with this piece and his clever use of a revolving stage takes the audience seamlessly from one location to another and adds a bit of variety to the piece, which, in authentic 90s fashion, is quite black. To counter this dark tone, Greenbeck adds splashes of color and prints to break up the monotony and it keeps the set visually appealing.
To complement Greenbeck’s design, Lighting Design by Chris Allen sets the mood of the piece very nicely. He uses the levels in his lighting to portray locations such as living rooms, bars, and hotel rooms and his subtle changes and splashes of color are effective and moving the piece along smoothly.
Michael Byrne Zemarel, Laura Malkus, and David Shoemaker. Credit: Chris Hartlove

Michael Byrne Zemarel, Laura Malkus, and David Shoemaker. Credit: Chris Hartlove


According to Music Director Kristen Cooley, Trust is written as a straight play with no music, but it was the decision of Director Michael Byrne Zemarel to add this element, making it a play with music and it was indeed a creatively wise choice. The music that was added beautifully complimented the action in the piece and Cooley lucked out with actors who are instrumentalists as well, including Mark Scharf, who is credited only as The Musician. I’m assuming Scharf’s character was added in, as well, and he does an excellent job providing accompaniment with his acoustic guitar throughout the piece. I like the fact that the song choices aren’t just the top hits of the decade but some B-side songs were utilized as well, which is refreshing. Overall, Cooley’s song choices (in collaboration with Zemeral, I’m sure) are smart and befitting and her work with the cast shines through in their tight harmonies and strong vocal performances.
Michael Byrne Zemarel takes on double duty as a performer and director in this piece. On his directing, he does a superb job with this piece. As previously discussed, his decision to add the element of music is brilliant. It adds so much value to this piece and the decision of using live, acoustic guitar accompaniment makes it all the better. He was not afraid to push the boundaries in this piece that’s not only filled with relationship drama but also has a touch of simulated sex and nudity that may or may not be for shock value. Whether or not the sex stuff is or is not for shock value, it works and pulls the piece together.   His portrayal of Roy is realistic and, through is mannerisms, he really captures the essence of a man longing or love in the grunge age.
Rachel Roth as Gretchen. Credit: Chris Hartlove

Rachel Roth as Gretchen. Credit: Chris Hartlove


Overall, this ensemble worked superbly together with excellent chemistry. It is obvious they are comfortable with each other as they play off each other naturally and with confidence.
Casey Dutt portrayal of Holly, the sharp tongued, opinionated young friend is strong and entertaining. She portrays well a character who simply says what’s on her mind and doesn’t mean any harm, but does, in fact, cross the line sometimes.
David Shoemaker as Cody. Credit: Chris Hartlove

David Shoemaker as Cody. Credit: Chris Hartlove


David Shoemaker tackles the role of Cody, the rising star, trying to navigate through the newfound fame and all that goes with it. He definitely looked the part of a young rock star with the wispy hair and chiseled physique (and what a physique it is). He gives a confident performance and absolutely understands the humility of his character and aside from some of the decisions this character takes, he is quite likable. He is an outstanding musician both on his guitar and vocally with a soothing bass that resonates throughout the theatre. That being said, I would have like a little more enthusiasm whereas Shoemaker plays this role rather subtly to the point where it was almost hard to understand what he was saying or doing. However, a lot of the 90s was chill so, he would have probably fit right in.
Laura Malkus as Leah. Credit: Chris Hartlove

Laura Malkus as Leah. Credit: Chris Hartlove


Gretchen and Leah played by Rachel Roth and Laura Malkus, respectively, are definite highlights in this production. Roth plays her character, Gretchen, with just the right amount of angst and bitterness balanced out with a tenderness from the pain her character has experienced. In a character that seems to be cut from the same cloth, Malkus plays the jaded Leah with the skepticism that perfectly matches a fading star who was probably promised the world and given very little. It’s worth noting that Malkus gives an impressive, strong vocal performance with a clear, even-textured tone that made me take notice from the very first note.
Valerie Dowdle as Becca. Credit: Chris Hartlove

Valerie Dowdle as Becca. Credit: Chris Hartlove


Among her gifted cast mates, Valerie Dowdle as Becca is the standout in this piece. Her portrayal of her character is absolutely authentic and enthralling and she gives strong, confident performance. She fully embodies this character, making it her own. Dowdle understands Becca and the turmoil she is experiencing and balances this character beautifully with levels of intensity and reserve that keep Becca interesting for the audience. Kudos to Dowdle for a superb job and I’m very much looking forward to seeing more from this actress.
Final thought…Trust at Fells Point Corner Theatre is a fearless, unabashed, and gritty look at love and lost love in the 90s as well as the intertwining passions and all the male and female assumptions that go along with it. Adding the heartfelt, guitar driven music of the decade, this production looks past the flannel, choker necklaces, Doc Martins, and everything “grunge” to the human outlook on the difficulties of not only being in a relationship, but holding on to one, which is a timeless story and relevant to today’s audiences. Though the attire is correct and the music fits, being a kid/teen of the 90s, it might not have as much of a nostalgic feel as I would like, it still represents the decade nicely. This relevant, intelligent, and in-your-face production with all its twists and turns, chance meetings, and 90s nostalgic music will have you enthralled every step of the way and should be high on your list of things to see in Baltimore theatre this season.
This is what I thought of Fells Point Corner Theatre’s production of Trust… What did you think? Please feel free to leave a comment!
Trust will play through March 19 at Fells Point Corner Theatre, 251 South Ann Street, Baltimore, MD. For more information, go to fpct.org or purchase tickets online.
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Review: The Divine Sister at Fells Point Corner Theatre

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy

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Running Time: 2 hours and 10 minutes with one 15-minute intermission

Religion is always a tricky and sometimes touchy subject in the arts, but that’s only when its taken too seriously. The latest offering from Fells Point Corner Theatre, the Baltimore Premiere of The Divine Sister, by Charles Busch finds a delightful balance. Directed by Steve Goldklang, with Set Design by Roy Steinman, Lighting Design by Charles Danforth III, Sound Design by Andrew Porter, and Costume Design by Anthony Lane Hinkle and Mary Bova (of A.T. Jones) this piece tickles the proverbial funny bone without offending and the story actually isn’t heavy on religion but sending a message of love, faith, and hope.

Steven Shriner and Holly Gibbs. Credit: Tessa Sollway

Steven Shriner and Holly Gibbs. Credit: Tessa Sollway

Set Design by Roy Steinman is simple, yet detailed. Two moveable walls on wheels cleverly allow for various locations including an underground passageway, a courtyard garden, and a sitting room of an elegant mansion. Steinman’s design is traditional in the way that the scenes are definitely painted and not necessarily realistic, such as stained glass windows and a fireplace and mantel, but absolutely fitting for this production. Being a fan of traditional theatre and suspension of disbelief, I rather enjoyed the simplicity of the set. The entire set is designed to display stone work, as you would see in old churches and buildings and the stone painting is on point. Steinman uses his space very wisely, using the surprisingly large stage and breaking it up into sections with the moveable walls. The set pieces chosen are fitting and really separate the scenes and locations. Overall, the Steinman’s Set Design is appropriate and smart adding charm to the entire production.

The scene changes are precise and careful, but often go on a few seconds too long. There are quite a few set pieces that have to make their way on and off stage between scenes and I’m sure the scene changes will cut their time as the production runs.

Tom Lodge and Kathryne Daniels. Credit: Tessa Sollway

Tom Lodge and Kathryne Daniels. Credit: Tessa Sollway

Lighting Design by Charles Danforth III does more than light the actors on stage but sets the mood completely for each scene. Whether outside in a courtyard or in an underground tunnel, the lighting scheme matches the action and setting. Danforth’s design blends in with the action and is absolutely appropriate for the piece.

To go along with Lighting Design, Andrew Porter’s Sound Design is on point for this production. Though there are not a lot of sound effects in this production, what is utilized is definitely befitting. Namely, the realistic “dripping water” sound effect used in the underground tunnel setting adds value to the scene and the production.

Steven Shriner and Anne Shoemaker. Credit: Tessa Sollway

Steven Shriner and Anne Shoemaker. Credit: Tessa Sollway

The use of recordings is wise and is hilarious as the actors blatantly lip-sync through an entire number, skipping and dancing as they do. It’s worthe mentioning the song in the the courtyard between Mother Superior and Agnes is not only hilarious with the afore mentioned lip-syncing and skipping, but has beautiful vocals by actresses Holly Gibbs and Anne Shoemaker, with guitar by David Shoemaker.

Costume Design by Anthony Lane Hinkle and Mary Bova (of A.T. Jones) is authentic and fun for this piece. Set in the mid 1960s, styles and fashion were flashy and all over the place, but Hinkle and Bova manage to capture the essence of the 60s with their Costume Design. The nuns, of course, are your traditionally dressed 1960s nuns with the full habit and rosarary and the actors seemed very comfortable in these genuine-looking habits, moving freely about the stage. Outside of the nun costumes, the “civilian” character costumes were equally as impressive. The many costumes of the character named Mrs. Levinson, were all on point and fitting of the character and time, with polyester looking material and vibrant colors of a wealthy middle-aged woman with a penchant and propensity for current fashion and haute couture. Kudos to Hinkle and Bova for their impeccable design.

Lynda McClary and Tom Lodge. Credit: Tessa Sollway

Lynda McClary and Tom Lodge. Credit: Tessa Sollway

Steve Goldklang’s Direction of this piece is impressive and concise as his vision for this very funny and upbeat piece is clear making for a very well put-together production. Goldklang seems to understand this story is not merely making fun of any particular religion but using humor to tell a story and send an important message of trust and belief.

Though I don’t consider The Divine Sister a traditional farce, it does have farcical aspects and quick entrances and exits, but, overall is just a very witty comedy that Goldklang understands and keeps that delicate balance of mocking and poking fun. He keeps the action moving and, aside from the lengthy scene changes, manages to use the immense talents of his cast to keep the stor
y moving forward. Overall, Steven Goldklang does an outstanding job at the helm of this production.

Kathryne Daniels as Sister Walburga. Credit: Tessa Sollway

Kathryne Daniels as Sister Walburga. Credit: Tessa Sollway

Moving on to the performance aspect of this piece, Kathryne Daniels as Sister Walburga/Mrs. Macduffie has a great look and command of the stage making both her characters interesting and entertaining. Her characters are completely different and Sister Walburga as the stern Sister from Berlin may not be all she seems while Mrs. Macduffie, the cleaning lady, seems to know everything that’s going on in their little circle and is happy to share her information. It seems Daniels is the only actor required to use accents for her characters (German for Sister Walburga and Scottish for Mrs. Macduffie) but she may have benefited by working with a dialect coach as her accents for both characters were a dicey, at best. Regardless, her performance was impressive and she seems to understand her characters and plays them beautifully.

Tom Lodge as Brother Venerius/Jeremy is likable and carries the weight of being the only male character in the entire piece. He is comfortable and confident onstage and his portrayal of Jeremy is believable and moves the story along through his dialogue, making him an involved character. However, for as good as he portrays Jeremy, his portrayal of Brother Venerius, whose face we never see, falls a little flat. Brother Venerius is a mysterious character lurking in the underbelly of the convent but I couldn’t pinpoint where is character is supposed to be from as the accent he chooses to use is all over the place and a little strange. Overall, Lodge gives a very strong performance and carries his characters quite well.

Holly Gibbs as Sister Acacius and Lynda McClary as Mrs. Levinson. Credit: Tessa Sollway

Holly Gibbs as Sister Acacius and Lynda McClary as Mrs. Levinson. Credit: Tessa Sollway

Holly Gibbs is brilliant as Sister Acacius a.k.a. Lily in this production of The Divine Sister. She has great comedic timing and her understanding of the character is apparent as she pulls off the New York accent and mannerisms impeccably. As a nun who’s going through some things, including not necessarily wanting to be a nun anymore, and has an interesting past along with Mother Superior, Gibbs plays the role with the right amount of humor and is absolutely believable as Sister Acacius, the right hand man to Mother Superior. Gibbs never disappoints and her work in this production is no different.

Kathryne Daniels, Anne Shoemaker, and Holly Gibbs. Credit: Tessa Sollway

Kathryne Daniels, Anne Shoemaker, and Holly Gibbs. Credit: Tessa Sollway

Anne Shoemaker as Agnes, the postulate who is having visions and healing the sick, is a standout in this production. Her comedic timing is on point and her character choices are impeccable. She plays this role with the perfect amount of “crazy” that is required for this character. A cross between Maria Von Trappe and Annie Wilkes (from Stephen King’s novel Misery), Shoemaker finds a perfect balance of innocence and insanity for this character and her depiction of the transition her character goes through is also admirable, In general, Shoemaker is confident and commanding and gives a strong and impressive performance.

Lynda McClary as Mrs. Levinson/Timothy is hands down one of the highlights of this production. With that being said, in the role of Timothy, the young man who is bullied and not the best athlete, along with other adolescent issues, McClary is a bit much. An adult actor playing a child is always tricky and, for this production, McClary takes it to the extreme to being almost annoying, rather than funny, but, if anything, she is absolutely dedicated to the role, giving 100%. Her portrayal of Mrs. Levinson, however, is a completely different story. Mrs. Levinson is the wealthy, fashionable, and philanthropic widow who has secrets of her own and McClary pulls this role off flawlessly. With just the right balance of snootiness and humility, she is a riot with immaculate comedic timing and is an actress who isn’t afraid to make a fool of herself for the good of the production. She’s a seasoned actor and her confidence and command of the stage makes for a funny and outstanding performance.

Steven Shriner as Mother Superior. Credit: Tessa Sollway

Steven Shriner as Mother Superior. Credit: Tessa Sollway

Last but certainly not least is Steven Shriner as Mother Superios a.k.a. Susan who is another absolute highlight of this production. For some reason, a man in drag is still funny after all the years of it being a bit in show business and this production is no different. Shriner is superb as Mother Superior and his delivery of the clever lines and his timing is just about perfect. The success of his performance is the character of Mother Superior seriously, not as a mockery, and it makes for a very strong, funny, natural performance. His soothing voice and mannerisms make for an authentic portrayal and a very likable character. As both Mother Superior and Susan, the young and sweet, but cut-throat New York reporter, Shriner gives a confident and commanding performance and I’m looking forward to seeing more from him.

The Cast of The Divine Sister. Credit: Tessa Sollway

The Cast of The Divine Sister. Credit: Tessa Sollway

Final thought… The Divine Sister at Fells Point Corner Theatre is witty, hilarious show with a clever script and excellent performances from the ensemble. The piece pokes fun at religion but certainly does not mock it and, in the end, sends a good message of faith and hope through crafty humor that will have your sides splitting. Get your tickets now! You don’t want to miss this one!

This is what I thought of Fells Point Corner Theatre’s production of The Divine Sister. What did you think? Please feel free to leave a comment!

The Divine Sister will play through December 18 at Fells Point Corner Theatre, 251 S Ann Street, Baltimore, MD. For Tickets, go to fpct.org for information or purchase them online.