Give Me Moonlight Shines in the Night at Rapid Lemon Productions

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy

Approx. Running time: 90 minutes with no intermission

Sometimes there are circumstances that are so very painful but we feel as though we have to bear them alone. We put up walls and even facades to the outside world and, most of the time, we don’t think our problems are sufficient enough to be talked about outside of our own bubbles. We get a peek into this type of thinking in Rapid Lemon Productions’ latest offering, Give Me Moonlight by Ariel Mitchell, Directed by Noah Silas, and we get a glimpse into what can happen when those walls and facades crumble.

In a nutshell, Give Me Moonlight concerns itself with Bessie and Albert, a well-to-do married couple in Chicago who seem to have everything nicely put together. When Bessie welcomes a pregnant stranger into their home, the cracks begin to show in Bessie and Albert’s perfect lives and along with the pregnant stranger, a con-artist finds his way into the mix and all of a sudden, a castle is built in the middle of Death Valley with everyone quite okay with how things panned out.

Bruce Kapplin’s Scenic Design is top-notch and he uses his space exquisitely. He has created a simple, minimal design, but it works perfectly for this piece and his work with sand and desert-looking plants (branches, really) take this set to the next level. It’s a creative and effective design and Kapplin is to be commended for his brilliant efforts. Along with Kapplin’s Scenic Design, another honorable mention goes to Costume Design by Deana Fisher Brill. Set at the turn of the 20th century, Brill’s design transports the audience to the era flawlessly. Each character is costumed  beautifully with period styles and her attention to detail is on point. Kudos to Brill for a design well thought-out and executed.

Noah Silas takes the helm of this production and his understanding of the text is clear and his staging keeps the story flowing which keeps the audience engaged. The subtly of the period is nicely presented and the character work with the performers is spot on making for a superb showing on Silas’ part as guide and head of this solid, polished production.

Flynn Harne and Whitley Cargill. Photo: Rapid Lemon Productions

Moving on to the performance aspect of this production, this small quartet of performers give strong, solid performances are work splendidly together as a team. They give and take with each other making for robust performances that hit all the buttons of this poignant and thoughtful story. Sean Coe takes on the role of crippled and frustrated husband Albert and thought he seems to go over the top at times, especially physically, in such an intimate space, he’s believable enough. His delivery is a bit stiff but, he seems to have a good grasp of the character and plays him well. Whitely Cargill, as Jack, the pregnant woman taken in by Bessie, gives an admirable performance and she seems to get the story and her character, but her portrayal leaves much to the imagination and it mostly has to do with her delivery. She’s monotone, at best, and scripted as if she’s just going through the motions. She does, however, work quite will with her cast mates and the chemistry with all of them is sincere.

A highlight of this production is Flynn Harne as Scotty, the fast talking con-man who is a good balance of looking out for oneself but meaning no real harm. Harne takes this character and makes it his own giving a confident showing and clear understanding of the role. His delivery is natural and he keeps the audience engaged with his energy. Hats off to Harne for a robust and convincing performance.

Out of the four, Holly Gibbs is the standout in this production, taking on the role of Bessie, the turn of the century housewife trying to keep it all together. Gibbs gives a heartfelt, emotional performance and it is completely authentic in both delivery of the dialogue and actions. She embodies this character and pulls the audience in with her sincerity and passion to the character and the story. She has a natural chemistry with her cast mates which enhances her already stellar performance. Gibbs is certainly one to watch in this production and should be commended for her efforts.

Final thought… Give Me Moonlight is a poignant, real story of how people deal with crisis differently. Some fold into themselves, some keep themselves busy, some run, and some run after, but either way, life has a crazy way of throwing curveballs right to your face. The story is engaging and the performances are superb making this one production you don’t want to miss this season. Get your tickets now!

This is what I thought of Give Me Moonlight at Rapid Lemon Productions… what did you think? Feel free to drop a comment!

Give Me Moonlight will play through February 16 at Motorhouse120 W North Avenue, Baltimore, MD. For tickets, call the box office at 410-752-2208 or you can purchase them online.

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Between the Lines with Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead at Fells Point Corner Theatre

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy

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

Poor Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. If you’re familiar with Shakespearian tragedies, you’ll recognize these two characters as supporting players in Hamlet and their unfortunate demise. Fells Point Corner Theatre’s latest production, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead by Tom Stoppard, Directed by Lance Bankerd, takes a peek between the lines of the Shakespeare classic to gives us a theoretical peek into what these two ill-fated characters were up to in the background while our friend Hamlet was going crazy.

Matt Wetzel, Bethany Mayo, Rory Kennison, Michael Panzarotto. Credit: Trent Haines-Hopper/THsquared Photography

I’m usually a big fan of stories that include telling more in depth, parallel stories about minor or supporting characters of established stories. It’s always interesting to see and hear what’s going on in the background of other stories, and they are usually quite creative and imaginative. So, not knowing much about this title, but being familiar with Shakespeare’s Hamlet, I was excited to see what could transpire. I was excited. Then I realized this is Absurdist theatre. Admittedly, I am not a fan of Absurdist theatre and, after five minutes of rambling dialogue about probabilities and odds, I was turned off. The actors were doing a magnificent job, but the dialogue left me cold. The text is ostentatious and the fast pace of dialogue seems to me that the author is trying to create a character who’s mind works so fast he or she has to get out all the words before the next bright idea comes along. Ugh. Also, this doesn’t seem to be a stand-alone piece (as other titles are, this isn’t the only one) and one must have a familiarity with Hamlet before seeing this piece. There is an attempt to keep the audience up to pace with the introduction of certain characters and light explanations, but it’s half-hearted, at best. However, Stoppard does keeps true to the action of Hamlet, but when it comes to these two characters (and company), you can keep ‘em… but that’s just me.

No matter my feelings of the script, there’s absolutely no denying the fabulous production value Fells Point Corner Theatre gives us. Lance Bankerd, who takes the helm of this production, has a clear vision and tells the story straight-forward, with simple staging but superb character work. He seems to have a tight grasp on the tedious material and presents it in a laidback, easy-to-follow way making for a delightful showing. Also, it’s worth mentioning the creative Costume Design by Deana Fisher Brill and Maggie Flanigan who have managed to find and gather more denim in one place than I’ve seen since house party in the 90s. Their design compliments the piece and is consistent which makes it a praise-worthy design.

Moving on to the performance aspect of this production, I’d be amiss if I didn’t mention the effort and dedication this entire ensemble puts into this production and their work pays off, nicely.

(l-r) Thom Sinn and Dominic Gladden. Credit: Trent Haines-Hopper/THsquared Photography

Though most of the ensemble seemed like fillers, all gave beautiful performances such as Elizabeth Ung as Ophelia, who didn’t have much stage time, but made the most of what she had and Michael Panzarotto and Rory Kennison, who took on the roles of The Tragedians Horatio and Alfred, respectively. Panzarotto and Kennison didn’t have many lines, but they certainly played their characters to the hilt, physically, with appropriate gestures, mannerisms, and impeccable reactions to the other happenings on the stage.

Dominic Gladden takes on the role of Hamlet, who actually isn’t the main character in this particular story, but Gladden played the role effortlessly. It’s hard to make out his dialogue, at times, through a heavy dialect, but he has a good comprehension of the twisted character and plays him with confidence giving a strong performance. In step with the freaky family, Tom Piccin tackled the role of Claudius, the conniving uncle to Hamlet, and Kay-Megan Washington portrays Gertrude, the award-winner for Worst Mother of the Year. Both Piccin and Washington know these characters well and they have a good chemistry to play well off of and with each other. Both are quite able actors and they shine through the supporting roles to give brilliant performances.

There are certainly highlights in this production, including Bethany Mayo as The Player, the leader of a passing troupe of actors, and a little bit of a con artist. She has this role down pat and her comedic timing, as well as understanding of dramatics is crystal clear. She is comfortable in the role and plays it with ease, making for a solid and robust portrayal.

Thom Sinn as Polonius, the hapless, disheveled advisor to Claudius, is also a highlight mainly because of his comedic timing. His take on this character is spot on. Playing Polonius as more of a bumbling assistant, Sinn makes this character likeable and you start rooting for him, but you don’t why, you just know you want everything to work out for this poor fool. His delivery is a bit mushed at first, but that could be what Sinn is going for as it would fit with the character, but otherwise, his performance is strong and confident, making for a charming character.

(l-r) Logan Davidson and Matt Wetzel. Credit: Trent Haines-Hopper/THsquared Photography

Rounding out the cast is the truly remarkable Logan Davidson as Rosencrantz and Matt Wetzel as Guildenstern, who are the standouts in this production and they are working their asses off on that stage. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, in the Shakespeare play, are friends of Hamlet, but are assigned by Claudius to take Hamlet to England with a letter to the King of England asking him to kill Hamlet, unbeknownst to the duo. Hamlet finds out, and, well… let’s just say things don’t turn out so well for Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. You read the title already.

Davidson and Wetzel have a fantastic chemistry and work well off of each other, and, a little birdy told me they learned this hefty script in a little over a month, which is impressive with the amount of dialogue these two have to deliver throughout the show. They’re physical work is also spot on and they keep the audience engaged and entertained. Wetzel has a natural flair in his delivery and precise mannerisms that make him a joy to watch. Davidson, too, has a knack for the physical and portrays her role (whether it be Rosencrantz or Guildenstern, depending on what’s happening on stage at the time) with confidence and ease. Both of these actors have a tight grasp on their characters and play them solidly. Their effort is apparent, and they deserve the utmost kudos for their work on this production. They are certainly ones to watch.

Final thought… Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, is a polished, beautifully performed, well-thought out production but it’s not one I’d be running to see if it comes around again. Many folks love this kind of stuff, but absurdist theatre is just not my cup of tea, as it were, and the script is a little too pretentious for my tastes. However, Tom Stoppard’s pretentious “look-how-smart-I-am” script and dialogue aside, this is a splendid production. The ensemble is giving 100% effort in their superb performances and Bankerd’s staging is spot on, creating a smooth flow that keeps it engaging and entertaining. It’s definitely a praise-worthy production that deserves checking out.

This is what I thought of this production of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead at Fells Point Corner Theatre.… what do you think?

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead will play through May 5 at Fells Point Corner Theatre, 251 S Ann Street, Baltimore, MD 21231. For tickets, call 410-276-7837 or purchase them online.

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