Review: Sweat at Everyman Theatre

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy

Running Time: Approx. 2 hours with one intermission

Though times may seem crazy right now, the early 2000s were a doozy, as well! The economy was down the tubes and many areas in America were feeling it. Jobs seemed to be disappearing and everyone was replaceable, whether it be by a machine or someone willing to do the job for less pay. Everyman Theatre’s latest offering, Sweat, by Lynn Nottage (their fourth Nottage produced work), Directed by Vincent Lancisi, gives us a peek into one community as their security and way of life seem to be slipping from their fingers and there are no easy answers.

(l-r) Dawn Ursula, Kurt Rhoads, Megan Anderson, Deborah Hazlett. Credit: Clinton Brandhagen

Sweat is a Pulitzer winning play by Lynn Nottage and centers around the working-class of Reading, Pennsylvania. It bounces back and forth between 2000 and 2008 and concerns itself with three longtime friends, Cynthia, Tracey, and Jessie, who have worked at the same factory for years. The economy being what it is, there are fears that the factory is laying people off and even a possibility of it closing its doors for good. Suddenly job security is taken away and the characters have no idea what to do with this new feeling except express disbelief. Two of the friends, Cynthia a black woman and Tracey a white woman, apply for the same management job and Cynthia lands it, perplexing Tracey, who has a few years of experience on Cynthia. Soon, the company moves jobs to Mexico, the trade union goes on strike and the workers are locked out of the factory, putting Cynthia in a hard position. The new hierarchy of management vs. workers begins to put a strain on the friends, while racial issues widen the already growing gap, as well.

(l-r) Megan Anderson, Deborah Hazlett, Matthew Ward, Vaughn Ryan Midder, Dawn Ursula. Credit: Clinton Brandhagen

I’ve got to admit. I’ve seen a few Lynn Nottage plays and… I can’t say that I’m a fan. It’s not because the stories aren’t moving or the performances were poor, but… the script. Sweat seems to be trying too hard for some reason. The dialogue makes the very able actors seem scripted and unnatural, for some. I just can’t seem to get invested in any of the characters of a Nottage piece, as much as I want to be. Ensemble pieces are hard to write, I’m sure, but Nottage seems to have a bunch of smaller sub-plots going on and she seems to leave characters hanging with no real resolutions. If she stuck to one or two plots, she might be more successful in fleshing out the characters, who have so much potential, a little more. I will say, the tension of this piece does come through, such as the racial issues and union vs. non-union folks, so, there are some highlights.  That’s not to say her writing is bad, but, she could put more time into some of her characters. However, check it out and judge for yourself!

Daniel Ettinger has, once again, outdone himself with this Set Design. It’s a masterpiece unto itself. With a fluid set revolving from a dank, blank area that is used as an office and low-income apartments to the lavish but cozy neighborhood bar, this Set Design is superb. The attention to detail is not to be missed and Ettinger is to be heartily applauded for his work on this production.

(l-r) Vaughn Ryan Midder and Dawn Ursula. Credit: Clinton Brandhagen

Working in tandem with Ettinger’s Set Design, Lighting Design by Harold F. Burgess II and and Sound Design by C. Andrew Mayer are impeccable. Setting just the right moods for each scene and adding emotion and just the right amount of intensity to the piece rather than drawing attention from the action, make Burgess’ and Mayer’s work flawless and adds value to this production, in general. Kudos to them for jobs very well done.

Costume Design by David Burdick is spot on and his presentation of the first decade of the 21st century is stellar. Not only a general style, but a specific, blue-collar style shines through in Burdick’s design putting the audience right smack dab in the middle of the time setting and adding a sense of authenticity to the entire piece.

(l-r) Alejandro Ruiz and Deborah Hazlett. Credit: Clinton Brandhagen

Vincent M. Lancisi, Founding Artistic Director of Everyman Theatre, takes the helm of this production and he certainly seems to have a solid grasp of the story and each character. His staging is impeccable and the pacing is near perfect. His vision is apparent and his casting is superb, working with resident company members and non-members, pulling together a cast that has a natural chemistry and understanding of their characters. The subject matter is delicate but Lancisi takes it and presents it in a way that’s easy to follow and entertaining, all the while making the audience think about the trials and tribulations of folks who may be living these same scenarios right at this moment. Kudos to Lancisi for an exquisite job.

Moving on to the performance aspect of this production, Jason B. McIntosh portrays Evan, the parole officer and though he is believable he comes off as scripted and stiff at times. He only has two scenes at the beginning and end of the play, and most of the problem may be the dialogue, but he manages the short stage time he has nicely.

(l-r) Vaughn Ryan Midder, Matthew Ward, Kurt Rhoads. Credit: Clinton Brandhagen

Vaughn Ryan Midder portrays Chris, the young man who has dreams of getting off the factory floor by going to school, and Matthew Alan Ward takes on the role of Jason, his close, longtime friend who seems content on the factory floor, but still has big dreams with the money he could possibly make. Both of these actors are quite able and work well with and off of each other, giving 100% effort to their roles. However, Ward does seem a bit forced in his role and uncomfortable with the dialogue… at first. As the production moves along, he gets more comfortable but there’s still a certain stiffness in his delivery, but, again, this could very well be Nottage’s dialogue itself. Stronger of the young duo is Midder, who plays his role with an authenticity that shows he certainly has a good grasp on his character and is comfortable in his actions and delivery.

(l-r) JaBen Early, Dawn Ursula, Megan Anderson, Kurt Rhoads. Credit: Clinton Brandhagen

JaBen Early plays, Brucie, the out-of-work partner of Cynthia, who has resorted to dope to get by, but is seemingly trying to get back on track. Early seems to have a good understanding of this character and plays him confidently, but I just don’t buy that this character is a dope feign. Once again, I don’t think I can blame the actor for this… it’s Nottage’s writing or director’s decision. It’s mentioned repeatedly that this character, Brucie, is on dope, but it’s not really presented in the dialogue or in the action and portrayal. I can tell Early is a damn fine actor, but in this role, unfortunately, it doesn’t come across so clearly. Alejandro Ruiz, however, as Oscar, they Latino barback who just wants to get ahead in life and work, is more of a character one can invest in. He means no harm, but is accused of things for which he is not responsible. Ruiz plays the role smoothly and unassuming which is absolutely required for this character. His delivery is natural and his presence is strong, making for a wonderful performance.

(l-r) Dawn Ursula and Kurt Rhoads. Credit: Clinton Brandhagen

In this production, we are treated to resident company actors and highlights, the incomparable Dawn Ursula, Deborah Hazlett, and Megan Anderson. These ladies never cease to amaze and impress. Ursula, as the level-headed Cynthia excels in this role as she gives us just the right amount of emotion to portray the conflict of management vs. friendship all while dealing with an out-of-work partner and maturing son. Though, it takes a minute to ease into Ursula’s performance (she starts off a bit rigid and deliberate as opposed to natural), 15 minutes in, you get her groove and it’s smooth sailing from then on. She has a tight grasp on this character and portrays her beautifully. Hazlett, as the hot-headed, content Tracey gives a stellar performance as a woman who is not so much narrow-minded as she is set in her ways, but can definitely come off as narrow-minded. Her delivery and stage presence is authentic and her understanding of this character and her trials and tribulations is very apparent. Anderson’s take on Jessie is superb and her usual authenticity shines through in this role. Anderson is quite comfortable in this role and she has a certain appreciation for her character, playing her with a perfect blend of dignity and spitfire. All of these actors have an impeccable chemistry and work well with and off of each other. All three should be applauded for their work in this poignant, important piece.

(l-r) Vaughn Ryan Midder, Dawn Ursula, Matthew Ward, Alejandro Ruiz, Megan Anderson, Kurt Rhoads. Credit: Clinton Brandhagen

A definite standout in this production is Kurt Rhoads, who takes on the role of Stan, the laid-back, impartial (most of the time) bartender of the small neighborhood bar. Rhoads’ performance is flawless with his booming, but soothing voice, and easy delivery of his dialogue. He has a deep understanding of this character and plays him with a rough-around-the-edges exterior but an empathetic and compassionate interior. Somehow I connect with this character (one of the only ones I truly connect with, really) and see him as the wise, worldly old uncle at a family gathering, which is what a bartender of a neighborhood bar should be, anyway. Rhoads gets this character and his performance is spot on. He is one to watch and should be commended and praised for this marvelous performance.

Final thought… Sweat is a serious, in-depth look at middle-class America and its inhabitants. Concentrating on the trials between family, friends, and work, and the fine line that separates these parts of life, Sweat gives us a peek into a blue-collar town in Northeast America and looks beyond skin color and other surface differences to express the kinship and ideals of the characters within. With very real and hard situations, Sweat manages, to tell a story that is relatable to many. Speaking of the story… it’s good. It’s very good but, unfortunately, Lynn Nottage’s script doesn’t do it justice. It seems to be trying too hard to present this middle-class group of people and the dialogue ends up sounding forced and phony, taking away from the other not-so-unfortunate parts. Overall, the production value is top notch and the performances are on point. It’s another bona fide success for Everyman Theatre and, forgiving the script and dialogue, it’s definitely worth checking out!

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

Sweat will play through November 25 at Everyman Theatre, 315 W. Fayette Street, Baltimore, MD. For tickets, call the box office at 410-752-2208 or purchase them online.

Email us at backstagebaltimore@gmail.com

Like Backstage Baltimore on Facebook

Follow us on Twitter (@BackstageBmore) and Instagram (BackstageBaltimore)

Review: Long Day's Journey Into Night at Everyman Theatre

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy
00-LDJ-ShowArt
Running Time: Approx. 3 hours and 15 minutes with two 10-minute intermissions

10-LDJ-StanBarouh

The Tyrone Family (l-r: Kurt Rhoads, Danny Gavigan, Tim Getman, Deborah Hazlett) Credit: Stan Barouh


Some of the best fodder for plays, movies, television, or any form of entertainment is the family. Every family is different and every family has their ups and downs where sometimes the ups last for years with a few downs in between or vice versa. Who has the perfect family? Do you? I certainly don’t and if you do, please tell me what your secret is. Family can drive you crazy, at times, and Everyman Theatre’s latest production, Long Day’s Journey Into Night by the incomparable Eugene O’Neill, Directed by Donald Hicken, gives us a peek into a small family’s dysfunctional relationships at the beginning of the 20th century and, lo and behold, this production exhibits that family structures and dynamics haven’t really changed much throughout time.
08-LDJ-StanBarouh

Deborah Hazlett as Mary Tyrone. Credit: Stan Barouh


Briefly, Long Day’s Journey Into Night is a semi-autobiographical piece about O’Neill and his own family and revolves around the fictional Tyrone family, including James, it’s patriarch and famous actor, though he is really only known for one particular role, Mary, his wife, who loves to reminisce about her perfect childhood and never really fit in with her husband’s life in the theatre, and their two sons, the older but disappointing Jamie, who seems to have never really grown up, and the unassuming and sickly Edmund. Taking place during one full day from morning until midnight, we are presented with a family at odds with each other and with their individual selves as they try to grasp what is left of their small family, all the while dealing with addiction, sickness, alcoholism, and all the other fun things that keep a family going. In the end, it’s family so… what can you do? What impressed me the most is the authenticity of the dialogue and relationships within this family. For instance, a nice peaceful game of cards can turn into an all-out shouting match, then just as quickly as the shouting match began, it ends with a query of whose turn it is, as if the shouting match never happened. THAT’S family. That’s how things work. When it’s family, you forgive what you’d kill others for and no one seems to know why, but that’s the way it is and in this piece, O’Neill is on point.
12-LDJ-StanBarouh

(l-r) Danny Gavigan as Edmund Tyrone, Deborah Hazlett as Mary Tyrone, and Kurt Rhoads as James Tyrone. Credit: Stan Barouh


Everyman Theatre has yet to disappoint with the production sets and this Set Design by Daniel Ettinger is no different. He uses his space wisely and his attention to detail is second to none. From the period furniture to the dark wood and insinuation of high ceilings, Ettinger hit the nail on the head with this design. The audience is transported to a turn of the century home that wants to look exquisite, but is really falling to pieces under the surface… much like the family who lives in it. Kudos to Ettinger for another successful design.
Jay Herzog’s Lighting Design works in tandem with the action of this piece and sets the mood and time of each scene flawlessly. Herzog’s use of subtle shifts and placement of the lighting gives the audience a sense of exactly what time of day it is which helps keep track of when the action is taking place in each scene. The shift from morning to afternoon, then afternoon into night is gradual and natural, just like a real summer’s day making for an impeccable design.
11-LDJ-StanBarouh

Tim Getman as Jamie Tyrone. Credit: Stan Barouh


Costume Design by David Burdick is spot on as this ensemble looks like they stepped right out of the early 1900s in their stuffy, but stylish duds that conservatively covers them pretty much from head to toe, so Burdick’s eye for authenticity is apparent and his talent for period pieces shines through in this design.
Donald Hicken takes the helm of this production and, being a well-known piece to many as well as a heavy piece, the challenges are vast, but Hicken tackles them and presents us with a well thought-out and well-paced production that hits home. His comprehension of the material is apparent and his casting is superb with apt and able actors who take this text and present it purely and intensely as is required. Hicken’s vision is clear and the message of learning the raw truth of your family isn’t always nice or comfortable but necessary to understand the ones closest to you is strong thanks to the performances he pulls out of his actors. Hicken should be applauded for his efforts with this complex, epic piece that he has presented beautifully.
Moving into the performance aspect of this production, it’s clear these actors enjoy working together and off of each other and all have great chemistry with his or her fellow castmates. If I didn’t know any better, I’d definitely believe this was your everyday, run-of-the-mill family down the street and that alone makes for a delightful evening of theatre.
09-LDJ-StanBarouh

Danny Gavigan as Edmund Tyrone and Tim Getman as Jamie Tyrone. Credit: Stan Barouh


I’d be remiss not to mention Katherine Ariyan, who takes on the supporting, but very important role of Cathleen, one of the spunky seasonal maids for the Tyrone family. Ariyan makes the most of her short time on the stage and is absolutely believable with her strong Irish accent and quick, natural delivery. Her character, at one point, acts as a fill-in for Mary, while her family is off on their own business, and is vital in bringing to light the addiction of which Mary gives into. Ariyan takes on this supporting role with gusto and gives a strong performance.
Tackling the significant roles of the Tyrone brothers are Everyman Theatre Company members Danny Gavigan as Edmund and Tim Getman as Jamie. The chemistry between these two actors is superb and authentic making for a natural brotherly relationship. Gavigan has a clear understanding of his character, who seems to be the “peacemaker” of this family even though he’s suffering from an ailment all to familiar to the era and he gives a confident performance, even when his delivery seems a bit lazy where I lose some of his dialogue. Though both are fine performers, Tim Getman, as Jamie, is the stronger of the two in this production. Getman hits the ground running with this loafing, seemingly caddish character, that he plays near perfectly, making his performance a highlight of this production.
01-LDJ-StanBarouh

Deborah Hazlett as Mary Tyrone, Kurt Rhoads as James Tyrone. Credit: Stan Barough


The parents of this dysfunctional crew are played by Deborah Hazlett as Mary and Kurt Rhoads as James. These two actors are quite believable as an older married couple who were probably very much in love at one time and the husband/wife chemistry between the two is splendid. Hazlett has a deep comprehension of her character and, it seems, of women in general of this early 20th century era and plays it to the hilt. I want to feel sorry for this character, but it’s clear she has found a way to deal with the lot she’s been given with the addiction she’s let take hold. Hazlett is sure to portray Mary as a caring soul, but with past and present demons she must deal with. The emotion she exudes as she tells this character’s story is poignant and real making for a stellar performance, overall.
05-LDJ-StanBarouh

Kurt Rhoads as James Tyrone. Credit: Stan Barouh


Kurt Rhoads, as James Tyrone, the loud, control-craving father of the brood, is the definite standout in this production. His impressive, booming voice makes one stand up and take notice when he is on the stage and his presence is strong and confident, as it should be for this role. He, too, has a great comprehension of his character and its flaws. In his scenes with Gavigan and Getman, he’s totally believable as the domineering father in his delivery and gestures while he is more subdued in dealing with Hazlett’s character. He gets this character and plays him near flawlessly making him one to watch in this production.
Final thought… If you’re going to check out Long Day’s Journey Into Night at Everyman Theatre, brace yourself! Go to the restroom, get settled, and be ready to make an entire evening of it. It is, after all, an O’Neill drama. However, that being said… this is a show you don’t want to miss! I went in with hesitations because of my modern-day short attention span, but this production is top-notch and engaging. The pacing is on point and the performances are superb. Over half a century later, this story of family relations is still relevant and very relatable. Even though this play is set in the early 1900s, it’s interesting to see how very similar family relationships are even today. Styles may change, but, in the grand scheme of things, human nature stays the same and Eugene O’Neill had an uncanny knack of putting it down on paper. With a great script and production value, this is not a show you want to miss this season.
This is what I thought of Everyman Theatre’s production of Long Day’s Journey Into Night… What did you think? Please feel free to leave a comment!
Long Day’s Journey Into Night will play through March 4 at Everyman Theatre, 315 W. Fayette Street, Baltimore, MD. For tickets, call the box office at 410-752-2208 or you can purchase them online.
Email us at backstagebaltimore@gmail.com
Like Backstage Baltimore on Facebook
Twitter @BackstageBmore
Instagram @backstagebaltimore

Review: M. Butterfly at Everyman Theatre

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy

Running Time: Approx. 2 hours and 30 minutes with two intermissions

(l-r) Brett Messiora, Vichet CHum, and Mika J. Nakano. Credit: ClintonBPhotography


When East meets West, mysterious things can happen and though, some stories are too incredible to be true, Everyman Theatre‘s latest offering and first show of the season, M. Butterfly by David Henry Hwang, is indeed incredible and very true (at least most of it), and the gut-wrenching love story it tells is as mysterious as many parts of Asia itself. Directed by Vincent M. Lancisi, this production is not one you want to miss.

Vichet Chum as Song Liling. Credit: ClintonBPhotography


M. Butterfly gets it’s name from the popular Puccini opera Madame Butterfly about a U.S. Naval officer who marries a young Japanese girl, Cio-cio (Madame Butterfly), out of convenience, but plans on leaving her once he finds a suitable American wife. Cio-cio falls deeply and hopelessly in love with this Naval officer who leaves her flat, with a child. When she discovers he has remarried in the USA, she becomes so distraught that she commits suicide all because of her love for this man. Whoo, nelly!

Vitchet Chum as Son LIling. Credit: ClintonBPhotography


In a nutshell, M. Butterfly is somewhat the same story, but in reverse. In this story, a French Diplomat, Rene Gallimard (played by Bruce Randolph Nelson) falls in love with a Japanese actress, Song Liling (played by Vichet Chum) and plays out over a span of 20 years. It’s a breathtaking piece of theatre with a near perfect script. David Henry Hwang does a magnificent job in telling this 20 year story in two and a half hours but there is no confusion as all the gaps are filled in nicely. Hwang masterfully takes the highlights of the story and presents them while explaining, not glazing over the not so important stuff through dialogue and action. His script is very easy to follow, perfectly blends humor and comedy, and the transitions are seamless.

(l-r) Bruce Randolph Nelson, Bernard Boursicot, and Vincent M. Lancisi. Credit: Kirstin Pagan/Everyman Theatre


Set Design by Yu-Hsuan Chen is cleverly minimal with a beautiful cut out screen across the back of the stage with simple set pieces coming in and out to represent different locations. It’s clean, precise, and fits with the story quite appropriately. Chen is careful not to muddle the stage with too much and it keeps the attention on the story being told which is a wise choice and his design is superb and working in tandem with Chen is Lighting Designer Jay Herzog. The Lighting Design is truly and undoubtedly one of the stars of this piece. With the set being minimal, it’s all in the lighting and Herzog steps up to the plate and hits a home run. His design easily sets the moods and puts the audience in each location being represented, taking the audience on the journey with deep-feeling characters and complex story.

Deborah Hazlett as Helga and Bruce Randolph Nelson as Rene Gallimard. Credit: ClintonBPhotography


Director Vincent M. Lancisi takes the reigns of this production and his vision and execution for putting this story on the stage are praiseworth. Pacing is on point and the action keeps the piece moving nicely and his casting is impeccable.. It’s worth noting, Mr. Lancisi, as well as some others included in the production, took a trip to France and was able to speak with the man on whom the character of Rene Gallimard is based, Bernard Boursicot, and that meeting seems to have made an impact. Lancisi definitely has a deep comprehension of this piece and does a marvelous job presenting Hwang’s script in an all-around astonishing production.

Mika J. Nakano and Brett Messiora. Credit: ClintonBPhotography


Moving into the performance aspect of this production, Every actor in this ensemble is an important part of telling this story, including Everyman Theatre Company member Deborah Hazlett, who takes on the role of Helga, the traditional and conservative wife of Rene Gallimard, and she gives a strong, confident performance with a natural, elegant air for which the character calls.

Bruce Randolph Nelson as Rene Gallimard. Credit: ClintonBPhotography


Another supporting actor needing to be mentioned is Tuyet Thi Pham who tackles various roles, including the communist, Comrade Chin. Pham gives an authentic, strong performance and seems to grasp this character wholly, embodying her with every word.
Bruce Randolph Nelson, an Everyman Theatre Company member, as Rene Gallimard, the lovelorn French diplomat, is spectacular, emoting all the confusion and emotion this character requires. His natural performance brings the audience into the story and his knack of storytelling just takes this performance over the top, in a fantastic way.

Vichet Chum as Song Liling. Credit: ClintonBPhotography


Vichet Chum taking on the difficult role of Song Liling is the gem in this piece. His versatility is clearly seen as he tackles this role and his understanding of this character is obvious. The chemistry between him and Nelson is on fire, helping Chum give a brilliant, confident performance that brings this mysterious, incredible character to life. You don’t know if you want to love or hate him but that’s what makes the performance so thrilling. He’s definitely one to watch in this production.
Final thought… M. Butterfly is an absolute must-see and a great way to start off the Everyman Theatre season. Not only is it beautiful aesthetically, the performances are superb, and the story is profound with a near perfect script to tell that story. Do yourself a favor and get your tickets now!
This is what I thought of Everyman Theatre’s production of M. Butterfly… What did you think? Please feel free to leave a comment!
M. Butterfly will play through October 8 at Everyman Theatre, 315 W. Fayette Street, Baltimore, MD. For tickets, purchase them online.
Email us at backstagebaltimore@gmail.com
Like Backstage Baltimore on Facebook
Follow us on Twitter (@BackstageBmore) and Instagram (BackstageBaltimore)

Review: Noises Off at Everyman Theatre

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy

Running Time: 2 hours and 30 minutes with two intermissions (one 15-minute and one 10-minute)
Doors and sardines! Doors and sardines! Apparently, that’s what life is all about… right? Well, maybe not, but it’s always exciting (and a little voyeuristic) to take a peek behind the scenes to see how a show is produced. I don’t know about you, but when a film or an album tickles my fancy, I always enjoy seeing a “Making of…” that particular project and Everyman Theatre‘s latest and last offering of their 2016-17 season, Noises Off by Michael Frayn, Directed by Vincent M. Lancisi, gives us a humorous, frantic peek into what it takes to get a show off the ground and that the show must go on… no matter what.

L-R Deborah Hazlett, Megan Anderson, Carl Schurr, Beth Hylton, Bruce Nelson, and Eric Berryman. Credit: ClintonBPhotography


Noises Off is a “show within a show,” meaning the show itself is about putting on a show called Nothing On and Everyman Theatre has even provided the audience with a program for Nothing On, which adds to the authenticity of the piece. The show is given to us in three acts with breaks in between each act. Act I consists of the final dress, Act II takes place backstage a few months into the tour with the play still going on in the front with problems upon problems going on in the back, including cast love triangles, real and imagined, and Act III shows a performance during the last leg of the tour when everyone has lost all give-a-fuck and have stopped being nice and have started getting real, making for some interesting choices onstage. The comedy comes from the slight changes in each Act as the character flaws come to surface off-stage causing everyone to undermine their on-stage performances with A LOT of slapstick. The contrast between the fictional characters of the play Nothing On and the fictional actors playing those characters is also a great example of comic dissonance.
It’s worth mentioning that Noises Off was made into a film in 1992 and starred heavy-hitters such as Carol Burnett, Michael Cain, John Ritter, and Christopher Reeve, among other big names of the time, and, though it was a box office flop, it has since become a favorite (for those who love theatre, anyway), and has gained a sort of cult-ish following. I’m proud to say I’m a part of that group and I LOVE this film.

BACK: Bruce Nelson and Beth Hylton. FRONT: Danny Gavigan, Deborah Hazlett, and Carl Schurr. Credit: ClintonBPhotography


That being said, the production at Everyman Theatre is definitely one to contend with. With Director Vincent M. Lancisi at the helm, Everyman has made this production their own and it is difficult to compare, which is a feat in itself. Lancisi has a complete comprehension of this piece and the farcical comedy with which it comes. He keeps the action moving and the pacing, for the most part, is spot on. Most of the casting is spot on and Lancisi was wise to use the Everyman Theatre Resident Company to fill all but one role as they were splendid in the roles. Though Act I seems a bit subdued, I was at a matinee performance, so, that may have been a factor but, overall, Lancisi does a superb job presenting the never-give-up essence of this piece and brining to the audience an example of putting on a show and what happens behind the scenes as opposed to what we, the audience, sees as the final product.

L-R Beth Hylton, Bruce Nelson, Danny Gavigan, Deborah Hazlett, Emily Kester, Eric Berryman, and Wil Love. Credit: ClintonBPhotography


I would not do any favors for this review or do the production justice if I didn’t mention the set for this production. I’ve stated in the past that Everyman Theatre has yet to disappoint when it comes to their sets and this production is no different at all. Set Design by Daniel Ettinger is exquisite and complex but absolutely appropriate for this piece. Ettinger has an amazing attention to detail and from the stylish woodwork to the knick-knacks, every set piece is befitting and seems to have been carefully chosen. As the three acts require a “flipping” of the set to represent both the front of the set as well as backstage, Set Design must be handled carefully and Ettinger is on point with is design. During the breaks between acts, the set is flipped completely and while most theatres who produce Noises Off have the luxury of a revolve on the stage, Everyman Theatre crew has to manually flip individual set pieces and they do so with great precision and speed so a major shout out and kudos to Stage Manager Cat Wallis and the stage crew of this production.

Emily Kester as Brooke Ashton and Danny Gavigan as Garry Lejeune. Credit: ClintonBPhotography


Costume Design by Eric Abele is appropriate as Director Vincent M. Lancisi wisely decided to keep the play set in the 1970s and all the actors were dressed in the general styles of the day with nothing too modern, and all looked comfortable, even the poor actor playing Garry Lejeune with his plaid pants and matching coat and the actress playing the scantily clad Brook Ashton running around in her underwear for most of the show. Abele’s overall Costume Design helped the setting of the piece added value to it rather than distract from it.
Lighting and Sound Design by Jay Herzog and Phillip Owen, respectively, is impressive with an acute attention to detail that added extra authenticity to the production. The slight differences between the front of the set to the back of the stage lighting is realistic as there are certainly different levels of brightness and darkness and the difference in sound is exceptional. Being familiar with being backstage during a production, it’s uncanny how Herzog manages to bring that sound to the audience – a sort of muffled, but understandable speaking to which one must pay close attention to hear what is being said. Both Herzog and Owen are to be commended on their work for this production.

L-R Danny Gavigan as Garry LeJeune, Deborah Hazlett as Dotty Otley, and Bruce Nelson as Frederick Fellowes. Credit: ClintonBPhotography


The ensemble for this production of Noises Off is top-notch and all are dedicated, committed performers who understand the piece and the comedy/farce that goes along with it.
Though all of the performances were on point, Carl Schurr’s take on the role of Lloyd Dallas, the helpless director of the runaway train of a production, falls a little flat for me. The character has peaks and valleys of frustration, calm, anger, and resignation, but Schurr doesn’t seem to invest enough emotion to show the contrast between the feelings this character is experiencing. His frustration could be much more which would make the instant switch to calm much more comedic. I can see where he is going with the character, trying to keep the calm and being a British gentleman, of sorts, but I would still like to see the desperation of the character trying to make the show work. That being said Schurr’s comedic timing is absolutely marvelous and he has great chemistry with his cast making for an fine performance.

FRONT: Bruce Nelson as Frederick Fellowes. BACK: Emily Kester as Brooke Aston. Credit: ClintonBPhotography


Bruce Randolph Nelson takes on the role of the dim-witted Frederick Fellowes who is prone to nose-bleeds and isn’t a very good actor at all. In this sense, Nelson is such a good actor, he has this character down pat and certainly makes the role his own as he hits the ground running. The spirit of show is improvisation and Nelson is a hands-down expert in this area. However, there may have been times he took it a bit far, this could just be me being stuffy, but he does such a fine job with the script, too much addition takes away from the performance. This isn’t to say Nelson doesn’t do a great job because he most certainly gives an impeccable performance that will have you belly-laughing throughout his performance.

Megan Anderson as Poppy NOrton-Taylor and Eric Berryman as Tim Allgood. Credit: ClintonBPhotography


Tackling the roles of the poor over-worked Stage Manager, Tim Allgood and Assistant Stage Manager, Poppy Norton-Taylor, are Eric Berryman and Megan Anderson, respectively and these two actors completely embody these roles and make them their own. In real life, the behind the scenes folks are sometimes the most dedicated to a production and Berryman and Anderson evoke that spirit in these characters flawlessly, frantically trying to keep the show on course and doing whatever they can to help. Anderson’s portrayal of the skittish, emotional Poppy makes you feel for this character from the get and Berryman’s take on the easily flustered Tim, is funny and authentic.
Danny Gavigan takes on the young Garry Lejeune, a good enough actor with a jealous streak, who involved with the older Dotty Otley and can’t finish a sentence to save his life, unless it’s scripted. Gavigan does a bang up job in this role. His contrast between the two characters he plays (the actor and the character in the play Nothing On) is clear and concise and his physical work a could be a tad more frenetic and fluid but he does a superb job, looks comfortable in the role, and has a very good command of the stage.

L-R Megan Anderson as Poppy NOrton-Taylor, Wil Love as Selsdon Mowbray, and Deborah Hazlett as Dotty Otley. Credit: ClintonBPhotography


Wil Love is hilarious as Selsdon Mowbray, the aging, heard of hearing, alcoholic actor who seems to be on his own time and script, but manages to shuffle along with the rest of the show. Love’s comedic timing is spot on and he completely embodies this character making him real and a joy to watch. Emily Kester takes on the role of Brooke Ashton, the ditsy, by-the-script bombshell blond actress, and holds her own with the Resident Company members and they seem to welcome her with open arms. Running around in her unmentionables for a majority of the show doesn’t seem to faze Kester and she gives a strong comedic performance having great chemistry with her cast mates.
Beth Hylton tackles the role of Belinda Blair, the upbeat, positive (for the most part), peacemaker of the troupe and gives a beautiful performance. She’s confident and graceful as this character but also plays the comedic bits superbly, as well. Hylton’s portrayal is believable as the positive one in the group who sees the glass as half-full and is enough to get on your nerves, but also as the one who is able to keep it together when things start falling apart. She gives a committed performance that is a joy to watch.

Deborah Hazlett as Dotty Otley. Credit: ClintonBPhotography


Deborah Hazlett as Dotty Otley is absolutely believable and likable in this role and her comedic timing is outstanding. She seems to start off cautious at first, kind of like a slow burn, but then she starts to let loose and by the second act, she lets it go, especially with her quiet interactions with Gavigan who, as Garry, is the love interest to her character, and the relationship is rocky. She may lose her accent here and there, but for the most part, she has it down. Her facial expressions and mannerisms as this character are excellent and make for a very successful performance.
Final thought… Noises Off at Everyman Theatre is a madcap farce that will tickle the most stubborn of funny bones. With a witty script and a dedicated cast, we are given a peek behind the curtain of putting on a production and all that goes with it, good and bad. The entire production is well put-together and the cast has a superb comprehension of the piece. Noises Off has been popular in its own right but contending with a beloved film version (in theatre community, anyway) comparison is always a challenge. However, this production knocks it out of the ballpark. The pacing is frantic, as it should be, and the comedy is spot on making this a must see this season. I couldn’t think of a better way to end out a season so… get your tickets while they last!
This is what I thought of Everyman Theatre’s production of Noises Off… What did you think? Please feel free to leave a comment!
Noises Off will play through June 18 at Everyman Theatre, 315 W. Fayette Street, Baltimore, MD. For  tickets, call the box office at 410-752-2208 or purchase them online.
Email us at backstagebaltimore@gmail.com
Like Backstage Baltimore on Facebook
Follow Backstage Baltimore on Twitter (@backstagebmore) and Instagram (backstagebaltimore)
 

Famed Farce Noises Off to Receive Resident Company Treatment With Comically Chaotic Revival at Baltimore's Everyman Theatre



If you’re a theatre lover, you don’t want to miss this show wherever and whenever it is playing! This hilarious farce shows the real-world problems that can and inevitably arise during any production and relatable to every actor who has tread the boards! So excited for this production!
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 25, 2017
 
Theatre’s Season Wraps with Sardines, Silliness and Split-Second Timing
Baltimore, MD – Everyman Theatre’s Resident Company of actors transforms into a British company of actors during the 1970s in this hotly anticipated revival of Tony Award-Winner Michael Frayn’s side-splitting farce to end all farces, Noises Off, directed by Founding Artistic Director Vincent M. Lancisi and running from May 17 through June 18, 2017.
With this love-letter to the thrilling unpredictability of the stage, Everyman Theatre ends its 2016/17 season on a zany note, joined by eight of its Resident Company members portraying a cast of bumbling British thesps (starring in the fictitious play-within-a-play, “Nothing On”) whose backstage buffoonery threatens to steal the show. With their opening night on London’s West End just hours away, can the cast pull their act together before lost lines, love triangles and flying sardines upstage the production?
Punctuated with wall-to-wall wackiness, carefully timed/choreographed hijinks, and spiked with color-popping 1970s pizazz and sight gags galore, Noises Off considers what happens when everything thatcan go wrong, does go wrong, earning laughs-a-minute from its talented cast.
“We’ve all heard the saying that ‘dying is easy, comedy is hard,’ but working within a Resident Company provides a level of family-like comfort for the actors that paves the way for hilarity of the highest caliber to ensue,” said Lancisi. “When audiences recognize our Resident Company members shifting between the characters they play, and the characters that those characters play (in the play within the play), it only adds to the infectious mayhem – literally tripling up on the fun.”
Resident Company members Deborah Hazlett (The Roommate, Death of a Salesman, A Streetcar Named Desire, An Inspector Calls) and Danny Gavigan (A Streetcar Named Desire, Death of a Salesman, Ghosts, Deathtrap) lead the show-within-a-show cast as Dotty Otley, the top-billed star ofNothing On and Garry Lejeune, her leading man. They are joined by fellow Resident Company members Bruce Randolph Nelson (Great Expectations, Wait Until Dark, Death of a Salesman, A Streetcar Named Desire) as Nothing On co-star Frederick Fellowes, Beth Hylton (A Streetcar Named Desire, Death of a Salesman, Outside Mullingar) as actress Belinda Blair, and Wil Love (Death of a Salesman, Outside Mullingar, Deathtrap) as Selsdon Mowbray, a veteran actor with a weakness for the bottle. The show-within-a-show cast is rounded out by Emily Kester, making her Everyman Theatre debut as the naïve actress Brooke Ashton.
Other featured Resident Company actors in Noises Off include Carl Schurr (Death of a Salesman, A Streetcar Named Desire, Blithe Spirit) as Lloyd Dallas, the director of Nothing On, with Eric Berryman(Red, Topdog/Underdog, A Raisin in the Sun) and Megan Anderson (Dot, Wait Until Dark, Death of a Salesman, A Streetcar Named Desire), respectively, as stage manager Tim Allgood and assistant stage manager Poppy Norton-Taylor.
The Noises Off design team includes Resident Designer Company members Daniel Ettinger (Set Design), Jay A. Herzog (Lighting), Gary Logan (Dialects), Lewis Shaw (Fight Choreography) and Jillian Mathews (Props Master). Costume Design is provided by Eric Abele and Sound Design by Phillip Owen.
Noises Off first premiered in 1982 in London and opened in 1983 on Broadway where it received a Tony Award nomination for Best Play. Performed nearly nonstop ever since, Everyman Theatre’s production follows a recent Broadway revival produced by Roundabout Theatre Company.
Tickets for Noises Off are now on sale online (www.everymantheatre.org), by phone (410.752.2208), or at the Everyman Theatre Box Office (315 W. Fayette Street, Baltimore, MD 21201).
Event Listings
Pay-What-You-Can Performance
May 16, 2017 at 7:30 PM
Pay-What-You-Can (suggested minimum donation: $5) to see the final dress rehearsal of Noises Off. Tickets are sold on a first-come, first-serve basis at the Box Office beginning at 5:30pm. Tickets must be paid for in cash. Seating is general admission.
TNT: Theatre Night for Teens
May 16, 2017 at 6:00 PM
Students in grades 9-12 can enjoy dinner from Noodles & Company, an artist meet-and-greet withNoises Off prop master Jillian Matthews, and the 7:30 PM performance, followed by post-show discussion and dessert. Tickets: $10 each.
The Show Must Go On! A Stoop Storytelling Event
May 22, 2017 (Drinks/music at 6:00 PM; Performance at 7:30 PM)
Everyman and Stoop Storytelling partner to present an entertaining evening of hilarious-but-true stories about the unexpected pitfalls and pratfalls of the stage. Tickets: $20 each.
Taste of Everyman: Wacky Mix-Ups
June 1, 2017 at 6:00 PM
Mix and mingle with other theatre lovers during a pre-show social, this month featuring unique cocktail concoctions combining the most unexpected ingredients, and paired with hors d’oeuvres by The French Kitchen. Tickets: $60 each for show and event.
World of the Play
June 3, 2017 at 5:00 PM
Take part in an in-depth panel discussion on the themes and topics of the show, hosted by Marc Steiner (WEAA’s The Marc Steiner Show). Tickets: $5 each (free for subscribers).
Salon Series: Women’s Voices: Trouble In Mind
June 5, 2017 (Cocktails at 6:00 PM; Performance at 7:00 PM)
A reading of Trouble In Mind by Obie Award-winning African-American playwright Alice Childress, directed by Resident Company member Dawn Ursula. Tickets: $15 each ($5 for students).
Cast Conversations
Jun 8, 2017 at 9:30 PM
Talk about the play with the members of the cast after the show. Free.
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.
Noises Off is presented by production sponsor University of Maryland, Baltimore. The 16/17 Season is generously sponsored by LifeBridge Health and Neil & Ellen Meltzer. Everyman Theatre’s Pay-What-You-Can nights are supported by Dr. E. Lee & Bea Robbins. Everyman Theatre is proud to have The Baltimore Sun Media Group and WYPR Season Media Sponsors. MSAC provides financial support and technical assistance to non-profit organizations, units of government, colleges and universities for arts activities. Funding for the Maryland State Arts Council is also provided by the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.
Everyman Theatre is a proud member of the Bromo Tower Arts and Entertainment District 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 www.everymantheatre.org or call 410.752.2208.

Review: The Roommate at Everyman Theatre

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy
title
Running Time: 1 hour and 30 minutes with one 15-minute intermission

Beth Hylton as Robyn & Deborah Hazlett as Sharon. Credit: Photos by Stan Barouh

Beth Hylton as Robyn & Deborah Hazlett as Sharon. Credit: Photos by Stan Barouh


I suppose once we’ve settled into a way of life, we’re all a little afraid to rock the boat and, God forbid, start over. The latest offering from Everyman Theatre, the East Coast debut of The Roomate by Jen Silverman and Directed by Johanna Gruenhut, gives us a glimpse into what could happen if that’s what a couple of middle aged ladies must do. A coming-of-age story about two middle aged women? Yep! That’s right! Much like a modern day Odd Couple, these two characters couldn’t be more different but have so much to offer each other, whether they know it or not.
Though the story is a little predictable, as it has been told many times before, it still holds a certain charm and a slight twist at the end that I was not expecting. It’s simply a story of self-discovery and stepping out of your comfort zones and the production at Everyman Theatre is smart, modern, and poignant.
Beth Hylton as Robyn & Deborah Hazlett as Sharon. Credit: Photos by Stan Barouh

Beth Hylton as Robyn & Deborah Hazlett as Sharon. Credit: Photos by Stan Barouh


Everyman has always impressed with their sets and The Roommate is no exception. Set Design by Timothy R. Mackabee is striking and authentic. Much like the Midwestern state in which the play takes place, the set doesn’t have too many level but is flat and expansive as Iowa itself. The details are impeccable from the running water to the magnets on the old refrigerator and makes one feel “at home” as if they were sitting in their own kitchen. Though there is more than enough cabinet space, there’s not much in the way of furniture (other than kitchen appliances and a kitchen table and chairs), and the stage is very maneuverable making for a very good flow to the action. There aren’t a lot bells and whistles but it’s simply a very quaint, almost boring kitchen that actually makes this set design near perfect and absolutely appropriate.
Deborah Hazlett as Sharon. Credit: Photos by Stan Barouh

Deborah Hazlett as Sharon. Credit: Photos by Stan Barouh


Lighting Design by Jesse Belsky for The Roommate is nothing short of flawless. When it comes to a play, technical subtleties really make or break a production and Belsky hit the nail on the head. The use of lighting to distinguish morning, afternoon, and evening is stunning and I could tell exactly what time of day it was simply from the lighting. Working with the set and casting shadows all over the stage gives the design a very realistic and cinematic vibe that works well with this piece. Both interior and exterior lighting is spot on and sets the mood for each scene. The design is well thought out and adds significant value to this production.
I must take a moment to mention the phenomenal Sound Design by Stowe Nelson. Nelson’s impressive work is a definite technical highlight for this production. Somehow, Nelson manages to play with the sound and the acoustics in a way I haven’t seen, yet, on the Baltimore stage. Notably, he magically takes a localized sound cue (a radio or record player) that’s playing in a corner of the stage, as part of the scene, and gradually throws it into the audience over the PA system, filling the entire theatre. Mostly used during transitions, this “trick” gives the feeling of watching a film on the silver screen rather than sitting in a theatre with live actors. Major kudos goes to Stowe Nelson for his outstanding design.
Beth Hylton as Robyn & Deborah Hazlett as Sharon. Credit: Photos by Stan Barouh

Beth Hylton as Robyn & Deborah Hazlett as Sharon. Credit: Photos by Stan Barouh


The Roommate is set in present day and Costume Design by Sarah Cubbage was well thought-out and appropriate for the characters. Displaying their polar opposites, Cubbage’s choices are very clever, matching a leather jacket, jeans, and boots on one character to a more conservative, blouse, slacks, and flats on the other. The two different wardrobes complement each other very nicely and express the differences the two ladies have.
Director Johanna Gruenhut is to be commended for her work on this piece. She really seems to understand the story and gets her actresses to tell it convincingly. It’s sometimes difficult to keep up the humor in a serious piece, but Gruenhut manages to keep everything light and breezy while not taking away from the emotional soul of the piece. She keeps the action moving smoothly onstage with her smart blocking and the transitions are seamless. Gruenhut presents a well though-out and beautifully cast piece.
Beth Hylton as Robyn. Credit: Photos by Stan Barouh

Beth Hylton as Robyn. Credit: Photos by Stan Barouh


Moving into the performance aspect of The Roommate, Beth Hylton, an Everyman Theatre Resident Company member, gives an thoughful and heartfelt performance as Robyn, the somewhat crass uprooted Brooklyn native trying to find her way through a very different Iowa. She brings an appropriate edginess to this character that fits wonderfully. Though, at first glance, I couldn’t believe she was a middle-aged woman, I quickly realized she’s not playing the stereotypical middle-aged woman, but a confident, independent woman who sees age as just a number. She’s very comfortable on the stage and with this character and seems to understand the inner turmoil her character is experiencing and she has a complete grasp on the reasons her character is so mysterious making for an enjoyable and commendable performance.
Deborah Hazlett as Sharon. Credit: Photos by Stan Barouh

Deborah Hazlett as Sharon. Credit: Photos by Stan Barouh


Deborah Hazlett, another Everyman Theatre Resident Company member, gives an outstanding performance tackling the role of Sharon. Her authenticity shines through from the moment she sets foot on stage and she really has a grasp of her character, a Midwestern middle-aged divorcee. Her comedic timing is on point and the gradual transition of her character is presented flawlessly. She has a commanding stage presence and moves comfortably and with purpose throughout the production. Though both characters are changed by the end of the story (which is inevitable for these types of characters in this type of show), Hazlett’s character has the greatest change and she pulls it off with great emotion mixed in with just the right amount of comedy.
The naturalism these two actresses have bring the audience into the story and make these characters accessible. It’s easy for the audience, both men and women, to find aspects of each character to which they can relate making for a very gratifying evening of theatre.
Final thought… The Roommate is a funny, yet poignant tale of starting over and discovering new things about the world and yourself when you think your life and the world is just about over. Self-realization and change can come at any time and when you least expect it, you just have to be open to it. This production at Everyman Theatre is worth an evening of your time and, who knows? You may discover one or two things about yourself!
That’s what I though. What do you think? Feel free to leave me a comment below!
The Roommate will play through November 27 at Everyman Theatre, 315 W. Fayette Street, Baltimore, MD. For tickets, call the box office at 410-752-2208 or purchase them online.