Radio Golf is a Hole in One at Everyman Theatre

By Mike Zellhofer

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

Radio Golf, directed by Carl Cofield, now playing at Everyman Theatre, is the final installment of August Wilson’s Pittsburgh Cycle. This is a series of ten plays, each set in a different decade, that depicts the African American experience in the twentieth century. All of them are set in Pittsburgh’s Hill District except for one. 

Jamil A.C. Mangan. Photo: Teresa Castracane Photography

The play follows successful real estate developer Harmond Wilkes (Jamil A.C. Mangan) in his bid to become the first Black Mayor of Pittsburgh. The entire play is set in Harmond’s campaign office in the Hill District, where he is involved in a neighborhood revitalization project. Set Designers Christopher & Justin Swader have captured the feel and look of the office as though it were transported from the Hill in 1997. They capture every detail from the hanging lights and block glass windows to the combination of brick and distress plaster walls. I especially like the open ceiling displaying the steel girders, paying a nice homage to the Steel City.

Anton Floyd, Jamil A.C. Mangan. Photo: Teresa Castracane Photography

Wilkes is joined by his business partner Roosevelt Hicks (Jason B. McIntosh) and his wife and campaign manager Mame Wilks (Dawm Ursula). Hicks is his high school friend and the Vice President of Mellon Bank, as well as his primary investor. There plan is to raze a block to build a high-rise apartment complex with upscale shops. His plans quickly go awry when he discovers that he does not own all of the property on the block. Additionally, he is met with some neighborhood resistance from Sterling (Anton Floyd) and Elder Joseph Barlow (Charles Dumas). Harmond is left with the dilemma to tell his partner and stop the project, or to move forward and become the neighborhood savior thus helping his campaign.

Chalrles Dumas, Jamil A.C. Mangan. Photo: Teresa Castracane Photography

Cofield was a perfect choice to direct this production. He has a thorough knowledge and understanding of the material and his actors have embraced his vision. Cofield brilliantly brings to life both the comedy and the drama that Wilson has penned and makes his characters real and believable. “Although Radio Golf is set in 1997, August Wilson saw into the future and started this conversation around life in America for upper-class Black folk,” says Director Carl Cofield. “How important is success if you’re denying and destroying your family’s history and culture in order to get it? It’s a modern examination of what the American Dream means today and has huge resonance in Baltimore and other urban centers.”

Dawn Ursula, Jamil A.C. Mangan. Photo: Teresa Castracane Photography

Resident Company Member Dawn Ursula was fun to watch as Mame Wilks. She proved that behind every great man is a great woman. She stands by her man and you can feel the love she has. She is also not afraid to remind him that she is a strong independent woman who is destined for greater things. Ursula does a wonderful job acting both sides of her character.  

My two favorite characters were Sterling Johnson (Anton Floyd) and Elder Barlow (Charles Dumas). Floyd is that slap in the face that brings you back to reality that we all need. While he may have fractured a law or two (he just wanted to know what it was like to have some money), he has a clear sense of right and wrong. His delivery is fresh, pointed and he is a joy to experience. Floyd gives the attitude needed to play Sterling. I can’t wait to see him in another production. Dumas gives a performance you don’t want to miss. He is the paternal, soft, loving sage that we all have somewhere in our families. He reminded me of my own mentor. I would ask him a question and he would talk for twenty minutes, the whole time never answering my question. Then, two or three days later, a light would come on and I’d realize what he meant. Dumas’ performance is that way. As much as I enjoyed watching him, it was days later that I finally appreciated him. He is slow, steady, and powerful and will keep you thinking about him days after the show. I challenge you to follow him closely. There is wisdom behind what he says and does. Pay close attention to his reaction to other performers.  

Dawn Ursula, Jamil A.C. Mangan. Photo: Teresa Castracane Photography

Jason B. McIntosh (Roosevelt Hicks) and Jamil A.C. Mangan (Harmond Wilks) are perfectly cast to play against each other. McIntosh does an excellent job as the comic relief as well as the man on the rise. His performance is focused and crisp. He sees an opportunity and he goes for it. One of the underlying questions in the play is whether or not Hicks is being used. McIntosh does an excellent job keeping the question unanswered. He goes with the flow, yet you can see him pause to think when challenged. I thought he gave a compelling performance to support either side without giving a definitive answer. From the opening scene Mangan shows that the stage is his. His deep, loud voice grabs your attention and keeps you entranced throughout the production. You firmly believe that he has worked his way to the top and he is a man to respect. Mangan takes you along with him as he experiences a myriad of emotions. His acting has you quickly feeling for him and going through his struggle together with him. Mangan has the ability to make you feel as though you have been in his shoes. A truly phenomenal performance.

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

Radio Golf will play through November 17 at Everyman Theatre315 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

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Step Back in Time with Queens Girl in the World & Queens Girl in Africa at Everyman Theatre

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy

Running Time: Both productions approx. 2 hours with one intermission

I sometimes think I was born in the wrong era. The early 1960s fascinates me, from politics, to styles, to music… all of it! I grew up with a very nostalgic mother, so, I’m actually quite familiar with all of it and I love it! Shows like Everyman Theatre’s latest offering, Queens Girl in the World and Queens Girl in Africa, in repertory, by Caleen Sinnette Jennings, Directed by Paige Hernandez, always takes me back, even though I didn’t live it, but know enough about it to relate. Whether you experienced the era first hand or just learned about it from your elders, these shows will transport you right back to a time when things seemed simpler, but a mess of things was bubbling just under the surface.

Dawn Ursula. Credit: Teresa Castracane

Queens Girl in the World and Queens Girl in Africa is a multi-chapter memoir, of sorts, from Caleen Sinnette Jennings and both concern themselves with young Jacqueline Marie Butler, from Queens, New York, as she tells her story from her childhood to young adulthood. Through impressions of the people in her life, we watch her come of age both in America and Africa as she emotes the humor and poignancy of being a Queens girl in the world and in Africa.

Overall, both of these pieces are very, very well written and thought-out. It’s a refreshing, one woman piece that gives a glimpse into a the life of a young African-American girl who grew up in a practically all-white social circle, and her balancing between whites and blacks in the early 1960s. It’s original, engaging, and authentic with superb performances and staging.

Erika Rose. Credit: Teresa Castracane

Paige Hathway’s Set Design is minimal, but absolutely gorgeous. With a simple stoop and front door for Queens Girl in the World and practically blank stage with a simple chair, for the most part, for Queens Girl in Africa, it forces the audience to fill in the blanks, but that’s what makes this production so engaging. Hathaway has managed to transport us to early 60s Queens, New York and Nigeria with a simple design and she is to be applauded and commended for her efforts.

Lighting Design by Nancy Schertler and Sound Design by David Lamont Wilson is subtle but effective. Schertler’s design sets the mood for each “scene” seamlessly and follows the action as Jaqueline changes topics and explains her days and nights. Wilson’s Sound Design works in tandem with the production with well-chosen effects and music of the time. Though minimal, both of these designs do their jobs in moving the action forward and not hindering it and taking focus away, making for excellent Lighting and Sound Design.

Dawn Ursula. Credit: Teresa Castracane

Paige Hernandez, a resident company member, takes the reigns of this production and it’s clear she has a great comprehension of this material. Staging a one-person show can actually be challenging, but Hernandez has knocked it out of the park with this production. Her vision is clear and her character work is apparent working with these actresses to create this character from childhood into adulthood. She keeps the character engaging (with the help of the actresses, of course), and the seamless transition between actresses is impeccable and impressive. What I like is that she keeps it simple and lets the actresses do their thing without a bunch of bells and whistles. This brings the raw talent out of the actress and makes for a stellar production. Hats off and kudos to Hernandez for a job quite well done.

Dawn Ursula takes on the role of Jacqueline Marie Butler in Queens Girl in the World and she has this character down pat. She’s comfortable playing the childhood to teen Jaqueline and manages the impressions of all the other characters with ease. A large part of this piece is the impressions this character does when discussing the people in her life and Ursula does this seamlessly. She understands this character (and the ages she’s portraying), and makes this role her own. Overall, she gives a strong, confident, and commendable performance.

Tackling the role of Jacqueline in Queens Girl in Africa is the apt and able Ericka Rose and she is phenomenal in her portrayal. The first thing I noticed and loved about this actress is her smooth but resonating stage voice. I was engaged the moment she started speaking and stayed engaged through to the end. She, too, effortlessly performed the impressions of others in Jacqueline’s life with ease, embodying all of the characters discussed in this piece. She tackles Jacqueline’s later years and matches Ursula’s portrayal near perfectly, while adding her own twist and making the role hers, which is no small feat. She holds the entire piece on her shoulders and doesn’t falter once giving a strong and praiseworthy performance.

Erika Rose. Credit: Teresa Castracane

Both of these actresses, Dawn Ursula and Erika Rose, emote both the humor and poignancy this character and material calls for and it’s easy they can feel this character deeply, making for extraordinary performances from both.

Final thought…  Queens Girl in the World & Queens Girl in Africa at Everyman Theatre is a coming of age story that is original and immersive using nostalgia, pathos, humor, and everything in between to tell a simple story of a girl growing up. Real life may be boring, but when it’s put into a script and performed well, as both of these productions provide, it can be a wondrous experience and that’s what these shows are. Ursula and Rose perform this character well and it’s easy to see their understanding of this character and how they can relate to her, making it easy for an audience to relate. I’m looking forward to seeing the next installment next season, but until then, you don’t want to miss these productions running in repertory. Get your tickets now.

This is what I thought of Everyman Theatre’s Queens Girl in the World & Queens Girl in Africa… What did you think? Please feel free to leave a comment!

Queens Girl in the World & Queens Girl in Africa will play in repertory through June 23 at Everyman Theatre315 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

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Review: Friends and Lovers hit Everyman Theatre with Dinner with Friends

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy

Running Time: Approx. 2 hours with one intermission

(l-r) Beth Hylton, M. Scott McLean, Megan Anderson, Danny Gavigan. Credit: Teresa Castracane

I’ve often heard, in many turns of phrase, “you can’t choose your family but you can choose your friends.” I’ve also found, through my experiences, you find friends who become family and those are cherished relationships throughout life.  However, what draws us to these people, these friends of ours? Is it who they are or who we think they are? Unique are the relationships between couples. There’s a different kind of dynamic when it comes to a foursome, especially two married couples. We forget that we often only see glimpses of the lives of our friends. What happens behind closed doors? Is it really our business? Everyman Theatre‘s latest production touches on these issues and questions in Dinner with Friends by Donald Margulies, Directed by Vincent M. Lancisi and leaves us wondering what we would do if the friends we know are all of a sudden… different.

Megan Anderson, Beth Hylton, and M. Scott McLean. Credit: Teresa Castracane

Briefly, Dinner with Friends concerns itself with two married couples, Tom and Beth, and Gabe and Karen, who have known each other for many years. The foursome is the best of friends and everything seems to be status quo until Beth abruptly, over dinner with Gabe and Karen, spills the news that she and Tom are divorcing and that Tom is in love with another woman. Later, Tom discovers Beth has already told their best friends and is angry that she has the advantage and sympathy for telling them first, by herself. The feelings of Gabe and Karen do shift negatively for Tom and he tries to tell his side of the story. Flashback 12 years earlier when Tom and Beth first met, to show how it was between the two in the very beginning. Flash forward to present day and both Tom and Beth are moving on and evolving while Gabe and Beth, feeling they have to choose sides, at first, begin to see the meaning behind the friendship with Tom and Beth.

Megan Anderson, M. Scott McLean, and Beth Hylton. Credit: Teresa Castracane

The first thing you may notice walking into the theatre is the superb Set Design by Donald Eastman. Eastman has given us an authentic and clean design that pulls the audience into the story as if we are sitting at the dinner table with these couples. The use of a revolve that sections out each scene is resourceful, allowing for smooth, seamless transitions from scene to scene and keeping the momentum of the story intact. Eastman’s attention to detail and realism is spot on and he deserves accolades for his efforts on this production.

Speaking of momentum, Vincent M. Lancisi’s direction is on point and his staging is simple, but effective working in tandem with Eastman’s Set Design. Lancisi has a tight grasp on this story and its characters and he presents it well with an apt ensemble and a solid vision. It’s a human experience piece and he keeps the settings and characters relatable without the bells and whistles which makes this production successful.

M. Scott McLean and Beth Hylton. Credit: Teresa Castracane

Moving into the performance aspect, M. Scott McLean and Beth Hylton take on the roles of Gabe and Karen, a couple who seems to have their act together. McLean was a little scripted and stiff at first, but eventually found his grounding and portrayed Gabe as a charming, likeable character and he emoted the devotion his character has to his wife, making for a strong, confident performance. Hylton,  always a pro, seems to embody the character of Beth and makes it her own. Her delivery and mannerism fit the character perfectly and she’s comfortable in the role giving an assured and solid performance. The chemistry between these two actors is praiseworthy and their understanding of the complexities of the characters (looking good on the surface with uncertainty deeper inside), is commendable. McLean and Hylton play these character with a certain authenticity that makes for enjoyable and thoughtful performances all around.

Megan Anderson and Danny Gavigan. Credit: Teresa Castracane

Megan Anderson and Danny Gavigan take on the roles of the other, more difficult couple, Beth and Tom and they hit the nail on the head with both of these characters. Anderson, who rarely disappoints, has a good grasp on her character and plays her to the hilt. She understands the turmoil and confusion in her character and her portrayal is on point with a good blend of the expressions of hurt and anger, feelings to which we can all relate in one way or another. Her delivery is near flawless and her mannerisms and movement for Beth, a free spirit, makes for a delightful and moving performance. Gavigan, too, understands his character and plays him so well, you might end up rooting against him. Again, it’s a human experience piece and the author seemed to have it right when he assumed we (usually) take the side of the person who breaks the news first. I did. I took Beth’s side and sneered at Tom for the rest of the production. However, Gavigan doesn’t make it hard to sneer at him with his impeccable performance of a man who is trying to find happiness no matter who it hurts. It’s a double edged sword for this character. We want people to be happy, but we also want people to be responsible. Sometimes the two don’t match up and the consequences are vast. Gavigan has a solid grasp on the character and his issues and plays him superbly. Superbly enough that you want to hate him. That’s good acting! Together, Anderson and Gavigan have a natural chemistry that transcends the script and is authentic making for performances that give us all the feels and emotions that come along with this kind of issue. Kudos to both for durable, intense performances.

Final thought…  Dinner with Friends at Everyman Theatre is a poignant, thoughtful look at friendship and marriage with a well-written script and a tight, solid ensemble. It’s a human experience piece, without a lot of fluff and it has us walking away thinking and questioning, which any good theatre will do. The actors take the roles and make them their own and help us relate to these four complex souls. The production value is top-notch with an ingenious Set Design that is intricate but doesn’t overwhelm and staging that keeps the action flowing seamlessly. Get your tickets now. You won’t want to miss this one!

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

Dinner with Friends will play through April 7 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

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Review: Everything is Wonderful at Everyman Theatre

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy

Running Time: Approx. 2 hours and 15 minutes with one intermissions

Different cultures have different ways of dealing with tragedy. Most will encourage looking to your faith to find a higher meaning than what we mere mortals can imagine. Some encourage forgiveness to those who have wronged you and, some go even further to encourage forgive and forget. How do you forgive and forget someone who has taken the lives of your loved ones, accident or not? Everyman Theatre’s latest production, Everything is Wonderful by Chelsea Marcantel, Directed by Noah Himmelstein, tries to answer this tough question as we see tragedy and loss through from the viewpoints of a family in crisis, a young man full of guilt, and a man who believes he’s near perfect because he’s practically been told so his whole life.

Bruce Randolph Nelson, Deborah Hazlett. Credit: ClintonBPhotography

In a nutshell, Everything is Wonderful concerns itself with an Amish family who lost two sons when a drunk driver smashed into their buggy, a daughter who doesn’t seem cut out for the Amish life, and a culture that forgives and forgets, but only on the surface. Ultimately, I gathered this piece is about following your own conscience to find forgiveness, regardless of what those around you may think or do.

Marcantel’s text is easy to follow and presents these complex problems in simple terms which is why I believe this script is so successful. The dialogue is natural and it flows as conversation between folks should. She has a good comprehension of the subject matter and creates a world into which we can step and be a part of the story making for an enjoyable evening of theatre.

L-R: Steve Polites, Bruce Randolph Nelson*, Tony Nam, Alex Spieth, Deborah Hazlett. Credit: ClintonBPhotography

The story that Chelsea Marcantel weaves is flawless and Noah Himmelstein has given us simple, yet engaging presentation with the help Daniel Ettinger’s exquisite Set Design. Himmelstein and Ettinger use the space well and the action moves at a great pace working in tandem with a precise and effective Lighting Design by Cory Pattak that puts us in each appropriate location without a bunch of bells and whistles. Sometimes less is more and it is absolutely true for this production and both Ettinger and Pattak knock it out of the ballpark.

L-R: Alex Spieth, Bruce Randolph Nelson, Tony Nam, Deborah Hazlett, Hannah Kelly. Credit: ClintonBPhotography

Himmelstein has a tight grasp on this material and his staging is immaculate. He keeps the audience interested in the story by using practically the entire theatre with the correct entrance and exit points while keeping a good flow without a lot of clunky scene changes, which is what I’ve come to love about theatre these days… not a lot of, if any, blackouts, unless they are absolutely appropriate. It’s the details that make this production so successful, as well. For instance, the slight accent of the Amish characters is so authentic, both Himmelstein and the performers are to be applauded for their efforts. Overall, Himmelstein hit the nail on the head with this and should be commended for his work.

Bruce Randolph Nelson, Deborah Hazlett. Credit: ClintonBPhotography

The cast is simply amazing, and I mean every single one of them. Resident Company member Bruce Randolph Nelson portrays Jacob, the patriarch of the Amish family and, he completely embodies this character taking on all of his trials and troubles. He seems comfortable in this role and his performance is strong and confident making him a standout in this piece in both his authenticity with the role and his gentle handling of the character. Along with Nelson, another Resident Company member, Deborah Hazlett shines as Esther, the matriarch, and the mixed, bottled up emotions just spill out of her throughout this production. She has a deep understanding of this character and her portrayal of her, as a grieving, staunch mother is impeccable. Both Nelson and Hazlett, through their performances, bring home the message of forgiveness in their portrayals of these two characters, and not just surface forgiveness, but true and deep forgiveness, even in the hardest of situations.

Tony Nam, Alex Spieth. Credit: ClintonBPhotography

Two highlights in this production are Alex Spieth, who tackles the role of Miri, a former Amish girl and estranged daughter to Jacob and Esther, and Tony Nam, who takes on the role of Eric, the driver of the car that hit the buggy, taking the lives of Jacob and Esther’s sons. Both Spieth and Nam are able actors who have a good comprehension of their characters and portray them naturally in both delivery of the dialogue and in manner. Eric wants to get in and Miri has gotten out, and is fine with her choices and the conflict between these two characters is beautifully presented by Speith and Nam and both give strong, confident, and poignant performances.

Steve Polite and Hannah Kelly. Credit: ClintonBPhotography

Rounding out the small ensemble, the adorable Hannah Kelly takes on the role of Ruth, the good daughter, who is content with her Amish life and wants to be a good person and is a good person, and the dashing Steve Polites, tackles the role of Abram, the tall, handsome, boy next door who seems to be the apple of the community’s eye, but has a secret dark side. Kelly undoubtedly knows her character inside and out and her portrayal is authentic, and, because of her portrayal, you can’t help but like this character from the get. She invokes a gentleness that’s believable and gives a tender performance that is required of this young girl. Polites has a strong command of the stage (it doesn’t hurt that he’s a little over 6’ in height, or so it seems) and his voice is smooth and booming, which works very nicely with this character. He takes this character and makes it his own, walking the line between the perfect son and the devil among us, making for an intriguing and exciting performance.

Final thought…  Everything is Wonderful at Everyman Theatre is a poignant, thoughtful piece that makes us look into our own selves and question what we would do in a certain situation. From Set Design to Costumes Design to performance, this production is not one you want to miss this season. There’s not one performer who can’t hold his or her own and the material is through provoking with dashes of humor that take the audience on a roller coaster of all the feels. It enlightens us about a culture that is seemingly veiled in plain sight and puts us all on a level playing field. If you don’t have your tickets already, get them now. I reiterate… you do not want to miss this one.

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

Everything is Wonderful will play through February 24 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 and Follow us on Twitter and Instagram!

 

Review: The Importance of Being Earnest at Everyman Theatre

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy

Running Time: Approx. 2 hours and 40 minutes with two intermissions

Oscar Wilde is probably one of the most prolific and controversial authors of his day and, in some instances, today, but there’s no denying his talent as his works are still being produced today, worldwide. He certainly had a knack for comedy as well as a sharp wit that subtly poked fun at the class system of his time but in such a way that it was nothing but charming. Everyman Theatre treats us to one of his more popular works, The Importance of Being Earnest, Directed by Joseph W. Ritsch, and they’ve masterfully presented this piece in a way that, I assume, Wilde would have been proud and tickled pink.

L-R: Paige Hernandez, Danny Gavigan, Bruce Randolph Nelson, Carl Schurr, Katie Kleiger, Jaysen Wright, Helen Hedman, Wil Love. Photo Credit: Clinton Brandhagen

Ina nutshell, The Importance of Being Earnest deals with a young man, Jack, who has invented a man named Earnest,to live a secret, care-free life in town while handling serious responsibilities at home, in the country. Because of a forgotten cigarette case, he is forced to confess this farce to his dear friend, Algernon, another aloof young man who makes it a point to avoid any type of social situation. Two women, Gwendolen and Cecily, are in love with Earnest while the two young men are in love with them. Throw in a cranky, snobbish old Aunt Augusta (Lady Bracknell) into the mix and you’ve got great fodder for a comedy.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. When it comes to Set Design, Everyman Theatre never disappoints and Daniel Ettinger has not broken this streak. With Three Acts, Ettinger’s innovative design has taken us from a bachelor’s living room, to an English country garden, to the study of a grand English manor and he hits the nail on the head with every location. The genius is the simple presentation of specific locations that is consistent throughout in color and style. Kudos to Ettinger for a job well done.

L-R: Katie Kleiger, Paige Hernandez. Photo Credit: Clinton Brandhagen

Adding to the appropriate late Victorian age setting, Costume Design by David Burdick is inspiring and eye-catching in this production. He has an impeccable eye for detail and every actor was individual in their wardrobe because of that detail. For example, there is a distinct differentiation in fashion between the elder generation from which Aunt Augusta hails and the younger generation of Gwendolyn and Cecily and though the difference is subtle, it’s enough to be just noticeable enough which is brilliant. Another splendid job from David Burdick.

L-R: Katie Kleiger, Jaysen Wright. Photo Credit: Clinton Brandhagen

Joseph W. Ritsch takes the helm of this production and it’s crystal clear he has a deep comprehension of this material and text and his vision presents it easily to a 21st century audience. His staging is energized and the pacing is on point for a three act piece. More importantly, Ritsch’s grasp on the sharp wit and comedy of Oscar Wilde shines through in every moment of this production. Casting is splendid and he masterfully guides this ensemble to present a humorous, tongue-in-cheek, but true look at the upper class of Victorian England. Ritsch is to be commended and applauded for his telling of this wonderful production.

As for the performance aspect of this production, this entire, small ensemble give full effort and work well together, respectfully bringing to life Wilde’s text seemingly effortlessly. In supporting by important roles are Wil Love as Rev. Canon Chasuble and Helen Hedman as Miss Prism. Love is lovable as the jovial Chasuble and portrays him appropriately as a well-meaning gentleman who wants to help though he seems oblivious to the farce around him. He’s confident in the role and gives a very good showing. Almost as a counterpart to Love’s Chasuble, Helen Hedman pulls of the role of Miss Prism, the stuffy, older governess, beautifully. For playing such a straight-forward, stringent character, her comedic timing is spot on and she has a good grasp on her character and the conflict between her current piety and checkered pass. Both of these actors fit nicely in their characters and give strong performances.

L-R: Bruce Randolph Nelson, Helen Hedman. Photo Credit: Clinton Brandhagen

A highlight in this production is Carl Schurr in the dual roles of Lane and Merriman,the hapless servants of the other well-to-do characters of this piece. Schurr gives an exquisite performance in this supporting role and makes a mark on this production. His comedic timing is near-perfect, especially as the older, feeble Merriman with slight but hilarious physical comedy that will have you laughing in the aisles. He’s certainly one to watch and he gives a believable, funny, and strong performance.

Taking on the roles of the lovey young ladies of interest in this piece are Paige Hernandez as Cecily Cardew and Katie Kleiger as Hon. Gwendolen Fairfax. Both actresses perform these roles eloquently and confidently and are a pleasure to watch. Hernandez emotes the youth and vivaciousness of a caged young woman coming of age and delivers the dialogue with ease and authenticity while Kleiger is comfortable in role as the upper-class, free-spirited young woman with a domineering mother and performs her character with grace and confidence as is required. The chemistry between Hernandez and Kleiger is splendid as they transition their roles within minutes from strangers to rivals to friends and because of their understanding of their characters, it makes for brilliant performances from both.

Danny Gavigan. Photo Credit: Clinton Brandhagen

As for the scheming, dandy young gentlemen, Danny Gavigan takes on the role of Algernon Moncrieff, a self-proclaimed bachelor who shies away from social gatherings, and Jaysen Wright tackles the role of John Worthing, a gentle man with a double identity, one of who is the infamous Earnest. Gavigan gives a stellar performance as Algernon Moncrieff and seems to embody Oscar Wilde himself (or how I think Oscar Wilde would have behaved, anyway) and his delivery of the dialogue is impeccable. Smooth and almost swarmy, he portrays the role with just the correct recipe of charm with a dash of obnoxiousness that is absolutely appropriate for this character. Wright also plays his character,John Worthing, to the hilt and emotes charm and likability. Both Gavigan and Wright tackle these roles seemingly effortlessly with personality and charisma making for strong, confident performances from both.

Bruce Randolph Nelson. Photo Credit: Clinton Brandhagen

The hands-down standout of this production is Bruce Randolph Nelson as Lady Bracknell. I’ve mentioned in a recent review that, for some reason, when it comes to theatre (especially older pieces) audiences seem to eat up anything with a man in drag and this production seems to be no different. The trick is, and what makes Nelson’s performance so commendable is the fact that, though he is playing for laughs – it’s a comedy, after all – he’s still taking the part seriously.He’s not playing a man pretending to be a woman, but he’s playing a woman and it’s the gravity he puts into the role that makes it hilarious. Not to mention, Nelson is a genius when it comes to comedic timing, expressions, and reactions and you will regret missing him in this role. He’s comfortable in the role and pulls it off with grace, dignity, and confidence. He’s a riot and had me laughing well after the house lights came on.

Final thought…  The Importance of Being Earnest at Everyman Theatre is a fast-paced, well put-together production that is side-splittingly funny and you don’t want to miss it. Oscar Wilde really knew how to turn a phrase and this ensemble knows how to deliver them. From the glorious Set Design to the impeccable Costume Design, to the masterful wit of Wilde, one can’t help but be amazed and amused by this production. Don’t let the fact that this piece is over 100 years old (premiering in 1895), because the story and the comedy are timeless and it still tickles audiences today. If you see anything this season,make sure you make it out to this one!

Thisis what I thought of Everyman Theatre’s The Importance of Being Earnest… What did you think? Please feel free to leave a comment!

The Importance of Being Earnest will play through December 30 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

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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.

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Review: The Book of Joseph at Everyman Theatre

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy

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

(l-r) Megan Anderson, Helen Hedman, Beth Hylton, and Bari Hochwald. Credit: ClintonBPhotography

There are secrets in every family whether close or estranged. There are untold stories and questions we may have about or family we just let go of because we either don’t want to know or we don’t know where to find the information and with the current rage of DNA testing and ancestry more and more folks are finding answers to the questions they have about their own families. Everyman Theatre’s latest offering, The Book of Joseph by Karen Hartman is Directed by Noah Himmelstein and is based on the book The Life of Joseph A. Hollander and His Family by Richard Hollander. It is a journey of discovery of a man who was a father, son, brother, uncle, and husband who kept his past in letters and documents that tell an

The Cast of The Book of Joseph. Credit: ClintonBPhotography

extraordinary story of the bonds of family and an unconditional love.

In a nutshell, The Book of Joseph concerns itself with the story of Joseph Hollander, a Polish immigrant who happens to be Jewish, and his correspondence with the family he left behind during World War II, as the Nazi Party took over most of Europe. The story is told by his son, Richard, as he discusses the book he wrote about these correspondences he discovered after the death of Joseph. The thing is, it took years for Richard to read these correspondences because of the fear he had of what he might find out about his family after noticing the Nazi emblems on the letters in his father’s briefcase. Richard had managed to tell the story with kid gloves, glazing over the horrible parts and concentrating on the good parts, while possibly adding a bit of his own optimism. However, Richard’s son, Craig, is determined to get the truth about what happened, even if it means facing a darkness that has been hidden within the family.

Daniel Ettinger’s Set Design is, once again, impeccable, and helps move the story along nicely allowing for easy exits and entrances with thoughtful use of projections and dark colors to express the poignancy of the story. The turntable that takes the audience from one setting to the next is clever and makes for smooth transitions between scenes. Ettinger has created yet another successful design.

(l-r) Wil Love, Beth Hylton, Hannah Kelly, Danny Gavigan, and Bari Hochwald. Credit: ClintonBPhotography

Working in tandem with the Set Design, the Sound Design by Elisheba Ittoop and Lighting Design by Cory Pattak is superb and sets the mood of not only entire production but each scene as well. Pattak uses rays of isolated light and subtle dimming of light to represent the dreariness and uncertainty in the story as well as brightening to express the more uplifting points. Working with the lighting Ittoop’s sound design blends perfectly into the production and may not be noticeable until she wants you to notice it which makes for an intelligent design. Her original compositions are faintly heard in the background during certain scenes, but are fitting and well-thought out. Together, these aspects of light and sound do not hinder the production and performances but enhance and help them along.

David Burdick rarely disappoints and his Costume Design for this production is no different. His attention to detail is immaculate and, being a period piece that requires a specific style, Burdick’s design is spot on. His choice of wardrobe for each character gives them an individuality and the modern and bygone era styles are presented flawlessly and transitions smoothly from one scene to the next. Kudos to Burdick for his work on this production.

Noah Himmelstein takes the helm of this superb production and presents the story clearly with a focused vision. It’s obvious he has a great comprehension of the text, the characters represented, and the message of the story. Himmelstein has amassed a balanced, well-rounded cast with a chemistry that is second to none and his staging is engaging, making for spot on pacing that is just about perfect. Himmelstein should be applauded for his impeccable work on this production.

Danny Gavigan as Joseph (foreground) and Cast. Credit: ClintonBPhotography

Commenting on the performance aspect of this production, it’s worth mentioning that, according to this story, the Hollander family is a family driven by strong women, with Joseph being the only male amongst supportive females. Hellen Hedman as Berta, the matriarch of the Hollander family, plays her character as a woman who has an unencumbered faith in family and puts on a show of strength for her daughters and only son. Hedman is comfortable with her role and plays it with confidence.

In the same vein, Bari Hochwald plays Mania, the eldest sister, and she plays it in a way that makes this character relatable to anyone who has an older sister, like myself. She seems to portray this character as an obligated caretaker, as many eldest children feel, having a nice blend of being both strict and stern as well as compassionate for her family. The match with Everyman Theatre Resident Company member Wil Love as Salo, her husband, is brilliant and Love’s portrayal of a loving and supportive husband with a gentle demeanor is believable and charming.

Bruce Randolph Nelson. Credit: ClintonBPhotography

Beth Hylton, an Everyman Theatre Resident Company member takes on the role of Klara, Joseph’s next eldest sister who seems to be a tough cookie, as well as Felicja Hollander, the first wife of Joseph. Playing these two vastly different characters is a representation of Hylton’s impressive skills as she plays Klara with a rough-around-the-edges but soft on the inside kind of sister and mother who manages to get along no matter what life throws at her and the snooty, uptight Felicja. Kudos to Beth Hylton on a remarkable performance. Along with Hylton’s Klara, Hanna Kelly tackles the role of Genka and the gender-bending role of Boy Arnold. Much like Hylton, Kelly’s portrayal of these roles is a natural and believable switching flawlessly between the anxious and nervous young immigrant, Boy

Arnold, and the young, optimistic, and hopeful Genka.

Megan Anderson and David Gavigan. Credit: ClintonBPhotography

Two highlights in this production are Everyman Theatre Resident Company members Megan Anderson and Daid Gavigan. Anderson takes the roles of Dola, Joseph’s sister to whom he seems to be closest, and Vita, Joseph’s second wife and lifelong love, and Gavigan takes on the titular role of Joseph, the man who kept correspondence with his family and tried to help them immigrate to the United States for as long as he possibly could. Anderson brings her usual energy and confidence to her roles that make her a joy to watch and she has a tight grasp on her strong, independent characters making for a remarkable performance. Gavigan, too, understands the nuances of his character, a conflicted and worried young man who is desperate to help his family. He has a good presence and is confident in this role and it makes for a fantastic performance that is the backbone of this production.

Bruce Randolph Nelson as Richard and Elliott Kashner as Craig. Credit: ClintonBPhotography

Rounding out the cast are two more highlights – Elliott Kashner as Elliott, Joseph’s grandson, and Everyman Theatre Resident Company member Bruce Randolph Nelson as Richard, Joseph’s son. Both these actors bring the modern into this production amidst the flashbacks and memories and they do it seamlessly and they both have a deep comprehension of their characters and the text. Nelson brings a certain levity to this poignant piece that fits in perfectly without making a mockery of the story and his rollercoaster of emotions is clear making for an authentic performance that is a delight to experience. Kashner, who enters later in the piece, is absolutely believable with a great mix of flippancy that makes you want to smack him, a yearning to know his own history, and a compassion for his father. He has a confident presence on stage and it makes for an admirable performance, overall.

Final thought… The Book of Joseph is a poignant, heart-wrenching look into the life of one family during the turbulent and uncertain times during WWII. The story is well framed and structured even though it hops through time, it’s easy to follow in the way the script is laid out. It’s a story that incorporates hope, regret, love of family, survival, and moving on under extreme circumstances. It also has a certain amount of levity mixed in with the tragedy that gives the audience emotional peaks and valleys that make for great theatre. It reminds us of the untold stories of war and strife that don’t come to light until years later when those involved are long gone and we only have letters and documents to put the pieces of the past puzzle together. The performances are extraordinary and the script is well put-together making for a thoughtful and entertaining production as a whole. Once again, Everyman has not disappointed and you don’t want to miss this final production of the 2017-18 season.

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

 The Book of Joseph will play through June 10 at Everyman Theatre315 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

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Review: Aubergine at Everyman Theatre

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy

Running Time: Approx. 2 hours with one intermission

(l-r) Glenn Kubota as Father and Tony Nam as Ray. Credit: Stan Barouh

The memories people keep are vast and varied but most people have at least some memories that involve food. Even most of the greatest chefs of our time will remember, are inspired by, and mention his or her “momma’s cooking” and the memories it induces. Breaking bread with someone is one of the most civil acts we, as a species, can participate in to express our humanity toward one another and breaking bread with family is one of the most special and loving acts we commit in our lives. With that being said, we all have different tastes; some like simple cuisine while others enjoy more complex dishes, and even within our own family, our tastes clash and mirror our lives away from the dinner table. In Everyman Theatre’s latest offering, Aubergine by Julia Cho (in association with Olney Theatre Center), Directed by Vincent M. Lancisi, gives us a glimpse into the lives of an Asian-American family in the last days of the father and how even in the most strained and estranged relationships, there’s hope for a reconciliation or redemption when we take the time to learn about one another and see each other from a different angle.

(l-r) Negan Anderson, Tony Nam, and Eunice Bae. Credit: Stan Barouh

Briefly, Aubergine follows the story of Ray, a young Asian-American chef, as he processes the passing and last few days of his father, with whom he’s had a strained and volatile relationship with for most of his life. The father, is a stern, simple man who doesn’t seem to appreciate the more stylish, complex life Ray has chosen to live. When Ray is called to care of his dying father, he reconnects with a jilted lover, Cornelia, who still has strong feelings for Ray, and his estranged Uncle from Korea. Together, through a language and cultural barrier and food, they learn to process the passing of this man they knew at different times and realize the lessons he’s taught them through his actions.

(l-r) Glenn Kubota as Father and Tony Nam as Ray. Credit: Stan Barouh

Technically, Everyman Theatre has not disappointed thus far and Aubergine is no different. Set Design by Misha Kachman is intelligent and appropriate using a unit set that can be used to portray different locations using set pieces that are easily set up and taken away, not interrupting the flow of the piece. The modern setting is authentic and adds value to the piece as a whole. Along with Kachman’s Set Design, Light Design by Harold F. Burgess II and Sound Design by Roc Lee work in tandem to help tell and move this story along. With isolated lighting on various sections of the stage at certain times, Burgess manages to set the mood for each scene beautifully while Roc matches the mood with traditional and modern music, as well as impeccable sound effects to represent certain locations. Overall, Kachman, Burgess, and Lee should be applauded and commended for their efforts in this production.

(l-r) Eunice Bae as Cornelia and Tony Nam as Ray. Credit: Stan Barouh

Vincent M. Lancisi, Founding Artistic Manager of Everyman Theatre, takes the helm of this piece and presents it simply with a clear vision. His staging is superb as the pacing is consistent which moves the story along nicely. This is a tricky subject matter that should be handled with kid gloves, and Lancisi has managed to present it respectfully and with due diligence, but truthfully, as well. His decision to use subtitles is wise as a lot of this dialogue is in Korean and this helps the audience keep up without sacrificing the tempo of the piece. His casting is splendid and his cast comes together as naturally as any real family going through this type of situation. It’s clear that Lancisi has a firm comprehension of this delicate material.

Moving on the performance aspect of this piece, Everyman Theatre Resident Company member Megan Anderson takes on the supporting role of Diane and Hospital Worker and though her stage time is light, she makes the most of it, starting off the show with the first of a few monologues, setting the tone nicely and setting the stage for the piece as a whole.

(l-r) Jefferson A. Russell as Lucien and Tony Nam as Ray. Credit: Stan Barouh

Jerfferson A. Russell takes on the role of Lucien, the hospice nurse assigned to Ray’s father. Russell shines in this role and he seems to completely embody this special type of character who must have a perilous balance of compassion and logic dealing with death and the family members left behind. Russell has a great presence and understands his character and his part in the hospice process, making for a confident and authentic performance.

(l-r) Tony Nam as Ray and Song Kim as Uncle. Credit: Stan Barouh

The son, Ray, has an unlikely support system in this story and Eunice Bae tackles the role of Cornelia, the younger, but just as mature girlfriend and Song Kim takes on the role of Uncle, the brother of Ray’s father who is almost a stranger to Ray, but understands the value of family and travels far to be with him. Both of these actors are standouts in this production. Bae is outstanding in this bi-lingual role and she really grasps the meaning of her character. She plays the character with a natural flare that fits it nicely. Bae understands that this character is kind of the caregiver for the caregiver and, though she is not obligated to take on such responsibility, steps up and does so. Her comprehension of the character is clear and she is comfortable in the role, playing her confidently.

Kim, too, is impressive in his role which requires speaking Korean more than English (having only a few lines or words in English), he manages to play this character in a way we can understand exactly what he is saying (even though there are clear subtitles). This really displays his aptitude as an actor knowing how to communicate non-verbally, but clearly. His chemistry with his cast mates is spot on and his comprehension of the material and his character make for an outstanding performance.

(l-r) Tony Nam as Ray and Glenn Kubota as Father. Credit: Stan Barouh

Lastly, we have Glenn Kubota as Ray’s Father and Tony Nam as Ray, the two characters around whom this entire story revolves. Kubota is absolutely authentic as an immigrated Asian father (I grew up with one, I know all too well) and he hits the nail on the head in his performance. It’s like watching my own father up on the stage and it was both eerie and poignant, for just a moment, seeing my father here with me again. Though Kubota doesn’t have many lines, his performance is stellar. I admit, I may be biased, considering my life experiences, but Kubota wears this character like a perfectly fitting glove. He has a complete grasp on this character and plays it to the hilt making for an incomparable performance.

The character of Ray holds a special place in my heart as well, being a character to whom I can completely and utterly relate. Growing up American with deep Asian roots can be tricky and it’s a delicate balance one must keep and Nam portrays this flawlessly. He embodies his character and emotes the conflict of resentment and love he has for his father, which many folks have, I suppose, and makes it easy for the audience to connect with and relate to him. He has a good command of the stage, a great chemistry with his cast mates, and has a deep understanding of his character making for a splendid performance.

Tony Nam as Ray. Credit: Stan Barouh

Final thought… Aubergine is a heart-wrenching look at strained family relationships and regrets in the last days of a loved one’s life, but it’s also a redemption, of sorts, with new connections and positive self-realizations. It’s an emotional roller-coaster that brings out the best and worst in family relationships, especially between fathers and sons, when they are separated not only by generation but by culture and taste. This one hit home hard for me, experiencing the passing of my own father just last June, but this piece presents the hospice process exceedingly well with poignancy as well as with a pinch of humor, giving a well-blended mix of ups and downs that make for a good drama. The performances are authentic and natural, and the characters are extremely relatable. The staging and pacing is on point making for an impeccable evening of theatre. The passing of a loved one is never easy, no matter how your relationship played out, but this piece is a great account of how things could be handled and what happens in those final days. Do yourself a favor – grab your tissues and get out to experience this show! It’s not one you want to miss this season.

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

Aubergine will play through April 15 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. As an added bonus, use the online code FOODIE18 for a 20% discount on tickets!

Email us at backstagebaltimore@gmail.com

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

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

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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.
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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.
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(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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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Review: The Revolutionists at Everyman Theatre

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy
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Running Time: Approx. 2 hours with one intermission

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(l-r) Beth Hylton, Emily Kester, Megan Anderson, and Dawn Ursula. Photo: ClintonBPhotography


When strong women get together, change can happen, ideas can turn into action, and passions can be expressed. At a time when women voices are becoming stronger and more empowered, Everyman Theatre‘s latest offering, The Revolutionists by Lauren Gunderson, Directed by Casey Stangl, gives us an extremely humorous, but extremely poignant look at how women’s voices can make the aforementioned change whether it be in their current time or for posterity. It’s a story of how important a woman’s voice can be, even in the darkest of times.
Briefly, The Revolutionists is about a group of women, a playwright, a strong woman of color and activist, an assassin, and… a queen who discuss life and current events in Paris, France during the Reign of Terror (circa 1793) when the government is chopping off heads with the guillotine at the drop of a hat and a revolution is definitely brewing. These women, who have gathered in a study, a safe space, obviously come from different walks of life explain life and their thoughts to each other as they individually know them and they learn from and teach each other along the way, growing just a little strong and wiser just from knowing each other.
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(l-r) Emily Kester, Beth Hylton, Megan Anderson, and Dawn Ursula. Photo: ClintonBPhotography


Daniel Ettinger’s Set Design is well thought-out and brings this piece together nicely. With various locations, including a large study in a home, a prison cell, and the scaffold where the dreaded guillotine lives, Ettinger has managed to smoothly mesh these locations together with a clever design using set pieces and projections that work in tandem with each other to move the story along nicely.
Light Design by Elizabeth Harper and Sound Design by C Andrew Mayer blend beautifully within the production and help the audience, both visually and audibly, discern where any particular scene is taking place. The mood is created nicely with these aspects as well, engaging the audience wholly. With a nice balance of subtle and bold lighting changes and well-chosen and executed sound effects, Harper’s Light Design and Mayer’s Sound Design add great value to this production.
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(l-r) Dawn Ursula as Marianne Angelle and Beth Hylton as Marie Antoinette. Photo: ClintonBPhotography


David Burdick’s Costume Design is on point with these diverse characters. Each character has such a distinguishable personality and look, Burdick manages to bring out these differences in unique, yet appropriate costumes for each. His attention to detail is impeccable as with Marie Antoinette’s bright yellow and garnished ensemble that exudes the excess and decadence for which she is known (whether accurate or not). The authenticity of the costumes brought these characters to life and made them complete individuals which helped move the story along very nicely.
Casey Stangl takes the helm of this production and her Direction of this piece is, in a word, superb. She has a definite grasp and comprehension of this piece and it shines through in the staging and through the actors’ portrayal of these characters. Stangl’s staging is well-paced and engaging while be focused and clean. The transitions are smooth from one scene and setting to another making making for an even flow that’s easy to follow. Her casting is spot on and her overall vision of presenting strong, confident women is quite apparent.
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Emily Kester as Charlotte Corday. Photo: ClintonBPhotography


Performance-wise, this piece is acted beautifully and confidently with each member of the small four-person ensemble giving fully committed performances making the roles their own. The chemistry between these actors seems effortless and they all work well with and off of each other, especially Dawn Ursula as Marianne Angelle, the scrappy activist and Beth Hylton as the bubbly Queen Marie Antoinette, who play off of each other’s performance superbly.
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Megan Anderson as Olympe de Gouges. Photo: ClintonBPhotography


Emily Kester takes on the role of Charlotte Corday, a young assassin who comes to the only female playwright she knows of to write her last words before she is put to death for killing a very prominent male figure. Kester embodies this character and performs the role with high energy and gusto as required. Her comedic timing is good though it would benefit her and the production if she gave the audience a moment to laugh at the funny lines rather than speaking over the laugh, thus losing many of her lines. She plays this rough-around-the-edges character well and gives the comedy a good balance with poignancy and passion. Overall, she gives a commendable performance that’s a delight to watch.
Olympe de Gouges, the reluctant revolutionist female playwright, is played flawlessly by the incomparable Megan Anderson, an Everyman Resident Company member. She has a good grasp on this character and is authentic in her mannerisms and characterization of this high-strung and passionate character. Anderson’s delivery of the text is spot on and her comedic timing is down pat. She does well with this witty, intelligent dialogue and gives a confident, comfortable, and praiseworthy performance.
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(l-r) Emily Kester as Charlotte Corday and Dawn Ursula as Marianne Angelle. Photo: ClintonBPhotography


As mentioned, Everyman Resident Company member Dawn Ursula takes on the role of Marianne Angelle, the sassy activist who is trying to bring liberty and justice to her people of the Caribbean and she plays it to the hilt. With a keen and impressive sense of deadpan comedy and its delivery, Ursula is gives a strong, authentic presentation and embodies this character wholly. She has a good comprehension of what this character is about and exudes the passions and empathy that is required in her delivery of the text and is certainly one to watch in this production.
As stated previously, Beth Hylton, another Everyman Resident Company member tackles the complex role of Marie Antoinette, Queen of France who doesn’t really get the regular folks, and she is, hands down, the standout in this production. With an Elle Woods (of Legally Blond) type personality and persona, Hylton is both hilarious and touching in this role. This character seems to be the one that grows and learns the most in this piece and it makes sense. The others are fighting against everything Marie Antoinette stands for, or seems to stand for, but, after talking and spending time with the other characters, her empathy shines through and she really seems to comprehend their plights. Hylton portrays this exquisitely, all the while keeping the comedy in tact while showing the compassionate and empathetic side to Marie. With a balance of humor and poignancy, Hylton shines as this flourishing character, giving a strong, note-worthy performance.
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Beth Hylton as Marie Antoinette. Photo: ClintonBPhotography


Final thought… The Revolutionists is a fun, hysterical but thoughtful and important look at how women’s voices can change the course of events and be important in deciding upon policy. The performances are strong and confident, much like the characters these actors are portraying, and the message is clear. Though a comedy, the production is focused and well-thought out both technically and onstage. With it’s modern, comedic twist on a dark, confusing era, The Revolutionists tickles the brain with witty and intelligent humor that forces us to think while we laugh and it’s a production that is not to be missed this season. Get your tickets, now, for this brilliant, funny, and thought-provoking piece of clever theatre!
This is what I thought of Everyman Theatre’s production of The Revolutionists… What did you think? Please feel free to leave a comment!
The Revolutionists will play through January 7 at Everyman Theatre, 315 W. Fayette Street, Baltimore, MD. For tickets, call the box office at 410-752-2208 or purchase them online.
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