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

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Email us at backstagebaltimore@gmail.com

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Review: Side Effects May Vary… The Effect at Fells Point Corner Theatre

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy

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

When one thinks about drug trials, rarely does theatre come up in the same thought. However, from my experience, anything, any topic, and any story can become theatre and, in this instance, the topic happens to be drug trials. In Fells Point Corner Theatre‘s latest offering, The Effect by Lucy Prebble, Directed by Andrew Porter, presents us with a sneak peek of what might happen in a drug trial for a nondescript drug that is going through human testing.

Nate Krimmel and Meghan Stanton. Credit: Trent Haines-Hopper/THsquared Photography

From what I could gather, in a nutshell, The Effect concerns itself with two volunteers, Tristan and Connie, and two doctors, Dr. Lorna James and Dr. Toby Sealey. They are all in the process of testing a new drug and all the while, a new relationship develops between the volunteers and an old relationship is reminisced between the doctors. Ethics are questioned and results are recorded but those results may not be what was intended.

I’m usually quite fond of the shows produced by Fells Point Corner Theatre but this particular production did not pique my interest in the least. I tried to be interested in the story and invested in the characters, but, alas, I was not. The production value and performance is superb, don’t get me wrong, but I’m not sold on the script and characters. Also, it seems the whole drug trial story line is simply a backdrop for the real story, which is the complex relationships between the characters. Some of the trial process is presented but most of the action revolves around the relationships. Maybe that’s the point?

It’s worth mentioning a definite highlight of this production which is the impressive and superlative Set Design by Bruce Kapplin. This design is clean and modern and fits this production perfectly. Two levels and perfectly symmetrical, Kapplin has captured the sanitized look of a hospital with a couple of levels and a few set pieces and he should be applauded for his impeccable design.

(l-r) Nate Krimmel, Mia Robinson, and Meghan Stanton. Credit: Trent Haines-Hopper/THsquared Photography

I must say, though, Director Andrew Porter certainly has a deep comprehension of this material and he has given us a polished, well put-together production with precise staging (though, be prepared for loud, thumping dance/electronic music shaking the entire theatre), and his vision is clear. Porter can only work with what he has, text-wise, and he does a splendid job in presenting the piece.

Most of the performances are spot on and Megan Stanton is a standout, taking on the role of Connie, one of the volunteers, gives a brilliant performance. Her delivery is natural and smooth making her character believable. She seems to have a good grasp of her character’s conflict and presents her beautifully. Nate Krimmel, who takes on the role of Tristan, a volunteer with experience with taking part in these types of trials, seems to understand his character, but also seems to be trying a little too hard to portray his character’s quirks. He presents Tristan a little over the top at times that takes away from the naturality. Both work well together and the chemistry is there… but I don’t buy it lock, stock, and barrel. This probably is not so much a comment on Stanton and Krimmel’s performances, but they fact I just didn’t connect 100% with the characters as written. Regardless of my feelings or connection (or lack thereof) of these characters, Stanton and Krimmel give confident and commendable performances.

Nate Krimmel and Megan Stanton. Credit: Trent Haines-Hopper/THsquared Photography

Another highlight of this piece is Mia Robinson, who tackles the role of Dr. Lorna James, who’s heading up the trial but is a licensed psychologist who seems to have needed a job, and this is in the medical field, after all. Robinson, like Stanton, has a natural flow to her performance that makes her character more believable. She makes good choices with her character and she’s one that I could find myself just the tiniest bit invested in, which is a good thing. Her delivery is authentic and she’s comfortable on stage which makes for a strong, assured performance. Her counterpart, Dr. Toby Sealey, portrayed by Gareth Kelley, is a little stiffer, as apparently written, but Kelley’s performance is a bit stiff as well. He seems scripted and, at times, uncomfortable in the role. He doesn’t completely falter and he seems to have a good comprehension of his character, but there’s no “oomph” behind his portrayal. The chemistry between the two is nil, at most, but they do get the idea across.

Again, my major beef is with the story and material itself, the performers did, for the most part, admirable jobs and, like I stated with Director Andrew Porter, you work with what you got and this ensemble’s presentation is commendable.

Final thought… The Effect, is a well put-together and polished piece and (most of) the performances are on point but it just couldn’t keep my interest. Staging was great and the message of ethics within drug trial testing is apparent but, it’s not something I think an entire show can be written around. So, I suppose it’s the subject matter itself is what didn’t capture my attention. Medical dramas are tricky and if you’re not into it, there’s not much that can happen to bring you in. Production-wise, this production is top notch from the Set Design to staging to performance and it’s definitely worth checking out!

This is what I thought of this production of The Effect at Fells Point Corner Theatre.… what do you think?

The Effect will play through March 17 at Fells Point Corner Theatre, 251 S Ann Street, Baltimore, MD 21231. For tickets, call 410-276-7837 or purchase them online.

Email us at backstagebaltimore@gmail.com

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Review: Jerusalem at Fells Point Corner Theatre

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy

Running Time: 3 hours with two 10-minute intermissions

I’ve heard it said that a story about a day-in-the-life of someone doesn’t make for good theatre because, real life can actually be quite boring. Then, another school of thought is that day-in-the-life pieces are engaging because of the drama and emotion of real life.  Whichever side of the fence you’re on with day-in-the-life pieces, Fells Point Corner Theatre’s latest offering, Jerusalem by Jez Butterworth, Directed by Ann Turiano, gives us that glimpse into a day-in-the-life of an interesting character with interesting friends trying to get through a day of county fairs, alcohol and drug binges, and side-stepping the law.

Sitting Down from Left to Right: David Shoemaker as Ginger, Dylan McKenzi as Tanya, Kelly Hutchinson as Pea, Sean Coe as The Professor, Nate Krimmel as Lee, Terrance Flemming as Davey. Credit: Fells Point Corner Theatre

From what I could gather, briefly, Jerusalem takes place in Flint in one day, St. George’s Day, as well as the annual local county fair. Johnny “Rooster” Byron, a local drunk, addict, ne’er-do-well, and Pied Piper figure, knows his days are numbered on his land as the local officials want to evict him to make room for new development. His friends (some under-age) gather frequently throughout the day to relieve him of his supply of alcohol and drugs while his young son wants him to take him to the fair and a thug, the step-father of a missing girl, wants to give him a good thrashing. And… yeah… that’s about it. If anyone else has anything to add, please feel free to do so.

I’ll admit, this piece could be going over my head because I didn’t see or hear much of a plot, other than a stubborn dude, Rooster, played superbly by Ian Blackwell Rogers, saying “F**k You!” to the world and going about his business but Rogers plays him in a way that I was invested in him, much like his friends. A highlight of this piece is David Shoemaker, who takes on the role of Ginger, Rooster’s oldest mate who seems to understand him better than the others, and his natural delivery and take on the “sidekick,” true-friend character is phenomenal. Director Ann Turiano knocks it out of the ballpark with her staging and she keeps the piece moving smoothly throughout, and it’s easy to follow, but I think it’s the script that I can’t figure out.

The cast of Jerusalem. Credit: Fells Point Corner Theatre

Set Design by Christopher Flint and Scenic Art by Kim Speaks also seems to be a bit much for the space. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an outstanding design and the audience is transported to this trashy little plot of land in the English countryside, but it may have been too much for the intimacy of Fells Point Corner Theatre. Authentic, no denying, with a full trailer façade (which is impeccable), and turf covered stage with vines and trees strewn about, but the shit load of just about everything including an old commode, seems to draw more attention from the action than needed.

Ian Blackwell Rogers as Rooster. Credit: Fells Point Corner Theatre

Performance-wise, this is a large ensemble and, yes, some are more apt than others but, overall, the entire ensemble works well together to create this motley crew that follows this charismatic leader… almost sounds cultish, doesn’t it? The dialects were 50/50 and I lost a lot of dialogue because of it, but not enough that I still couldn’t follow the story. Most of the actors and actresses were apt enough to be believable British-folk, and honestly, depending on where you are in Great Britain, it’s kind of difficult to understand the different dialects anyway, so, kudos on authenticity. The character work is commendable such as Nate Krimel as Lee and Terrance Flemming as Davey, the young, party-boys, and Sean Coe as Professor and Michael Salconi as Wesley, the older friends of Rooster, who have been around and seen most, if not all.

Overall, the production value and performances were admirable and the show itself is entertaining. My frustrations with this piece probably root in my not getting what the show is about but, production-wise, Turiano and her cast and crew have put on a polished, thoughtful production that you should check out.

Final thought… Jerusalem, though entertaining with splendid performances, just isn’t my cup of tea. It seemed to be a good story of standing your ground and sticking it to the man, but there was a lot of stuff to get through to get to that message, (IF that’s the message, not to mention, it’s about a 3-hour journey (but with two intermissions to break it up, nicely). The set was immense for the intimate space, but I’m assuming the clutter is what they were going for, so, it works… in a way. Overall, it’s a well put-together production so I’m thinking it’s just the script I’m having second thoughts about but, Fells Point Corner Theatre always manages to put on a great show with fantastic production value so, I’d chalk it up to a success, with minor reservations, in the end.

This is what I thought of this production of Jerusalem.… what do you think?

From a different angle: The Bad Oracle or B.I.T.R. Sisters

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Jerusalem will play through February 3 at Fells Point Corner Theatre, 251 S Ann Street, Baltimore, MD 21231. For tickets, call 410-276-7837 or purchase them online.

Review: Charley’s Aunt at Fells Point Corner Theatre

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy

Running Time: 2 hours with one 15-minute intermission

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

David Shoemaker as Lord Fancourt Babberley.

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

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

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

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

Review: Sex With Strangers at Fells Point Corner Theatre

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy

Running Time: 2 hours with one 15-minute intermission

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kathryne Daniels as Olivia. Credit: David Iden

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

Matthew Lindsay Payne as Ethan. Credit: David Iden

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy

Running Time: Approx. 2 hours with one intermission

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marianne Gazzola Angelella as Rosemary. Credit: Shealyn Jae Photography

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Quickening will play through July 1 at Fells Point Corner Theatre, 251 S Ann Street, Baltimore, MD. For more information log on to fpct.org, or purchase tickets online.

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Review: 10x10x10 at Fells Point Corner Theatre

By Mike Zellhofer

Top row (From left to write): Tom Piccin, Dana Woodson, Dickey Wilson, Jon Meeker, Holly Gibbs, Parker, Dianne Hood and David Shoemaker.
Bottom Row: Natalie Dent and Barbara Madison Hauck. Credit: Shealyn Jae Photography

If you are searching for a hidden gem, then search no more, and get out to Fells Point Corner Theatre’s 10X10x10. This is a wonderful evening of ten plays, written by local playwrights, ten minutes in length, and performed by ten actors. You get to vote for your top three and the winner receives the “Audience Selection Award”.

Let me address a few administrative issues. This being the third year of the competition, I expect that some things are still being worked out and new ideas being tried, but here is my input:

  • The website states that the cash prize is $150. “That’s 10 TIMES the price of admission!” However, the price of admission is $19 opening weekend and Sunday’s and $24 on Fridays and Saturdays. So, let’s make the cash prize $250 and call it even.
  • It was nice to have the bios of the playwrights hanging in the lobby. However, if you are going to include bios for the actors in the program, then extend the same courtesy to the playwrights. After all it is a playwrighting competition.
  • I feel that if you are going to host a play writing competition, then the voting should be based on the merit of the plays themselves. This can best be done with a read through, with the director reading stage directions. No sets, no lighting, no sound, no costumes. As much as they added to the enjoyment of the evening, they took away from the spirit of the competition.
  • Give more information in the program, i.e. history of the competition, past winners, number of submissions, dates for next year, etc. I took time to speak to a staff member, but not every audience member has that luxury.
  • Have an opening night event with light refreshment prior to the show, and a talk back with the actors and playwrights at the end of the night.

David Shoemaker (Left) and Holly Gibbs (Right) in “WHILE IN A PARALLEL DIMENSION
CLOTHES HANGERS CONSPIRE” written by R.A. Pauli and directed by Andrew Porter with ast. dir. by Sarah Burton. Credit: Shealyn Jae Photography

Since this is a competition, I feel that it would be unfair to review, reveal my selections, or give my opinion of the plays themselves. Suffice it for me to say that every play was entertaining, well written and that the playwrights brought the “A” game. I’m sure that review over 100 submissions from over 70 authors, and selecting only ten, could not have been an easy task for the committee.

One thing is for sure, you will enjoy an evening of fine entertainment. The ideas that this group of playwrights have penned will have you laughing, crying, scratching your head and wondering. I was so grateful that I was able to see genius come to life.

Barbara Madison Hauck in “Crito,” directed by Meghan Stanton and written by Alice Stanley. Credit: Shealyn Jae Photography

Mark Scharf – The Last Ten

Alice Stanley- Crito

MJ Perrin- Open Mic

Rich Espey- In Memory of Mrs.Mary Brown

Rufus Dawlings- Mr. Shells Gets Shipped East for Beef

Daniel Collins- What’s the Point

Jennifer Harrison- Shrimp at the Radisson

Richard Pauli -While in a Parallel Dimension

DC Cathro- The Fine Art of Critiquing the Hang of the Shoe

Tatiana Nya Ford- Hello, baby. I miss you.

Tom Piccin (left) and Jon Meeker (Right) in “What’s the Point?” Written by Dan Collins directed by Andrew Porter. Shealyn Jae Photography

The evening would not have been complete without the talents of Dana Woodson, Dickey Wilson, Parker Damm, Dianne Hood, Natalie Dent, Holly Gibbs, Jon Meeker, Tom Piccin, David Shoemaker, and Barbara Madison Hauck. I don’t exaggerate when I say that this cast oozes talent. Their ability to play multiple characters in multiple plays, and to do it as different as night and day is simple astonishing. Pay close attention to the fun loving, huggable Natalie Dent as she makes the transition from Dax to the young woman in Ms. Ford’s production. What she brings to the stage in those two

Natalie Dent in “Hello, baby. I miss you.” Directed by Christen Cromwell and written Tatiana Nya Ford. Credit: Shealyn Jae Photography

contrasting plays alone, should be studied by all freshman theatre majors.

Another major stand out for me was Tom Piccin. His confidence and commanding stage presence leave you hanging on his every word and at the end wanting for more. Yet he plays his roles with such a subtleness, deriving his allure from his fellow actors by letting them have their moments. A few times I thought that I was watching Kevin Pollak, and in both of his plays I kept waiting for Rod Serling to come on stage saying, “You’re traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. That’s the signpost up ahead – your next stop, …”

So, if you are ready for some good, home grown theatre, with interesting stories and amazing actors, head to Fells Point Corner Theatre now through May 6th, and let me know what you thought of 10x10x10.

This is what Mike Zellhofer thought of 10x10x10 at Fells Point Corner Theatre. What did you think?

10x10x10 will play through May 6 at Fells Point Corner Theatre, 251 S Ann Street, Baltimore, MD. For more information log on to fpct.org, or purchase tickets online.

Email us at backstagebaltimore@gmail.com

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Press Release: Fells Point Corner Theatre proudly presents on our Godfrey Stage Gertrude Stein and a Companion By Win Wells


For Immediate Release:
Fells Point Corner Theatre proudly presents on our Godfrey Stage Gertrude Stein and a Companion By Win Wells, Directed by Anne Hammontree
Gertrude Stein and a Companion by Win Wells is the bittersweet telling of the love and lives of celebrated writer Gertrude Stein and her life partner Alice Toklas. Winner of Best Play at the Edinburgh Festival, Sydney Theatre Festival, and Vita Award for Best Play in South Africa, this two woman show spans decades and takes on multiple figures in the ladies’ world, from reporters and German soldiers to Hemingway and Picasso.
“The evening is a joy…Brisk, fun and literate.” – ​Gannett Newspapers
“The interplay gives the piece a spark beyond the page. It takes this very specific story and peels of its layers, revealing a fascinating study in human relations, in marriage, in the science of compromise and the art of enduring love.” – ​Chicago Reader
Director Anne Hammontree, along with the talented Marianne Angelella and Andrea Bush, bring Gertrude Stein and a Companion to life. Fells Point Corner Theatre is excited to share this imaginative exploration of love and time, written in homage of Alice’s biting wit, Gertrude’s poetry, and their colorful world that sparked the movement of Modern Art.
Admission: $19 for Sundays, $24 for Fridays/Saturdays.
Dates: Opens Friday March 2nd, 2018 and runs through Sunday, March 25th, 2018
Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m. and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. There will be a Saturday Matinee on March 10th.
*There will also be a Pay What You Can Thursday performance on March 1st, which will be an open dress rehearsal.*

Review: I Hate Hamlet at Fells Point Corner Theatre

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy

Running Time: Approx. 2 hours with one intermission
As a reviewer, I have the opportunity and honor of seeing the same show at different venues and sometimes I hate the show (not to be confused with the performances) and sometimes I love the show (again, not to be confused with the performances) but it’s rare that I hate the show at one venue but love it at another. However, this is exactly what happened with Fells Point Corner Theatre’s latest offering, I Hate Hamlet by Paul Rudnick, Directed by Mark Franceschini, with Set Design by Christopher Flint. Not my favorite piece of theatre, Fells Point Corner Theatre’s production has changed my opinions and it’s a production I suggest you experience if you get the chance.

(l-r) Gabe Fremuth, Abigail Wright, Kimberley Lynne, and Zarah Rautell. Credit: Shealyn Jae


I Hate Hamlet is about a young television actor, Andrew Rally, who rents the great John Barrymore’s old apartment in New York City as he prepares for the title role in Hamlet for Shakespeare in the Park. The only problem is, Andrew hates Hamlet. With the support of his aging agent, his upbeat, excited girlfriend, a shifty director-friend from L.A., and, oddly enough, his real estate agent, he tries to decide if this is the role for him. It’s then that the ghost of the aforementioned great John Barrymore comes for a visit to help Andrew discover he is good enough and even better than what people (and he, himself) gives him credit for. It’s a good story with a good message of self-worth that plays nicely.
Set Design by Christopher Flint is excellent with levels and an attention to detail. Not only is it aesthetically pleasing, it’s quite functional working quite well with the blocking of this piece. Since the set is a major aspect of this show, being the former home of the legendary John Barrymore, it’s important to get it right and Flint has done just that with his choice of furniture pieces to his ornamentations and classic style. For a small (not micro, but small) space, Flint has used his space wisely and has created an appropriate setting for this production.
Mark Franceschini is at the helm of this production and he has hit the nail on the head. His casting is outstanding and his comprehension of the text is apparent. Franceschini understands the witty humor involved in the text and guides his already apt cast in delivering it appropriately. The action keeps moving and the characters are authentic making for a delightful piece of theatre.
Though a Costume Designer is not named in the program, it’s worth mentioning the Costume Design as it was realistic and well thought-out adding value to the production.
Moving on to the performance aspect of I Hate Hamlet, this small ensemble of six really knocks it out of the ballpark. They work well together with good chemistry and seem to have a good grasp of their characters.

Steven Shriner as John Barrymore and J Prunell Hargrove as Gary Peter Lefkowitz. Credit: Shealyn Jae


J. Purnell Hargrove takes on the role of Gary Peter Lefkowitz, the sleazy L.A. directory trying to get Andrew back on to television, and does an admirable job with the role. Though, at times, he’s a bit too much and in your face for the intimate space, Purnell seems to understand the kind of man this character is and plays it with gusto. I will say, the touchy-feely-ness he portrays with Gabe Fremuth gets a little too creepy. Whether it’s an actor or director choice, I totally get the whole “sleazy” aspect, and it totally works for the character but… sometimes, less is more.
Zarah Rautell takes on the role of real estate agent-turned-friend, Felicia Dantine. Rautell fits this role like a glove. Her comedic timing is spot on and she seems to embody this rough around the edges type character. The balance of edginess and tenderness she finds and portrays in this character is impressive.
Lillian Troy, the very German and elderly agent to Andrew, is played by Kimberley Lynne and this performance is on point. She has the German accent down pat and her gestures and delivery of her lines are totally authentic. She, too, has terrific comedic timing and knows her character well.
Next up is Abigail Wright as Deidre McDavey, the somewhat naïve, but kind and optimistic actress-girlfriend to Andrew. Wright is an absolute joy to watch in this production. Her upbeat, energized performance adds so much to this production and her delivery is spot on. I’d seen this character performed a very different way in a very different production but Wright has this on in the bag. Her energy alone, as she hops across the stage (and the furniture) gives a certain needed “oomph” to the entire production. I’m looking forward to seeing more from this actress.
Andrew Rally, the television actor on whom this entire story is revolved, is played diligently and aptly by Gabe Fremuth, who embodies this character with a lack of self-confidence. He finds a good balance of fake confidence and vulnerability that makes this character endearing and has you rooting for him. He has a good look for the role and gives a strong, confident performance, comfortable with the text and the character. He has a great chemistry with his cast and does well with this character.

(l-r) Gabe Fremuth, Abigail Wright, and Steven Shriner. Credit: Shealyn Jae


Rounding out the ensemble is the incomparable standout of this production, Steven Shriner, who tackles the complex but common sense role of John Barrymore, who some consider was the best Hamlet to hit the stage. Shriner pulls this role off beautifully and is totally believable as the ghost of Barrymore. His comedic timing is second to none and he seems to have a complete comprehension of this character and the story of I Hate Hamlet. He is confident and comfortable on stage and delivers his lines clearly with purpose. He mixes this character with humor and poignancy and his balance of both is superb. He is certainly one to watch in this particular production.
Final thought… I Hate Hamlet is a humorous, but serious look at and partly analyzes one of Shakespeare’s most famous and popular plays in an easy, understandable way but, through this Shakespearean tragedy, also teaches us a little about ourselves and what we’re capable of doing in today’s modern world when we think the odds are against us. The story moves along nicely and the performances are strong and confident with a sturdy, impressive set and a fantastic costume design that makes for an exquisitely delightful evening of theatre.
This is what I thought of Fells Point Corner Theatre’s production of I Hate Hamlet… What did you think? Please feel free to leave a comment!
I Hate Hamlet will play through October 1 at Fells Point Corner Theatre, 251 S Ann Street, Baltimore, MD. For tickets, call 410-669-0220 or purchase them online
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PRESS RELEASE: The Woman in Black adapted by Stephen Mallatratt from the book by Susan Hill Directed by Patrick Gorirossi


For immediate release:
Fells Point Corner Theatre proudly presents on our Godfrey Stage

The Woman in Black

adapted by Stephen Mallatratt

from the book by Susan Hill

Directed by Patrick Gorirossi

A London lawyer, looking to lay his demons to rest, hires a young actor to help him tell his story of fright and peril. Adapted from the novel of the same name, The Woman in Black has enjoyed a continuous run on London’s West End since its premiere in 1987, proving itself to be a tale of true terror!
“A real theatrical spine chiller…A truly nerve shredding experience.”
 -The Daily Mail
“Provides a pleasurable ripple of fear down one’s spine and an uncomfortable lurch in the pit of one’s stomach.”
Time out New York

Directed by Patrick Gorirossi and featuring the talents of Sean Coe and Grayson Owen, Woman in Black is a thrilling theatrical experience for regular theatre goers and everyone who loves a good scare.

Admission: $19 for Sundays, $24 for Fridays/Saturdays. 
Opens Friday October 13th, 2017 and runs through Sunday, November 5th, 2017
Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m. and Sundays at 2:00 p.m.  Two Saturday matinees at 2pm on October 21st and October 28th.
There is a special Halloween Performance.
*There will also be a Pay What You Can Thursday performance on September 7th, which will be an open dress rehearsal.*