Review: Thank You, Dad at Rapid Lemon Productions

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy

Running Time: Approx. 2 hours with one intermission

On November 18, 1978, tragedy struck in a little stretch of land in Guyana, in South America, where some 900 people lost their lives because of on crazed man. News hit hard in the United States because most of these folks were lost, disenchanted Americans, including a United States Senator. Some of you might know this story and the story of Jonestown, led by the Reverend Jim Jones and the final act of revolutionary suicide that occurred over four decades ago and Rapid Lemon Prouctions‘ latest offering, Thank You, Dad by Aladrian C. Wetzel and Directed by Donna Ibale, gives us insight into the man behind the tragedy, Jim Jones. Through Three acts, we learn of his beginnings, his ministry with The People’s Temple, and then ultimate insanity that took the lives of the people who followed him.

Lance Bankerd as Jim Jones. Credit: Rapid Lemon Productions

Hands down, author Aladrian C. Wetzel has crafted an intelligent, thoughtful piece of theatre. It’s apparent she has done her research and has gathered together three important phases of Jim Jones’ life to present in this work. As one who has always been macabrely fascinated by this tragedy, I’ve spent hours online watching videos and films about Jim Jones and Jonestown, and Wetzel has hit the nail on the head in her presentation. The script is well put-together and engaging and it offers facts with an artistic license that doesn’t hinder the information. Jim Jones is a complicated man, obviously, but Wetzel has managed to tell his story, through his point of view, while showing the madness that was just under the surface that some people saw directly, while others saw only a savior. The dialogue is easy to follow and helps us understand Jones as a regular man, a self-proclaimed prophet, and madman. Whether you’re familiar with this sad story or not, you will walk away learning a little more about this complex man and the massacre of Jonestown. Wetzel is to be commended and applauded for her work and efforts.

Lance Bankerd as Jim Jones. Credit: Rapid Lemon Productions

Set and Property Design by Max Garner and Projection Design by Chris Uehlinger blend perfectly into this production and add great value as a whole. Set pieces and digital images and video are chosen wisely and help move the story along as we take this journey with Jones. The full back wall projections and simple setting do not take away from the storytelling of this piece and give just enough to put the audience in the scene to better understand what they are watching. The Baltimore Theatre Project is such a great venue and the perfect space for this production that was used wisely by Garner and Uehlinger.

Lance Bankerd as Jim Jones. Credit: Rapid Lemon Productions

Director Donna Ibale (with Justin Johnson, Chara Bauer, and Lee Conderacci) do a splendid job realizing their visions on the stage. Ibale has wisely chosen to use a blank stage with simple set pieces that does not get in the way of the telling of the story, but adds to it. Ibale seems to have a good grasp on who this tragic person was and the history leading up to his ultimate dastardly deed. The only drawback is the recorded voices filling in as followers and such as they sound too rigid and scripted to be folks talking from the heart or giving spontaneous responses. However, the text that is spoken does move the story along and gives Jones something with which the actor portraying Jones can work. Each act is presented as a sermon, of sorts, and we are forced to pay attention, making the experience all the more immersive. Simple sets, simple staging, but fantastic storytelling. Kudos to Ibale and company for their efforts.

Lance Bankerd as Jim Jones. Credit: Rapid Lemon Productions

Taking on a character in a one-man show is daunting and taking on the persona of a real person can be downright trying but Lance Bankerd, a veteran of Baltimore theatre, as the The Reverend Him Jones shows no signs of difficulty whatsoever. Bankerd effortlessly embodies the role of Jim Jones and, just like the man himself, keeps the audience enthralled. He completely transforms himself to create this character, inside and out. From the younger monkey selling Jones until the whacked-out Jones giving the death speech, he doesn’t falter once and keeps his performance consistent. It’s easy to see he has a magnificent comprehension of the character, the story, and the text and his delivery is natural and engaging. Hands down, it’s a tour-de-force for Bankerd and this is not a performance to be missed.

Final thought…  Thank You, Dad from Rapid Lemon Production is a fresh look at a story that has fascinated us for over four decades. It’s such a poignant story about lost, disenfranchised souls and the man who led them to death. How could this not be great fodder for a stage play? Wetzel takes all the facts and weaves a brilliant script, wisely keeping it simple as a one-man show. Ibale and company’s Direction and Bankerd’s performance are top-notch and the production, as a whole, is to be commended. You seriously do not want to miss this kick off production of the new Rapid Lemon Productions season. Get your tickets now!

This is what I thought of Rapid Lemon Productions‘ production of Thank You, Dad… What did you think? Please feel free to leave a comment!

Thank You, Dad will play through January 20 at Baltimore Theatre Project, 45 W. Preston Street, Baltimore, MD. For tickets, you can purchase them at the door or online.

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Review: Love is a Blue Tick Hound by Rapid Lemon Productions at Baltimore Theatre Project

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy
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Running Time: Approx. 2 hours one 10-minute intermission
There comes a time when we all question our lives. Some do it once in awhile, some do it when things are going crazy, and some do it daily… well, most of us do it daily, and Rapid Lemon Productions‘ latest offering, Love is a Blue Tick Hound by Audrey Cefaly, Directed by Donna Ibale, Lee Conderacci, Betse Lyons, and Lauren Erica Jackson, and Set Design by Reese Siedlecki tries to answer some of those questions through four two-person shorts exposing the lives of folks from different walks of life with very different questions and problems.
In a nutshell, Love is a Blue Tick Hound is a delving introspective on relationships and ask the serious questions of life. The entire production is made up of four short two-person plays that ask life’s questions such as “are we happy or are we settling?” or “am I afraid to be alone or am I okay with that?” with a blend of poignancy and comedy that gives the audience emotional peaks and valleys that make for good theatre.
Set Design by Reese Siedlecki is semi-minimal but quite appropriate to make it easy to present four different stories. Set pieces are brought on and off stage to set the scenes and this design does its job superbly. With the use of lawn chairs, a cafe table, willow weeds, and a living room set transports the audience into the scenes easily. Transitions are a bit lengthy and clunky, but not enough to deter the flow of the piece and the cast is well-rehearsed and precise in the changes.
Light and Sound Design by Allan Sean Weeks and Max Garner, respectively, add great value to this production while Weeks sets the scene and times of day brilliantly with subtle light changes and accents while Garner produces a flawless sound design that puts the audience smack dab in the scene with a well thought-out design that doesn’t hinder, but helps the setting and adds that extra authenticity. Also, I found myself Shazam-ing the transition tunes that were used because, well, they were not only fitting but pretty awesome tunes!

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Lauren Erica Jackson as Euba and Carolyn Koch as Fin. Credit: Rapid Lemon Productions


Moving on to the shorts themselves, we are first presented with Fin and Euba, Directed by Donna Ibale, featuring Carolyn Koch as Fin and Lauren Erica Jackson as Euba. This short concerns best friends Fin and Euba (of course) as they complain about their current situation and dream about changing it but don’t do much to do so, as if they are settling for what they go or are afraid to move forward. Director Donna Ibale has a great comprehension of this text and presents the piece in an authentic, down-home way that works nicely. Koch understands her character and portrays her fittingly as someone who wants so much more but can’t seem to figure out how to get it while Jackson, as Euba, portrays her character beautifully as someone who doesn’t dare to want more. Both actresses have a good chemistry and work well off each other to present a deep connection and dependency upon each other.
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Beste Lyons as Lina and Justin Johnson as Roberto. Credit: Rapid Lemon Productions


Second we are presented with Clean, Directed by Lee Conderacci, featuring Betse Lyons as Lina and Justin Johnson as Roberto. In this piece, food service two co-workers discuss relationships and wants before opening and make certain discoveries about each other that were right in front of them the entire time. Director Lee Conderacci’s casting is spot on and she presents this piece in a minimally, but effectively. Lyons embodies her character and connects with the audience making you empathize with her character’s turmoil and her confidence and onstage presence makes one take notice. Johnson gives a superb performance as the immigrant dish-washer with a secret yearning and common sense way of looking at things. His performance is spot-on making him and this piece a highlight of this production.
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Donna Ibale as Kendra and Aladrian C. Wetzel as Betty. Credit: Rapid Lemon Productions


Next is The Gulf, Directed by Betse Lyons, featuring Donna Ibale as Kendra and Aladrian C. Wetzel as Betty. This short begins with what simply looks like two people on a fishing excursion in a deep southern watering hole. However, we discover Betty, played flawlessly by Wetzel, is trying to better herself with plans of schooling and moving out of wherever they currently are and Kendra, played by an able and intense Ibale, is content to stay right where she is. Director Betse Lyons seems to have a tight grasp on this material and presents it simply and concisely with her choice of setting and casting. Wetzel, gives a glimmer of grace and elegance just under the surface of her character and it works beautifully for the scene. The despair and want this actress exudes makes one want to just take her, hug her, and tell her everything’s going to be okay. Ibale, too, portrays her rough around the edges character impeccably with a smidgen of vulnerability that she tries to hide but can’t help but let show every now and then. This piece and its actresses are certainly standouts in this production with spot on performances.
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Mike Smith as Bob and Lee Conderacci as Maggie. Credit: Rapid Lemon Productions


Finally, the production rounds out with Stuck, Directed by Lauren Erica Jackson, featuring Mike Smith as Rob and Lee Conderacci as Maggie. This short deals with a second date between two people who might not know exactly what they’re looking for and trying very hard to impress others. Director Lauren Erica Jackson gives a good showing in her presentation and her understanding of the material is evident. Conderacci gets the fundamentals of her character, a strong woman who has a definite individuality but still wants to “fit in,” and she portrays this nicely but her delivery gets a little scripted at times, but her energy and confident stage presence makes for a lovely performance. Her partner, Mike Smith is the stronger of the duet and is, hands down, another standout in this production. His portrayal of his character, a nervous young man going into a second date and just wants to make a good impression, is on point and natural. He has a strong stage presence with a good comedic timing making for a performance that is a joy to watch.
Final thought… Love is a Blue Tick Hound from Rapid Lemon Production is a perfect fit for Women’s Voice Theatre Festival and the tries to answer some of life’s questions through a series of four short plays directed by a different director (all of whom are women and double as actors in one of the other plays) and allows for various visions of a main theme and each play is cast nicely with actors who work well together. Presenting this piece in a minimalist fashion is a wise choice as is forces concentration on the text and performances making the scenes uncluttered and more meaningful. Overall, this production is well through-out and well-presented and is worth checking out if your wandering around looking for good live theatre in the Baltimore-Washington corridor.
This is what I thought of Rapid Lemon Productions’ production of Love is a Blue Tick Hound… What did you think? Please feel free to leave a comment!
Love is a Blue Tick Hound will play through January 21 at Baltimore Theatre Project, 45 W. Preston Street, Baltimore, MD and February 9-17 at Logan Fringe Art Space: Trinidad Theatre, 1358 Florida Avenue, NE Washington, DC. For tickets, you can purchase them online.
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PRESS RELEASE: Rapid Lemon Production presents the Regional Premiere of Love is a Blue Tick Hound

Rapid Lemon Press Release
For Immediate Release:
Regional Premiere of Love is a Blue Tick Hound

  • A new collection of four one-act plays by local author Audrey Cefaly
  • January 12-21 in Baltimore and February 9-17 in Washington, DC

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND December 4, 2017 — Rapid Lemon Productions will present the regional premiere of Audrey Cefaly’s Love is a Blue Tick Hound this winter as part of the Women’s Voices Theater Festival. The production is a collection of four 20-minute plays, three of which have received New York premieres and all of which have won multiple festivals throughout the U.S. and Canada.
Love is a Blue Tick Hound Title
Performances January 12-21 at Baltimore Theatre Project, 45 W. Preston St., Baltimore, MD 21201. Phone (410) 752-8558. Online www.theatreproject.org.
Performances February 9-17 at the Trinidad Theatre, Logan Fringe Arts Space, 1358 Florida Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002. Phone (866) 811-4111. Online www.capitalfringe.org.
Love is a Blue Tick Hound is presented by special arrangement with Samuel French, Inc.
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About the Company. Rapid Lemon Productions is a not-for-profit ensemble company whose mission is to encourage growth in the performing arts by developing and presenting new work by local playwrights. www.rapidlemon.com
For more information:
Max Garner, Managing Director
rapidlemon@gmail.com
(443) 832-8178

Review: Voices in the Rubble and Endgame at Rapid Lemon Productions – The End of the World as We Don't Know It

By Mark Briner

Run time: Approximately 2 hours and 15 minutes with one intermission
Director Lance Bankerd pairs a contemporary play by award winning Irish playwright Darren Donohue with an absurdist classic by Irish avant-garde master Samuel Beckett and delivers an evening of comic highs and depressing lows in two oddly complementary works about searching for meaning in a meaningless world.

Zack Jackson and Lee Conderacci. Credit: Rapid Lemon Productions


The opening act, Dononhue’s Voices in the Rubble is a manic take on the absurdities of everyday life, marriage, the workplace, and unrealized dreams. Bankerd takes an inspired directorial take on the piece, framing the farce in the device of an idyllic 50s sitcom, albeit one on LSD. He creates an anti-Ozzie & Harriet if you will, if Ozzie and Harriet were dissatisfied, sexually out of control suburbanites of questionable mental health and David and Ricky may or may not be dead in the fridge. Lee Conderacci and Zack Jackson portray Tony and Avril, a married couple who have each lost their way and in the process discarded their values, their virtues, and all sense of discretion. Opening with a cheery, stereotypical “Honey, I’m home!”, in place of the expected trite “How was your day?” banality, Tony greets Avril with the news that he has been fired from his job for having sexual relations “in flagrante delicto” with his secretary. Avril counters that she may have killed the mailman (or the milkman, or his brother, or….) and stowed him in the refrigerator. Conderacci and Jackson flit back and forth in rapid fire scenarios that reveal their frustrations, their abandoned dreams, their loss of purpose, and, through it all, their unquestioning love in the face of their many sexual dalliances and possibly criminal activity. Bankerd filters this all through the wholesome values and suburban perfection of classic American television. Equal parts Ozzie and Harriet, Burns and Allen, and Lucy and Ricky, this pair spins a dizzying story of the events of the day, their marriage, and desperate future in the context of a standard 30 minute sitcom episode (minus commercial breaks, of course). His actors are gamely on board embracing his vision, aptly changing directions and emotions in the brief pauses where the laugh track would traditionally be inserted.  Aided by Matthew Lindsay Payne in the stock role filled by the wacky neighbor, albeit in this case one who doesn’t live next door but in the couple’s refrigerator. His George compounds Tony and Avril’s absurdity as his identity develops after his introduction as Avril’s intended victim, killed and stuffed in the fridge. The three, eventually joined by Bankerd himself as the Man, a critical cameo whose identity is best left for the viewer to learn, all play exceptionally well off each other in the manic style Bankerd has developed without losing any sincerity of the characters’ journeys, arriving in the most decidely unorthodox sitcom ending ever (not counting that horrible Will & Grace finale). Sebastian Sears and Deana Fisher Brill also deserve praise for providing minimalistic set pieces and costumes respectively that handle the constriants of the small performance space but hit all the right retro notes as far as style and colors to enhance Bankerd’s vision.

Cast of Voices in the Rubble and Endgame. Credit: Rapid Lemon Productions


During intermission, the performers move the dressing room to the set and prepare with their makeup artists for the more demanding apocalyptic visuals of the act to come. This allows the audience to subtly shift gears in preparation for an experience that thematically complements where they’ve just been but approaches it from a distinctly different angle.
Bankerd blends this performance art choice seamlessly into the start of the second piece, where Payne transitions into protagonist Clov in front of, and with a costume assist from, the audience. He adeptly (through a nearly ten minute dialogue free pantomime) scours the world he now embodies like a post-apocalyptic dumpster diver acquiring supplies for the day to day survival of his makeshift nuclear family back home. His return couldn’t be any further from “Honey, I’m home”, but more of a soul crushing “Omigid, I’m in Hell.”. The dark nucleus of his family is Hamm (Jackson), who took Clov in as a child, but now sits angrily in the center of a room, blinded and confined to a wheel chair, perpetually wallowing in his helplessness and bitterness, and Hamm’s senile parent’s Nagg (Bankerd) and Nell (Conderacci), both of whom have lost their legs and live in separate side by side trash bins. (Don’t ask. Beckett.) The foursome take the audience on a jouney through their hopeless lives and lost histories. They are a study of four free falling souls adrift in the world, frequently detesting yet always depending on each other. They are physically contrasting incomplete individuals who each possess pieces of what the others have lost. Clov has a disability that leaves him with constant pain in his feet, legs that barely work, and the inability to sit down. Hamm is confined to the chair, thus can’t stand, and depends on Clov to be his legs and eyes. The parents depend on Clov to be their legs and provide their very sustenance, and for Hamm and each other to be their fading memories. The four embody all the stages of life in a world that ceases to exist as we know it, almost as the upside down, inside out, thoroughly devastating version handed us by the ancient Greeks. Clov is a young man who is physically unable to exist on his own, facing a future of nothing but pain and despair. Hamm is the middle aged man who is stranded in a bleak life he never planned. Nagg and Nell are a sad, pathetic pair representative of life on the decline, their bodies, minds, memories, and basic humanity failing them daily, the only comfort to look forward to is their impending release from it all by death.

Lee Conderacci, Zack Jackson, and Matthew Lindsey Payne. Credit: Rapid Lemon Productions


Bankerd’s inspired pairing of the two pieces works for thematic purposes. He traces historically a path from the classic beginning of Beckett to an evolution of those themes via Donohue present day. Bankerd elaborates, “Both deal with the existential woes of finding meaning in a meaningless world. they share themes of routine, repetition, and people being trapped,” in these instances literally as well as figuratively. He describes the evening as an elevator ride. “Voices takes you a few floors down. Endgame cuts the cord.” In Bankerd’s able hands and finely focused vision, that elevator ride plays more like the Tower of Terror.

Zack Jackson, Lee Condericci, and Matthew Lindsey Payne. Credit: Rapid Lemon Productions


Placing the two pieces together in repertory gives Bankerd two dual challenges. Voices, on one hand, requires him to interpret and visualize the world he finds on Donohue’s pages. Beckett, on the other hand, is a rare playwright that is adamant about his staging, providing stage direction and set design specifics, and has freely bashed productions who have strayed from them. Thus for the second act, Bankerd is required to filter his interpretation and visualization through the author’s concrete demands. The combination also gives the quartet of very talented actors two totally disparate vehicles in which to display their range and depth by either playing off or contrasting their two characters. Jackson at the center of each piece (quite literally for the second) is a capable and dynamic core off which to build. We watch Tony in Voices spiral out of control as he eventually comes face to face with his uncertain future. In Endgame, he displays the contempt and devastation of a man whose uncertain future has become a dreaded reality. Conderacci provides a subtle continuity. Her Nell is a Blanche duBois-like faded version of Avril, desperately depending on the kindness of others. Her Avril desperately clings to any vestige of her unattainable dreams before it is too late. In her Nell, we see a woman whose dreams not only never materialized, but the cruelties of aging and the world have assured they never will. We mourn for her yet are touched by her as the lone instance of the world’s lost gentility and refinement she retains. Bankerd is the culmination of the roller coaster comedy in Voices, and the extremely welcome sole voice of comedy in Beckett’s dreary world. An equally accomplished actor as he is a director, Bankerd unquestionably succeeds playing characters almost twice his age in both pieces, hopefully alluding to a long future for him on stage as well as behind the curtain. Payne however in a showdown wins the evening for displaying sheer range and acting prowess. His manic performance in Voices alone requires continuous flexibility and adaptability as Avril and Tony change the parameters of his existence with exhausting frequency. But in Endgame, his pathetic and emotionally wrenching portrayal of a young man trapped in a life of misery and despair, chained to people and situations that can only be remedied via death, his emotionally devoid performance is ultimately heartbreaking.

Lee Conderacci, Zack Jackson, and Matthew Lindsey Payne. Credit: Rapid Lemon Productions


Bankerd and company succeed in combining both of these works and exploring the meaningless in which they have completely thrust themselves. Voices in the Rubble allows us to laugh at the comic potential of what such an existence represents. In Endgame, they beat us down with the dread of what such an existence truly is.
This is what I thought of Rapid Lemon Productions’ production of Voices in the Rubble and Endgame… What did you think? Please feel free to leave a comment!
Voices in the Rubble and Endgame will play through May 21 at Rapid Lemon Productions, Motor House, 120 W. North Avenue, Baltimore, MD. For more information, go to www.rapidlemon.com or purchase tickets online.
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