Review: 10x10x10 at Fells Point Corner Theatre

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy

Running Time: 2 hours and 15 minutes with one intermission
Having never experienced a short-play event before, I had my reservations. I was hoping I wouldn’t have to sit through short play after short play of pretentious writing, actors too damned serious for their own good, and an evening of writers trying to push the envelope and shock so much that it’s no longer entertaining. HOWEVER, that’s not at all what I experienced at Fells Point Corner Theatre’s latest presentation, their annual 10x10x10, a series of original 10-minute plays by Baltimore authors, in their intimate upstairs Skokal Theatre.

Thom Sinn, Francis Cabatac, and Steve Barroga. Credit: Tessa Sollway


This year, the audience gets to experience an outstanding line up of plays. All of the pieces are strong and send good messages in creative and unique ways. We start off the evening with Hologram by Utkarsh Rajawat which is a session with… you guessed it, a hologram (impressively performed by Betse Lyons) full of fun facts and trivia you might find important to your life but even holograms have feelings, right? Then we get into the funny Kings of the World by Kate Danley that speaks to the idea of change and gives us a peek into a local, seemingly rural bar in a dusty Southern or Midwestern town where two regulars venture into new territory but possibly realize sometimes the traditional is a good, safe thing. The next short consists of the largest cast of the evening, The Second Episode of Dyke Tracy by Dian “MJ” Perrin, and is a fun take on the old fashioned detective stories which impressively has a complete arc in 10 minutes! The actors are dedicated to their roles and the humor shines through in this one. Then the Act I ends with Meridian Trench by Rufus Drawlings which is a confusing, frantic tale of a homeless, dirt-eating woman who is taken in by a dubious gentleman in the park. The material in this last piece of Act I seems a bit pretentious and all over the place, but with that said, the performances from the actors, Crystal Sewell and Francis Cabatac, is superb.

Steve Barroga in Making Time. Credit: Tessa Sollway


Act II begins with the supernatural Dog Years by Peter Davis which is well-wrtten and performed and tells a story of a lost soul and a stranger who wants to make an interesting deal. Then keeping with the supernatural feel, Closing the Door by Nicholas Morrison is a contemporary and fresh look at the Greek Gods and Goddesses and how they handle humans and death. It’s a clever and entertaining piece with a good balance of humor and drama. Next up is Addict Named Hal by Alice Stanley, performed by David Shoemaker. It’s a cautionary tale that peeks into the life of a once recovering addict and the decisions he’s made while he tells us his story as if we are in a Narcotics Anonymous meeting. This piece has a very natural performance from Shoemaker who embodies this character entirely. Nearing the end of the evening we experience Making Time by Mark Scharf which is absolutely one of the standouts in these plays. It’s a touching story of two strangers at a bus stop who make a human connection and realize our journeys may be different, but we’re all heading to the same final destination. This is a powerful piece and is exquisitely performed by Helenmary Ball and Steve Barroga making for a moving and entertaining 10 minutes. Ending the evening is Rising, Rising by Rich Espey which is a quirky tale of transformation and change. Not really my cup of tea, it seems a little absurd at times but that’s probably what Espey is going for. With that said, it’s an interesting commentary on change and the resistance of change to finally giving in and accepting. Mia Robinson and Thom Sinn are dedicated and give strong, confident performances in this piece.

Betse Lyons in Hologram. Credit: Tessa Sollway


Overall, the entire ensemble is strong. They are confident and grasp the pieces they are performing and each give an impressive performances in multiple and vastly different pieces and characters. Kudos to the entire ensemble of this year’s 10x10x10.
The Directors, ustin Lawson Isett, Christen Cromwell, Ben Kleymeyer, Peter Davis, and Alice Stanley do stellar jobs with these pieces as they seem to understand each piece and character and tell the stories clearly and concisely with a steady and even tempo.
Also worth mentioning is the technical side of this production. Light Design and Sound Design by Charles Danforth III and Andrew Porter, respectively, help set the mood for each of the plays and adds value each and, I’ve got to say, the running crew for this production (many of whom were cast members, as well) is on point! The changes between each piece took only seconds, moving the evening along nicely and keeping a good pace.
Final thought… 10x10x10 at Fells Point Corner Theatre is a very well put-together production of 10 plays that can stand on their own and have been well thought out and well written. Some are stronger than others, but it’s a matter of taste, really. Fells Point Corner Theatre has managed to group together 10 short plays that work well together and share the same theme (matching Fells Point Corner Theatre’s them of 2017 – #RescueMe). The plays run the gambit of feels from witty humor to poignant drama. It’s a great showcase of local Baltimore talent both on stage and on the page. It’s also good to just support local theatre, so, get your tickets while they last because this is definitely an event you want to experience this season.
Line up of Plays:
Hologram by Utkarsh Rajawat
Kings of the World by Kate Danley
The Second Episode of Dyke Tracy by Dian “MJ” Perrin
Meridian Trench by Ben Kleymeyer
Dog Years by Peter Davis
Closing the Door by Nicholas Morrison
Addict Named Hal by Alice Stanley
Making Time by Mark Scharf
Rising, Rising by Rich Espey
This is what I thought of Fells Point Corner Theatre’s production of 10x10x10… What did you think? Please feel free to leave a comment!
10x10x10 will play through April 16 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: Samsara at Single Carrot Theatre

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy
samsaramain
Running Time: 90 minutes with no intermission
Birth – Life – Death… That’s pretty much what Samsara means: We’re born – We live – We die. It’s what happens along that journey is what’s different for everyone and even the start is starting and ending is different. Single Carrot Theatre’s latest offering, Samsara by Lauren Yee, directed by Lauren A. Saunders, with Scenic Design by Jason Randolph, Lighting Design by Thomas P. Gardner, and Sound Design by Steven Kriegle, gives a thought provoking look into what it takes to bring a child into this world, even when it’s not your body your using. It delves into the intricacies of having a surrogate half way across the world and imagines the unknowns of unborn children who sometimes have more common sense than grown adults. It puts human faces on surrogacy and tells a story from both sides of a surrogate pregnancy.
The space at Single Carrot Theatre is intimate and they use the space wisely. From what I understand, the seating chart changes depending on the production and this set up for Samsara gives us a wide stage with room for Jason Randolph’s simple, but impressive Set Design. His use of movable blocks saves space and lends itself to multiple locations, not giving exact detail, but enough for the audience to know where they are. The curves in both the set and the hanging screen gives a whimsical, magical feel and the projections are spot on. Overall, the production value of this piece knocks it out of the ballpark. Set Design, Lighting Design, and Sound Design are worth the admission price alone.
Speaking of Lighting Design, Thomas P. Gardner does a superb job lighting this magical, fanciful piece with just the correct colors and levels, setting the mood for each scene and moving the story line along nicely. Along with Gardner’s work, Steven Kriegle’s Sound Design is on point. Every bit of recorded sound that comes out of the speakers is befitting and well placed. Whether it was Kriegle himself or a collaboration with the director, the music choices are spot on the Sound Design, as a whole, is impeccable.
Taking the helm of this production, Director Lauren A. Saunders does a fantastic job putting this piece on the stage. Her casting is outstanding and her staging is minimal and fanciful, but gives the audience enough to keep up with the complex story. She understands the script, the delicacy of the piece, and the intimate space and presents the story in an accessible way as to not overwhelm the audience but bring them along for the journey. Her understanding and handling of the piece makes for a very enjoyable evening of theatre.
The small ensemble of Samsara puts on an impressive show and the chemistry, for the most part, is clear and these actors are comfortable with each other which makes it easier for the audience to follow along and get engrossed in the touching story their telling.

Utkarsh Rajawat as Amit, Paul Diem as Craig, and Saraniya Tharmarajah as Suraiya. Credit: Single Carrot Theatre

Utkarsh Rajawat as Amit, Paul Diem as Craig, and Saraniya Tharmarajah as Suraiya. Credit: Single Carrot Theatre


Single Carrot Ensemble members, Paul Diem and Alix Fenhagen take on the roles of Craig, the kind good-hearted father sent off a half a world away on his own and Katie, the wife and childless mother who, because of her own issues, would not travel with her husband a half world away to experience the birth of their child. Diem and Fenhagen played these roles to the hilt and I can feel the unspoken tension between the characters as they are trying to navigate through a rocky marriage with the difficulty of not being able to have children. It is revealed that neither of them able to produce and that’s where the Indian surrogate comes into play. Why India, you may ask? Well, it’s simply financial and an Indian surrogate is actually much cheaper… thousands of dollars cheaper than an good old American surrogate. The question is, are both of these people ready for a child? Also, to add to the drama, these two characters seem to differ on their ideas of what a surrogate is and how much involvement one should have in a surrogate’s life, making for some pretty intense drama between these two characters.
Diem has a complete handle on this character and is confident in this role. His uncertainty is unmistakable and his kindness shines through making him a very likable character. The character of Craig might be a bit annoying at times, making unwise choices while in India, but Paul Diem gives an admirable performance having great chemistry with both Fenhagen and Saraniya Tharmarajah. Alix Fenhagen also gives a good performance, but seems a bit flat and monotone, in parts where I would prefer little more emotion, but she seems to be playing it subtly and gives a commendable performance.
Dustin C. T. Morris, as the imaginary Frenchman and sub-sequential “dream man” of Katie, is a bit of comic relief and he is 100% to this role. He also takes on the role of the doctor caring for the surrogate in India and he shines in this role, as well. As an imaginary character, he manages to move the story along, giving a backstory to Katie and her ideas of what she wants her child (and perhaps her life) to be as well as the possibilities that frighten her. Morris is radiant and confident and gives a praiseworthy performance.
Saraniya Tharmarajah as Suraiya and Utkarsh Rajawat as Amit. Credit: Single Carrot Theatre

Saraniya Tharmarajah as Suraiya and Utkarsh Rajawat as Amit. Credit: Single Carrot Theatre


At the heart of this story is Suraiya, the surrogate for Craig and Katie played masterfully by Saraniya Tharmarajah, whose performance is one of the highlights of this production. She is natural and comfortable in this role and her delicate performance is befitting of this character. Tharmarajah manages to bring forth a silent strength in her character and her chemistry with Rajawat, the unborn Amit, is charming and heart-warming. Kudos to Tharmarajah for her superb performance in this piece.
Speaking Utkarsh Rajawat, he is another highlight of this production as he tackles the role of Amit, the unborn child for whom everyone is waiting patiently. Rajawat’s performance is both charming and poignant as his character is in the mind of the surrogate and he is inquisitive and in awe of everything as he talks with her. Not having been jaded by the world just yet, this character seems to have the only common sense in the group and he has some of the funniest lines in the piece and handles the comedy and comedic timing beautifully. He masterfully plays this character as a doe-eyed child, wanting to learn everything he can about the world he is about to enter and Rajawat’s lovable portrayal makes it hard to feel anything but good, warm, and gooey things for this character. Kudos goes to both Tharmarajah and Rajawat for jobs well done.
Final thought…Samsara is an interesting look into surrogacy and relationships of surrogacy, touching on the deep and intense thoughts and feelings of all parties involved that aren’t always discussed at the dinner table. Single Carrot Theatre’s production is an approachable and accessible expression of those unsaid thoughts and feelings, giving the audience an insight only parents and a surrogate mother can have. This well-put, thought-provoking production should not be missed this season.
This is what I thought of Single Carrot Theatre’s production of Samsara… What did you think? Please feel free to leave a comment!
Samsara will play through February 12 at Single Carrot Theatre, 2600 North Howard Street, Baltimore, MD. For Tickets, call the box office at 443-844-9253 or purchase them online.
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Review: Julius Caesar at The Baltimore Shakespeare Factory

by Jason Crawford Samios-Uy
Julius Caesar
Running Time: 2 hours and 30 minutes with one 15-minute intermission
The Great Bard, William Shakespeare, is known by many as one of the greatest playwrights in world history. He has proven himself time and time again with comedies, tragedies, histories, poetry and prose but, even though his language is technically (early) modern English, it can be a tough pill for modern audiences to swallow. It takes a brave troupe to tackle any work of Shakespeare and present it to a present day audience but The Baltimore Shakespeare Factory (BSF) does just that and does it successfully. BSF’s latest offering, Julius Caesar, directed by Chris Cotterman with Assistant Director and Stage Manager Phil Vannoorbeeck, Costume Design by April Forrer, Music Direction by Alice Stanley and Josh Thomas, and Fight Choreography by Tegan Williams manages to keep a modern audience entertained yet keep the authenticity of the play in tack making for a very pleasant midsummer’s evening.

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Music from the Cast Members before the performance. Credit: Jason Crawford Samios-Uy


This production is performed on The Meadow at Johns Hopkins Evergreen Museum & Library and is an absolutely perfect setting for this type of production. There are no sets whatsoever – just a square wooden stage at the edge of a wood and the beautiful backdrop of the trees and the open sky gives a very authentic, natural feeling. The sounds of nature, particularly the crickets and cicadas, though noticeable at first, blended into the production giving an almost soothing soundtrack to the production.
It’s apparent BSF loves music and seems to include it every chance it gets. Just as in original productions of Shakespeare plays over 400 years ago where theatres had a special musician’s gallery above the stage or musicians directly on the stage, BSF follows with the latter. The audience is treated to a few tunes before the performance, during intermission, and a closing number. The songs are mostly modern with minimal instrumental accompaniment including Josh Thomas on the acoustic guitar and cast members playing the cajón (box drum). The tunes chosen by Music Directors Alice Stanley and Josh Thomas are quite appropriate and are well performed by the multi-talented cast members and might have you clapping in time or tapping your foot.
Shannon Ziegler as Marcus Brutus and Katherine Vary as Portia. Credit: Jason Crawford Samios-Uy

Shannon Ziegler as Marcus Brutus and Katherine Vary as Portia. Credit: Jason Crawford Samios-Uy


Cotterman’s blocking is very good, being in the thrust and sans set. The audience is encouraged to sit on all three sides of the stage and the blocking is very fluid, keeping the actors moving. No microphones are used in this production so, an actor with his or her back to the audience is hard to hear and there are quite a few times, depending on where you are sitting, you will be presented with the back of an actor, but not for too long, so not much is missed in the dialogue and most, not all, of the actors are on point with their projection. I have to reiterate… there are absolutely no sets. None. Zilch! However, this does not, in any way, take away from the production because it is actor driven and the hard-working, very talented actors still kept my attention despite the blank stage.
On the way to the Senate. Credit: Jason Crawford Samios-Uy

On the way to the Senate. Credit: Jason Crawford Samios-Uy


Worth mentioning is the combat on the stage in this production. Resident Fight Choreographer and BSF company member Tegan Williams does a magnificent job getting this cast moving like a well-oiled machine during the “fight” scenes with thought-out choreography that does not take away from the performance, but adds to it as a whole. The demise of Julius Caesar is a highlight of this choreography, as well as the battles between Marc Antony supporters and Marcus Brutus supports.
Notably, Cotterman decides to set the story in Colonial America rather than the traditional ancient Rome because, according to his director’s note, he wanted “No togas.” It’s an interesting choice and it does work though there are only slight similarities between Revolutionary America and the story of Julius Caesar, namely the over-throw of a tyrant, or, in Caesar’s case, a perceived tyrant. This change of setting is accomplished using costumes and Costume Designer April Forrer does a superb job dressing her actors in well though-out, appropriate period costumes definitely setting the story in the Colonial era. Though the wardrobe was fantastic and the setting was appropriate, I have to ask if it was entirely necessary to take this story out of ancient Rome. The script was, of course, edited, but not updated so, really, it could have taken place anywhere. Cotterman states in his director’s note (in so many words) that this is a kind of “American Julius Caesar” and he chose to set the story in Colonial times because the era would be familiar but a distant past to his audience just as the setting in the original Julius Caesar, produced in Shakespeare’s time, would be familiar but distant past to that audience. Again, clever idea, but not entirely necessary.
On the way to the Senate. Credit: Jason Crawford Samios-Uy

On the way to the Senate. Credit: Jason Crawford Samios-Uy


Taking on the titular role of Julius Caesar is Anne Shoemaker who looks very comfortable in the role and has a good command of the dialogue. She also has a good presence on stage but her delivery is softer than I liked. There are many times, especially when she is facing away from the audience, where it is very difficult to hear her dialogue and some of her more important lines are lost. Regardless, she gives her all and gives a very admirable performance.
Shakespeare plays are truly ensemble pieces and every character is an integral part of the story but a few standout performances in this production of Julius Caesar include performances by Utkarsh Rajawat as Caius Cassius, Shannon Ziegler as Marcus Brutus, and Fred Fletcher-Jackson as Mark Antony.
Shannon Ziegler as Marcus Brutus, Utkarsh Rajawat as Caius Cassius, and Fred Fletcher-Jackson as Mark Antony. Credit: Jason Crawford Samios-Uy

Shannon Ziegler as Marcus Brutus, Utkarsh Rajawat as Caius Cassius, and Fred Fletcher-Jackson as Mark Antony. Credit: Jason Crawford Samios-Uy


As Mark Antony, Caesar’s right-hand-man, Fred Fletcher-Jackson commands the stage  and is very comfortable with his movements and he gives a very natural performance. In the few parts where his character has to yell to show rage or agony, I lose the character a bit, but overall, his performance is spot on.
Shannon Ziegler as Marcus Brutus gave a brilliant performance and she really seemed to understand her character and the inner conflict he was having. She had a great command of the stage and a strong presence and looked very comfortable and natural having a purpose with every move. Her delivery of the lines is careful and flawless, especially in her monologues.
The highlight of this production is Utkarsh Rajawat as Caius Cassius. His performance was near perfect with a strong presence and command of the stage. Even though it’s Early modern English, he didn’t falter once on the dialogue and, because he his delivery was so natural, there were times I forgot he was reading from a script. He is a joy to watch in this role because instead of just saying the lines and going through the motions, I could see Rajawat took the time to study and understand what his character was saying and it shone through in his on point performance.
Final thought… Julius Caesar is a well-produced show with a very talented, dedicated cast. If you are familiar with Shakespeare, you will not be disappointed and if you are a Shakespeare novice, you will still be able to follow this timeless story of intrigue, conspiracy, and betrayal. Beware the ides of March, but go see this production of Julius Caesar.
This is what I thought of this production of Julius Caesar.… what do you think?
Julius Caesar will play through August 21, Friday-Saturday at 8pm, Sundays at 4pm at The Meadow at Johns Hopkins Evergreen Museum & Library (4545 North Charles Street, Baltimore, MD) or The Great Hall Theater at St. Mary’s Community Center (3900 Roland Avenue, Baltimore, MD). For tickets, call 410-921-9455 or purchase them online.