Review: A Midsummer Night's Dream at Baltimore Shakespeare Factory

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy
Running Time: Approx. 2 hours with one intermission
Lately, I’ve had the opportunity to experience theatre that is not full of flashy sets or intricate costumes, but of minimal design and I’ve grown to appreciate this style immensely. I’m learning that you don’t need all the bells and whistles to tell a good story (notice, I said “good” story) and Baltimore Shakespeare Factory (BSF) demonstrates this near perfectly with their latest offering, A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare, Directed by Tom Delise. It’s good old fashioned story-telling in a serene, outdoor setting that takes you back to the days of old when Shakespeare ruled the stage and people appreciated a good story.


Titania and the Fairies seducing an egotistical Nick Bottom. Credit: Will Kirk

If you get a chance to check out a production in the Meadow at Johns Hopkins University’s Evergreen Museum and Library… DO IT! In the middle of a bustling city, this small patch of land is the perfect setting for an evening of Shakespeare, and you can bring your own picnic if you wish! The sounds of nature surround you as you watch a timeless story unfold before you performed by able actors working from a flawless text.
In a nutshell (if it’s possible), A Midsummer Night’s Dream is about events unfolding around the marriage of Duke Theseus and Hippolyta, the former Queen of the Amazons. Included in these events are the escapades of four young Athenian lovers, a traveling troupe of actors – The Mechanicals, a bunch of fairies, and the King and Queen of the Fairies who are throwing monkey wrenches in everything while trying to fix it at the same time. Sounds complicated doesn’t it? Well, it’s not too complicated if you pay attention and it’s quite funny and farcical making for a great evening of theatre.
Director Tom Delise, a Shakespeare purist, seems to have a confident grasp on the material. His vision of bringing pure Shakespearean theatre to the stage with little gems of modern day references to tell the story make it easy to follow and indubitably entertaining. He keeps the action moving and interesting creating a smooth flow that isn’t overwhelming to those not as experienced. He manages to keep it down to a nice 2-hours while still telling the entire story which is a feat in itself when it comes to any Shakespeare play. Kudos to Delise for an impeccable production.

Kathryne Daniels and Jeff Miller. Credit: Will Kirk

Costume Design by Jessica Behar is simple, yet very appropriate and effective. Being a fanciful piece with a fairy king and queen and man turning into a donkey, one would think the costumes have to be outlandish and complex, but Behar has managed to design a costume plot that isn’t over the top, but still quite effective. Of course, the togas and tunics are present, but ornamented nicely and subtly differentiating the classes (the upper crust and the actors, really). Tatiana, Queen of the Fairies is elegant in her flowing robe while Oberon, King of the Fairies is aptly costumed in a nature-inspired ensemble with funky headpiece included. Overall, Behar’s design is appropriate, creative, and adds value to the production as a whole.
Moving to the performance aspect of this piece, it’s worth saying the entire ensemble gives 100% to their performance and work quite well together. It’s a joy to watch this cast as a whole and they know their stuff!

Micaela Mannix, Liz Galuardi, Fred Fletcher-Jackson, and Davon Harris. Credit: Will Kirk

Taking on the roles of the four confused lovers are Fred Fletcher-Jackson as Lysander, Liz Galuardi as Hermia, Davon Harris as Demetrius, and Micaela Mannix as Helena and this quartet hits the nail on the head with their performances. Their chemistry is second to none and they’re comedic timing is delightful. In a particularly farcical scene where poor Hermia is actually sat on by the boys, I was laughing out-loud and thoroughly enjoying the physical comedy before me. All four give confident performances and are a joy to watch.

A couple of The Mechanicals performing the play-within-the-play. Credit: Will Kirk

The Mechanicals, the acting troupe, compsed of Cheryl Campo, Tess Garret, Jeff Miller, Tegan Williams, Kathryne Daniels, and Shaquille Stewart, much like their name implies, is a well-oiled machine and all work well off of each other. Their mini play-within-the-play had me belly-laughing – especially Jeff Miller, who had the honor of taking on the female role, as many males did in the time period, and he played it to the hilt with an impeccable grasp of the cheeky comedy. Other highlights in this troupe are Shaquille Stewart who takes on the role of Nick Bottom, the egotistical, self-admiring actor, and Kathryne Daniels as Peter Quince, the flustered writer of the troupe. Stewart steals just about every scene he’s in with his physical comedy and superb delivery and Daniels humorously portrays Quince’s frustration with big gestures and asides that work well with the material. It’s a job well done by all.

Allie Press as Puck. Credit: Will Kirk

Allie Press tackles the role of Puck, the impish go-to guy for King Oberon and she really grasps this character. The character of Puck means well and is only doing his masters bidding but he is also a lurking observer most of the time and strikes when it is most opportune. Press skillfully delivers her dialogue and moves about the stage effortlessly giving a confident, strong performance.

Elijah Moreland as Oberon, King of the Fairies. Credit: Will Kirk

Definite highlights of this production are the Titania and Oberon, the Fairy Queen and King played masterfully by Valerie Dowdle (a BSF Company Member) and Elijah Moreland. Their chemistry is brilliant and they work very well off of each other. Moreland, in probably the flashiest costume in the production, moves confidently and gracefully taking on not only the intricate role of Oberon, but also of Duke Theseus. He delivers his dialogue clearly and has a good comprehension of his characters. His interaction with the audience is subtle and not in your face which is something I can totally deal with not being a huge fan of breaking the fourth wall. Overall, Moreland has a strong presence on the stage and gives an absolutely commendable performance.

Valerie Dowdle as Hippolyta. Credit: Will Kirk

Valerie Dowdle also takes on two roles – that of the Titania and Hippolyta and she nails both of these characters. Quite an able Shakespearean actor, Dowdle effortlessly embodies her characters, especially that of Titania, and gives a strong, graceful, and authentic performance. Her comprehension of the material is apparent and her delivery is completely natural, making it easy to follow and understand. Another fine performance from Ms. Dowdle.

The Fairies and Nick Bottom. Credit: Will Kirk

Final thought…A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Baltimore Shakespeare Factory is a step back in time where there was no need for big spectacles or lights and sound but the actors told the story and the text spoke for itself. Baltimore Shakespeare Factory’s attempt at producing authentic Shakespearean theatre is a success, especially out on the rolling meadow at Johns Hopkins University’s Evergreen Museum and Library. T he actors are well-rehearsed and have an impeccable comprehension of the story they’ve been tasked to tell and their interpretation, along with the vision of Director Tom Delise, is easy to follow and quite entertaining. This is a fun, humorous, timeless tale and BSF knocks it out of the ballpark with this production. Those experienced with Shakespeare or those who are currently discovering his work will be thoroughly delighted and entertained.
This is what I thought of Baltimore Shakespeare Factory’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream… What did you think? Please feel free to leave a comment!
 A Midsummer Night’s Dream will play through July 30 at Baltimore Shakespeare Factory, The Meadow at Johns Hopkins University’s Evergreen Museum and Library. For tickets, purchase them at the door or purchase them online.
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Review: Antony & Cleopatra at The Baltimore Shakespeare Factory

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy

Running Time: 2 hours and 40 minutes with one 15-minute intermission
Even though many are familiar with the plays or poetry of Shakespeare, it can be daunting when one is face to face with it. It can be even more daunting when someone decides to present said material in Original Pronunciation (OP), but the latest offering from The Baltimore Shakespeare Factory (BSF), Antony & Cleopatra, Directed by Thomas Delise, is a charming, easy-to-follow presentation that will be a delight for Shakespearean newbies and experts alike.
True to form, the staging for Antony & Cleopatra is sparse with the production depending on the performances to carry the show, however, it’s worth mentioning Costume Design by April Forrer is exquisite and adds great value to production as a whole. Forrer’s design is authentic and the actors seem comfortable in the wardrobe making for quite pleasing aesthetics to go along with the superb performances.
To help those who may not be as versed in the work of the Great Bard, a BSF company member takes the time to explain a few things to the audience before the show starts and this is a good call on the part of BSF. The explanation and examples of Modern English, which is actually what Shakespeare spoke and wrote, in contrast to Old and Middle English gives the audience an idea of what they’re about to experience and a base from which to work and it eases the anxiety a little, letting the audience relax and enjoy the production.

Chris Cotterman and Valerie Dowdle. Credit: Will Kirk

As for the performance aspect, it’s easy to see this production team and actors have put time, blood, sweat, and tears into this production and it certainly pays off. Kudos to Director Thomas Delise for keeping this piece moving with a balanced pace making the near 3-hour run time seem much less. Delise has a good understanding of the material and has guided his actors so well they tell this story effortlessly.
During a short Q&A after the performance I attended, the actors explained how they paraphrased and came up with their own translations of the material, helping them understand the text and, in turn, being able to express the words to the audience with their inflections and movement. I can’t emphasize enough how easy it is to follow this story, even if you aren’t familiar with it. Though some performers were a little stronger than others, the entire ensemble is spot on with their performances and easily accomplish the Original Pronunciation.
Tom Piccin, a fairly new Shakespearean actor, does well taking on four roles (Mardian, Scarus, Thidias, and Seleucus) but shines as Mardian, Cleopatra’s eunuch who entertains and has a bagful of jokes for any occasion. He works well with and has a good chemistry with Bethany Mayo and Isa Guitan who take on the roles of Charmina and Iras, respectively, with Mayo being a definite highlight of this production and gives a natural, effortless performance as one of Cleopatra’s attendants.

Troy Jennings as Octavius Caesar. Credit: Will Kirk

Taking on the titular role of Mark Antony, Chris Cotterman is confident and comfortable but next to his counterpart, Valerie Dowdle (who I will most definitely discuss in a moment), his performance falls slightly flat. This isn’t to say he doesn’t do an admirable job, because he does, but Cotterman seems a little stiff and scripted, at times. Regardless, he still does a bang up job and has a fantastic comprehension of the piece making for a commendable performance. Cotterman does, however, very well in tandem with Troy Jennings who takes on the role of Octavius Caesar and he embodies this character wholly. Jennings is comfortable in this role. but makes a curious and somewhat annoying vocalization choice with Caesar (and this is a little nitpicking, but it stood out for me) repeatedly speaking in a voice obviously higher than his own and it just didn’t fit well for the character. Otherwise, he has a great grasp of the character and the story and gives a strong, confident performance. Both Cotterman and Jennings are to be commended for their performances.

Valerie Dowdle as Cleopatra. Credit: Will Kirk

Working along side of this able and worthy cast, Valerie Dowdle is the standout in this production Antony & Cleopatra, taking on the role of the complex, manipulative, and sexy Queen Cleopatra. Dowdle has this role down pat and makes it her own with no holds barred. She has a flawless authenticity and such a strong, assured stage presence, it’s hard not to watch her when she steps onto the stage. Even with the challenge of Original Pronunciation, she seems to be Cleopatra incarnate and glides across the stage understanding every word which gives the audience a better understanding of this character. Her intonation and movement are on point and she is an absolute joy to watch.
Final thought… Antony & Cleopatra at The Baltimore Shakespeare Factory takes us back to days of olde when Modern English was just starting to form and William Shakespeare was a rockstar of the theatre. This Original Pronunciation production is well put-together with painstaking detail and talented Shakespearean actors from beginners to more advanced. It’s actually quite easy to follow, even if you are unfamiliar with the Great Bard’s work. It does help that the audience gets a tiny crash course in language before the show starts, which is a good call on BSF’s part! It’s an authentic showing and whether your a Shakespearean expert, beginner or somewhere in between, this is not a production you want to miss.
This is what I thought of The Baltimore Shakespeare’s production of Antony & Cleopatra… What did you think? Please feel free to leave a comment!
Antony & Cleopatra will play through April 23 at The Baltimore Shakespeare Factory at The Great Hall Theatre at St. Mary’s, 3900 Roland Avenue, Baltimore, MD. For tickets, purchase the online here.
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Review: Trust at Fells Point Corner Theatre

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy
Running Time: 1 hours and 50 minutes with one 15-minute intermission
The 90s was a hell of a decade and I would do it all over again, if I could! Amidst the Gulf War, Rodney King Riots, and presidential sex-scandals, there were some pretty cool times, as well, such as The Berlin Wall coming down, the ending of the Cold War with the U.S.S.R. and… the World Wide Web! Fells Point Corner Theatre‘s production of Trust by Steven Dietz, Directed by Michael Byrne Zemarel, with Music Direction by Kristen Cooley, Set Design by Bush Greenbeck, and Lighting Design by Chris Allen takes the audience back to a bygone era where relationships and sex were just “a thing,” Chris Hardwick was hosting Singled Out on MTV and not talking about zombies, and Nirvana dominated the airwaves.

The Cast of Trust. Credit: Chris Hartlove

The Cast of Trust. Credit: Chris Hartlove

In a nutshell, Trust is steamy, raw tale about Cody and Becca, a young engaged couple, and Cody has recently hit it big in the music industry and has graced the cover of the latest issue of Rolling Stone magazine. However, Cody also has the hots for an older faded and jaded star, Leah, who may or may not have a thing for him, too. Gretchen knew Leah back before she was big and had the hots for her, but never told her. Low and behold, Gretchen, who happens to be a dressmaker, is making Becca’s wedding dress may or may not have the hots for Becca and Becca might possibly have similar feelings in return. Enter the young Holly, another outspoken friend of Gretchen’s who adores Cody, the rising star, while Roy, a DJ, has his motor running for Holly. Welcome to love in the 90s.
Bush Greenbeck’s minimal, clean set design works well with this piece and his clever use of a revolving stage takes the audience seamlessly from one location to another and adds a bit of variety to the piece, which, in authentic 90s fashion, is quite black. To counter this dark tone, Greenbeck adds splashes of color and prints to break up the monotony and it keeps the set visually appealing.
To complement Greenbeck’s design, Lighting Design by Chris Allen sets the mood of the piece very nicely. He uses the levels in his lighting to portray locations such as living rooms, bars, and hotel rooms and his subtle changes and splashes of color are effective and moving the piece along smoothly.
Michael Byrne Zemarel, Laura Malkus, and David Shoemaker. Credit: Chris Hartlove

Michael Byrne Zemarel, Laura Malkus, and David Shoemaker. Credit: Chris Hartlove

According to Music Director Kristen Cooley, Trust is written as a straight play with no music, but it was the decision of Director Michael Byrne Zemarel to add this element, making it a play with music and it was indeed a creatively wise choice. The music that was added beautifully complimented the action in the piece and Cooley lucked out with actors who are instrumentalists as well, including Mark Scharf, who is credited only as The Musician. I’m assuming Scharf’s character was added in, as well, and he does an excellent job providing accompaniment with his acoustic guitar throughout the piece. I like the fact that the song choices aren’t just the top hits of the decade but some B-side songs were utilized as well, which is refreshing. Overall, Cooley’s song choices (in collaboration with Zemeral, I’m sure) are smart and befitting and her work with the cast shines through in their tight harmonies and strong vocal performances.
Michael Byrne Zemarel takes on double duty as a performer and director in this piece. On his directing, he does a superb job with this piece. As previously discussed, his decision to add the element of music is brilliant. It adds so much value to this piece and the decision of using live, acoustic guitar accompaniment makes it all the better. He was not afraid to push the boundaries in this piece that’s not only filled with relationship drama but also has a touch of simulated sex and nudity that may or may not be for shock value. Whether or not the sex stuff is or is not for shock value, it works and pulls the piece together.   His portrayal of Roy is realistic and, through is mannerisms, he really captures the essence of a man longing or love in the grunge age.
Rachel Roth as Gretchen. Credit: Chris Hartlove

Rachel Roth as Gretchen. Credit: Chris Hartlove

Overall, this ensemble worked superbly together with excellent chemistry. It is obvious they are comfortable with each other as they play off each other naturally and with confidence.
Casey Dutt portrayal of Holly, the sharp tongued, opinionated young friend is strong and entertaining. She portrays well a character who simply says what’s on her mind and doesn’t mean any harm, but does, in fact, cross the line sometimes.
David Shoemaker as Cody. Credit: Chris Hartlove

David Shoemaker as Cody. Credit: Chris Hartlove

David Shoemaker tackles the role of Cody, the rising star, trying to navigate through the newfound fame and all that goes with it. He definitely looked the part of a young rock star with the wispy hair and chiseled physique (and what a physique it is). He gives a confident performance and absolutely understands the humility of his character and aside from some of the decisions this character takes, he is quite likable. He is an outstanding musician both on his guitar and vocally with a soothing bass that resonates throughout the theatre. That being said, I would have like a little more enthusiasm whereas Shoemaker plays this role rather subtly to the point where it was almost hard to understand what he was saying or doing. However, a lot of the 90s was chill so, he would have probably fit right in.
Laura Malkus as Leah. Credit: Chris Hartlove

Laura Malkus as Leah. Credit: Chris Hartlove

Gretchen and Leah played by Rachel Roth and Laura Malkus, respectively, are definite highlights in this production. Roth plays her character, Gretchen, with just the right amount of angst and bitterness balanced out with a tenderness from the pain her character has experienced. In a character that seems to be cut from the same cloth, Malkus plays the jaded Leah with the skepticism that perfectly matches a fading star who was probably promised the world and given very little. It’s worth noting that Malkus gives an impressive, strong vocal performance with a clear, even-textured tone that made me take notice from the very first note.
Valerie Dowdle as Becca. Credit: Chris Hartlove

Valerie Dowdle as Becca. Credit: Chris Hartlove

Among her gifted cast mates, Valerie Dowdle as Becca is the standout in this piece. Her portrayal of her character is absolutely authentic and enthralling and she gives strong, confident performance. She fully embodies this character, making it her own. Dowdle understands Becca and the turmoil she is experiencing and balances this character beautifully with levels of intensity and reserve that keep Becca interesting for the audience. Kudos to Dowdle for a superb job and I’m very much looking forward to seeing more from this actress.
Final thought…Trust at Fells Point Corner Theatre is a fearless, unabashed, and gritty look at love and lost love in the 90s as well as the intertwining passions and all the male and female assumptions that go along with it. Adding the heartfelt, guitar driven music of the decade, this production looks past the flannel, choker necklaces, Doc Martins, and everything “grunge” to the human outlook on the difficulties of not only being in a relationship, but holding on to one, which is a timeless story and relevant to today’s audiences. Though the attire is correct and the music fits, being a kid/teen of the 90s, it might not have as much of a nostalgic feel as I would like, it still represents the decade nicely. This relevant, intelligent, and in-your-face production with all its twists and turns, chance meetings, and 90s nostalgic music will have you enthralled every step of the way and should be high on your list of things to see in Baltimore theatre this season.
This is what I thought of Fells Point Corner Theatre’s production of Trust… What did you think? Please feel free to leave a comment!
Trust will play through March 19 at Fells Point Corner Theatre, 251 South Ann Street, Baltimore, MD. For more information, go to or purchase tickets online.
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