Review: Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at Artistic Synergy of Baltimore

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy

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Running Time: 1 hour and 45 minutes with one 15-minute intermission

The cast of Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Credit: Artistic Synergy of Baltimore

The cast of Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Credit: Artistic Synergy of Baltimore

There are quite a few shows that are staples in small and community theatre and you will see them pop up weekly in small hamlets and big cities across this great country. Some shows are just so good they never get old and some, well… let’s just say they’re familiar and comfortable. Artistic Synergy of Baltimore’s latest offering, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, with Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Lyrics by Tim Rice, is definitely in the category of never getting old, having been a continued success for nearly five decades. This production, Directed by Mike Zellhofer, with Music Direction by Edward Berlett, Choreogrpahy by Temple Fortson, Set Design by Jordan Hollett, Lighing Design by Jim Shomo, Sound Design by Charles Hirsch, and Costume Design by Lorelei Kahn, shows the ingenuity of a small theatre and manages to put on a well-crafted, fresh production of an old favorite.

The Cast of Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Credit: Artistic Synergy of Baltimore

The Cast of Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Credit: Artistic Synergy of Baltimore

Set Design by Jordan Hollett is far from extravagant and is quite subdued, but a simpler design works for this piece because a Director and Set Designer can create a traditional setting or more whimsical and it will still work. Depending on the theatre and the space, the Set Design for Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat can be a spectacle, but Hollet has decided against this and has gone with a couple of panels on either side of the stage with crudely painted Egyptian and desert scenes and a large, blank white canvas that stretches across the back of the stage reflecting the very colorful light show that happens throughout the production. His set pieces such as a very cartoon-y camel (that looked fabulous, but had some technical trouble the day I saw this production) and a bulky “chariot of gold” work well with this production and do not take away from the story but add to it. Overall, Hollett’s work is minimal, but compliments the piece very nicely.

Lighting and Sound Design go hand in hand with this piece and where the set may be simply, Lighting Design by Jim Shomo is nothing short of a spectacle, in a good way. Shomo uses all the colors of the rainbow (at least all the colors mentioned in song) and lights the entire stage up like NYC’s famed night club Studio 54 in its hey-day. With what looked like state of the art equipment, the lighting is top notch. It’s worth mentioning there are a few heavy strobe effects that aren’t mentioned in the program or in the curtain speech, so, consider this a heads up! In general, Shomo has created a well thought-out design that adds great value to this piece.

Sound is always a challenge for a small theatre (especially in unique places such as church basements) but Charles Hirsch tackles this challenge with the resources he has at his disposal. The space at Artistic Synergy is intimate, not small, but intimate and when you throw a full orchestra right next to the audience, there are going to be some balancing issues. However, there weren’t as many as there could have been and the actors who had featured roles had microphones that made their performances easy to hear, so, Hirsch was able to find that balance to make for an enjoyable performance. One thing I will say is that this is a loud show. I mean more so than the usual loud of a live performance with a live orchestra. There are parts of this show that are downright rock-concert loud and in this space, they might want to pull back just a tad, but, overall, it’s a very nice balance.

Wayne Ivusich and Jim Gerhardt. Credit: Artistic Synergy of Baltimore

Wayne Ivusich and Jim Gerhardt. Credit: Artistic Synergy of Baltimore

Costume Design Lorelei Kahn is very fitting for this piece and many of the costumes are more of a suggestion of the setting rather than full blown costumes. The design is modern and traditional mixed and all of the actors seem very comfortable and everyone is uniform, which adds to the precise look of the piece. In a hometown homage, Jacob proudly displays his Baltimore Ravens jersey which went over very well with the audience in attendance. Joseph’s 11 brothers have a base costume of jeans, sandals, and different colored button down shirts and it’s a smart move because, for each scene, a costume piece is added or taken away depending on what is going on in the scene. The more traditional costumes, such as Egyptian guards, harem wives, and servants are all simple, but very effective and Kahn’s design is attentive and fitting for this production.

The Cast of Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Credit: Artistic Synergy of Baltimore

The Cast of Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Credit: Artistic Synergy of Baltimore

Choreography by Temple Fortson is tight and precise, for the most part, and the cast seems to be comfortable in every dance and, more importantly, they seem to be having a blast, thus, leading to the audience having a blast right along with them. The dances aren’t too complicated that the cast of varying experience can’t handle, but not too simple that they’re simply doing jazz squares in every number. Fortson’s choreography is high energy and full of variety, keeping the story interesting for both the ensemble and the audience, alike. Kudos to Fortson for her work on this piece.

Music Direction by Edward Berlett is superb as this ensemble and featured performers sounded well-rehearsed and confident in each number. The harmonies were present and the performances were tight, in general, and easy to understand. If you are familiar with the piece, you’ll be singing along (in your head, hopefully), and if you are not familiar, you will easily understand the vocals to follow along with the old biblical story. I must also mention the talent and impeccable sound of the live orchestra that took this production to a new level. I wish the names of the orchestra members were listed in the program (there could at least be an insert, these guys and gals are great!) because, just like Berlett is to be commended for his Music Direction, the orchestra deserves many kudos for their near flawless performance.

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is a sung-through show, meaning it’s all music, singing, and dancing with little to no script so, one could argue this type of show only needs a Music Director and Choreographer but there still needs to be a vision and Director Mike Zellhofer gives us a new look at this classic. Presenting an overall traditional staging, Zellhofer makes it fun for both the cast and the audience, and not taking the piece too seriously, but getting the story across smoothly with action that is easy to follow and not taking too much liberty and making it hokey, which is a danger when it comes to shows like this. Zellhofer seems to keep everything under control and crafts a very well-though out production that is a joy to watch.

The Brothers. Credit: Artistic Synergy of Baltimore

The Brothers. Credit: Artistic Synergy of Baltimore

Switching to the performance aspect of this production, I want to mention that the entire ensemble does a fantastic job moving this story along and it’s easy to see each cast member is fully dedicated to this piece and is giving his or her all making for a very successful production. The voices are strong, the choreography is tight, and the chemistry is great as everyone looks as they are having a stellar and fun time with each other which, in turn, makes it fun for the audience.

The roles of Jacob and Potiphar are taken on by Wayne Ivusich who seems to have a very good time with these roles and is comfortable and confident with his performance. He has a good command of the stage and, vocally, is fitting for these roles. He understands the humor in these characters and runs with it making for a strong performance.

Amy Rudai and Lisa Rigsby take on the roles of the Baker and Butler, respectively and they give very good showings as these characters. Traditionally, these characters are doubled and played by two of the brothers, but it was refreshing to see the gender-blind casting for these roles and these ladies pulled them off very nicely. Vocally, they could have been a little stronger, but overall, they gave admirable performances, holding their own against the “guys” and they seems to have a blast with these roles.

Of Joseph’s 11 brothers, there are a few featured roles with and Rueben, the eldest of the Children of Israel, played by Nick Ruth, is one of them. He performs the featured number “One More Angel in Heaven,” a fun country-western style song with a built in hoe-down in which the entire ensemble is dancing and singing about the demise of poor Joseph. Ruth does a commendable job with this number and though it is traditionally sung with a southern twang, his “Baltimore accent” is prominent, but it adds a certain charm to the performance. With a good command of the stage, Ruth gives a good showing and the number itself, is fun going from a slow and steady tempo to a high energy, upbeat tempo making for an pleasant performance.

Asher, portrayed by Bill Bisbee, is another brother who has a featured number called “Those Canaan Days,” in the style of a traditional french ballad. Bisbee does a fine job with the french accent and the other brothers give him fitting backup. Though a slower paced song, the ensemble does a great job keeping it interesting and funny. Vocally, Bisbee gives a strong performance and he’s confident and performs with ease.

Jim Fitzpatrick and Jim Gearhardt. Credit: Artistic Synergy of Baltimore

Jim Fitzpatrick and Jim Gearhardt. Credit: Artistic Synergy of Baltimore

Baltimore theatre veteran Jim Fitzpatrick tackles the role of the Elvis Presley impersonating Pharaoh and he tackles it with gusto. More than just a suggestion of the King of Rock and Roll, Fitzpatrick dons an entire Elvis Presley costume from the pompadour wig and large sunglasses down to the bell-bottomed jumpsuit and gives 100% to this role. His vocals are spot on and his performance is high-energy and he makes a superb showing.

Featured brother Zebulon is played by Joe Weinhoffer and though, usually performed by the brother playing Judah, Weinhoffer performs the featured Caribbean themed 11:00 number, “Benjamin’s Calypso,” with the purpose of defending a wrongly accused little brother, Benjamin. It’s easy to see Weinhoffer is having a delightful time performing this number and the ensemble enthusiastically backs him up. Vocally, he is strong and comfortably holds his own against the ensemble with a very good presence on the stage.

Joe Weinhoffer. Credit: Artistic Synergy of Baltimore

Joe Weinhoffer. Credit: Artistic Synergy of Baltimore

The Narrator is traditionally one of the only featured female roles and for this production at Artistic Synergy of baltimore, this role is split between Mea Holloway and Melissa Broy Fortson. At this particular performance, Mea Holloway takes on the role and though she does quite well, her performance isn’t without a few minor issues including lyrics and timing/cues. Also, at first appearance, with her darker makeup and frequent scowl, she’s a bit harsh looking for the usually jovial Narrator making her seem irritated and preoccupied and it affects her performance. At one point, because of the positioning of a speaker she became a headless storyteller as she was spotlighted from the neck down but her head disappeared behind the shadow of the said speaker – a simple blocking issue any experienced actor would have fixed immediately. Regardless of the minor issues, she has a strong, beautiful voice and, aside from the aforementioned timing/cue problems, she gives an admirable showing in this piece.

Joe Weinhoffer and Jim Gearhardt. Credit: Artistic Synergy of Baltimore

Joe Weinhoffer and Jim Gearhardt. Credit: Artistic Synergy of Baltimore

The titular role of Joseph, the lucky and favorite son of Jacob is portrayed nicely by Jim Gerhardt and he gives a strong, confident presentation. He makes the role his own and has a strong, clear voice to back up his performance. Though it is every actors responsibility and prerogative to make a role or song his or her own, occasionally, it’s wise to keep songs simple. In my experience in musical theatre, tenors love their money notes. How can they not? They feel good and they’re fun to sing. However, it is important to understand that every last note of every song does not have to be taken up an octave or harmonized to a higher note and, in this case, Gerhardt frequently toys with the melody and it loses that special something when it’s overdone. With that being said, his performance is absolutely commendable and he gives a fresh look at the character. His performance of “Any Dream Will Do” and “Close Every Door” (money note included) are very good and he is comfortable with this character and gives a strong, enjoyable performance.

Final though… Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at Artistic Synergy of Baltimore is community and small theatre at its finest. With familiar nods to our charming little town of Baltimore and some very talented folks, it’s definitely worth checking out. The ensemble is dedicated and gives 100% to the performance and everyone is having a great time on stage and with each other, making for a fun, upbeat, feel-good show that can be enjoyed by all.

That’s what I thought about Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, playing at Artisti Synergy of Baltimore… what did you think? Please feel free to leave a comment!

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat will play through December 18 at Artistic Synergy of Baltimore, Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, 8212 Philadelphia Road, Baltimore, MD. Tickets are available at the door (cash, check, or credit card) or purchase them online.

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Review: Harry Connick Jr.’s The Happy Elf at Red Branch Theatre Company

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy

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Running Time: 90 minutes with one 10-minute intermission

Tis the season for joy and merry making and the latest offering from Red Branch Theatre Company, Harry Connick Jr.’s The Happy Elf with Music & Lyrics by Harry Connick, Jr. and Book by Lauren Gunderson & Andrew Fishman, with Direction by Laura Greffen, Music Direction by Dustin Merrell, Choreography by Rick Westerkamp, Scenic Design by Gary Grabau, Costume Design by Andrew Malone, and Lighting Design by Stephanie Lynn Williams and Amy Williamson has all this and more. Grab the kids, nieces, nephews, or any young person in your life and check out this fun story of never giving up and discovering one of the true meanings of Christmas.

The cast of Harry Connick Jr.'s The Happy Elf. Credit: Bruce F Press Photography

The cast of Harry Connick Jr.’s The Happy Elf. Credit: Bruce F Press Photography

Scenic Design by Gary Grabau is simple yet innovative for this production and the clever use of levels keeps the set interesting as well as the use of revolving flats to create the various settings and getting the cast on and off quickly and quietly. The painted scenes of the North Pole with snow covered hillsides and Evergreen trees are cute and serve their purpose but might be a little plain for such a fun show. However, overall, the scenic design is bright and very fitting for this piece. It’s worth mentioning the inventive, working conveyer belts in Santa’s workshop add great value to this production making for a well-thought out set.

To set the mood, Lighting Design by Stephanie Lynn Williams and Amy Williamson use the lighting wisely to show contrast between the bright and busy North Pole to the downtrodden and dark Bluesville. Lighting is appropriate and does not take away from the production but blends in making for smooth transitions and gives the correct cues to what feeling each scene has.

The cast of Harry Connick, Jr.'s The Happy Elf. Credit: Bruce F Press Photography

The cast of Harry Connick, Jr.’s The Happy Elf. Credit: Bruce F Press Photography

Veteran Costume Designer Andrew Malone never disappoints and this production is no different. Malone hits the nail on the head with this fanciful wardrobe for elves and dear old Santa Clause and citizens of Bluesville alike. Each elf costume is individual and adds to the characters and all the costumes are traditional, yet they all have a contemporary flair and Mr. Malone is to commended for his work on this production.

The cast of Harry Connick, Jr.'s The Happy Elf. Credit: Bruce F Press Photography

The cast of Harry Connick, Jr.’s The Happy Elf. Credit: Bruce F Press Photography

As this is a show with music by the incomparable Harry Connick, Jr., it goes without saying there is a lot of music and it is, after all, a musical. So, with lots of music comes lots of dancing and Choreographer Rick Westerkamp has taken on this challenge with ease and has this ensemble dancing and gliding across the stage in each number accompanied by this fun and jazzy score. The choreography is well thought-out and is a great match for Connicks music.

Speaking of Connick’s music, Music Direction by Dustin Merrell is superb. Though there is no live orchestra, the consolation prize is hearing the smooth, jazzy recorded voice of Harry Connick, Jr. himself tell the story of The Happy Elf in between the scenes. Merrell has a strong vocal ensemble and has them sounding fantastic in each number. These aren’t the old fashioned Christmas Pageant songs you’ll hear throughout the season, but new jazzy holiday show tunes and Merrell has the cast singing in harmony that rings throughout the theatre.

The Cast of Harry Connick, Jr.'s The Happy Elf. Credit: Bruce F Press Photography

The Cast of Harry Connick, Jr.’s The Happy Elf. Credit: Bruce F Press Photography

Harry Connick, Jr.’s The Happy Elf is certainly a children’s show, meaning it is a show for children and directing this type of show can be tricky. However, Director Laura Greffen has taken on this challenge and has produced an unqualified success. Her vision is apparent and she understands the humor geared for a young audience, but also understands that parents and adults may be in the audience, as well, and she finds a happy medium to entertain everyone. She keeps the action moving and precise to stay within the 90 minutes, including the intermission and that’s perfect for any children’s show. Overall, Greffen gives us a well put-together and smooth running production.

Moving into the performance aspect of this production, Todd Hochkoppel takes on the role of Mayor and though his is confident and comfortable in this role, his performance fell a little flat for me. However, that’s not to say he didn’t do a good job, because he certainly, like all of the ensemble, gave 100% to his character and understood what his character was about making for a good performance in general.

Adeline K. Sutter takes on the role of an unconventional, modern, slinkier Mrs. Clause that we’re used to, but she pulls it off nicely. Likened more to an old time gangster moll, her acting chops weren’t stretched completely as her only expression was one of irritation and contempt, but she pulled them off very nicely. Sutter takes on double duty and portrays Coppa, an agent in “Gnomeland Security” and a nemesis of our hero, Eubie the Elf. Her talents are much better portrayed in this role and her performance is strong and entertaining.

Santa, the big man himself, is played masterfully by Dean Allen Davis and I’ve got to say, he’s a pretty spot on Santa Clause with a big, resonating speaking voice that booms throughout the theatre. However, his singing voice isn’t as strong, but he still makes a good showing as the joyful old man that has a tummy like a bowlful of jelly.

Dean Allen Davis, Adeline K. Sutter, and Seth Fallon. Credit: Bruce F Press Photography

Dean Allen Davis, Adeline K. Sutter, and Seth Fallon. Credit: Bruce F Press Photography

Seth Fallon takes on the role of Norbert, the curmudgeon head honcho Elf in the North Pole who isn’t a big fan of our hero and is by the book and waiting for our hero to falter. Fallon does a fantastic job as the stuffy, sour elf trying to ruin everything the hero is trying to accomplish and he makes the role his own. As good a job he does with the character, he does carry around an “assistant” that is a hand puppet and I’m still scratching my head as to the purpose of said puppet other than children always appreciate a funny looking puppet because it did not seem to move the story forward or have any importance at all. Regardless, Fallong gives a strong, confident performance.

Katie Ganem. Credit: Bruce F Press Photography

Katie Ganem. Credit: Bruce F Press Photography

Molly and Curtis, the bad kids from Bluesville are played by Katie Ganem and Sarah Luckadoo, respectively. These two characters, mainly Molly, are the two kids Eubie the Elf is supposed to help see the light and the true meaning of Christmas. Both Ganen and Luckadoo do outstanding jobs portraying bratty kids running amuck in the town, causing trouble and not caring much about anything and Ganen as Molly, gets the point across that she is a neglected child, probably just acting out to get attention. Luckadoo is perfect as the “sidekick” and willing participant in the brattiness going on. The two actors have a great chemistry with each other and the rest of the cast making for wonderful performances.

Megan Henderson takes on the role of Gilda, the sweet, shy elf who has a thing for our hero, Eubie, and Courtney Branch tackles the role of Hamm, the mechanic elf, who spends more time under a sleigh than inside of it. Both of these actresses were confident and comfortable in their respective roles and gave strong performances. Megan Anderson gives off an air of feminine cuteness that the character requires while she tries to get the attentions of Eubie and, most of the time failing, but for no fault of her own. On the other end of the spectrum, Courtney Branch, as Hamm, is very likeable and believable as the more tom-boyish character that just wants to help her friends. Both actors seem to understand the individuality of their characters and plays them accordingly making them a joy to watch.

Cheryl Campo. Credit: Bruce F Press Photography

Cheryl Campo. Credit: Bruce F Press Photography

A definite highlight of this production is Cheryl Campo who plays Gurt, the wife of the Mayor of Bluesville. Aside from being very expressive and totally giving 100% to her role, this lady has a set of pipes on her! Though her solo number is a bit short, it’s easy to hear the strong vocals and they certainly shine through in the ensemble numbers, as well. Campo commands the stage quite well and is an absolute joy to watch. I look forward to seeing more from her in the future.

Justin Moe. Credit: Bruce F Press Photography

Justin Moe. Credit: Bruce F Press Photography

Finally, we get to our hero, Eubie the Happy Elf, played skillfully by Justin Moe. Simply going on looks, I couldn’t imagine anyone else playing this role other than Justin Moe but, look aside, he had me sold from the start. He was able to keep the energy up the entire 90 minutes and is absolutely believable as this character, giving his all and taking the role seriously enough to bring the audience into the story. He obviously understands his character’s objective and each choice he makes moves his character toward that goal of making sure Christmas is enjoyed by everyone, even a dark, salty town like Bluesville. Moe is a pleasure to watch with his strong vocal performance, and assured performance that makes him a distinct standout in this production.

Final though… Harry Connick Jr.’s The Happy Elf at Red Branch Theatre Company is a fun, feel-good holiday story that is a good break from the hustle and bustle of this season and it’s perfect for the family as a whole. The kids will adore it and the story is endearing for adults as well, reminding us what Christmas is all about. Take a break from the aforementioned hustle and bustle and take a trip down to Red Branch Theatre Company to join in on their merry making!

That’s what I thought about Harry Connick Jr.’s The Happy Elf, playing at Red Branch Theatre Company… what did you think? Please feel free to leave a comment!

Harry Connick Jr.’s The Happy Elf will play through December 18 at Red Branch Theatre Company, 9130-I Red Branch Road, Columbia, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (410) 220-6517 or purchase them online.

Review: DOT at Everyman Theatre

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy

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

Family. You always love them but sometimes you don’t like them very much and that’s OK. The latest offering from Everyman Theatre, DOT by Coleman Domingo and Directed by Vincent M. Lancisi, with Set Design by James Fouchard, Lighting Design by Harold F. Burgess II, Sound Design by Elisheba Ittoop, and Costume Design by David Burdick gives us a glimpse into the lives of a middle-class West Philadelphia family who are dealing with illness, change, and individual demons that are trying to get them down. All of these issues thrown into the pot make for an entertaining, bittersweet tale that is relatable and very important, tackling Alzheimer’s disease and Dementia in a way that is accessible to all audiences.

Dawn Ursula and Sharon Hope. Photo by Stan Barouh

Dawn Ursula and Sharon Hope. Photo by Stan Barouh

Set in present day in an old neighborhood in West Philadelphia, Dotty is the widowed matriarch of a middle class family with three grown children including two daughters and one son. Recently, the tables have turned and the children are finding they are all of a sudden taking care of mom rather than the other way around. When it comes to family, you deal, you compromise, and you make sacrifices. Family is just plain hard to deal with sometimes but then, nature likes to throw a curve ball and it throws Alzheimer’s disease or Dementia on top of everything else and the ball game changes completely.

As I’ve stated before, Everyman Theatre has not disappointed when it comes to sets for their productions and James Fouchard’s exquisite Set Design is no different. He has managed to recreate an elegant upper-middle class home that is still “homey” with working kitchen appliances and crown molding that’s to die for! Fouchard’s ingenuity shines through as the entire set makes a complete shift to the left during intermission for Act II. What was once a large kitchen and dining room (left to right) becomes ¼ kitchen, dining room, and large living room (left to right) within 15 minutes. His attention to detail from the tchotchkes around the room to the beautifully decorated Christmas tree is superb and authentic and Fouchard is to be commended for his striking design.

Lighting and Sound Design by Harold F. Burgess II and Elisheba Ittoop, respectively, is well thought out and absolutely appropriate to this piece. Burgess’ Lighting Design is spot on giving the audience cues to what time of day it is both inside and outside and sets the mood beautifully throughout the piece. Working in tandem with Lighting Design, Ittoop’s Sound Design works nicely, especially when a good old fashioned vinyl record of a bygone era is played on the record player giving a nostalgic feel to the entire piece. Along with that, whether scripted or otherwise, the song choices for this production near perfect and move the piece along with ease.

Yaegal T. Wlech, Paige Hernandez, and Dawn Ursula. Photo by Stan Barouh

Yaegal T. Wlech, Paige Hernandez, and Dawn Ursula. Photo by Stan Barouh

Costume Design by David Burdick is superb capturing the contemporary look of this middle-class family in West Philly. Not being a period piece, costumes are pretty much every day styles but Burdick’s design still shines as each character’s style is unique, adding to each character’s presence. Urban elegance is what I would call this costume plot and it works impeccably with this piece, adding to the value of the production.

The script for DOT (by none other than Coleman Domingo, a star of AMC’s Fear the Walking Dead) is touching on a delicate topic and is funny and poignant at the same time so any director has to handle it adroitly but under the bright helm of Director Vincent M. Lancisi, this piece shines. Lancisi really understands this piece and uses the humor of the script wisely, catching the audience off guard, at times, and breaking up the drama of this emotional story. His characters are authentic and his casting makes for great chemistry onstage. He keeps the action moving smoothly and presents an on point and very well put together production.

Moving on to the performance aspect of DOT, this ensemble is impeccable. They work well together, have the right look, and each actor understands his or her character and the inner emotional factors and outside actions that move them.

Ryan Carlo Dalusung and Sharon Hope. Photo by Stan Barouh

Ryan Carlo Dalusung and Sharon Hope. Photo by Stan Barouh

Ryan Carlo Dalusung takes on the role of Fidel, a more supporting role of caregiver to our titular character, Dot, but just as significant as every other character in this piece. Dalusung gives strong performance as the Kazakhstani caregiver who answered a Craigslist ad and really seems to get his characters purpose of going through a similar situation as Dot, not really understanding everything that is going on at all times with the only difference being his handicap is a language barrier while Dot’s is more physical. I did have slight issue with his accent as I heard it as more South American or Spanish but it very could be Kazakhstani as Kazakhstan is placed smack dab in the middle between Russia, The Middle East, Eastern Europe, and Asia… any one of those accents may have worked. Regardless of the accent, Dalusung gives a believable performance making his character very likable and befitting with the family for whom he works.

Rob Jansen and Sharon Hope. Photo by Stan Barouh

Rob Jansen and Sharon Hope. Photo by Stan Barouh

The role of Adam, the fussy husband of the only male of the family who has some demons of his own to contend with, is masterfully played by Rob Jansen. Adam is a 40-year-old who is possibly in the beginnings of a mid-life crisis and Jansen’s portrayal is near perfect. He gets this character and he is comfortable on the stage. He manages to show two sides of this character with one being the nagging husband of Donnie as well as the empathetic, sweet son-in-law of Dotty. His delivery may be a bit too careful at times, sounding a bit scripted and unnatural, but overall, his character is congenial he gives a confident and enjoyable performance.

Dawn Ursula, Paige Hernandez, and Yaegel T. Welch.  Photo by Stan Barouh

Dawn Ursula, Paige Hernandez, and Yaegel T. Welch. Photo by Stan Barouh

Yaegel T. Welch tackles the role of Donnie, the prodigal (and only) son of Dotty, who is a 40-year-old freelance writer and middle child, who might not like the idea of his mother being sick. Welch’s portrayal of Donnie is absolutely outstanding as he navigates through the emotions of this character, dealing with the possibility of growing apart from his husband, not having a steady job in New York, caring for a sick parent, and wanting children. Throw in an ex-girlfriend and you have the makings of a pretty heavy character, but Welch takes this challenge and runs with it. His mannerisms and overall attitude make for a very authentic and affable character and, comparing to my brother, the middle child in my own family, Welch plays this role beautifully. His chemistry with his fellow cast mates is wonderful and he gives a strong, confident performance.

Dawn Ursula and Sharon Hope. Photo by Stan Barouh

Dawn Ursula and Sharon Hope. Photo by Stan Barouh

Shelly, the overbearing, eldest child who is also a stressed out, day-drinking single mom is played by Resident Artist Dawn Ursula, and she pulls off this role flawlessly. Her character, like many caretakers, feels as though she’s the only one of her siblings dealing with the situation of a sick parent while trying to stay afloat in her own life and the gesticulations and emotion that exudes from Ursula’s performance are outstanding. She captures the desperation and stress of this character but also gets the humor that is intertwined making for a very real and relatable. Her delivery might be a bit too forceful in the beginning, sounding too scripted and deliberate, but as the show progresses, her delivery falls into a very good rhythm, fitting in nicely with the show as a whole. I just wish it would have happened from the beginning. Ursula managed to get to the heart of this character and it makes for a very strong, entertaining, touching, and noteworthy performance.

Dawn Ursula and Paige Hernandez. Photo by Stan Barouh

Dawn Ursula and Paige Hernandez. Photo by Stan Barouh

Paige Hernandez takes on the role of Averie, the youngest, brash, lost-all-give-a-f**k, one-time YouTube sensation, and she is a standout in this production. Though the character, with her loud entrances and blunt replies, seems to be the comic relief of the piece, Hernandez pulls off the character with excellence and ease.  She is very natural and confident in this role and her comedic timing and delivery are spot on. Being the youngest in my family, I can assure you, her attitude toward and actions in the situations that arise in the show are just about perfect. I think the youngest of any brood has his or her own ideas on how things run and, usually, he or she thinks she absolutely right and Hernandez portrays this in a way that hits home for me. Her performance is definitely funny, but it is also moving making the character of Averie well-rounded and well-performed. Kudos to Hernandez on a great performance.

Dawn Ursula and Megan Anderson. Photo by Stan Barouh

Dawn Ursula and Megan Anderson. Photo by Stan Barouh

Another definitely highlight in this production of DOT is Resident Artist Megan Anderson, who takes on the role of Jackie, the high school sweetheart of Donnie and a current hot mess. Jackie has a plethora of problems of her own, but sometimes family doesn’t mean just blood related and she gets sucked into the situations of this family she’s known her entire life. Anderson is so natural in this role and brings a realness to it that it was easy for me to forget she was reading from a script. Her story of life in the big city, infidelity, being single, and coming home for a break from life is just as interesting as the main plot and Anderson carries it well. She plays her character to fit right in with this family and she shines in her performance. Her authenticity and comedic timing are impeccable, as are her emotional scenes, making her character amiable and relatable. Kudos to Anderson for a job very well done.

Sharon Hope with the Cast of DOT. Photo by Stan Barouh

Sharon Hope with the Cast of DOT. Photo by Stan Barouh

The pinnacle of this production certainly Sharon Hope, who takes on the titular role of Dotty (or Dot), the elderly, strong matriarch of this crazy family who, by fate alone, is slipping into an inevitable oblivion because of the recent diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. Hope takes this role and makes it her own and it’s hard to imagine anyone else in this role. Though an elderly character, she’s a contemporary character and Hope manages to embrace the old fashioned (and conservative) values of this woman but brings an air of au fait to the character. Her quick transitions from congenial mother to angry, confused woman is on point and poignant. She is able to portray the struggles of one whose mind is slowly slipping away, with no way of coming back while at the same time portraying a woman who loves and enjoys her family and wants to be present for as long as she can. Her performance is top notch and is worth the price of admission.

Yaegel T. Welch, Dawn Ursula, Sharon Hope, Ryan Carlo Dalusung, and Paige Hernandez. Photo by Stan Barouh

Yaegel T. Welch, Dawn Ursula, Sharon Hope, Ryan Carlo Dalusung, and Paige Hernandez. Photo by Stan Barouh

Final though… DOT at Everyman Theatre is a well-crafted story of an everyday family and is a relatable, poignant, and funny study into an issue that is far from funny, but absolutely present in our current lives. I laughed, I cried, I had all the feels, and whether you’ve experienced Alzheimer’s or Dementia first hand, indirectly, or not at all, you will walk away with a better understanding and perhaps a bit more compassion for our fellow humans, especially those affected by this disease. Get your tickets now because this is not a production that is to be missed this season.

That’s what I thought about DOT, playing at Everyman Theatre… what did you think? Please feel free to leave a comment!

To learn more about Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, please go to Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association.

DOT will play through January 8 at Everyman Theatre, 315 West Fayette Street, Baltimore, MD. For tickets, call the box office at 410-752-2208 or purchase them online.