Review: The Christians at Baltimore Center Stage

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy

Running Time: Approx. 90 minutes with no intermission

Religion can be a tricky thing to write an entire show about. Religion is a very personal concept and people have very strong feelings about it which makes it even more risky. However, to find a good balance and write a show about religion that isn’t over-saturated with said religion is a rare and beautiful thing and Baltimore Center Stage’s latest production, The Christians by Lucas Hnath, Directed by Hana S. Sharif, with Music Direction by Jaret Landon, is just that, a fine balance of beliefs told in an entertaining but honest and poignant way that makes for an enjoyable, yet thought-provoking evening of theatre.

Mike Carnahan’s Set Design is minimal, but beautiful. This set puts the audience in the seats of a mega-church with a sleek and modern design that is quite functional, including a choir loft and bandstand for the outstanding choir and small band that is included in this piece. Most of the action takes place center stage and the minimal design prevents mucking up or crowding the actors and the band and choir, though set back, is prominent and easy to see, as they should be. This clever set design works in tandem with the stunning and mood-setting Projection Design by Hana S. Kim, that adds value to the production and, as stated, sets the mood for each scene and action happening onstage.

As with any mega-church, or any service in general, music is an important aspect and Music Director Jaret Landon knocks it out of the ballpark with this production. Wisely, this piece starts off with the choir (credited as the Community Choir of Baltimore Center Stage) with an upbeat, gospel piece that has the audience tapping their feet and clapping their hands. Some even sing along, which is actually encouraged. I’d like to note I am a HUGE fan of gospel music and I found myself tapping, clapping, and singing! Landon has the choir singing in beautiful harmony and the soloists were on point. The band, consisting of Jaret Landon on Keyboards, Todd Harrison on Drums, Max Murray on Bass, and Michael Raitzyk on Guitar are tight and well-rehearsed making for a phenomenal performance along with the Community Choir of Baltimore Center Stage. The music aspect of this production really put the audience in the mindset of the piece. The only stumble that comes along in the musical styling of this production is the last choir performance which is kind of like an audience-interactive piece, like in a church, and though the choir is just as strong as they are in the beginning, the male soloist is a curious choice as he doesn’t seem to have the gospel style down as well as he should for a finale, a little stiff and a little more subdued and technical than called for, the soloists performance just seems to fall flat. Otherwise, major kudos to a job well done in the music department.

Lighting Design by Jen Schriever is precise and fits well with this production. With isolation lighting and splashes of color, where needed, it blends nicely and moves the piece along without jarring the aesthetics or being a hindrance to the piece itself. A true sign of a good lighting design is when one doesn’t notice the lighting, but does when needed and that’s exactly what happens with Schriever’s design.

Hana S. Sharif takes the reigns of The Christians and she does, indeed, have a great comprehension of the text and the meaning of this complex story. Her casting is spot on and they all work well together. Her vision is clear and the piece does not lean to one side or the other but balances just as the text requires. Sharif does well with the multifaceted issue of afterlife and one’s belief in that afterlife, which is the center of this piece, and presents it in a way that is a back and forth dialogue instead of an argument. The pacing is near perfect and she keeps the action moving forward with moments of intensity between certain characters that give it a peaks and valleys movement which is exactly what makes this show work.

Moving on to the performance aspect of The Christians, every single actor in this ensemble made his or her character his or her own and worked with and off of their cast mates beautifully.

Jessiee Datino takes on the role of Jenny, a single mom who found redemption and salvation in the church and wants desperately to keep what she found but is having questions which she hesitantly, but bravely presents. Datino has this this character down pat. From the nervous giggling to the gestures, she really embodies this character of Jenny and has a good grasp on her. Datino gives a strong, natural, and delightful performance.

Lawrence Clayton (who if you look really quickly, could be a Lawrence Fishburn double) takes on the role of Elder Jay, a jovial but-business minded gentlemen who really wants what best for the church. Clayton plays this role splendidly with an authenticity that makes this character quite likeable and wise.

Adam Gerber tackles the role of Associate Pastor Joshua, the staunch, zealous, yet faithful Associate Pastor who wants what’s best for the church, just like the rest of the characters, but also wants to be certain everyone believes in a certain doctrine or dogma. Gerber plays the role intensely and confidently, making his character not so likable, but not despicable. His emotion and gestures give an authenticity to this character that Gerber completely embodies. The thing about his character is, we all, in one way or another, directly or indirectly, know a person like this character and he’s hard to figure out. He has an objective, that Gerber works for brilliantly, but it’s still hard to reconcile our respect for this character and our own beliefs, making for a stimulating and exasperating character that Gerber pulls off effortlessly.

Taking on the role of Elizabeth, the preachers wife, is Nikkole Salter who has an air of elegance and dignity that is required for this role. She fits perfectly with this character and gives a poignant, truthful performance. Salter works especially well with and has great chemistry with her counter-part, Howard W. Overshow, who takes on the complex role of Pastor Paul, who’s belief is changing and trying to deal with it and the opinions of his congregation. Overshow is an absolute standout in this production giving a superb performance. From the moment he steps onstage, one feels they are in a service watching a strong, confident preacher do his thing. His booming, yet comforting voice and gestures make for an extremely realistic performance and the emotion he emotes throughout his more intense scenes is outstanding. His anguish and confusion is clear in his performance and he handles the balance beautifully.

Final thought… The Christians is a poignant, though-provoking look at beliefs and how they can shape or even re-shape a person’s outlook on life. The performances were top-notch and the book by Lucas Hnath is cleverly written as he doesn’t dwell so much on religion but on individual views on the afterlife and gives a good balance of those views. From set design, lighting, and the amazing choir supporting this piece; you don’t want to miss it! It may have you asking questions or confirming what you already believe but either way, it will make you think and that’s always what good theatre does. Get your tickets now!

This is what I thought of Baltimore Center Stage’s production of The Christians… What did you think? Please feel free to leave a comment!

The Christians will play through October 8 at Baltimore Center Stage, 700 North Calvert Street, Baltimore, MD. For tickets, purchase them online.

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Review: Two Trains Running at Spotlighters Theatre

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy

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

August Wilson is a master in telling the everyday, slice-of-life stories of the average African-American community and his Pittsburg Cycle, a 10-play cycle of stories (mostly) out of Pittsburg, gives insight to the African-American experience during whole of the 20th century with one play touching on one decade in the century. With the recent popularity and critical acclaim for the film version of Fences, Wilson’s work has been brought to the forefront or, at least, has made a resurgence, which is warranted. Spotlighters Theatre’s latest offering, Two Trains Running, Directed by Fuzz Roark, with Set Design by Alan S. Zemla and Costumes by House of Bankard, touches on the late 1960s experience with authenticity and truthfulness that can only be found in a small neighborhood café with their regular crowd. This production is a great start to an exciting new season.

 

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Set Design by Alan S. Zemla for Two Trains Running at Spotlighters Theatre. Photo: Spotlighters Theatre / Shaelyn Jae Photography

With the intimate space at Spotlighters Theatre, some productions can be more difficult than others and sometimes a big show can feel stuffed into the space however, with the Set Design for this production of Two Trains Running, Alan S. Zemla has outdone himself. He used his space wisely, even with the four troublesome pillars holding the place up! Impressively, he used as much space as needed, but it did not feel cramped in any way. One corner for a counter, one corner for a window table and a jukebox, and one corner for the main entrance and front window while using the main stage for the main dining room worked out perfectly for this piece. It was an open design but not so open that the intimacy was lost. His choice of colors is spot with pinks and blues, which I imagine are remnants of an earlier era of bobbysocks and Elvis Presley that stuck around until the late 60s. Overall, the design is impressive, smart, and simple, working with the space and not against it. Kudos for a job well done.

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Linae Bullock and Troy Jennings. Photo: Spotlighters Theatre / Shaelyn Jae Photography

Costumes by House of Bankard never disappoint and it’s the same for this production. Each era definitely has its own style and anytime a piece is hitting the cusp of a decade or era, it can be tricky. The late 1960s were flashy (paving the road for the outlandish 70s), but when you walked through a regular, blue-collar neighborhood, you didn’t see the avant garde fashions that were in the streets of New York City or Paris or Milan, but… just regular every day folks and House of Bankard does an admirable job with the wardrobes for these actors. You could see the differences in these characters by appearance alone and each costume fit each character beautifully from a café waitress, to the stylish proprietor of the café, to an elderly working-man, to the rich under-taker across the street. All costuming is appropriate and feels natural adding great value to the production.

Direction by Fuzz Roark is impeccable in this production. Roark really seems to have a great comprehension of this story and the characters and, though there is no major conflict or purpose, most days don’t and Roark guides these apt actors through a day as if we were actually sitting in the café with them, give the entire production an overall authenticity. Roark is experienced working in the round and the action was fluid. It’s a lengthy play, but it doesn’t feel lengthy because of the spot on pacing and, with the intimate space helping, the immersive feeling as if you are sitting at the table right next to these characters.

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Timothy Eric Andrews as West. Photo: Spotlighters Theatre / Shaelyn Jae Photography

Moving into the performance aspect of this piece, it’s worth noting that every single actor in this small ensemble gives 100% effort and entirely embodies his or her character. Major kudos to the entire ensemble of this production of Two Trains Running.

Timothy Eric Andrews takes on the role of West, the very rich owner of the funeral home who seems to want what’s best for the neighborhood, but doesn’t hide the fact that whatever he does can benefit him, as well. Andrews has a very good look for this part and is confident in his role, if not more soft-spoken that I like, at times, but his character mannerisms are a good fit for this character.

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Linae Bullock and Aaron Hancock. Photo: Spotlighters Theatre / Shaelyn Jae Photography

Taking on the role of mentally challenged Hambone, who is obsessed with getting his ham (which was payment for painting a fence a decade before) from the grocer across the street from the café, is played by Aaron Hancock who does a bang up job with this character. Totally believable and brave, Hancock treats this character delicately and gives a strong, authentic performance that makes you want to take him in his arms and protect him.

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Troy Jennings as Sterling Johnson. Photo: Spotlighters Theatre / Shaelyn Jae Photography

Taking on the role of the young, kind of mixed up and searching ex-con, Sterling Johnson, is Troy Jennings, who gives an admirable performance. Though his performance is a bit too technical and stiff instead of fluid and natural, he still gives a confident, precise performance, and gives his all for this character. Sterling Johnson isn’t someone you know you can trust… at first, then he grows on you and this is exactly how Jennings played this character and it worked nicely. His chemistry with the rest of the cast is very good and jovial but when it comes to his scenes with Linae Bullock, who plays Risa is, things seem a bit scripted, but still believable and the two work well together.

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Linae Bullock as Rissa. Photo: Spotlighters Theatre / Shaelyn Jae Photography

Linae Bullock is a standout in this production as Risa, the lone female character and only employee at the café. Her natural motion and delivery of her dialogue had me believing she was this character from the first time she walked on stage. The character is jaded, but underneath the hard exterior, she has big heart and wants to be loved and Bullock presented this near perfectly.

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Mack Leamon as Wolf. Photo: Spotlighters Theatre / Shaelyn Jae Photography

Wolf, the neighborhood “numbers guy,” who is actually a likeable person, regardless of his not-so-legal choice of profession, is played by Mack Leamon who does a brilliant job with the role. He plays the character low-key, as required by one running on the outskirts of the law, and with a heart for the neighborhood and its inhabitants. Leamon doesn’t overplay the light conflict between Wolf and Sterling (whether it be because of Rissa or a change in the rules of the numbers game) making it believable.

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Tyrell Martin as Holloway. Photo: Spotlighters Theatre / Shaelyn Jae Photography

Next, probably my favorite character and a highlight in this piece is Holloway, the down-home, common sense elderly regular who always has an anecdote or story for every situation, is played Tyrell Martin.  The only slight flaw is that Martin may be too young for this role. Appearance-wise, this may have been more successful in a bigger space, but in the intimate surroundings of Spotlighters, it just didn’t read as well as it should have. HOWEVER, that’s not to say Martin’s performance wasn’t spectacular, because it most certainly was! He has a good grasp of this character and his purpose and pulls it off beautifully. Aside from looking too young for the part, he even has the mannerisms and gestures of an elderly gentleman down pat. He fully embodies this role and makes me feel like he’s the good-natured uncle who you visit for a spell, just sitting on the stoop, talking about everything under the sun and watching the world go by.

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Louis B. Murray as Memphis Lee. Photo: Spotlighters Theatre / Shaelyn Jae Photography

Rounding out the small ensemble and a standout in this piece is Louis B. Murray who tackles the role of Memphis Lee, the proprietor of the small Pittsburg café, in which this piece takes place, known simply as Memphis Lee’s. Murray, who has experience with August Wilson works, is superb as the non-nonsense, old-timer who doesn’t seem to understand the generation of outspoken activists. Murray understands where this character is coming from and gives a confident, natural performance. He delivers August Wilson’s words with passion and intensity, when needed, as well as with a tenderness that is seeping just under the surface in this character. He, too, is someone to whom everyone can relate… like an older uncle or family friend who you don’t mind spending an hour or two with each week, just talking and learning. His chemistry with the rest of the ensemble is on point, as well, making for a strong, thoughtful performance.

Final thought… Two Trains Running is a poignant, relatable look at the African-American experience in America, told masterfully with a thoughtful script, good directing, and exquisite performances. The chemistry in the cast is strong and every actor has a good comprehension of what their characters are all about and how they fit in the story. As part of a 10-play cycle, this work stands alone and really puts you in the moment. Though there’s no major conflict, this piece works nicely as a “slice of life” piece where the audience is witness to every day goings on in a small café in Pittsburg and, because of the dialogue and situations, it’s still enthralling. This production is a great addition to the theatre season and you should get your tickets now!

This is what I thought of Spotlighters Theatre production of Two Trains Running… What did you think? Please feel free to leave a comment!

Two Trains Running will play through October 8 at Spotlighters Theatre, 817 St. Paul Street, Baltimore, MD. For tickets, purchase them online.

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PRESS RELEASE: Fells Point Corner Theatre seeking original 10-minute plays by Baltimore area playwrights for the 10 x 10 x 10 (2018) Unfinished Business

Fells Point Corner Theatre is seeking original 10-minute plays by Baltimore area playwrights for our critically acclaimed play festival 10x10x10.  The 10x10x10 play festival has turned into a staple of local theatre in Baltimore, selling out nearly every performance for the last two year.

As is tradition with our 10x10x10 festival, we will collect audience votes at the end of each performance.  The top play, by the accumulation of votes, will be awarded an Audience Selection Award in the form of a cash prize of $150. That’s 10 TIMES the price of admission!  Second and third place finishers will also receive a cash prize award.  See festival rules and guidelines below for more information.

The 10x10x10 festival  will open on Friday, March 31st and run through Sunday, April 16th.  They will be performed in our Godfrey Stage on the first floor.  Performances will be held on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings @ 8:00pm and Sunday afternoons at 2:00pm. General admission tickets will be sold for $15 for all performances.

SUBMISSION RULES AND GUIDELINES:

  • Scripts should be submitted via email between September 24th, 2017 and January 7th, 2018 to submissions@fpct.org. Scripts must be attached as a PDF.
  • Playwrights located in or around the Baltimore area are eligible for production. Playwrights who no longer reside in Baltimore but were once Baltimore-based artists may also submit. We encourage those playwrights who are selected to engage with us during the rehearsal process.
  • Writers can submit a maximum of two plays.
  • The body of the email should contain the playwright’s first and last name, address, and a primary phone number. Please also attach a character list, as well as the genders and ages of characters if the script calls for them. The play should be included as an attachment, preferably a .pdf or .doc, with the playwright’s name and contact information removed from the actual script (blind submission).
  • Submissions should be no more than 1700 words in length.  If your play is longer than that we will read it but you may be asked to provide a shortened version.  Whether or not you want to provide a shortened script will be completely up to you.
  • No child actors will be cast.
  • Scripts must have relatively simple demands for stage, costume, props or other design requirements. No script may have more than six characters.
  • Scripts must represent completely original works. We are looking for NEW plays. Please do not submit anything that has previously been produced. No adaptations or transcriptions.
  • Audience votes will be tallied and cash prizes will be given out on the final Sunday of the festival. 1st Place – $150.00 2nd Place – $100.00 and 3rd Place – $50.00.

DEADLINE FOR ALL ENTRIES IS 11:59 PM Sunday, January 7th, 2018.

PRESS RELEASE: Friends, Romans, Countrymen (and Women): JULIUS CAESAR, by William Shakespeare at Chesapeake Shakespeare Company, Sept. 29 – Oct. 29, 2017

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:      

Friends, Romans, Countrymen (and Women): JULIUS CAESAR, by William Shakespeare

Chesapeake Shakespeare Company, Sept. 29 – Oct. 29, 2017

BALTIMORE (Sept. 18, 2017) — With Julius Caesar and the Roman conspirators wearing suits instead of togas, the classic tragedy of political morals and personal ambition marches into the present September 29 through October 29, 2017, at Chesapeake Shakespeare Company, 7 South Calvert Street, Baltimore, MD 21202.

Caesar’s adoring fans and paparazzi will give him the celebrity treatment as he returns victorious from foreign wars. Theatre audiences will be encouraged to cheer his homecoming, too. However, as every school kid knows, the great general’s amassed power makes him the target of scheming senators, some with noble intent and others who covet power for themselves.

The real story is what happens after Caesar’s assassination:  Did the conspirators’ bloody act save the Republic from dictatorship?  The answer is in the history books and the breathtaking civil war scene that erupts on the stage: It’s a resounding “no,” which explains why many Shakespeare scholars consider this 400-year-old play a cautionary tale for all times.

“The play deals with protecting a form of government that worked (for some) and is suddenly threatened by change,” says Julius Caesar director, Michael Tolaydo, who forbade designers from indulging any temptation to superimpose the story on a recognizable head of state, political party, or current social movement. To make it about Trump or any sitting official distracts the audience from Shakespeare’s words, he says. “Let the audience decide for themselves.”

Tolaydo is an accomplished Shakespearean actor and director, and professor emeritus at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, where he served for 25 years as professor in the Department of Theatre, Film and Media Studies.  Shakespeare’s Caesar dies before intermission, Tolaydo notes: “The play is not really about Caesar or any particular leader: It is about trying to protect the Republic and the voices of the Roman citizens. One can argue that very notion of protecting the citizens’ voices is at the heart of America’s current political situation. Julius Caesar speaks of our times right now.”

Tolaydo’s contemporary Caesar has a diverse cast and reinterprets several familiar characters as women, including Antony (our Antonia), who is Caesar’s friend and avenger, and Octavius (our Octavia), who is Caesar’s adopted heir and the future Roman emperor. This is not new, Tolaydo adds:  Women heads of state around the world are making headlines.

Performances of Julius Caesar are Thursdays at 7:30pm, Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, Saturdays and Sundays at 2pm. The 10am weekday school matinees with actor-audience talkbacks are also open to the public with limited seating. Prices are $16-$50.  The online ticket calendar is at ChesapeakeShakespeare.com. Box Office: 410-244-8570.

JULIUS CAESAR:  Community Conversations and Special Events:

Thursday, October 5, 2017  – Interpretations of Julius Caesar:  A Gallery Talk at the Walters Art Museum with Chesapeake Shakespeare actors presenting scenes from Julius Caesar during a tour of the museum’s world-class collection of Roman antiquities. Our tour guide is Lisa Anderson-Zhu, Associate Curator of Art of the Mediterranean, 5000 BCE – 300 CE. When: 6:30pm – 7:15pm, on Thursday, Oct. 5, 2017, at the Walters Art Museum, 600 N. Calvert Street, Baltimore. Admission: Free

Sunday, October 15, 2017   – “The Women of Julius Caesar”: A Community Conversation with Dr. Judith Peller Hallett, Professor of Classics at UMD and an expert on the women of Rome. This 1pm pre-show talk at Chesapeake Shakespeare explores the lives of the political wives in the play (Caesar’s wife Calpurnia and Brutus’ wife Portia), and the play’s reinterpreted political leaders, Mar Antonia and Octavia. Patrons may combine the free 1pm talk with a ticket to the 2pm performance of Julius Caesar. Get October 15 tickets at ChesapeakeShakespeare.com.

Thursday, October 26, 2017 – “Lawyers’ Night” at Julius Caesar, pre-show reception from 5:30pm, with 7:30pm performance of Julius Caesar. Bar Association members and others in the legal community gather to discuss using the performing arts in professional development, with The Studio at the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company. Email education@chesapeakeshakespeare.com for details.

October 4, 5, 12, 13, 18, and 20, 2017 — New 10am Weekday Matinees of Julius Caesar for school groups are also open to the public with general admission seating. These matinees encourage audience engagement and learning. A talkback with actors follows the play. Public seats are $25, available at ChesapeakeShakespeare.com. For school rates and reservations, email matinees@chesapeakeshakespeare.com.

PRESS RELEASE: Baltimore Center Stage Announces 2017 Play Lab Off Center Fall programming debut features local playwrights

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Baltimore Center Stage Announces 2017 Play Lab Off Center Fall programming debut features local playwrights

Baltimore—September 15, 2017. Baltimore Center Stage is pleased to announce the 2017/2018 debut of its Off Center programming with Play Lab on September 22-24, featuring To the Flame by Miranda Rose Hall and Handle It by Rachael Knoblauch.

Along with the previously announced productions of the 2017/18 Mainstage Season, Play Lab helps bring to life Center Stage’s “Season of Community,” where every program and production will explore the role of artists and institutions in building community. While the season’s opening production, The Christians, explores the role of leadership – particularly leadership involving “conflicting truths” – in building community, Play Lab takes a more literal approach to community engagement, inviting hometown artists Hall and Knoblauch to partner with theatergoers to develop their works.

“For the first time in the history of Play Labs, this fall will bring a double bill of two plays and two playwrights to Center Stage’s signature developmental workshop and reading series,” said Gavin Witt, Associate Director and Director of Dramaturgy. “And to bust our dramaturgical buttons with pride, both writers are what you’d call homegrown talents. It’s a pleasure to welcome these two dynamic young artists back into the building that they’ve made an artistic home—and to take the next step of this journey together.”

Attending a Play Lab provides attendees with a “behind the scenes” look at a playwright’s creative process. Audiences will appreciate each play’s exploration of challenging themes and the post-show “Talk Back” offering the opportunity to discuss the subject matter and development process. Play Lab also provides additional access to the newly renovated Calvert Street building, as these events are hosted in the historic Jay Andrus Rehearsal Hall.

Play Lab will be held on Friday and Saturday, September 22 and 23 at 7 pm and Sunday, September 24 at 2 pm, with all seats available for $10 ($5 for Center Stage members). A free open rehearsal will be held Saturday, September 23 at 2:30 pm. Both one-act plays will be read at each event and Center Stage’s ever popular complimentary Toast Bar will be open preceding the readings.

Additional Off Center programming, performed in Center Stage’s intimate and innovative new Third Space, will include White Rabbit Red Rabbit by Nassim Soleimanpour from December 12-23, and a new adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night on March 22-25. Twelfth Night will also reach a variety of traditionally underserved audiences in and around Baltimore during a two-week run by Center Stage’s touring Mobile Unit. For more information, visit www.centerstage.org or call the box office at 410.332.0033.

Play Lab is made possible by The Nathan and Suzanne Cohen Foundation Fund for Commissioning and Developing New Plays. Off Center is supported in part by a grant from the Maryland State Arts Council (MSAC). To discover more about Maryland State Arts Council grants and how they impact Maryland’s arts sector, visit msac.org. Funding for the MSAC is also provided by the National Endowment for the Arts. Center Stage’s Season Sponsor is M&T Bank and the season is also made possible by The Shubert Foundation and the Baltimore County Commission on Arts and Sciences.

PRESS RELEASE: Glass Mind Theatre Founder returns to Baltimore to direct a Lear focused on family and mortality

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Glass Mind Theatre Founder returns to Baltimore to direct a Lear focused on family and mortality

Baltimore, MD – Single Carrot is thrilled to welcome director Andrew Peters back to Baltimore to helm its October production of Young Jean Lee’s Lear. Lee’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s King Lear is a challenging mix of postmodern satire, meditative exploration, and nuanced relationships. For Peters, these interpersonal conflicts are some of the most fruitful artistically.

“The relationship between Lear and his daughters [in Shakespeare’s text] is so incredibly complicated,” he states. “We expect to see the madness, but we realize we are watching children cast off their father. It’s heartbreaking. Young Jean Lee’s Lear amps this up; we only see the young people of this world, confronting and accepting mortality, doing whatever that can NOT to think about Dad. And this comes back to bite them in the ass. Hard.”

He adds that the show is also particularly relevant “at a volatile moment in our history,”
drawing parallels between Lee’s characters and the contemporary reality of “families in
turmoil.”

“I feel the heartbeat of this play so strongly when I think of those relationships,” Peters
muses. “At some point in our lives we recognize that our parents are human beings. When have we wanted to throw them into ‘the storm’?”

But, he is quick to point out, while Lear’s themes are weighty, it is far from a dramatic,
existential meditation. “We watch these people within the frame of a specific world,” he
says. “We recognize how absurd they are, want to grab the popcorn and watch the
trainwreck unfold. But there’s a big turn. A lot of the rules of this world get broken and,
suddenly, we have to take a step back. Everyone in the room needs to, in some way,
participate in a meditation on mortality. This isn’t just about King Lear and his daughters. It’s about our relationship to our own families.”

Andrew Peters founded Glass Mind Theatre in 2009 and served as its Artistic Director for four years. He has directed numerous productions in Baltimore, DC, and Chicago, where he worked at DePaul University and Victory Gardens Theatre. He holds an MFA in Directing from The Theatre School at DePaul University, as well as a BS from Towson University. Peters will also be teaching at Stevenson University this fall.

Lear
By Young Jean Lee
Directed by Andrew Peters

Shakespearean drama meets millennial self-indulgence in this outlandish and driving take on King Lear. Boring, stuffy parents have been left for dead – consigning audiences to the not-so-tender mercies of a younger generation, a mix of heroes and villains indulging their own selfish whims. Despite sharp wits and sharper teeth, these Kardashian-esque kids are comically shallow, callous, and vain: more concerned with dancing and drama than their own doomed parents. But superficial pleasures can only reign for so long before their conscience catches up with them, unearthing ugly secrets, doubts, and fears. Regional premiere.

WHEN:
Previews: Wednesday, October 4 and Thursday, October 5 at 8pm
Running: October 6 – 29
Thursday- Saturday at 8pm
Sundays at 3pm

WHERE:
Single Carrot Theatre
2600 N. Howard Street
Baltimore, MD 21218
Entrance on 26th Street.

Free parking available in adjacent lot and on the street.

TICKETS AND ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
Tickets: $10-$29
Web: singlecarrot.com
Phone: 443-844-9253
Email: boxoffice@singlecarrot.com
Twitter: @singlecarrot
Instagram: @singlecarrot

Review: M. Butterfly at Everyman Theatre

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy

Running Time: Approx. 2 hours and 30 minutes with two intermissions

(l-r) Brett Messiora, Vichet CHum, and Mika J. Nakano. Credit: ClintonBPhotography

When East meets West, mysterious things can happen and though, some stories are too incredible to be true, Everyman Theatre‘s latest offering and first show of the season, M. Butterfly by David Henry Hwang, is indeed incredible and very true (at least most of it), and the gut-wrenching love story it tells is as mysterious as many parts of Asia itself. Directed by Vincent M. Lancisi, this production is not one you want to miss.

Vichet Chum as Song Liling. Credit: ClintonBPhotography

M. Butterfly gets it’s name from the popular Puccini opera Madame Butterfly about a U.S. Naval officer who marries a young Japanese girl, Cio-cio (Madame Butterfly), out of convenience, but plans on leaving her once he finds a suitable American wife. Cio-cio falls deeply and hopelessly in love with this Naval officer who leaves her flat, with a child. When she discovers he has remarried in the USA, she becomes so distraught that she commits suicide all because of her love for this man. Whoo, nelly!

Vitchet Chum as Son LIling. Credit: ClintonBPhotography

In a nutshell, M. Butterfly is somewhat the same story, but in reverse. In this story, a French Diplomat, Rene Gallimard (played by Bruce Randolph Nelson) falls in love with a Japanese actress, Song Liling (played by Vichet Chum) and plays out over a span of 20 years. It’s a breathtaking piece of theatre with a near perfect script. David Henry Hwang does a magnificent job in telling this 20 year story in two and a half hours but there is no confusion as all the gaps are filled in nicely. Hwang masterfully takes the highlights of the story and presents them while explaining, not glazing over the not so important stuff through dialogue and action. His script is very easy to follow, perfectly blends humor and comedy, and the transitions are seamless.

(l-r) Bruce Randolph Nelson, Bernard Boursicot, and Vincent M. Lancisi. Credit: Kirstin Pagan/Everyman Theatre

Set Design by Yu-Hsuan Chen is cleverly minimal with a beautiful cut out screen across the back of the stage with simple set pieces coming in and out to represent different locations. It’s clean, precise, and fits with the story quite appropriately. Chen is careful not to muddle the stage with too much and it keeps the attention on the story being told which is a wise choice and his design is superb and working in tandem with Chen is Lighting Designer Jay Herzog. The Lighting Design is truly and undoubtedly one of the stars of this piece. With the set being minimal, it’s all in the lighting and Herzog steps up to the plate and hits a home run. His design easily sets the moods and puts the audience in each location being represented, taking the audience on the journey with deep-feeling characters and complex story.

Deborah Hazlett as Helga and Bruce Randolph Nelson as Rene Gallimard. Credit: ClintonBPhotography

Director Vincent M. Lancisi takes the reigns of this production and his vision and execution for putting this story on the stage are praiseworth. Pacing is on point and the action keeps the piece moving nicely and his casting is impeccable.. It’s worth noting, Mr. Lancisi, as well as some others included in the production, took a trip to France and was able to speak with the man on whom the character of Rene Gallimard is based, Bernard Boursicot, and that meeting seems to have made an impact. Lancisi definitely has a deep comprehension of this piece and does a marvelous job presenting Hwang’s script in an all-around astonishing production.

Mika J. Nakano and Brett Messiora. Credit: ClintonBPhotography

Moving into the performance aspect of this production, Every actor in this ensemble is an important part of telling this story, including Everyman Theatre Company member Deborah Hazlett, who takes on the role of Helga, the traditional and conservative wife of Rene Gallimard, and she gives a strong, confident performance with a natural, elegant air for which the character calls.

Bruce Randolph Nelson as Rene Gallimard. Credit: ClintonBPhotography

Another supporting actor needing to be mentioned is Tuyet Thi Pham who tackles various roles, including the communist, Comrade Chin. Pham gives an authentic, strong performance and seems to grasp this character wholly, embodying her with every word.

Bruce Randolph Nelson, an Everyman Theatre Company member, as Rene Gallimard, the lovelorn French diplomat, is spectacular, emoting all the confusion and emotion this character requires. His natural performance brings the audience into the story and his knack of storytelling just takes this performance over the top, in a fantastic way.

Vichet Chum as Song Liling. Credit: ClintonBPhotography

Vichet Chum taking on the difficult role of Song Liling is the gem in this piece. His versatility is clearly seen as he tackles this role and his understanding of this character is obvious. The chemistry between him and Nelson is on fire, helping Chum give a brilliant, confident performance that brings this mysterious, incredible character to life. You don’t know if you want to love or hate him but that’s what makes the performance so thrilling. He’s definitely one to watch in this production.

Final thought… M. Butterfly is an absolute must-see and a great way to start off the Everyman Theatre season. Not only is it beautiful aesthetically, the performances are superb, and the story is profound with a near perfect script to tell that story. Do yourself a favor and get your tickets now!

This is what I thought of Everyman Theatre’s production of M. Butterfly… What did you think? Please feel free to leave a comment!

M. Butterfly will play through October 8 at Everyman Theatre, 315 W. Fayette Street, Baltimore, MD. For tickets, purchase them online.

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