Review: The Graduate at Dundalk Community Theatre

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy

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Running Time: Approx. 2 hours a 15-minute intermission

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Dyana Neal as Mrs. Robinson and Stephen Edwards as Benjamin Braddock. Credit: Dundalk Community Theatre

“Plastics.” If you are familiar with this one-word movie quote, you are familiar with one of the American Film Institute’s 100 Greatest Movie Quotes of All Time (#42), and the 1967 film The Graduate. It’s a classic film with big name stars such as Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft and gave us the musical styling of the impeccable Simon and Garfunkle, including the well-known “Sound of Silence.” In 2002, The Graduate was taken from the screen and transferred to the stage starring Kathleen Turner, Jason Biggs, and Alicia Silverstone, who were all on their games at the time and it was a critical and commercial hit during its year-long, 380 performance run. The Graduate is now Dundalk Community Theatre’s latest offering, Directed by Todd Starkey, and presents this 1960’s coming-of-age and still-relevant piece to a new generation, some of whom may be dealing with similar personal problems as the complex characters in the story.

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Stephen Edwards Rachel Verhaaren, and Elisabeth Johnson. Credit: Dundalk Community Theatre

Scenic Design by Marc W. Smith (who also wears the hats of Lighting and Sound Design, as well as Technical Director, in general) is, to say the least, exquisite. Smith, being the resident Scenic Designer for Dundalk Community Theatre, knows his space and is wise in his choice of a clean, minimal unit set utilizing set pieces to present various locations. Though the set is minimal, Smith has a great attention to detail with his choice of pieces adding a realistic, but non-hindering value to the production as a whole. With the amount of locations written in the script, the pieces are many and cause for a few lengthy transitions, but the design is superb, as a whole.

Costume Design by Eva Grove, who also graces the stage in a few supporting roles, is spot on and absolutely appropriate for the 1960s setting. Being a unique and eclectic time for fashion, Grove has managed to represent it flawlessly with loud colorful patterns, as well as subdued conservative looks that help, not distract from the action and setting. Her well thought-out, detailed design adds great value to the entire production.

Todd Starkey takes the helm of this production and, directing an adaption of an already well-known piece is always a challenge, but Starkey seems to have stepped up to that challenge. There are definite minor issues with the script, the main problem being missing information. If you’re familiar with the film, you’ll be okay, but if you are not, you might get confused as to how the relationship between the younger characters blossom and why but, taking it at face value, the gist is still intact. Starkey has cast his show well and has a good comprehension of the material and, aside from a few aforementioned lengthy transitions (the production could have done without a few of the blackouts, which broke up the momentum a bit), the pace is appropriate and consistent. Overall, Starkey should be applauded for his efforts in bringing this relevant and relatable story to the stage.

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Dyana Neal and Mrs. Robinson and Stephen Edwards as Benjamin Braddock. Credit: Dundalk Community Theatre

Moving on to the performance aspect of this piece, it’s worth stating that the entire ensemble is dedicated and gives 100% effort to this production and each player works hard to bring this material together to tell this multifaceted story.

Alice Scanlon and Thomas “Toby” Hessenauer take on the roles of the caring, but somewhat oblivious Mr. and Mrs. Braddock. Though Scanlon is a little stiff and scripted in her performance, she clearly understands the character of the hapless, naïve mother who is a woman of a different time and is content being a housewife and letting the males in her life take the lead. She pulls off the role nicely and compliments the superb performance from Hessenauer, who is a highlight of this production and who completely embodies the character of the financially and, some would consider, personally successful Mr. Braddock. He emotes the confidence and strong will of a 1960s head-of-household. He works well with and off of his fellow cast mates that makes for a brilliant and believable performance.

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Stephen Edwards as Benjamin Braddock and Elisabeth Johnson as Elaine Robinson. Credit: Dundalk Community Theatre

John Dignam as Mr. Robinson and Elisabeth Johnson and Elaine Robinson make up 2/3 of the dysfunctional Robinson family and are major players in this tawdry tale. Elisabeth Johnson does well with the role, having a good understanding of her character and the naiveté and sheltered upbringing that makes up Elaine Robinson. She has good chemistry with her cast mates and gives a commendable portrayal, save an over the top, hokey scene where her character gets drunk and Johnson is scripted and unnatural, barely getting her dialogue out, but, overall, she gives a delightful performance.

John Dignam is another highlight of this piece, portraying the at first confident, successful business man to distraught husband near flawlessly. His dramatic turn where his character breaks down and confronts Ben, his unassuming nemesis, is a bit forced and unnatural but, aside from that, his performance is strong, confident, and authentic.

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Dyana Neal as Mrs. Robinson and Stephen Edwards as Benjamin Braddock. Credit: Dundalk Community Theatre

Last but certainly not least, we have Dyana Neal as the sensual cougar, Mrs. Robinson, and Stephen Edwards as Benjamin Braddock, the young man who is just searching for purpose, like so many so soon after graduating from college. It’s clear that Neal and Edwards have a firm grasp of their characters, but, unfortunately, the chemistry between the two is just not as apparent. Both play their characters well, individually, with Neal being the stronger performer, but are missing the connection and attraction required of these two characters, not to mention the awkward, forced insinuation of sexual acts that are, I assume, supposed to be humorous to downplay the sex, but just end up falling flat. Neal is on point with the sultriness of the bored Mrs. Robinson and keeps her character consistent, as she should be portrayed. It’s also worth mentioning Neal’s velvet voice that is a pleasure to listen to and makes it easy to understand why she is on the radio. Edwards starts off portraying Benjamin Braddock as an awkward, unsure recent graduate, which works perfectly, but as the story moves forward, Benjamin is supposed to find his footing and become surer of himself and comfortable with the world around him, but Edwards can’t seem to find that arc in this character. With that being said, he exudes a certain confidence and authenticity that makes for a charming performance.

Final thought…The Graduate is a coming-of-age story with a good blend of lightheartedness and complexity that keeps this piece interesting. Being a well-known, classic film, there are built-in challenges of transferring to the live stage and for those who are unfamiliar with the film, there may be some missing pieces in the script and it may seem a little jumbled and rushed, but in the end, you get the gist of the story. The performances are commendable and, aside from the numerous blackouts breaking up the flow, the pacing is decent. The story itself is timeless and relatable, so it’s worth checking out this well put-together production.

This is what I thought of Dundalk Community Theatre’s production of The Graduate… What did you think? Please feel free to leave a comment!

The Graduate will run through March 4 at Dundalk Community Theatre, College Community Center, John E. Ravekes Theatre. For tickets call the box office at 443-840-ARTS (2787) or purchase them online.

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Review: A Public Reading of An Unproduced Screenplay About the Death of Walt Disney at Single Carrot Theatre

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy

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Running Time: Approx. 90 minutes with no intermission

Walt Disney. Chances are, you know who he is and, more importantly, what he’s done. There’s no denying the man was uber-successful in business and “the happiest place on earth” came from the depths of his mind. However, for all the joy and happiness he brought to millions upon millions of people of all ages, even until this day, there was, of course, a darker side to this captain of industry. In Single Carrot Theatre’s latest offering, A Public Reading of an Unproduced Screenplay About The Death of Walt Disney by Lucas Hnath, Directed by Genevieve De Mahy and Matthew Shea, they shed light on the more unsavory characteristics of the this “Uncle Walt” and gives a glimpse into behind the scenes of some of his best and brightest ideas.

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(l-r) Meghan Stanton, Eric Poch, Paul Diem, Mohammad R. Suaidi. Credit: Britt Olsen-Ecker

Don’t let the title fool you. This piece is not just a reading but a play about a reading of an unproduced screenplay. Actually, it’s kind of clever. The screenplay being read is supposedly one written by Walt Disney himself, about himself, and includes background information during various points of interest in his life that the public may not have been privy to. If its point was to make Walt Disney look like a completely self-centered asshole who did what he needed to see out his visions and dreams, no matter what it was he had to do or say or who he had to hurt, this piece was totally successful. My question is… why?

I’m not a total fanatic when it comes to Disney. I enjoy the films, the music, the theme parks, all that… but I’m not going out of my way for them. However, with that being said, I’m curious as to why this piece was written. Was it simply to mar a man’s name? To shatter an image? To break the magic his name has brought to the aforementioned millions upon millions of people who live and breathe anything Disney and soak up it creates? If so, why? What’s the point? What’s more, the man isn’t even around to defend himself. Why try to destroy the legacy of man who has brought happiness to the world? One argument could be because bringing that happiness brought pain and strife to others. I don’t deny that. It probably did, or so says Lucas Hnath in this script. But, please, show me a man as successful as Disney who built an empire being the nice guy all the time. Is it right? I won’t tell you what’s right or wrong, that’s for you to decide for yourself, but is it a necessary evil when trying to attain the success Disney wanted? Yes. The material in this piece seems one sided and bitter and doesn’t seem to tell the story for enlightenment, but, for reasons only known to the author, for spite and “sticking it to the man,” as it were. That’s how I see it, anyway.

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Mohammad R. Suaidi, Paul Diem. Credit: Britt Olsen-Ecker

But I digress… I’ll step off my soapbox and get into the production itself, which is actually a very well-put together production. I could have done without the production of getting from the lobby to my seat, going through a dark, tight corridor with LED icicles that, I assume, is supposed to represent some kind of theme park or carnival attraction, then the clog at the performance space entrance because we had to stop to be seated personally by “Mr. Disney” with this Cheshire cat smile. When it’s general seating, I like to get from the lobby to my seat (which I like to choose) as quickly and efficiently as possible.

One major problem with this piece is the script. I am actually a fan of Lucas Hnath and it pains me to say, but this script is nothing but a jumble with incomplete sentences and cut offs. It’s hard to follow along and it continues through the ENTIRE piece. Luckily, this production of chock full of an able cast because the script is pretentious and trite being more show than substance.

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Mohammad r. Suaidi, Meghan Stanton, Paul Diem. Credit: Britt Olsen-Ecker

The space, however, is set up beautifully and that’s one of the things I really like about Single Carrot Theatre – their ability to change their space to fit the needs of the production. The tiered seating worked nicely for this production and the minimal Scenic Design by Kristin Hessenauer, Hayden Muller, Allison Blocechl, Cydney Cohn, and Sierra Ho is appropriate and effect, but I’m not sure why so many hands were involved in such a minimal Scenic Design… unless they are counting the seating arrangement and creepy entrance corridor, then maybe, but the simple cramped conference room setting is fitting and helps set the mood of this production.

Lighting Design by Helen Garcia-Alton and Sound Design by Glenn Ricci are impeccable and really help move this piece along. The changes from dim to full light are flawless and set the time and mood for each scene bringing the action together seamlessly. Garcia-Alton manages to capture the two sides of Walt Disney with both subtle and drastic changes in the lighting and keeps the audience engaged. Playing in tandem with the Lighting Design, Ricci’s Sound Design is careful not to overwhelm the production but blends in with the action to help tell the story and keep the action interesting.

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(l-r) Meghan Stanton, Eric Poch, Paul Diem, Mohammad R. Suaidi. Credit: Britt Olsen-Ecker

Co-Directors Genevieve De Mahy and Matthew Shea have a good grasp of this material and seem to like the purpose of exposing the dark side of Disney and stripping away prestige of the name. The minimal staging is wise and the action is stellar. The fact that all characters, except for Walt Disney are handcuffed to the table as if being kept prisoner and forced to listen, is powerful and drives home the kind of person Walt Disney was in real life. Their casting is top notch and they convened a cast with great chemistry and talent to pull this material off. Overall, their vision and presentation are on point and they should be applauded for their efforts in bringing this challenging script to life.

Eric Poch takes on the role of Ron Miller, Disney’s son-in-law, who is a fan, or so it seems, and needs a job. Poch seems to really embody this character with a goofy smile and tone that fits the character nicely (a former pro football player). He plays the character as an oafish but lovable guy and makes a good showing working well with and off of his cast mates.

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(l-r) Meghan Stanton, Eric Poch, Paul Diem. Credit: Britt Olsen-Ecker

Mohammad R. Suaidi tackles the role of the level headed and loyal lesser known brother, Roy Disney. Suaidi seems to have a good grasp on this character and seems comfortable in the role. His chemistry with Paul Diem (Walt Disney) is terrific and they work well with each other. This character could easily be played as a doormat for the title character to walk over, but Suaidi finds a good balance of loyalty and standing his ground in this character that plays quite well.

Meghan Stanton as Daughter (assuming it’s Diane Disney, since Ron is her husband) is a definite highlight of this production. She doesn’t have much to say but every line she delivers is genuine and her confidence and presence is strong, which works well with this discontented character. Stanton emotes the conflicting emotions of this character such as her love and hatred for her less-than-saintly father and her worry for her children is clear making for an overall outstanding performance.

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Paul Diem as Walt Disney. Credit: Britt Olsen-Ecker

Paul Diem shines as he takes on the titular role of Walt Disney. From the moment he enters the lobby to direct the audience to the performance space, Diem embodies Disney head to toe, which is no small feat. Though the structure of this script is horrendous, he does a brilliant job with his delivery, not skipping a beat in the fast-paced jumble of words. Not only is his delivery good, he really seems to have a good understanding of the character and man his he portraying.

Final thought…  A Public Reading of an Unproduced Screenplay About The Death of Walt Disney at Single Carrot Theatre is an interesting take on the beloved Walt Disney and sheds light on a darker side of the man who brought the world so much happiness. I hesitantly write this, but… this was not my kind of show. Now, let me be clear that the performances were pretty much spot on and the ensemble presented the material superbly with focused and engaging staging, but the script is trite and garbled with all of the “cut to” and broken sentences making it difficult to understand (and utter agony for anyone with an English degree). I’m actually a fan of Lucas Hnath and thoroughly enjoyed another piece producer last year in Baltimore, The Christians, so I know he can write, but this one seems to be trying too hard. However, don’t take my word for it. Go see it and form your own opinion, it just might be your kind of show.

This is what I thought of Single Carrot Theatre’s production of A Public Reading of an Unproduced Screenplay About The Death of Walt Disney… What did you think? Please feel free to leave a comment!

A Public Reading of an Unproduced Screenplay About The Death of Walt Disney will play through February 25 at Single Carrot Theatre, 2600 North Howard Street, Baltimore, MD. For tickets, call the box office at 443-844-9253 or you can purchase them online.

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Review: Long Day’s Journey Into Night at Everyman Theatre

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy

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Running Time: Approx. 3 hours and 15 minutes with two 10-minute intermissions

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The Tyrone Family (l-r: Kurt Rhoads, Danny Gavigan, Tim Getman, Deborah Hazlett) Credit: Stan Barouh

Some of the best fodder for plays, movies, television, or any form of entertainment is the family. Every family is different and every family has their ups and downs where sometimes the ups last for years with a few downs in between or vice versa. Who has the perfect family? Do you? I certainly don’t and if you do, please tell me what your secret is. Family can drive you crazy, at times, and Everyman Theatre’s latest production, Long Day’s Journey Into Night by the incomparable Eugene O’Neill, Directed by Donald Hicken, gives us a peek into a small family’s dysfunctional relationships at the beginning of the 20th century and, lo and behold, this production exhibits that family structures and dynamics haven’t really changed much throughout time.

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Deborah Hazlett as Mary Tyrone. Credit: Stan Barouh

Briefly, Long Day’s Journey Into Night is a semi-autobiographical piece about O’Neill and his own family and revolves around the fictional Tyrone family, including James, it’s patriarch and famous actor, though he is really only known for one particular role, Mary, his wife, who loves to reminisce about her perfect childhood and never really fit in with her husband’s life in the theatre, and their two sons, the older but disappointing Jamie, who seems to have never really grown up, and the unassuming and sickly Edmund. Taking place during one full day from morning until midnight, we are presented with a family at odds with each other and with their individual selves as they try to grasp what is left of their small family, all the while dealing with addiction, sickness, alcoholism, and all the other fun things that keep a family going. In the end, it’s family so… what can you do? What impressed me the most is the authenticity of the dialogue and relationships within this family. For instance, a nice peaceful game of cards can turn into an all-out shouting match, then just as quickly as the shouting match began, it ends with a query of whose turn it is, as if the shouting match never happened. THAT’S family. That’s how things work. When it’s family, you forgive what you’d kill others for and no one seems to know why, but that’s the way it is and in this piece, O’Neill is on point.

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(l-r) Danny Gavigan as Edmund Tyrone, Deborah Hazlett as Mary Tyrone, and Kurt Rhoads as James Tyrone. Credit: Stan Barouh

Everyman Theatre has yet to disappoint with the production sets and this Set Design by Daniel Ettinger is no different. He uses his space wisely and his attention to detail is second to none. From the period furniture to the dark wood and insinuation of high ceilings, Ettinger hit the nail on the head with this design. The audience is transported to a turn of the century home that wants to look exquisite, but is really falling to pieces under the surface… much like the family who lives in it. Kudos to Ettinger for another successful design.

Jay Herzog’s Lighting Design works in tandem with the action of this piece and sets the mood and time of each scene flawlessly. Herzog’s use of subtle shifts and placement of the lighting gives the audience a sense of exactly what time of day it is which helps keep track of when the action is taking place in each scene. The shift from morning to afternoon, then afternoon into night is gradual and natural, just like a real summer’s day making for an impeccable design.

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Tim Getman as Jamie Tyrone. Credit: Stan Barouh

Costume Design by David Burdick is spot on as this ensemble looks like they stepped right out of the early 1900s in their stuffy, but stylish duds that conservatively covers them pretty much from head to toe, so Burdick’s eye for authenticity is apparent and his talent for period pieces shines through in this design.

Donald Hicken takes the helm of this production and, being a well-known piece to many as well as a heavy piece, the challenges are vast, but Hicken tackles them and presents us with a well thought-out and well-paced production that hits home. His comprehension of the material is apparent and his casting is superb with apt and able actors who take this text and present it purely and intensely as is required. Hicken’s vision is clear and the message of learning the raw truth of your family isn’t always nice or comfortable but necessary to understand the ones closest to you is strong thanks to the performances he pulls out of his actors. Hicken should be applauded for his efforts with this complex, epic piece that he has presented beautifully.

Moving into the performance aspect of this production, it’s clear these actors enjoy working together and off of each other and all have great chemistry with his or her fellow castmates. If I didn’t know any better, I’d definitely believe this was your everyday, run-of-the-mill family down the street and that alone makes for a delightful evening of theatre.

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Danny Gavigan as Edmund Tyrone and Tim Getman as Jamie Tyrone. Credit: Stan Barouh

I’d be remiss not to mention Katherine Ariyan, who takes on the supporting, but very important role of Cathleen, one of the spunky seasonal maids for the Tyrone family. Ariyan makes the most of her short time on the stage and is absolutely believable with her strong Irish accent and quick, natural delivery. Her character, at one point, acts as a fill-in for Mary, while her family is off on their own business, and is vital in bringing to light the addiction of which Mary gives into. Ariyan takes on this supporting role with gusto and gives a strong performance.

Tackling the significant roles of the Tyrone brothers are Everyman Theatre Company members Danny Gavigan as Edmund and Tim Getman as Jamie. The chemistry between these two actors is superb and authentic making for a natural brotherly relationship. Gavigan has a clear understanding of his character, who seems to be the “peacemaker” of this family even though he’s suffering from an ailment all to familiar to the era and he gives a confident performance, even when his delivery seems a bit lazy where I lose some of his dialogue. Though both are fine performers, Tim Getman, as Jamie, is the stronger of the two in this production. Getman hits the ground running with this loafing, seemingly caddish character, that he plays near perfectly, making his performance a highlight of this production.

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Deborah Hazlett as Mary Tyrone, Kurt Rhoads as James Tyrone. Credit: Stan Barough

The parents of this dysfunctional crew are played by Deborah Hazlett as Mary and Kurt Rhoads as James. These two actors are quite believable as an older married couple who were probably very much in love at one time and the husband/wife chemistry between the two is splendid. Hazlett has a deep comprehension of her character and, it seems, of women in general of this early 20th century era and plays it to the hilt. I want to feel sorry for this character, but it’s clear she has found a way to deal with the lot she’s been given with the addiction she’s let take hold. Hazlett is sure to portray Mary as a caring soul, but with past and present demons she must deal with. The emotion she exudes as she tells this character’s story is poignant and real making for a stellar performance, overall.

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Kurt Rhoads as James Tyrone. Credit: Stan Barouh

Kurt Rhoads, as James Tyrone, the loud, control-craving father of the brood, is the definite standout in this production. His impressive, booming voice makes one stand up and take notice when he is on the stage and his presence is strong and confident, as it should be for this role. He, too, has a great comprehension of his character and its flaws. In his scenes with Gavigan and Getman, he’s totally believable as the domineering father in his delivery and gestures while he is more subdued in dealing with Hazlett’s character. He gets this character and plays him near flawlessly making him one to watch in this production.

Final thought… If you’re going to check out Long Day’s Journey Into Night at Everyman Theatre, brace yourself! Go to the restroom, get settled, and be ready to make an entire evening of it. It is, after all, an O’Neill drama. However, that being said… this is a show you don’t want to miss! I went in with hesitations because of my modern-day short attention span, but this production is top-notch and engaging. The pacing is on point and the performances are superb. Over half a century later, this story of family relations is still relevant and very relatable. Even though this play is set in the early 1900s, it’s interesting to see how very similar family relationships are even today. Styles may change, but, in the grand scheme of things, human nature stays the same and Eugene O’Neill had an uncanny knack of putting it down on paper. With a great script and production value, this is not a show you want to miss this season.

This is what I thought of Everyman Theatre’s production of Long Day’s Journey Into Night… What did you think? Please feel free to leave a comment!

Long Day’s Journey Into Night will play through March 4 at Everyman Theatre, 315 W. Fayette Street, Baltimore, MD. For tickets, call the box office at 410-752-2208 or you can purchase them online.

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Review: Skeleton Crew at Baltimore Center Stage

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy

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Running Time: Approx. 2 hours one 10-minute intermission

Circa 2008, the USA was thrown into a recession that hit hard. Some felt nothing, some felt a little, and then there were some who were completely knocked on their asses. Detroit has a special place in American history – from its place as the 4th largest city in The United States of America, to it’s decline, and its current up-sweep. Baltimore Center Stage’s latest offering, Skeleton Crew by Dominique Morisseau, Directed by Nicole A. Watson, is a perfect fit for The Women’s Voices Theater Festival and gives us a peek into the decline part of that history and gives those who may not have been in the heart of it a better understanding with relatable, authentic characters and heartfelt stories of survival in uncertain times.

SkeletonCrew_press with captions2Skeleton Crew is one part of Dominique Morisseau’s Detroit Project that includes this play as well as Detroit ’67 and Paradise Blue. This is a truly American play that exhibits an American experience as the country was on the verge of an economic collapse and deals with a group of people trapped in a system that seems to force their hand but also presents the choices those same people can make. The story is relatable and relevant as are the characters within this story and the dialogue is authentic making this an intriguing, engrossing evening of theatre.

Scenic Design by Mariana Sanchez gives us a well thought-out Scenic Design utilizing a unit set of a simple breakroom with all the fixings including a small kitchen area as well as a small locker area. It’s the details that make this set more real and “lived in” such as the dingy, stained walls and various signs, notes, and notices attached to them.

SkeletonCrew_press with captions4Sanchez’s design works in perfect tandem with a Lighting Design by Burke Brown and Sound Design by Darron L. West giving us a full and immersive production. Brown manages to set the mood and time of each scene with subtle shifts of light from within the small breakroom as well as from the insinuated factory beyond. His use of jolting flashes of light during particular points and transitions in the production are effective and work well with the piece as a whole. Along with Brown’s design, Darron L. West’s superb Sound Design helps put the audience smack dab in the middle of this auto factory with muted background sounds of an operational facility. The hum and rhythm of the machines are always present and are almost like the heartbeat of the production but also adds that extra bit of authenticity.

Costume Design by Karen Perry is spot on with a contemporary look of folks who are a little down on their luck, scraping by, but with their heads still above water. Like just about every other aspect of this production, Perry’s working-class, urban design is true and well thought-out, transcending the audience to this time and place making this piece more relatable.

Nicole A. Watson takes the helm of this production and her Direction is on point, guiding her actors and creative team to bring out the poignancy and drama of this story. She has a good grasp on the material and understands the delicate balance between feeling sorry for these strong characters and rooting for them. Her staging is engaging and allows for great pacing mixing points of urgency and calm that keep the audience interested and invested.

SkeletonCrew_press with captions8Moving on to the performance aspect of Skeleton Crew, we meet Shanita, portrayed by an able Brittany Bellizeare. Shanita is a young mother-to-be who is optimistic, hard-working and proud of her work and wants what’s best for the city she lives in. Belllizeare shines in this role and it’s as if it was written just for her. She’s comfortable with this character and has a good understanding of what she’s going through and what she has to deal with as a single, pregnant young woman trying to make her way in the world. Her grasp of this character is quite apparent, especially in her monologue about how her character feels like she’s making a difference with her part in creating automobiles and how she’s a part of the lives of people who purchase and drive these vehicles. Aside from sounding a little scripted, at times, Bellizeare gives a strong, confident performance.

SkeletonCrew_press with captions9Gabriel Lawrence takes on the role of Dez, the young, rough-around-the-edges guy who has a slight problem with authority and big dreams of striking out on his own. Lawrence gives a brilliant performance as this character and seems to understand the load this character carries on his shoulders every day as a young, middle-class, African-American male. Lawrence also manages to blend that rough exterior with a man who is, deep down, a good soul. The way he portrays him with his fellow workers in the breakroom as opposed to the way he portrays the character with management is a good, definite switch that makes this character interesting.

SkeletonCrew_press with captions10Sekou Laidlow is a highlight in this production as he tackles the role of Reggie, the Supervisor who worked his way up the ranks at the factory but has close ties to the workers and absolutely understands their plights and honestly wants what’s best for everyone. Laidlow starts off a little stiff, but quickly starts to ease into his character to give a natural portrayal. Laidlow understands his character walks the very thin line between management and employees but he plays this balance beautifully. We learn of this character’s background and relationship with the other characters and Laidlow manages to emote the conflict within this character of what he thinks is right and black and white of company policy. He’s got a strong presence and natural flair that makes his performance a definite highlight.

SkeletonCrew_press with captions7Last, but certainly not least, we have Stephanie Berry, who takes on the role of Faye, the hard-as-nails old-timer on the line who happens to be the union representative and seems to have seen it all and knows how to survive. Berry, hands down, is the standout in this production and completely embodies this character she is portraying. She pulls of a motherly persona, who wants to take care of those around her, as well as the loner persona who just wants to be left alone to take care of herself. That conflicting balance can be challenging to portray, but Berry does it with ease and confidence. The character of Faye is multi-faceted but Berry tackles her with gusto and is quite successful in her portrayal. Her presence is formidable and her chemistry with her castmates is superb. The poignancy in tandem with the roughness in her portrayal make this a beautiful performance and certainly one to watch.

Final thought…  Skeleton Crew at Baltimore Center Stage is a fitting addition for The Women’s Voices Theater Festival with its strong female lead and its poignant and authentic look at the decline of a great city and the effects of that decline on the people living and working there. Dominique Morisseau’s script is top-notch as it is engaging with a beautiful blend of drama and comedy that makes for a tangible representation of everyday life, allowing for the audience to relate and connect with these characters. The chemistry in this cast is impeccable and the performances are top notch. Get your tickets, now, for this production because it’s not one you want to miss.

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

Skeleton Crew will play through March 4 at Baltimore Center Stage, 700 North Calvert Street, Baltimore, MD. For tickets, call the box office at 410-332-0033 or you can purchase them online.

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Press Release: Fells Point Corner Theatre proudly presents on our Godfrey Stage Gertrude Stein and a Companion By Win Wells

For Immediate Release:

Fells Point Corner Theatre proudly presents on our Godfrey Stage Gertrude Stein and a Companion By Win Wells, Directed by Anne Hammontree

Gertrude Stein and a Companion by Win Wells is the bittersweet telling of the love and lives of celebrated writer Gertrude Stein and her life partner Alice Toklas. Winner of Best Play at the Edinburgh Festival, Sydney Theatre Festival, and Vita Award for Best Play in South Africa, this two woman show spans decades and takes on multiple figures in the ladies’ world, from reporters and German soldiers to Hemingway and Picasso.

“The evening is a joy…Brisk, fun and literate.” – ​Gannett Newspapers

“The interplay gives the piece a spark beyond the page. It takes this very specific story and peels of its layers, revealing a fascinating study in human relations, in marriage, in the science of compromise and the art of enduring love.” – ​Chicago Reader

Director Anne Hammontree, along with the talented Marianne Angelella and Andrea Bush, bring Gertrude Stein and a Companion to life. Fells Point Corner Theatre is excited to share this imaginative exploration of love and time, written in homage of Alice’s biting wit, Gertrude’s poetry, and their colorful world that sparked the movement of Modern Art.

Admission: $19 for Sundays, $24 for Fridays/Saturdays.

Dates: Opens Friday March 2nd, 2018 and runs through Sunday, March 25th, 2018
Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m. and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. There will be a Saturday Matinee on March 10th.
*There will also be a Pay What You Can Thursday performance on March 1st, which will be an open dress rehearsal.*

Press Release: Truth, power, and subversion take center stage in THE DEATH OF WALT DISNEY

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Baltimore, MD – Single Carrot Theatre’s 11th season continues with A Public Reading of an Unproduced Screenplay About the Death of Walt Disney. From Lucas Hnath, writer of The Christians and the Tony-award-winning A Doll’s House Part 2, The Death of Walt Disney takes audiences deep inside the dark heart of the Disney machine. Far from the sanitized history presented by the Walt Disney Company, Hnath’s portrait of the megalomaniac behind the magic is a sharp and blackly comic look at one man’s quest for immortality. As the lines of fantasy and reality blur in this dramatic retelling, dramaturg Abigail Cady has worked closely with directors Genevieve de Mahy and Matthew Shea to navigate the murky waters of Walt Disney’s life.

“A dramaturg is responsible for helping the production artists maintain the integrity of the world of the play,” said Cady. “For this play, that is a very particular world.” Cady, de Mahy, and Shea met constantly throughout the process, sorting through truths and embellishments that permeate the many layers of Hnath’s script.

In today’s climate of ‘fake news’ and ‘alternative facts’ Hnath’s script feels especially relevant, though the heightened circumstances of the theatre feel “less subversive” in a world that is “more surreal every day.” Cady, well-versed in sorting fact and fiction, adds that “the essential truth of a story told in the theatre always has been and will continue to be an emotional, human truth.” ‘Truth’ is a subjective and slippery target in the theatre, as it is in history. Modern audiences must constantly examine the sources and storytellers who shape their understanding of the world. History, after all, is written by the victor.

The same can be said for the ‘history’ of the Walt Disney Company. “It was very difficult to find sources that did not skew towards positive or negative portrayals of the man,” Cady remarked, adding that “most official documents” are held by the Disney Company; accessing them is virtually impossible. “Biographies are either sanitized or dubiously sourced.”

Modern conversations about men, power, and controlling the flow of information feel especially prescient alongside Hnath’s script. For Cady, Walt Disney is a familiar figure; the ‘Great Man of Genius’ who has cast “a long shadow over our cultural consciousness since the country’s founding.” Be it Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, or Walt himself, “The Death of Walt Disney grapples with the question of how to reconcile a person’s contributions to the world with the damage they’ve done to it.” While Hnath may not have all the answers, audiences are given a window into the real, complex world of ‘Great Men’ like Walt Disney.

The Death of Walt Disney opens February 2, with performance continuing through February 25. The cast features ensemble members Paul Diem (Walt Disney) and Meghan Stanton (Daughter) alongside guest artists Eric Poch (Ron Miller) and Mohammad R. Suaidi (Roy Disney).

About the Play:
A Public Reading of an Unproduced Screenplay about
THE DEATH OF WALT DISNEY
By Lucas Hnath
Directed by Genevieve de Mahy & Matthew Shea

Leave the magic behind in this darkly humorous, cutting examination of the megalomaniac who shaped a thousand childhoods: Mr. Walt Disney. The carefree and charming creator of so many beloved characters – father-figure to a generation of Americans – fades away as this fraught and fast-paced play chases down the dark heart of the Disney machine. Power, betrayal, deception, and disillusionment weave together to form a portrait of a man so full of hubris and obsessed with his own legacy, he tried to remake the world and achieve immortality. Join us at the table. Regional premiere.

WHEN:
Pay-What-You-Can Previews: Wednesday, January 31 and Thursday, February 1 at 8pm
Running: February 2 – 25
Thursday- Saturday at 8pm
Sundays at 3pm
*There is no performance on Sunday, February 4.

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(at)singlecarrot.com
Twitter: @singlecarrot
Instagram: @singlecarrot

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

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy

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Running Time: Approx. 2 hours one 10-minute intermission

There comes a time when we all question our lives. Some do it once in awhile, some do it when things are going crazy, and some do it daily… well, most of us do it daily, and Rapid Lemon Productions‘ latest offering, Love is a Blue Tick Hound by Audrey Cefaly, Directed by Donna Ibale, Lee Conderacci, Betse Lyons, and Lauren Erica Jackson, and Set Design by Reese Siedlecki tries to answer some of those questions through four two-person shorts exposing the lives of folks from different walks of life with very different questions and problems.

In a nutshell, Love is a Blue Tick Hound is a delving introspective on relationships and ask the serious questions of life. The entire production is made up of four short two-person plays that ask life’s questions such as “are we happy or are we settling?” or “am I afraid to be alone or am I okay with that?” with a blend of poignancy and comedy that gives the audience emotional peaks and valleys that make for good theatre.

Set Design by Reese Siedlecki is semi-minimal but quite appropriate to make it easy to present four different stories. Set pieces are brought on and off stage to set the scenes and this design does its job superbly. With the use of lawn chairs, a cafe table, willow weeds, and a living room set transports the audience into the scenes easily. Transitions are a bit lengthy and clunky, but not enough to deter the flow of the piece and the cast is well-rehearsed and precise in the changes.

Light and Sound Design by Allan Sean Weeks and Max Garner, respectively, add great value to this production while Weeks sets the scene and times of day brilliantly with subtle light changes and accents while Garner produces a flawless sound design that puts the audience smack dab in the scene with a well thought-out design that doesn’t hinder, but helps the setting and adds that extra authenticity. Also, I found myself Shazam-ing the transition tunes that were used because, well, they were not only fitting but pretty awesome tunes!

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

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

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Beste Lyons as Lina and Justin Johnson as Roberto. Credit: Rapid Lemon Productions

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

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Donna Ibale as Kendra and Aladrian C. Wetzel as Betty. Credit: Rapid Lemon Productions

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

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Mike Smith as Bob and Lee Conderacci as Maggie. Credit: Rapid Lemon Productions

Finally, the production rounds out with Stuck, Directed by Lauren Erica Jackson, featuring Mike Smith as Rob and Lee Conderacci as Maggie. This short deals with a second date between two people who might not know exactly what they’re looking for and trying very hard to impress others. Director Lauren Erica Jackson gives a good showing in her presentation and her understanding of the material is evident. Conderacci gets the fundamentals of her character, a strong woman who has a definite individuality but still wants to “fit in,” and she portrays this nicely but her delivery gets a little scripted at times, but her energy and confident stage presence makes for a lovely performance. Her partner, Mike Smith is the stronger of the duet and is, hands down, another standout in this production. His portrayal of his character, a nervous young man going into a second date and just wants to make a good impression, is on point and natural. He has a strong stage presence with a good comedic timing making for a performance that is a joy to watch.

Final thought… Love is a Blue Tick Hound from Rapid Lemon Production is a perfect fit for Women’s Voice Theatre Festival and the tries to answer some of life’s questions through a series of four short plays directed by a different director (all of whom are women and double as actors in one of the other plays) and allows for various visions of a main theme and each play is cast nicely with actors who work well together. Presenting this piece in a minimalist fashion is a wise choice as is forces concentration on the text and performances making the scenes uncluttered and more meaningful. Overall, this production is well through-out and well-presented and is worth checking out if your wandering around looking for good live theatre in the Baltimore-Washington corridor.

This is what I thought of Rapid Lemon Productions’ production of Love is a Blue Tick Hound… What did you think? Please feel free to leave a comment!

Love is a Blue Tick Hound will play through January 21 at Baltimore Theatre Project, 45 W. Preston Street, Baltimore, MD and February 9-17 at Logan Fringe Art Space: Trinidad Theatre, 1358 Florida Avenue, NE Washington, DC. For tickets, you can purchase them online.

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