Review: The Revolutionists at Everyman Theatre

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy

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Running Time: Approx. 2 hours with one intermission

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(l-r) Beth Hylton, Emily Kester, Megan Anderson, and Dawn Ursula. Photo: ClintonBPhotography

When strong women get together, change can happen, ideas can turn into action, and passions can be expressed. At a time when women voices are becoming stronger and more empowered, Everyman Theatre‘s latest offering, The Revolutionists by Lauren Gunderson, Directed by Casey Stangl, gives us an extremely humorous, but extremely poignant look at how women’s voices can make the aforementioned change whether it be in their current time or for posterity. It’s a story of how important a woman’s voice can be, even in the darkest of times.

Briefly, The Revolutionists is about a group of women, a playwright, a strong woman of color and activist, an assassin, and… a queen who discuss life and current events in Paris, France during the Reign of Terror (circa 1793) when the government is chopping off heads with the guillotine at the drop of a hat and a revolution is definitely brewing. These women, who have gathered in a study, a safe space, obviously come from different walks of life explain life and their thoughts to each other as they individually know them and they learn from and teach each other along the way, growing just a little strong and wiser just from knowing each other.

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(l-r) Emily Kester, Beth Hylton, Megan Anderson, and Dawn Ursula. Photo: ClintonBPhotography

Daniel Ettinger’s Set Design is well thought-out and brings this piece together nicely. With various locations, including a large study in a home, a prison cell, and the scaffold where the dreaded guillotine lives, Ettinger has managed to smoothly mesh these locations together with a clever design using set pieces and projections that work in tandem with each other to move the story along nicely.

Light Design by Elizabeth Harper and Sound Design by C Andrew Mayer blend beautifully within the production and help the audience, both visually and audibly, discern where any particular scene is taking place. The mood is created nicely with these aspects as well, engaging the audience wholly. With a nice balance of subtle and bold lighting changes and well-chosen and executed sound effects, Harper’s Light Design and Mayer’s Sound Design add great value to this production.

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(l-r) Dawn Ursula as Marianne Angelle and Beth Hylton as Marie Antoinette. Photo: ClintonBPhotography

David Burdick’s Costume Design is on point with these diverse characters. Each character has such a distinguishable personality and look, Burdick manages to bring out these differences in unique, yet appropriate costumes for each. His attention to detail is impeccable as with Marie Antoinette’s bright yellow and garnished ensemble that exudes the excess and decadence for which she is known (whether accurate or not). The authenticity of the costumes brought these characters to life and made them complete individuals which helped move the story along very nicely.

Casey Stangl takes the helm of this production and her Direction of this piece is, in a word, superb. She has a definite grasp and comprehension of this piece and it shines through in the staging and through the actors’ portrayal of these characters. Stangl’s staging is well-paced and engaging while be focused and clean. The transitions are smooth from one scene and setting to another making making for an even flow that’s easy to follow. Her casting is spot on and her overall vision of presenting strong, confident women is quite apparent.

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Emily Kester as Charlotte Corday. Photo: ClintonBPhotography

Performance-wise, this piece is acted beautifully and confidently with each member of the small four-person ensemble giving fully committed performances making the roles their own. The chemistry between these actors seems effortless and they all work well with and off of each other, especially Dawn Ursula as Marianne Angelle, the scrappy activist and Beth Hylton as the bubbly Queen Marie Antoinette, who play off of each other’s performance superbly.

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Megan Anderson as Olympe de Gouges. Photo: ClintonBPhotography

Emily Kester takes on the role of Charlotte Corday, a young assassin who comes to the only female playwright she knows of to write her last words before she is put to death for killing a very prominent male figure. Kester embodies this character and performs the role with high energy and gusto as required. Her comedic timing is good though it would benefit her and the production if she gave the audience a moment to laugh at the funny lines rather than speaking over the laugh, thus losing many of her lines. She plays this rough-around-the-edges character well and gives the comedy a good balance with poignancy and passion. Overall, she gives a commendable performance that’s a delight to watch.

Olympe de Gouges, the reluctant revolutionist female playwright, is played flawlessly by the incomparable Megan Anderson, an Everyman Resident Company member. She has a good grasp on this character and is authentic in her mannerisms and characterization of this high-strung and passionate character. Anderson’s delivery of the text is spot on and her comedic timing is down pat. She does well with this witty, intelligent dialogue and gives a confident, comfortable, and praiseworthy performance.

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(l-r) Emily Kester as Charlotte Corday and Dawn Ursula as Marianne Angelle. Photo: ClintonBPhotography

As mentioned, Everyman Resident Company member Dawn Ursula takes on the role of Marianne Angelle, the sassy activist who is trying to bring liberty and justice to her people of the Caribbean and she plays it to the hilt. With a keen and impressive sense of deadpan comedy and its delivery, Ursula is gives a strong, authentic presentation and embodies this character wholly. She has a good comprehension of what this character is about and exudes the passions and empathy that is required in her delivery of the text and is certainly one to watch in this production.

As stated previously, Beth Hylton, another Everyman Resident Company member tackles the complex role of Marie Antoinette, Queen of France who doesn’t really get the regular folks, and she is, hands down, the standout in this production. With an Elle Woods (of Legally Blond) type personality and persona, Hylton is both hilarious and touching in this role. This character seems to be the one that grows and learns the most in this piece and it makes sense. The others are fighting against everything Marie Antoinette stands for, or seems to stand for, but, after talking and spending time with the other characters, her empathy shines through and she really seems to comprehend their plights. Hylton portrays this exquisitely, all the while keeping the comedy in tact while showing the compassionate and empathetic side to Marie. With a balance of humor and poignancy, Hylton shines as this flourishing character, giving a strong, note-worthy performance.

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Beth Hylton as Marie Antoinette. Photo: ClintonBPhotography

Final thought… The Revolutionists is a fun, hysterical but thoughtful and important look at how women’s voices can change the course of events and be important in deciding upon policy. The performances are strong and confident, much like the characters these actors are portraying, and the message is clear. Though a comedy, the production is focused and well-thought out both technically and onstage. With it’s modern, comedic twist on a dark, confusing era, The Revolutionists tickles the brain with witty and intelligent humor that forces us to think while we laugh and it’s a production that is not to be missed this season. Get your tickets, now, for this brilliant, funny, and thought-provoking piece of clever theatre!

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

The Revolutionists will play through January 7 at Everyman Theatre, 315 W. Fayette Street, Baltimore, MD. For tickets, call the box office at 410-752-2208 or purchase them online.

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Review: Noises Off at Everyman Theatre

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy

Running Time: 2 hours and 30 minutes with two intermissions (one 15-minute and one 10-minute)

Doors and sardines! Doors and sardines! Apparently, that’s what life is all about… right? Well, maybe not, but it’s always exciting (and a little voyeuristic) to take a peek behind the scenes to see how a show is produced. I don’t know about you, but when a film or an album tickles my fancy, I always enjoy seeing a “Making of…” that particular project and Everyman Theatre‘s latest and last offering of their 2016-17 season, Noises Off by Michael Frayn, Directed by Vincent M. Lancisi, gives us a humorous, frantic peek into what it takes to get a show off the ground and that the show must go on… no matter what.

L-R Deborah Hazlett, Megan Anderson, Carl Schurr, Beth Hylton, Bruce Nelson, and Eric Berryman. Credit: ClintonBPhotography

Noises Off is a “show within a show,” meaning the show itself is about putting on a show called Nothing On and Everyman Theatre has even provided the audience with a program for Nothing On, which adds to the authenticity of the piece. The show is given to us in three acts with breaks in between each act. Act I consists of the final dress, Act II takes place backstage a few months into the tour with the play still going on in the front with problems upon problems going on in the back, including cast love triangles, real and imagined, and Act III shows a performance during the last leg of the tour when everyone has lost all give-a-fuck and have stopped being nice and have started getting real, making for some interesting choices onstage. The comedy comes from the slight changes in each Act as the character flaws come to surface off-stage causing everyone to undermine their on-stage performances with A LOT of slapstick. The contrast between the fictional characters of the play Nothing On and the fictional actors playing those characters is also a great example of comic dissonance.

It’s worth mentioning that Noises Off was made into a film in 1992 and starred heavy-hitters such as Carol Burnett, Michael Cain, John Ritter, and Christopher Reeve, among other big names of the time, and, though it was a box office flop, it has since become a favorite (for those who love theatre, anyway), and has gained a sort of cult-ish following. I’m proud to say I’m a part of that group and I LOVE this film.

BACK: Bruce Nelson and Beth Hylton. FRONT: Danny Gavigan, Deborah Hazlett, and Carl Schurr. Credit: ClintonBPhotography

That being said, the production at Everyman Theatre is definitely one to contend with. With Director Vincent M. Lancisi at the helm, Everyman has made this production their own and it is difficult to compare, which is a feat in itself. Lancisi has a complete comprehension of this piece and the farcical comedy with which it comes. He keeps the action moving and the pacing, for the most part, is spot on. Most of the casting is spot on and Lancisi was wise to use the Everyman Theatre Resident Company to fill all but one role as they were splendid in the roles. Though Act I seems a bit subdued, I was at a matinee performance, so, that may have been a factor but, overall, Lancisi does a superb job presenting the never-give-up essence of this piece and brining to the audience an example of putting on a show and what happens behind the scenes as opposed to what we, the audience, sees as the final product.

L-R Beth Hylton, Bruce Nelson, Danny Gavigan, Deborah Hazlett, Emily Kester, Eric Berryman, and Wil Love. Credit: ClintonBPhotography

I would not do any favors for this review or do the production justice if I didn’t mention the set for this production. I’ve stated in the past that Everyman Theatre has yet to disappoint when it comes to their sets and this production is no different at all. Set Design by Daniel Ettinger is exquisite and complex but absolutely appropriate for this piece. Ettinger has an amazing attention to detail and from the stylish woodwork to the knick-knacks, every set piece is befitting and seems to have been carefully chosen. As the three acts require a “flipping” of the set to represent both the front of the set as well as backstage, Set Design must be handled carefully and Ettinger is on point with is design. During the breaks between acts, the set is flipped completely and while most theatres who produce Noises Off have the luxury of a revolve on the stage, Everyman Theatre crew has to manually flip individual set pieces and they do so with great precision and speed so a major shout out and kudos to Stage Manager Cat Wallis and the stage crew of this production.

Emily Kester as Brooke Ashton and Danny Gavigan as Garry Lejeune. Credit: ClintonBPhotography

Costume Design by Eric Abele is appropriate as Director Vincent M. Lancisi wisely decided to keep the play set in the 1970s and all the actors were dressed in the general styles of the day with nothing too modern, and all looked comfortable, even the poor actor playing Garry Lejeune with his plaid pants and matching coat and the actress playing the scantily clad Brook Ashton running around in her underwear for most of the show. Abele’s overall Costume Design helped the setting of the piece added value to it rather than distract from it.

Lighting and Sound Design by Jay Herzog and Phillip Owen, respectively, is impressive with an acute attention to detail that added extra authenticity to the production. The slight differences between the front of the set to the back of the stage lighting is realistic as there are certainly different levels of brightness and darkness and the difference in sound is exceptional. Being familiar with being backstage during a production, it’s uncanny how Herzog manages to bring that sound to the audience – a sort of muffled, but understandable speaking to which one must pay close attention to hear what is being said. Both Herzog and Owen are to be commended on their work for this production.

L-R Danny Gavigan as Garry LeJeune, Deborah Hazlett as Dotty Otley, and Bruce Nelson as Frederick Fellowes. Credit: ClintonBPhotography

The ensemble for this production of Noises Off is top-notch and all are dedicated, committed performers who understand the piece and the comedy/farce that goes along with it.

Though all of the performances were on point, Carl Schurr’s take on the role of Lloyd Dallas, the helpless director of the runaway train of a production, falls a little flat for me. The character has peaks and valleys of frustration, calm, anger, and resignation, but Schurr doesn’t seem to invest enough emotion to show the contrast between the feelings this character is experiencing. His frustration could be much more which would make the instant switch to calm much more comedic. I can see where he is going with the character, trying to keep the calm and being a British gentleman, of sorts, but I would still like to see the desperation of the character trying to make the show work. That being said Schurr’s comedic timing is absolutely marvelous and he has great chemistry with his cast making for an fine performance.

FRONT: Bruce Nelson as Frederick Fellowes. BACK: Emily Kester as Brooke Aston. Credit: ClintonBPhotography

Bruce Randolph Nelson takes on the role of the dim-witted Frederick Fellowes who is prone to nose-bleeds and isn’t a very good actor at all. In this sense, Nelson is such a good actor, he has this character down pat and certainly makes the role his own as he hits the ground running. The spirit of show is improvisation and Nelson is a hands-down expert in this area. However, there may have been times he took it a bit far, this could just be me being stuffy, but he does such a fine job with the script, too much addition takes away from the performance. This isn’t to say Nelson doesn’t do a great job because he most certainly gives an impeccable performance that will have you belly-laughing throughout his performance.

Megan Anderson as Poppy NOrton-Taylor and Eric Berryman as Tim Allgood. Credit: ClintonBPhotography

Tackling the roles of the poor over-worked Stage Manager, Tim Allgood and Assistant Stage Manager, Poppy Norton-Taylor, are Eric Berryman and Megan Anderson, respectively and these two actors completely embody these roles and make them their own. In real life, the behind the scenes folks are sometimes the most dedicated to a production and Berryman and Anderson evoke that spirit in these characters flawlessly, frantically trying to keep the show on course and doing whatever they can to help. Anderson’s portrayal of the skittish, emotional Poppy makes you feel for this character from the get and Berryman’s take on the easily flustered Tim, is funny and authentic.

Danny Gavigan takes on the young Garry Lejeune, a good enough actor with a jealous streak, who involved with the older Dotty Otley and can’t finish a sentence to save his life, unless it’s scripted. Gavigan does a bang up job in this role. His contrast between the two characters he plays (the actor and the character in the play Nothing On) is clear and concise and his physical work a could be a tad more frenetic and fluid but he does a superb job, looks comfortable in the role, and has a very good command of the stage.

L-R Megan Anderson as Poppy NOrton-Taylor, Wil Love as Selsdon Mowbray, and Deborah Hazlett as Dotty Otley. Credit: ClintonBPhotography

Wil Love is hilarious as Selsdon Mowbray, the aging, heard of hearing, alcoholic actor who seems to be on his own time and script, but manages to shuffle along with the rest of the show. Love’s comedic timing is spot on and he completely embodies this character making him real and a joy to watch. Emily Kester takes on the role of Brooke Ashton, the ditsy, by-the-script bombshell blond actress, and holds her own with the Resident Company members and they seem to welcome her with open arms. Running around in her unmentionables for a majority of the show doesn’t seem to faze Kester and she gives a strong comedic performance having great chemistry with her cast mates.

Beth Hylton tackles the role of Belinda Blair, the upbeat, positive (for the most part), peacemaker of the troupe and gives a beautiful performance. She’s confident and graceful as this character but also plays the comedic bits superbly, as well. Hylton’s portrayal is believable as the positive one in the group who sees the glass as half-full and is enough to get on your nerves, but also as the one who is able to keep it together when things start falling apart. She gives a committed performance that is a joy to watch.

Deborah Hazlett as Dotty Otley. Credit: ClintonBPhotography

Deborah Hazlett as Dotty Otley is absolutely believable and likable in this role and her comedic timing is outstanding. She seems to start off cautious at first, kind of like a slow burn, but then she starts to let loose and by the second act, she lets it go, especially with her quiet interactions with Gavigan who, as Garry, is the love interest to her character, and the relationship is rocky. She may lose her accent here and there, but for the most part, she has it down. Her facial expressions and mannerisms as this character are excellent and make for a very successful performance.

Final thought… Noises Off at Everyman Theatre is a madcap farce that will tickle the most stubborn of funny bones. With a witty script and a dedicated cast, we are given a peek behind the curtain of putting on a production and all that goes with it, good and bad. The entire production is well put-together and the cast has a superb comprehension of the piece. Noises Off has been popular in its own right but contending with a beloved film version (in theatre community, anyway) comparison is always a challenge. However, this production knocks it out of the ballpark. The pacing is frantic, as it should be, and the comedy is spot on making this a must see this season. I couldn’t think of a better way to end out a season so… get your tickets while they last!

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

Noises Off will play through June 18 at Everyman Theatre, 315 W. Fayette Street, Baltimore, MD. For  tickets, call the box office at 410-752-2208 or purchase them online.

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Famed Farce Noises Off to Receive Resident Company Treatment With Comically Chaotic Revival at Baltimore’s Everyman Theatre

If you’re a theatre lover, you don’t want to miss this show wherever and whenever it is playing! This hilarious farce shows the real-world problems that can and inevitably arise during any production and relatable to every actor who has tread the boards! So excited for this production!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 25, 2017

 

Theatre’s Season Wraps with Sardines, Silliness and Split-Second Timing

Baltimore, MD – Everyman Theatre’s Resident Company of actors transforms into a British company of actors during the 1970s in this hotly anticipated revival of Tony Award-Winner Michael Frayn’s side-splitting farce to end all farces, Noises Off, directed by Founding Artistic Director Vincent M. Lancisi and running from May 17 through June 18, 2017.

With this love-letter to the thrilling unpredictability of the stage, Everyman Theatre ends its 2016/17 season on a zany note, joined by eight of its Resident Company members portraying a cast of bumbling British thesps (starring in the fictitious play-within-a-play, “Nothing On”) whose backstage buffoonery threatens to steal the show. With their opening night on London’s West End just hours away, can the cast pull their act together before lost lines, love triangles and flying sardines upstage the production?

Punctuated with wall-to-wall wackiness, carefully timed/choreographed hijinks, and spiked with color-popping 1970s pizazz and sight gags galore, Noises Off considers what happens when everything thatcan go wrong, does go wrong, earning laughs-a-minute from its talented cast.

“We’ve all heard the saying that ‘dying is easy, comedy is hard,’ but working within a Resident Company provides a level of family-like comfort for the actors that paves the way for hilarity of the highest caliber to ensue,” said Lancisi. “When audiences recognize our Resident Company members shifting between the characters they play, and the characters that those characters play (in the play within the play), it only adds to the infectious mayhem – literally tripling up on the fun.”

Resident Company members Deborah Hazlett (The Roommate, Death of a Salesman, A Streetcar Named Desire, An Inspector Calls) and Danny Gavigan (A Streetcar Named Desire, Death of a Salesman, Ghosts, Deathtrap) lead the show-within-a-show cast as Dotty Otley, the top-billed star ofNothing On and Garry Lejeune, her leading man. They are joined by fellow Resident Company members Bruce Randolph Nelson (Great Expectations, Wait Until Dark, Death of a Salesman, A Streetcar Named Desire) as Nothing On co-star Frederick Fellowes, Beth Hylton (A Streetcar Named Desire, Death of a Salesman, Outside Mullingar) as actress Belinda Blair, and Wil Love (Death of a Salesman, Outside Mullingar, Deathtrap) as Selsdon Mowbray, a veteran actor with a weakness for the bottle. The show-within-a-show cast is rounded out by Emily Kester, making her Everyman Theatre debut as the naïve actress Brooke Ashton.

Other featured Resident Company actors in Noises Off include Carl Schurr (Death of a Salesman, A Streetcar Named Desire, Blithe Spirit) as Lloyd Dallas, the director of Nothing On, with Eric Berryman(Red, Topdog/Underdog, A Raisin in the Sun) and Megan Anderson (Dot, Wait Until Dark, Death of a Salesman, A Streetcar Named Desire), respectively, as stage manager Tim Allgood and assistant stage manager Poppy Norton-Taylor.

The Noises Off design team includes Resident Designer Company members Daniel Ettinger (Set Design), Jay A. Herzog (Lighting), Gary Logan (Dialects), Lewis Shaw (Fight Choreography) and Jillian Mathews (Props Master). Costume Design is provided by Eric Abele and Sound Design by Phillip Owen.

Noises Off first premiered in 1982 in London and opened in 1983 on Broadway where it received a Tony Award nomination for Best Play. Performed nearly nonstop ever since, Everyman Theatre’s production follows a recent Broadway revival produced by Roundabout Theatre Company.

Tickets for Noises Off are now on sale online (www.everymantheatre.org), by phone (410.752.2208), or at the Everyman Theatre Box Office (315 W. Fayette Street, Baltimore, MD 21201).

Event Listings

Pay-What-You-Can Performance
May 16, 2017 at 7:30 PM
Pay-What-You-Can (suggested minimum donation: $5) to see the final dress rehearsal of Noises Off. Tickets are sold on a first-come, first-serve basis at the Box Office beginning at 5:30pm. Tickets must be paid for in cash. Seating is general admission.

TNT: Theatre Night for Teens
May 16, 2017 at 6:00 PM
Students in grades 9-12 can enjoy dinner from Noodles & Company, an artist meet-and-greet withNoises Off prop master Jillian Matthews, and the 7:30 PM performance, followed by post-show discussion and dessert. Tickets: $10 each.

The Show Must Go On! A Stoop Storytelling Event
May 22, 2017 (Drinks/music at 6:00 PM; Performance at 7:30 PM)
Everyman and Stoop Storytelling partner to present an entertaining evening of hilarious-but-true stories about the unexpected pitfalls and pratfalls of the stage. Tickets: $20 each.

Taste of Everyman: Wacky Mix-Ups
June 1, 2017 at 6:00 PM
Mix and mingle with other theatre lovers during a pre-show social, this month featuring unique cocktail concoctions combining the most unexpected ingredients, and paired with hors d’oeuvres by The French Kitchen. Tickets: $60 each for show and event.

World of the Play
June 3, 2017 at 5:00 PM
Take part in an in-depth panel discussion on the themes and topics of the show, hosted by Marc Steiner (WEAA’s The Marc Steiner Show). Tickets: $5 each (free for subscribers).

Salon Series: Women’s Voices: Trouble In Mind
June 5, 2017 (Cocktails at 6:00 PM; Performance at 7:00 PM)
A reading of Trouble In Mind by Obie Award-winning African-American playwright Alice Childress, directed by Resident Company member Dawn Ursula. Tickets: $15 each ($5 for students).

Cast Conversations
Jun 8, 2017 at 9:30 PM
Talk about the play with the members of the cast after the show. Free.

About Everyman Theatre

Everyman Theatre is a professional Equity theatre company celebrating the actor, with a Resident Company of artists from the Baltimore/DC area. Founded in 1990 by Vincent M. Lancisi, the theatre is dedicated to engaging the audience through a shared experience between actor and audience seeking connection and emotional truth in performance. Everyman is committed to presenting high quality plays that are affordable and accessible to everyone. The theatre strives to engage, inspire and transform artists, audiences and community through theatre of the highest artistic standards and is committed to embodying the promise of its name, Everyman Theatre.

Noises Off is presented by production sponsor University of Maryland, Baltimore. The 16/17 Season is generously sponsored by LifeBridge Health and Neil & Ellen Meltzer. Everyman Theatre’s Pay-What-You-Can nights are supported by Dr. E. Lee & Bea Robbins. Everyman Theatre is proud to have The Baltimore Sun Media Group and WYPR Season Media Sponsors. MSAC provides financial support and technical assistance to non-profit organizations, units of government, colleges and universities for arts activities. Funding for the Maryland State Arts Council is also provided by the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.

Everyman Theatre is a proud member of the Bromo Tower Arts and Entertainment District and the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance.

Vincent M. Lancisi is the Founding Artistic Director of Everyman Theatre; Jonathan K. Waller is the Managing Director. For information about Everyman Theatre, visit www.everymantheatre.org or call 410.752.2208.

Review: Los Otros at Everyman Theatre

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy

Running Time: 90 minutes with no intermission

When people who come from different walks of life collide, directly or indirectly, one wonders how the two came together. What journey did they take to place one in the other’s life? Everyman Theatre’s latest offering, the premiere of Los Otros, with Book & Lyrics by Ellen Fitzhugh and Music by Michael John LaChiusa, Direction by Noah Himmelstein, and Music Direction by Jon Kalbfleisch gives us a glimpse into that journey and of the steps two characters take through life to cross each other’s path. I’d like to, if I may, give major kudos to Everyman Theatre, as well, for stepping out of their “comfort zone” of strictly plays and producing not only a musical but a brand new, commissioned musical, at that!

Judy McLane and Philip Hernandez. Credit: ClintonBPhotography

Los Otros revolves around Lillian, a white woman, and Carlos, a Hispanic man, who both live in California and is told in a series of vignettes composed of their memories, reflections, and discoveries about themselves and the world around them between the years of 1938 and 1995. According to Everyman Theatre, “Inspiring, energetic and emotionally charged, this semi-autobiographical work captures a universal story of interconnectedness, love, risk and revelation through the lens of two people’s lives.”

Director Noah Himmelstein, Composer Michael John LaChiusa, Writer/Lyricist Ellen Fizhugh. Credit: Kirstin Pagan

The story of Los Otros itself is engaging and I feel for these characters and am genuinely interested in their lives and the stories they tell. The book by Ellen Fitzhugh is authentic and raw with simple storytelling that makes this piece so charming. For spanning so many years, it’s organized and easy to follow and the ending is certainly fitting and satisfying. Michael John LaChiusa’s music leaps off the page and is absolutely appropriate for this piece. I appreciate the hints of different styles representing different eras and though some of the melodies seem a little elementary, overall, the score is pleasing and well thought-out.

For as good as the music and book are, Lyrics, also by Fitzhugh, though good, in general, could use a little more editing. At points it seems Fitzhugh is trying too hard for a rhyme and over-telling the story through song. A couple of the pieces, such as “Arturo,” which is a still a good song, had many parts that sound more like a recitative that can be been spoken rather than trying to throw it into a song. That being said, Music & Lyrics, aside from a few minor, specific criticisms that may smooth out over time, work very well together for this piece as a whole.

Judy McLane. Credit: ClintonBPhotography

Once again, Everyman Theatre has no disappointed with their beautiful set. Set Design by Daniel Ettinger is simple and minimal, yet elegant and appropriate for a production of compiled vignettes. Each character has his or her own main space on either side of the stage with shared space in the center. The use of sliding lattice and slight levels makes the setting interesting without taking away from the action of the piece. This is yet another fantastic set design from Daniel Ettinger.

Philip Hernandez and Judy McLane. Credit: ClintonBPhotography

Lighting and Sound Design by Nancy Schertler and Ken Travis, respectively, also adds to this piece and does not distract from it. Both work in tandem to set the mood of each vignette and brings the audience into the piece subtly guiding the emotion of the action onstage.

David Burdick’s Costume Design is minimal, as it should be for a piece such as this, and each character is costumed befittingly with an wardrobe that is simple, but versatile enough add a piece or take away a piece to represent the different eras of the five decade timeline.

Music Direction is tackled by Jon Kalbfleisch and I would imagine that taking the musical reigns of a brand new piece can be challenging, even daunting, but if it is, Kalbfleisch does an exquisite job. Under his direction, the vocal performances and orchestra were well-rehearsed, giving us a superb final product.

Philip Hernandez. Credit: ClintonBPhotography

Everyman Theatre’s new Associate Artistic Director, Noah Himmelstein, takes the reigns of this production and not only took on Direction of this new and re-imagined piece, but also had a hand in development. His vision is unpretentious, but innovative and effective. His vision is evident and he handles the material nicely and makes it relevant for today’s social and cross-cultured environment. The story is told clearly and the characters are precise making for an enjoyable and enlightening evening of theatre.

Both Judy McLane and Philip Hernandez, both experienced, veteran actors of stage and screen do an impeccable job bringing these characters to life and embodying them completely. Their performances are absolutely engaging and their storytelling is top notch. The connection between these two characters is gradual and clear and both McLane and Hernandez follow this connection at and equal pace impressively reaching the climax seamlessly and simultaneously.

Philip Hernandez. Credit: ClintonBPhotography

Philip Hernandez takes on the role of Carlos, who goes on a journey of sexual identity, defining and finding love, and honoring culture and Hernandez plays it near flawlessly. He has a strong, confident presence and seems to really understand his character. Vocally, he gives an admirable performance with a clear voice that resonates beautifully throughout the theatre. Though, at times, the performance seemed a bit (just a bit) forced, his gradual change in demeanor during his storytelling of his childhood through adulthood is seamless and one is brought into an immersed in the story rather than just sitting on the outside listening making for a commendable and impressive performance.

Judy McLane. Credit: ClintonBPhotography

Judy McLane as Lillian is an absolute joy to watch. She gives an outstanding, natural performance with an exceptional ability to tell a story. McLane presents the authenticity of her character tastefully but with a raw, unabashed undertone throughout the entire production. Life has thrown some curve balls at Lillian and McLane portrays it near perfectly. Her vocal performance is outstanding and strong even while smoothly (and brilliantly) acting her way through her songs. Overall, she gives a solid and remarkable performance.

Final thought… Los Otros at Everyman Theatre is basically a poignant coming-of-age tale spanning many decades and two different cultures. The simple storytelling is what makes this piece work so well and the music is fresh with hints of each decade it represents though the lyrics are a bit hokey and elementary, at times, while at other times, too much. The script is light as the concentration is on the music, but it is engaging and commanding. The journey these characters take us on is mixed with sadness, happiness, smooth sailing, and bumps in the road, but the ending of this story is worth the traveling. It’s always a pleasure and a privilege great to see new and re-imagined works at our larger small theatres in Baltimore and Everyman Theatre is to be commended for their work with this piece. This is definitely a production worthy of your time and consideration!

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

Los Otros will play through April 23 at Everyman Theatre, 315 West Fayette Street, Baltimore, MD. For Tickets, call the box office at 410-752-2208 or purchase them online.

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Review: Wait Until Dark at Everyman Theatre

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy

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Running Time: 2 hours with one 15-minute intermission.

I’ve always been a fan of a good thriller. The nail biting, the jumps, the wondering what’s going to happen next, the edge-of-your-seat stuff… everything! I also love it because it accelerates the heart rate and you don’t even have to step on a treadmill, and we could all use some good cardio every now and again! The latest offering and opening production of the 2016/2017 season at Everyman Theatre, Wait Until Dark by Frederick Knott, Adapted by Jeffery Hatcher, and Directed by Donald Hicken is two hours of excitement, intrigue, and entertainment that gets the heart racing and will have you leaving the theatre with shorter nails and when you walked in.

Megan Anderson as Susan. Credit: ClintonBPhotography

Megan Anderson as Susan. Credit: ClintonBPhotography

Wait Until Dark is cleverly crafted with a ruthless gangster-type, an ousted NYPD detective, an army buddy, a bratty neighbor girl, an absent husband, and a seemingly helpless blind housewife who are all intertwined in a deadly game of hide and seek and catch-me-if-you-can. If this isn’t intriguing enough, throw in Greenwich Village, NYC in 1944 and a basement apartment and you have a fast paced, intelligent story that has you writhing in your seat and wanting to jump up on stage to yell directions to the protagonist.

Set Design by Daniel Ettinger is authentic, very well thought-out and compliments the story beautifully. Being a unit set and a basement apartment, Ettinger uses levels and, working along with the blocking of the piece, keeps the action moving and interesting. The set was so realistic, I really felt I was looking in through the window of a 1940s apartment in Greenwich Village so Mr. Ettinger has absolutely and superbly accomplished his set designing goals.

Eric M. Messner as Mike and Megan Anderson as Susan. Credit: ClintonBPhotography

Eric M. Messner as Mike and Megan Anderson as Susan. Credit: ClintonBPhotography

Costume Design by Ben Argenta Kress is spot on for the 1944 New York City setting and each actor’s wardrobe is seemingly researched and well though-out. Also, the costumes did not only fit the piece, the actors seemed to be very comfortable in what he or she is wearing, adding to the natural feel of the performances. From the saddle shoes of the upstairs neighbor girl to the uniform of a WWII soldier back from Italy, everything was in place and was matched impeccably with the piece.

Continuing with the technical aspect of this production, I couldn’t call this review complete without mentioning Lighting Design by Jay A. Herzog and Sound Design by Patrick Calhoun. Along with the Set Design and Costume Design, the Lights and Sound make this production a standout in current-running Baltimore theatre.

Megan Anderson as Susan. Credit: ClintonBPhotography

Megan Anderson as Susan. Credit: ClintonBPhotography

Many folks have different theatre tastes – traditional, minimal, spectacle, etc. – and I am more of a traditionalist, overall, but this production is truly impressive for the fact that I felt as though I was sitting in a movie theatre watching a film because of the Light and Sound Design. The cinematic feel was just want this production needed and every cue was chosen wisely.

Patrick Calhoun’s choice of incidental music and dramatic string chords were not overbearing but used seamlessly with the scenes playing out on the stage. The attention to detail is absolutely remarkable from the footsteps in the hall, the locking of doors, and the city sounds to the ticking clock, that emphasizes the suspense and has your heart beating just as loudly and in rhythm. Calhoun’s design is extraordinary and is a major part of the success of this production.

In 1967, Wait Until Dark was made into a successful film starring Audrey Hepburn, Alan Arkin, and Richard Crenna using the film noir style. The “noir” bit was a huge part in making the film successful (not to mention Miss Hepburn, of course), and this fact does not go unnoticed by Jay A. Herzog. His Lighting Design was near perfect for this production and completed the aforementioned cinematic feel of this piece. His use of lighting through the windows and through the open doors is realistic and added to the action. The prop lighting, such as lamps, flashlights, and the like fit in flawlessly, as well, adding subtle practicality to the entire production. The piece is dim, as all noir pieces are, but Herzog found a happy medium between the dark scenes and brightly lit scenes that did not take away from or hinder the action or story, but helped it along making for a very effective design.

The technical aspect of this production took this piece to the next level and Ettinger, Kress, Herzog, and Calhoun are to be commended for their impeccable technical work.

Taking the helm of this production, Director Donald Hicken’s vision for Wait Until Dark is genuine and well examined. He keeps the piece in its traditional setting, which is ideal for this piece, and his blocking keeps the actors moving through the various entrances and exits and keeps the action exciting. All of the technical and performance elements mesh together wonderfully and the tension is clearly present throughout but Hicken keeps the piece entertaining, as well, as to not overload the audience with horror and suspense. Overall, Hicken does a tremendous job in guiding this production.

Megan Anderson as Susan and Bruce Randolph Nelson as Roat. Credit: ClintonBPhotography

Megan Anderson as Susan and Bruce Randolph Nelson as Roat. Credit: ClintonBPhotography

At a particularly intense point in this piece, there is a drag-out, knock-down fight between a couple of important characters and though the scene choreographed by Fight Choreographer Lewis Shaw is respectable and passionate, something seemed to be off kilter. Perhaps it is the unbalanced momentum of the scene that seems to be interrupted here and there, giving us spurts of extreme physicality with dark quiet in between. The entire fight scene just seemed a bit forced and not as naturally flowing as the rest of the piece. Still, it was a respectable fight scene and the intensity was definitely there, making the audience gasp and clutch the arm rests while waiting to see who the ultimate victor is.

To comment on the performance side of Wait Until Dark, I’d like to begin by stating that the entire ensemble is impressive from the supporting actors such as Arturo Tolentino who gives a strong performance as the congenial WWII veteran husband, Sam, and Todd Scofield who is a convincing gruff, weathered, and disgraced former member of the NYPD.

Tolentino is confident as the very likable, young newlywed, Sam, who isn’t going to do things for his disabled wife, but wants her to do things for herself and he’s very natural and gives a very pleasing performance.

Todd Scofield as Carlino and Eric M. Messner as Mike. Credit: ClintonBPhotography

Todd Scofield as Carlino and Eric M. Messner as Mike. Credit: ClintonBPhotography

Scofield takes on Carlino, the first character to whom we are introduced and he sets the tone nicely, giving a robust, accurate portrayal of a character he seems to truly understand.

Bruce Randolph Nelson tackles the role of the old time, tough-guy ganster, Roat. He gives a commendable performance as he not only plays the tough gangster, but has to play a mild-mannered husband, as well as an in-your-face father, all within moments of each other. The contrasts between the characters he portrays and the ease in which he portrays them is evidence of the self-assurance he conveys on stage making for a magnificent, strong performance.

Bruce Randolph Neslon as Roat. Credit: ClintonBPhotography

Bruce Randolph Neslon as Roat. Credit: ClintonBPhotography

In this particular production, the role of Gloria, the bratty upstairs neighbor girl who “helps” her disabled downstairs neighbor, is played by two young actresses, Ui-Seng Francois and Shannon Hutchinson. I had the pleasure of experiencing the performance of Ui-Seng Francois and I was not disappointed. Francois’ performance is so authentic, I found myself actually hating this little monster and wishing she’d step out in front of a NY Transit bus every time she opens her nasty flippant mouth. So, needless to say, wishing for her unpleasant demise is a credit to her very strong performance. Also, this character’s change throughout the piece is very interesting and Francois pulls it off flawlessly and she ended up probably being my favorite character in the piece. I’m looking forward to seeing more from this young lady.

Eric M. Messner takes on the role of Mike, a jovial, friendly soldier who’s back from the war on the Italian front but, as with many things and people, never judge a book by its cover. Messner plays the complex character brilliantly and comfortably with a confidence and definite command of the stage. This character is supposed to be likeable from the beginning and Messner accomplishes this nicely with his large stature, his voice – a soothing timber and tone, his gentle mannerisms, and giving off the overall sense of security. He is likened to a gentle giant that you’d like to have around in a pinch.

Megan Anderson as Susan. Credit: ClintonBPhotography

Megan Anderson as Susan. Credit: ClintonBPhotography

A definite highlight of this production is Megan Anderson as Susan, the blind but independent housewife who ends up in the middle of this nerve-racking tale, who has a constitution of steel and discovers exactly how strong she can be despite her disability. Portraying a character with any disability is a challenge for any actor, but Anderson pulls it off flawlessly and authentically. She does not falter or drop her “blindness” at any moment in the production and her dedication and understanding not only of the disability of this character, but of the character herself is clear in superb performance. Her transition from the poor blind woman we feel sorry for to strong blind woman we’re rooting for is gradual, realistic, and seamless. She is an absolute joy to watch and her command of the stage makes for a solid and worthy performance.

Final thought… Wait Until Dark is a suspenseful and extremely entertaining show that will raise your heart rate, have you biting your nails wondering who is friend and who is foe, and rooting for the assumed underdog. It definitely has all the requirements for a good thriller with a twisting story and very talented cast that will have you on the edge of your seat from beginning to end.

This is what I thought of this production of Wait Until Dark.… what do you think?

Wait Until Dark will play through October 9 at Everyman Theatre, 315 W. Fayette Street, Baltimore, MD 21201. For tickets, call the box office at 410-752-2208 or purchase them online.