Reviewing in September

The Elephant Man

(The Collaborative Theatre)

co-produced with Fells Point Corner Theatre

REVIEWED BY THE BAD ORACLE

by Bernard Pomerance

directed by Anthony Lane Hinkle

September 2nd – October 2nd

Murder Ballad

(Stillpointe Theatre)

REVIEWED BY ACHILLES FEELS

by Julia Jordan and Juliana Nash

directed by Corey Hennessey

music direction by Nick Jewett

September 2nd – September 17th

Marx in Soho

(Spotlighters)

REVIEWED BY THE BAD ORACLE

by Howard Zinn

directed by Sherrionne Brown

September 2nd – September 18th

The Wild Party

(Iron Crowe Theatre)

REVIEWED BY PANDORA LOCKS

by Andrew Lippa

directed by Sean Elias

musical direction by Ben Shaver

September 30th – October 9th

Broken Bone Bathtub – No More Tears

bbb-so-02-800x491

Siobhan O’Loughlin, Broken Bone Bathtub

PHOTO CREDIT:  Submersive Productions

A REVIEW BY THE BAD ORACLE

(Standard Disclaimer: I live and work in Baltimore. So yeah, I know a ton of the people I review. Bias is real, it exists in me and everyone else – hence the BAD oracle. I don’t review shows with my actual relatives associated with them,* but other than that all bets are off. What can I say? You’ll have to deal with it, but here’s my promise: I’m biased, but I ain’t stupid. I’ve got a (useless, as it turned out) degree in this shit and I know good theater. Small facts, though: everyone who reviews theater in every town everywhere knows everyone onstage and off. People are too nosy to have it be any other way. Reviewers who deny it are lying 100% of the time. Pissed about this? Don’t read my reviews and we’re square. I don’t use my real name here because I work at a job where people make a frowny face when I say “fuck” and I dearly love to say “fuck”- but it ain’t too hard to figure out who I am if you know what’s what. I don’t care, just don’t get me fired, yeah?)

Siobhan O’Loughlin’s Broken Bone Bathtub, for all of its indie-cred spacial weirdness, felt pretty familiar to me.  The women in my family have always loved baths, and it’s a communal thing.  I’ve got a thousand memories that take place perched on the edge of the tub with my mother, my sister, even my downstairs neighbor reclining inside like banged up goddesses (we’re not what I’d call super careful with our extremities).  They wear grime-ragged bubbles as they reach for threadbare loofahs, shaving, gossiping, crying about the latest thing.  It’s cathartic and relaxing for my tribe of mermaids.  A damp, closed, bright space in which not just to get, but to come clean.  And so, when O’Loughlin popped her curly head up from the side of that tub and starting chatting like we were old friends, the intimacy didn’t feel forced.  It felt remembered.

This is the genius of Bathtub – the actual plot, as engaging as it is at times, is hardly the point.  O’Loughlin doesn’t come off polished like a master storyteller, and that’s okay.  Perfect, actually, because it enables her to be genuine, vulnerable, and real.  She’s an oracle sitting on a crack in the ground, fumes migrating to the sky (not to say that the lovely bath products provided by Mount Royal Soaps smell like diatomaceous earth, more like grapefruit and honey, actually).  She communicates something much more rare: an invitation lay down our burdens, just for a little while, and feel cozy, safe, connected, and loved.

Whether or not to take her up on that is entirely up to you.  I mean, you can sit there like a closed-off blockhead if you want, I guess.  And sure, there’s a bitter, slightly rude, definitely jealous voice inside of me that I sternly told to shut the fuck up so I could intentionally engage (especially when it suggested that breaking your hand in a bike accident is fucking terrible but being a tiny, young, pretty white woman probably made things a little easier on that rainy New York night).

But the point here is not to start a suffering Olympics.  We are all the stars of our own stories.  Our personal triumphs, pains, revelations, are life and death to us.  The best part of Broken Bone Bathtub is the way O’Loughlin is able to use her experience as a springboard to truly connect with her audience.  She is startlingly, disarmingly direct; she asked me, for example, a question about my mother, which gave me a sharp pain to the heart, given her messy death some years ago.  But that’s what we’re here for, right?  Submersive Productions invites us, a touch literally in this case, to “dive in”.  For fans of “immersive theater” this means that yes, you will be part of the show in an deeply personal, almost therapeutic, way.  It’s a beautiful, symbiotic kind of performance that feels special.  I’m excited that such a risk-taking company, doing such intensely personal, engaging work, exists in my city.  Excited, and proud.

BOTTOM LINE:  Broken Bone Bathtub is the kind of production that you should see because it’s going to be what everyone’s talking about and you don’t need the FOMO.  It’ll stick with you for a long time.  I was so, so, glad I got to experience Siobhan O’Loughlin’s touring rejection of alienation, and you will be too.  (And, uh, get those tix now, guys. It takes place in a literal bathroom, which means that there are like ten seats a show.  So if you sleep, you weep).

Running until September 11th at a historic rowhome in Baltimore.

SECOND OPINION?

Broken Bone Bathtub: Bubbly banter saturates synergistic show

Email The Bad Oracle at emailthebadoracle@gmail.com

Like The Bad Oracle on Facebook

Follow The Bad Oracle on Twitter (@thebadoracle)

Julius Caesar – Lend Me Your Fears

unnamed

Julius Caesar – Fred Fletcher Jackson (Mark Antony), Kelly Hutchison (Plebian) 

PHOTO CREDIT:  Will Kirk

A REVIEW BY THE BAD ORACLE

(Standard Disclaimer: I live and work in Baltimore. So yeah, I know a ton of the people I review. Bias is real, it exists in me and everyone else – hence the BAD oracle. I don’t review shows with my actual relatives associated with them,* but other than that all bets are off. What can I say? You’ll have to deal with it, but here’s my promise: I’m biased, but I ain’t stupid. I’ve got a (useless, as it turned out) degree in this shit and I know good theater. Small facts, though: everyone who reviews theater in every town everywhere knows everyone onstage and off. People are too nosy to have it be any other way. Reviewers who deny it are lying 100% of the time. Pissed about this? Don’t read my reviews and we’re square. I don’t use my real name here because I work at a job where people make a frowny face when I say “fuck” and I dearly love to say “fuck”- but it ain’t too hard to figure out who I am if you know what’s what. I don’t care, just don’t get me fired, yeah?

*This is The Bad Oracle’s “family matters” disclosure: someone involved in this production is related to or the partner of a member of the staff of The Bad Oracle. This is an exception to our usual disclaimer, which is why it is here.)

If you had told me a couple of weeks ago that I would be leaving a production of Julius Caesar excited about the future prospect of seeing Shakespeare’s Roman plays performed live, I would be as surprised as if you told me I’d be exiting with my head sewn to my kneecap.  I’m just saying what most people are thinking; these (and the histories, God help us) tend to be a little…dry.  There isn’t much family intrigue going on (like Hamlet, or Romeo and Juliet) to keep it relatable.  It’s a lot of political posturing and long speeches, and there isn’t even a Mother of Dragons hanging around looking like Emilia Clarke.  That being said, Baltimore Shakespeare Factory’s production is exciting and that’s pretty fucking impressive, in my opinion.

Director Chris Cotterman serves a Caesar trussed up like Colonial Williamsburg, meaning tricornes galore.  This concept was my least favorite thing about the show, but I got it.  The Birth of America motif does shorthand to hatred of King.  It also shorthands to Hamilton, but whatever.  Cotterman’s note says the decision was both aesthetic (he thinks togas are silly, which, yeah, but I’d be willing to say they don’t look any more ridiculous than short pants) and meant to resonate with an American audience in the same way that the original resonated with 16th century British theatergoers.  But it seemed muddled to me, and a bit confusing.  The American Revolution was all about the giddiness of the new, of the forging of a dream.  The events of the play, and their emotional backbone, come from their proximity to the death of a Republic, of the destruction of a dream.  Interestingly, Cotterman’s note also says that he considered staging the show present day, with Roman eagle wings taking the place of tiny stars-and-bars lapel pins.  In a way, this would have been easier, lazier, but if he was looking for resonance, could have been a real gut punch.  Threat to the Republic, indeed.  What Cotterman is, though, and blessedly, is an actor’s director.  The man is an intensely great performer, and his direction is sensitive, fundamental, and clean.  That’s where the heart of the play is, and that’s what you should show up for.  When I say I was excited by the show, it’s what I mean.

Utkarsh Rajawat, playing Caius Cassiuso, is an incredible up-and-coming talent.  He is so intense, fucking weary and wary.  The performance is confident, and he plays Caius as a man conflicted – watch how he says, “What trash is Rome” like a disappointed patriot.  Beautiful.  Anne Shoemaker is a gift to the Baltimore small stage, and her dominant presence as the title character is a treat to watch (that dark look after “Would he were fatter!” tho).  I had no idea what to make of Shannon Ziegler as Marcus Brutus, the leader of the coup that stabs up Caesar good.  She’s so tiny, and has such a slight impression that I worried that she wouldn’t have the impact I was looking for, but fucking joke’s on me, because it’s an inspired casting.  Tiny she might be, but she’s forceful, and, more than that, she’s emotional.  Brutus is complicated, and Ziegler doesn’t have all the answers.  And that’s the right thing.  Fred Fletcher-Jackson is pretty hot as the teary Mark Antony, and (more importantly) gives some fucking boss oration, which is only appropriate.  Katharine Vary is most effective in her role as Portia, Brutus’ wife.  She’s strong, and swings kind of Amazonian warrior queen with it, defiantly slashing up her thighs as the consummate solider’s wife.  Liz Galuardi seems to play a thousand different roles, but she’s heartbreaking as Calphurnia, Caesar’s wife, AKA The Woman Everyone Should Have Probably Fucking Listened To.

I want to give a little note:  Baltimore Shakespeare Factory could benefit from defining who they are and where they fit among the numerous stages that produce this type of work.  I have a feeling the they are in transition, caught between their commitment to “re-create as closely as possible the conditions that an audience in the Elizabethan/Jacobean periods would have experienced if they attended one of the theaters of that time” and seeming to chafe against that mission.  They cast women in male roles, for example, which is about as far as you can get from the Elizabethan stage (even if you accept their work-around that it’s the same as the “cross gender casting” of the period, which, no).  The gender blind casting is fine, preferable, if you ask me, but it does muddy their stated purpose, is what I’m saying.   I’d like to see them find a strong, playable, interesting mission that more closely matches what they are currently doing on stage.  End of note.

BOTTOM LINE:  I wasn’t as jazzed for the colonial setting of Baltimore Shakespeare Factory’s Julius Caesar as I was for the nuanced performances.  The acting is spectacular, bursting with life and purpose, and that’s what I like to see.  If you are afraid of the Romans, don’t be.  This felt current, present, and alive.

SECOND OPINION?

http://www.citypaper.com/arts/stage/bcp-081016-stage-caesar-20160809-story.html

Email The Bad Oracle at emailthebadoracle@gmail.com

Like The Bad Oracle on Facebook

Follow The Bad Oracle on Twitter (@thebadoracle)

Crash and Burn PA – Legal Please

13669584_1651386921844606_7209719182988974686_n

Crash and Burn PA

A REVIEW BY PANDORA LOCKS

(Pandora’s Disclaimer: I’m a Bawlmer girl born and raised. I have always loved that funky, edgy, artsy vibe that the city throws down, and I am ecstatic to check out the theatre scene in depth. I have worked the circuit a bit, but my real education is in the story [text, analysis, literature]. I want to see great theatre, and I will extol enthusiastically if it is great. The best art, in my humble opinion, is the stuff that challenges, changes, and has a timely message. Got something to say? Then fucking say it! Make me believe it, make me walk away with questions, insight, and ideas. Don’t agree? Drop me a comment, but I take this job seriously, and will point out errors as I see fit. You can sell me your hard knocks, but I might just smile and flip my locks.❤)

“Comedy is unusual people in real situations, farce is real people in unusual situations.”  
-Chuck Jones

Robert Bowie Jr.’s Crash and Burn PA, a show spawned by Theatrical Mining Company by way of the Baltimore Playwright’s Festival, is, indeed, a farce.  One that, even if the characters are a bit 2D for my taste, is worth the visit.  Bowie Jr. has given us an fair imitation of lawyerese antics, with a touch of political commentary thrown in.  If you’re feeling a little bogged down by, you know, the news in general, and feel like some physical humor and preposterous situations, it’s your lucky night.  

The law offices of Crash and Burn, the setting for this mischief, are…a little nutty.  We’ve got Ophilia (Penny Nichols) a fast-talking, overly animated law secretary.  Brenda (Jessica Taylor) shows up to secure a custodial position.  Burn (Tom Piccin), a down to earth lawyer, mostly working on wills, is being driven to the brink of insanity by his partner Crash (Robert Ingbretson).  Crash has failed to pay the rent for the last three months, but don’t worry, he’s got a big name client and big check coming.  This is just the kind of stuff that happens over at Crash and Burn.  Although farce is usually all about an elaborate plot with a bunch of twists and turns that the audience can barely follow, this missing moola caper was pretty elementary to solve.  It’s fairly tightly woven, performed with comic prowess and a nicely fast pace.  

Ingbretson steals the show as Crash, a smooth talking, ambulance chasing, full-of-himself type.  His physical comedy is on point and I believed his slimy lawyer delivery 100% (it’s the sort of performance where I feel moved to say that I’m sure Mr. Ingbretson is most likely quite a nice man in real life).  The delivery, antics, fidgets, are well-timed and well-calculated.  Crash could be the poster child for ADHD.  The cast is rounded out by Ian Smith as Officer Foote and  John D’Amato’s Milty, a millionaire buying the election process.  D’Amato hits delightfully close to home for this red/blue season, and Smith shines when he’s taking the heat instead of being the HEAT.  

The production takes place in the upstairs theater of Fells Point Corner Theater, a smaller space that director Barry Feinstein makes excellent use of.  Actors zigzag across the stage, using the entire the playing area to maximum potential.  There is no noted costumer, but I loved the matching elements as part of the mistaken identity bits (especially a gag where Crash’s tie is an imitation of an original, expensive one, but tied incorrectly).  Lighting (Charles Danforth III) and stage construction (Bush Greenbeck ) are solid, with easy transitions and lots of Scooby Doo style door slamming sequences.   
BOTTOM LINE:  If you want a carefree night of fun and laughs (and are maybe tired of the wheezing political shit storm) this is your ticket.  It’s a pretty classic comedy, and it’s fun to support local playwrights.  Go ahead, laugh at some fictional follies for the evening.  It’s pretty damned refreshing.

Running at Fells Point Corner Theater until August 14th.

SECOND OPINION?

Email Pandora Locks at pandoralocks@gmail.com

Like The Bad Oracle on Facebook

Follow The Bad Oracle on Twitter (@thebadoracle)

Dark Play or Stories for Boys – C@fish

unnamed

Dark Play or Stories for Boys

A REVIEW BY PANDORA LOCKS

(Pandora’s Disclaimer: I’m a Bawlmer girl born and raised. I have always loved that funky, edgy, artsy vibe that the city throws down, and I am ecstatic to check out the theatre scene in depth. I have worked the circuit a bit, but my real education is in the story [text, analysis, literature]. I want to see great theatre, and I will extol enthusiastically if it is great. The best art, in my humble opinion, is the stuff that challenges, changes, and has a timely message. Got something to say? Then fucking say it! Make me believe it, make me walk away with questions, insight, and ideas. Don’t agree? Drop me a comment, but I take this job seriously, and will point out errors as I see fit. You can sell me your hard knocks, but I might just smile and flip my locks.❤)

“You are now on To Catch a Predator.”  That’s what I was waiting for.  That moment when Chris Hansen, in his boring gray suit, charges in to save the day and shut the crazy shit down.  But Chris doesn’t come, not this time (spoiler alert).  And the crazy shit that is Carlos Murillo’s Dark Play or Stories for Boys?  Well, it just continues to spiral further and further out of control, right before your eyes.  Uncomfortable?  Yeah.  Repetitive and creepy?  Yeah.  Worth driving to Fallston to see?  Hell yeah.

Dark Play begins with our eventual narrator, Nick (Anthony Chanov), a young man who has just hooked up with Molly (Ally Rambo), who is currently asleep in his dorm room bed.  Post coitus, she asks about the scars on his abdomen.  In that moment, Nick manipulates time and turns to the audience.  He informs us of the “gullibility scale,” which goes from hardened skeptic to delicious eater of the “wheelbarrow full of ca-ca.”  Nick is an internet-savvy teen who finds a super trusting internet mark (not for the first time, it seems) and decides to have some “fun” with him. He creates a fake identity, a perfect girl named “Rachel” (also Rambo), for the purpose of making poor Adam (Nate Stauffer) fall head over heels in love with her.

My only real issue here is with the script.  And I mean that, because I think director Joshua Fletcher did an excellent job giving us what the playwright intended us to see.  Murillo has said that he “wants people to leave the theater and discuss the play.”  But the ending (without giving too much away) is very decisive, and doesn’t encourage much chat.  Nick straight up tells us where he is and what his future looks like.  The play, especially the denouement, could use a little more Fight Club ambiguity.  A rework as a cliffhanger could up the interest level tremendously.   The script is also repetitive, with lines and segments repeated ad nauseum.  They become clear eventually, but at several points I fiddled in my lap, wondering when the broken record would skip to the next scene.

The choice of Anthony Chanov as Nick seemed a bit questionable at first.  I wasn’t sure what to make of him with his tattoos, nose ring, bare feet, shaved mohawk, and I wasn’t quiiiite sure I believed him as whole-heartedly as the play clearly wanted me to.  As the story progresses, though, Chanov’s Nick forces you to eat the shit he is spooning out.  You watch as he sinks deeper and deeper into his own delusions.  Chanov excels at bringing this uncomfortable weirdness to the table.  The scene with he and Stauffer, where the boys sit on Nick’s bed, is so awkward that you can actually feel it in the air “like peanut butter”.  The silence just…hangs….for an eternal minute.  The audience laughs, shifts, doesn’t know what to do, and it is so fucking real and palpable that I applauded.  We don’t know what’s coming next because Nick doesn’t know what’s coming next.  Chanov’s portrayal is acute, a confused teen engaging in what, in his mind, is dark “play” with strangers.  It feels psychologically correct, like dangerous, uncharted territory.  It’s a wonderful, tense performance.  

Nate Stauffer’s Adam is a little one note, but that might be more Murillo’s fault.  The character written as so gullible, almost too genuine for 16-year-old boy, so there’s not much for Stauffer to build on.  Ally Rambo transitions between fictional Rachel and real world Molly quite smoothly.  Dustin Horsman and Tricia Ragan take on a barrage of roles, several of which are LOL.  I especially liked Ragan as the nebulous CSI SVU agent who uses “heinous” the way I use “fuck”, and Horsman as the pervy step-father who gets chummy with Adam after intercepting some pornographic web chats.

[One thing:  I have to mention that there are some sex scenes.  I want to commend BOOM for handling them with grace.  I understood what was going on but didn’t have to watch anyone undress on stage.  Let me be clear:  I don’t mind nudity, I’m certainly no prude, but these actors have you believing they are minors mucking around on the internet.  What I’m saying is that I’m thankful I didn’t have to even pretend to watch a 16-year-old whip his dick out.  Thanks, BOOM.  Sincerely. Thanks.]  

BOTTOM LINE:  Dark Play or Stories for Boys is a provocative piece of theater, worth the drive to Harford County to see unfold.  The teen angst fills the room, leaving a film on your skin that isn’t easy to scrub off.  With well-done direction and a more than competent cast, this show is what small, intimate theater should look like.  

Running at Unitarian Universalists of Fallston until August 20th.

SECOND OPINION?

Email Pandora Locks at pandoralocks@gmail.com

Like The Bad Oracle on Facebook

Follow The Bad Oracle on Twitter (@thebadoracle)

Reviewing in August

Dark Plays or Stories for Boys

(BOOM Theatre Co.)

REVIEWED BY PANDORA LOCKS

by Carlos Murillo

directed by Joshua Fletcher

August 5th – August 20th

Crash and Burn PA

(Theatrical Mining Company

in conjunction with the Baltimore Playwright’s Festival)

REVIEWED BY PANDORA LOCKS

by Robert Bowie Jr.

directed by Barry Feinstein

July 29th – August 14th

Broken Bone Bathtub

(Submersive Productions)

REVIEWED BY THE BAD ORACLE

by Siobhan O’Loughlin

August 18th – September 4th

Twelfth Night – Let’s Go for a Twin

13627031_10101889202200465_4104637872039372338_n

Twelfth Night 

A REVIEW BY PANDORA LOCKS

(Pandora’s Disclaimer: I’m a Bawlmer girl born and raised.  I have always loved that funky, edgy, artsy vibe that the city throws down, and I am ecstatic to check out the theatre scene in depth.  I have worked the circuit a bit, but my real education is in the story [text, analysis, literature].  I want to see great theatre, and I will extol enthusiastically if it is great. The best art, in my humble opinion, is the stuff that challenges, changes, and has a timely message.  Got something to say?  Then fucking say it!  Make me believe it, make me walk away with questions, insight, and ideas.  Don’t agree?  Drop me a comment, but I take this job seriously, and will point out errors as I see fit.  You can sell me your hard knocks, but I might just smile and flip my locks.❤)

There’s a famous line that opens Twelfth Night.  Like, really, really famous.  Famous enough that I want you to Google it if you don’t already know it (but you do).  And I would have really liked hearing it delivered by the gorgeous, statuesque Aladrian Wetzel but alas!  SOMEONE BEHIND ME WAS TALKING ON THEIR FUCKING CELL PHONE, LOUDLY AND IN RUSSIAN.  Even after I shot her the stank eye, she continued.  Finally, just as the opening scene was winding down, she decided to hang it up and pay attention.  Is this seriously how people act at the theater? [Yes. – TBO] The answer and ensuing conversation on that one is probably a whole other article. [Yes. – TBO]

Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night is about a noblewoman named Olivia (Valerie Dowdle) who has more suitors than she knows what to do with, and who unluckily manages to fall in love with the hapless Cesario (Caitlin Carbone).  See, Cesario is actually a woman named Viola in drag.  After surviving a shipwreck and thinking her twin brother, Sebastian (Rena Marie) dead, she dresses as a guy to work for the Court of Orsino (Wetzel), a neighboring duke.  Of course there is mistaken identity involving the twins. There also drunks, surly servants, and witty fools.  It’s a farce, a romp through Illyria that ends, like most funny things, with a double wedding.  Night was my first outdoor BSF production, and I learned that the intention here is to present the play as closely as possible to the staging conditions of Shakespeare’s time.  That means lights, but no fancy lighting, a simple platform in the grass, and lots of eating, drinking, and audience interaction.

Crucially, as others at The Bad Oracle have noted in the past, this company makes the material accessible.  Meaning that even those not schooled in Shakespeare will enjoy themselves and follow the story.  Director Thomas Delise has the actors here bring it big, big hand gestures, big projection, big face.  And bring it they do.  Everyone in the cast is exceptionally talented.  Wetzel commands authority with her height, intensity and frankly amazing voice.  She brings fresh air to a oft stale role, which allows the audience to root for Orsino the way they should.  Caitlin Carbone also just simply slays.  Her facial expressions while in court next to Orsino are worth the price of admission.  Everyone in the audience, EVEN CELL PHONE LADY, was laughing and snickering along with her.  I am in often awe of Carbone’s repertoire, I have a feeling there isn’t any role she doesn’t seem born to play.

But really, I had something to enjoy in everyone.  Valerie Dowdle’s Olivia strikes just right balance between saucy and stuck up.  David Forrer as Sir Toby Belch, Olivia’s uncle, is either actually drinking or nailed that drunk and swaying thang like a boss.  Jessica Baher’s expressions and slapstick comedy as Fabian, Captain, and Priest are noteworthy.  She throws herself at every role she plays.  Cheryl Campo’s Maria, another servant, is the perfect trickster, laughing infectiously and slapping her knees throughout.  Ishai Barnoy is a joy as the blonde-wig-clad, idiotic Sir Andrew Aquecheek (that wig is too fucking funny, it might need billing of its own).  Jeff Miller as Olivia’s head servant, Malvolio, does his best upper crust contempt, while allowing a transition to a more approachable, sympathetic character by the end.  Emily Sucher as the fast-talking fool Feste is perfect, down to her harlequin Ugg boots.  Rena Marie is wonderful as the awe-struck Sebastian as is Tegan Williams, as rescuer Antonia, who loses her cool completely with all this nonsense, even with her hands literally tied.

Because of the minimal props and staging, Delise relies heavily on ornate, period costumes by April Forrer.  They are opulent, for sure.  They also look preeetttty hot on a steamy July evening.  Shakespeare’s patrons would have been been familiar with pre and post-show musical selections, and the cast cracks us up with their songs.   Although they all sing and play instruments-some of which I’ve never seen before, like this small keyboard thing with a hose? [It’s a melodica, cool!-TBO]-the highlight of hilarity is Jeff Miller’s lead on “Business Time” by Flight of the Conchords.  I snorted beer through my nose.

THE BOTTOM LINE:  Baltimore Shakespeare Factory is to be commended for staying true to Shakespeare’s vision. Twelfth Night does just that while also transcending the era and offering something for everybody, nerd or not.  This is an exceptional production (in fact, I’m planning on seeing it again before the end of the run).  Get together a basket of food and some spirits, and go with a group.  Don’t forget the bug spray!

Running at The Meadows at Johns Hopkins University’s Evergreen Museum and Library through August 7th.

SECOND OPINION?

Email Pandora Locks at pandoralocks@gmail.com

Like The Bad Oracle on Facebook

Follow The Bad Oracle on Twitter (@thebadoracle)

Lord of the Flies – Buzz, Buzz

13567269_10154151438015552_3700114021309306546_n

Lord of the Flies 

A REVIEW BY PANDORA LOCKS

(Pandora’s Disclaimer: I’m a Bawlmer girl born and raised. I have always loved that funky, edgy, artsy vibe that the city throws down, and I am ecstatic to check out the theatre scene in depth. I have worked the circuit a bit, but my real education is in the story (text, analysis, literature). I want to see great theatre, and I will extol enthusiastically if it is great. The best art, in my humble opinion, is the stuff that challenges, changes, and has a timely message. Got something to say? Then fucking say it! Make me believe it, and walk away with questions, insight, and ideas. Don’t agree? Drop me a comment.; but I take this job seriously, and will point out errors egregiously. You can sell me your hard knocks, but I might just smile and flip my locks.❤)

“Welcome to Plum Island Infectious Disease Center!” chirps a chipper PR person at the top of Annex’s Lord of the Flies, that old slice of mandatory literature from the High School required reading list (though this is a new adaptation loosely based on the old and involving isolated adults who are acting like children).  Her name is Portia (Sarah Lamar), and she’s there to lead on your “three-hour tour” of “the facility”.  There’s the obvious, easy Gilligan reference, of course, but there’s actually more of a Jurassic Park thing going on here.  Maybe it was the dude in khakis and aviators who appeared to take his job way too seriously.  Probably.

Lamar really nails the “communications major” persona.  Portia tries her best to be upbeat, even when warning lights go off, quarantining the audience and staff.  Dr. Wolfe (Sarah Jacklin), head researcher, is a stickler for form and order, calling meetings, checking off clipboards.  Her sidekicks are the married Dr. Eriksems duo (Dave Iden and Maddy Scott), and her nemesis, a wild, untamed researcher named Jackie (Madison Coan).  We’ve been placed on lock-down, code 42A.  We watch as the staff attempt to follow protocol, figure out what went could have possibly gone wrong and fix that thing ASAP.  Of course, much like the site of any other major disaster, you have the members of the press (Maura Dwyer and Ren Pepitone) crawling around.  I don’t think it would be too much of a spoiler to say that corruption and chaos do indeed ensue before order finds its way back to the facility.  There were some greeeeat creepy moments too that I really won’t spoil except to say that the audience is left deliciously aghast, several times.  As you’ve guessed, this version of the story references the plot of the novel, but branches off into its own entity.  For those of you that are fans of Golding [Blech. – TBO], there are some smart nods (“Sucks to your pigs”) for nostalgic purposes.

This Flies is an immersive experience, and, from the press passes at the door to the surprise ending, you are a part of the play.  Even the reconfiguring of the space by set designer Rick Gerriets maximizes the audience/stage contact. One of the biggest accomplishment here, for me, is the fact that this work is director-less.  So a play about the breakdown of society is founded and developed by the very cooperation of those depicting chaos.  As the program states:  “similar procedures and structural dynamics-very different outcome.”  Indeed.  You have to get used to some tonally odd moments, like when Simon (Jacob Budenz) -remember Simon?- launches into a lecture on Coconut Crabs (as Simon continues at three separate intervals with his story, it paints him a different, dramatic life, isolate from his counterparts, and the bit becomes a wonderful moment of catharsis for escalating mayhem, a reference point for the themes and symbolism found in the book).  Budenz’s acting is spot on, detached yet loving, juvenile but responsible, hesitant and also a bit clairvoyant.  I was so intrigued I wanted to pull out my cell phone to check the accuracy of his talk (I didn’t, I’m not That Kind Of Patron, my companion Googled it on the way home).

The standout, though, is Rjyan Kidwell as Roger, the Top Gun inspired security guard who is Jackie’s right hand man.  His swagger, expressions, and one-liners are fantastic.  At one point there is a debate about whether to take away cell phones and he retorts:  “They use their smartphones on the shitter, you know.”  Dave Iden and Maddy Scott get some laughs as the meticulous researchers who go so far as to schedule their intimacies.  Madison Coan does a nice loose cannon with flaring nostrils, dismissive hand gestures, and a few hate- fueled taunts.  And Lamar gets into it as Portia descends into the madness and allows the stress to overcome her, hurling insults as that perky receptionist mold breaks apart.

Projections (video team member Sonya Norko) work seamlessly.  When characters exit on their way to other locations in the facility, we follow them via images thrown onto the back of office cubicles.  Dance moves, choreographed by Coan, integrate nicely and symbolize some of the more ritualistic scenes from the novel, though the program rather disappointingly promises “twerking and K Pop”.  There was techno pop, but I missed the twerking  I do love a good rump shake.  Light design team Evan Moritz and Faith Bocian perform their duties without event (I liked the warning lights that flash periodically, reminding us of our status).

THE BOTTOM LINE:  Annex does art-fueled theater right, serving complex adaptations washed in their unique perspective.  I think I might be becoming a groupie [It happens, just don’t let it go too far, I’m not bailing you out again, Pandora. – TBO]  This Lord of the Flies is an intense evening.   It manages to be both modern and intriguing while maintaining clear connections to the source material.  Compelling, beautifully performed, captivatingly conceived.  Once again, Annex delivers.

Running at The Annex Theater until August 7th.

SECOND OPINION?

Email Pandora Locks at pandoralocks@gmail.com

Like The Bad Oracle on Facebook

Follow The Bad Oracle on Twitter (@thebadoracle)

Tick, Tick, BOOM – Benefit of the Pout

002ttboom_orig

Tick, Tick, BOOM 

PHOTO CREDIT: Spotlighters Theatre/Chris Aldridge, CMAldridgePhotography

A REVIEW BY PANDORA LOCKS

(Pandora’s Disclaimer: I’m a Bawlmer girl born and raised. I have always loved that funky, edgy, artsy vibe that the city throws down, and I am ecstatic to check out the theatre scene in depth. I have worked the circuit a bit, but my real education is in the story (text, analysis, literature). I want to see great theatre, and I will extol enthusiastically if it is great. The best art, in my humble opinion, is the stuff that challenges, changes, and has a timely message. Got something to say? Then fucking say it! Make me believe it, and walk away with questions, insight, and ideas. Don’t agree? Drop me a comment.; but I take this job seriously, and will point out errors egregiously. You can sell me your hard knocks, but I might just smile and flip my locks❤)

It’s been a fucked up week, Baltimore.  So I was a little less than enthused by the prospect of exercising my privilege (just sayin’) and attending Spotlighter’s production of Jonathan Larson’s Tick Tick BOOM Friday.  BOOM is Larson’s (pre-RENT and Pulitzer and three Tony Awards) play about a guy, Jon (Garrett Zink), trying to break into the New York entertainment industry as a composer.  Jon’s turning thirty [Oh, boo-hoo.  TBO] and he’s listening to the clock go tick, tick, BOOM, metaphysically, reminding of his limited time to make an impact.  Jon is overwrought, anxious, stuck…huh, well, suddenly I felt a little more energetic.  This is how we’re all feeling this week!  Some shit has got to give!  Systematic overall!  Change the scope of the nation!  None of us are good enough!  Time is of the essence!  I wanted something I could sink my teeth into.

But that wasn’t what I got.  Part of the issue is that I just. don’t. fucking. like. Jon.  The character, I mean.  The second he walks onto the stage, looking like he just wandered in off St. Paul in a flannel shirt, brown cords and pair of Vans (costumes by Andrew Malone), I did a visceral head shake.  He just doesn’t seem like someone truly on the edge and I’m honestly not at all sure I care if he is.  Sure, Jonny Boy flaps around some and has a lot on his plate, but Zink ultimately conveys a guy that kind of…has his shit together?  I mean, I’ve had worse anxiety worrying about someone calling me back.  That was problem one.  Problem two?  It’s a musical.  I like musicals.  Love them, actually.  But Zink is pitchy, especially at the beginning.  I understand it’s the small stage and not the Peabody, but the lack of authentic tension and the iffy singing adds up, you know?

There are bright moments, don’t get me wrong.  Clare Kneebone, playing Jon’s girlfriend, Susan, (and a few other parts) is a wonderful singer who really nails it.  Director Jillian Locklear Bauersfeld, curiously, seems to hold her back just a little at the beginning, but “Come to Your Senses”, where Kneeebone performs as Karessa, a character in Jon’s composition, is shining.  She really sings for him, and it was the only time of the night I felt that goose-bumpy, spine-shivering sensation of a really good singer hitting all the right notes, both emotionally and otherwise.  She’s great in her other roles, too, I liked a funny bit where she gets a little carried away with the pit bassist (Greg Bell).  Speaking of the pit for just a sec, the band, under the direction of Michael Tan, was a lovely surprise [Pandora’s first time reviewing at Spots.-TBO]. They sounded really profesh, and, when it became clear that they were a little loud at the onset, they tuned down and we could hear the actors just fine.  Rob Wall pops up as Michael, an actor from Jon’s past who has moved on to more lucrative pursuits, and, again, some other smallish parts.  Wall cuts a sharp figure in that suit and offers moments of amusement (I liked Rosa, the agent).

TBH, the set (Alan Zemla) doesn’t radically change at Spotlighters – it’s hard to keep re-imagining a small space in the round (And, so, I am delighted that they are moving forward with the possibility of a new space at the former Read’s drugstore on Howard and Lexington streets. I am rooting for y’all).  The best use of the limited staging was six black boxes, standing in for everything from cars to convenience store counters.  The boxes offer both levels and clever storage for a myriad of props, though at one point I felt a little bad for stage manager Lanoree Blake, the person who has to figure out what goes in what box and sort it all out at the end of the night.  Lighting from Fuzz Roark was nice, I liked the spotlights on internal monologues and full sets otherwise, with some fun disco ball action here and there.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Tick Tick BOOM! is a welcome distraction from Fox News, sure, but falls a little flat.  There’s a standout performance from Clare Kneebone, a great band, and some twinkles of late-twenties malaise-based comedy, but as for the rest, BYOA (Bring Your Own Anxiety, it shouldn’t be hard).  With a fairly uncharismatic lead character and a weirdly thin plot, there’s just not enough substance here to lock it down for me.

Running at Spotlighters through July 31st.

SECOND OPINION?

https://backstagebaltimore.wordpress.com/

Email Pandora Locks at pandoralocks@gmail.com

Like The Bad Oracle on Facebook

Follow The Bad Oracle on Twitter (@thebadoracle)

Special Report! Keep Harford Stages Free: Advocacy Round-Up

b73c0eacc922d163b1e06313e6b3e9e2

Ryan Antony Nicotra, Development Director at Single Carrot Theatre and Former Company Director at The BOOM Theatre Co. is leading the charge for equal access to the arts in Harford County.  Here he poses with the Town of Bel Air “the heart of Harford County” mural.

PHOTO CREDIT: The Bad Oracle

REPORTED ON BY THE BAD ORACLE

If you follow The Bad Oracle on Facebook, you may have noticed that we’ve lately gotten ourselves all worked up into a tizzy about some kind of Harford County…thing.  If you were thinking that would just go away well, surprise!  It won’t.  In fact, I was there on Sunday for the Keep Harford Stages Free: Advocacy Round-Up in order to show support for the protest.  YEP, there’s a protest going on and it’s kind of a BIG DEAL, even if you don’t know what Harford County is, exactly, except you think it might have something to do with cows.

The issue at hand:  on Monday, June 27th, the Board of Education in Harford County voted 5-3 against a motion to cancel the proposed “pay to play” drama fee for next school year.  So, if you’re a kid who wants to participate in a drama program in Harford County next year, you’re going to have to pony up $100 PER PLAY to do it.  Pony up, indeed, friends, because this?  Is absolute horseshit.

If you think that the fee miiiight be justified because there is a similar one in place in the county for sports participation ($100 per sport), think again.  First of all, two wrongs don’t make a right.  Secondly, sports are lionized in this country.  Something, admittedly a little cynical, sure, tells me that the Benjamin will be found for soccer when it might be hard to scrounge for Shakespeare.  And sports get things, too, big things: track and field maintenance, pavilions, dugouts, score boards, officials.  You know, stuff.  I mean, the difference is right there in the proposed budget, if you want to look at it.  The county will spend almost three million dollars on extra-curricular sports programs in 2017 but will not even crack a million on like…uh…everything else.  In totality.  On every other outside-of-school program.  Combined.  Drama, fine arts, speech and debate, chess, literary magazine, S.A.D.D., Student Government Association, orchestra, choir, band, career oriented clubs (like Future Farmers of America), mock trial, academic teams, dance, foreign language clubs, yearbook.  You get it.  [ETA A note from a Harford County parent who got in touch:  “The problem we see, or at least I see, with drama students paying is they are totally self-funding, parents and families pay for program adds, tickets, costumes and occasionally props.  Sports teams are not buying their own uniforms or selling adds for their program books.  So in this respect the drama kids and parents are getting hit extra in the pocket!”]

Here’s the thing:  theater and the arts aren’t exactly givens, not in a place like rural Maryland.  I should know, I grew up in the same kind of area.  I saw more Trump for Prez lawn signs on the road into Bel Air then I have ever seen ever.  Somewhere in those ranchers, tucked so neatly back from the road, is a thirteen-year-old boy who just realized that being in a play is the best thing he has ever done.  Who is finding self-expression, his people, who is learning that he isn’t so weird.  And maybe also, in that little house, is a thirteen-year-old boy’s father who wants to make DAMN sure that the nearest his son ever gets to putting on makeup for a crowd is the black smears under his eyes as he scores a touchdown.  For that guy, this is the PERFECT time to quash his son’s arts-related dreams, no?  And the kid will accept it, because it’s money, and money, especially out of Mom’s purse and Dad’s wallet, rules.  And he loses.  And so do we.

If you think this doesn’t concern you because you live in Baltimore, you’re wrong.  Ryan Antony Nicotra, pictured above, lives in Baltimore, and he knows that these fees are the kind of thing that can spread like a fungus.  You better believe school board officials in neighboring counties are pricking up their ears at this “increased revenue stream” (even though it’ll barely dent the county school’s overall unrestricted spending budget).  Nicotra, a Harford County native, has picked up the gauntlet thrown by the Board of Ed.  He’s established the Harford County Arts & Culture Alliance to encourage citizens to fight.  Nicotra organized the action this past Sunday, circulating sign-up sheets and rallying the diverse crowd, almost sixty people strong, even on a holiday weekend, with storms threatening.  And that’s not all, either.  Nicotra is ginning up support from Americans for the Arts and he’s in touch with lawyers, too, to see if legal action can be taken.  It’s pretty impressive, especially given the one week lead up.  Pretty impressive indeed.  

BOTTOM LINE:  The Harford County “Pay to Play” drama fees are unacceptable.  The arts are not for only those whose Mom and Dad can (or will) pay for them.  The arts are for everyone.  People are clapping back, and you should be one of them.  I am.

(More intel about the Harford County Arts & Culture Alliance here)

*This article has been revised to clarify the sports participation fees in Harford County.

*An earlier version of this article gave the date of the Harford County Board of Education vote as July 27th.  It has been updated to reflect the actual date of the vote, which was June 27th.

Email The Bad Oracle at emailthebadoracle@gmail.com

Like The Bad Oracle on Facebook

Follow The Bad Oracle on Twitter (@thebadoracle)