Baltimore United Local Stage and Hidden Independent Theater (BULSHIT) Awards 2013

Bulshit Awards

Hey, girl.  Welcome to the first Baltimore United Local Stage and Hidden Independent Theater (BULSHIT) Awards hosted by your friend, The Bad Oracle.  Here I will take axial tilt as an opportunity to shout out at some of the best shit I saw this year (oh, and of course also to bitch, give backhanded compliments and start catty drama which really is, at the end of the day, what I do best – AND SO DO Y’ALL).  Also, I started reviewing officially  in October, so these will be heavily weighted towards the end of the year and, well, next year’ll be more comprehensive, so take a breath and slow your roll.




Melody Easton (seen here in The House of Yes at Mobtown)

It ain’t no secret that I’ve got a thing for Melody Easton.  Her Jackie-O in The House of Yes at Mobtown was a fucking delight – sort of a strung-out greyhound with too many teeth.  It’s SO GREAT to see an actor who is having that much of a good time on stage.  It doesn’t happen enough.  By the time Melody was waving around that little pistol in her pretty pink suit I was officially hooked.  No question – Melody Easton knows how to WERK IT, GIRL.



Dr. Roberto Miranda from Death and the Maiden as played by Mark C. Franceschini

Man, this guy, amirite?  I don’t care WHO you are, by the time Dr. Roberto Miranda finally opens his snout at the end of this wounded woman’s fury jury, you were hanging on the edge of your seat.  Did he REALLY rape and torture Paulina Salas all those years ago? Franceschini’s weird friendly neighborhood psycho banality and bizarre too-loud affect made my skin take a vacation from my seat.  Plus, you just have to love to hate a guy that can handle a panty gag like that.  Dr. Roberto Miranda as played by Mark C. Franceschini is definitely this year’s BIGGEST DICK.



The Witch from Into the Woods as played by Evangeline Ridgaway

You know, it ain’t easy to step into the holy shoes of St. Bernadette Peters but that’s exactly what Evangeline Ridgaway did when she took on Ms. Peter’s famed (at least to me:  the televised premiere was run on PBS what seemed like 24 hours a day in the early nineties) Witch in Into the Woods at Spotlighters.  She did it up right, too.  While I was initially a little lukewarm, by the last act I was pretty much totally spellbound (I’ll stop).  I loved her salty, daughter-and-lettuce obsessed, righter-than-nice take on this part and she handled that stick like she could really beat someone with it.  The Witch, as played by Evangeline Ridgaway, was the BADDEST BITCH.



Eric Paul Boesche as Marty in The House of Yes at Mobtown

I threw some shade at Eric Paul Boesche in last month’s review of The House of Yes and I stand by it – I didn’t think he was right for the role of Marty.  It happens.  But I’ll be watching for this kid elsewhere.  I think he’s a fascinating actor with a pretty cool slightly-innocent-slightly-mad vibe who, if cast correctly, could really do a job.  Anybody doing Jefferey Hatcher’s Turn of the Screw any time soon?  Love to see him get real as a sadistic Peter Quint.  It was a case of the WRONG ROLE for the RIGHT ACTOR.



Steven Shriner (seen here in Rose’s Dilemma at Spotlighters)

My goodness it seems like Steven Shriner can do no wrong lately, doesn’t it?  He’s been on a massive streak this year starting with his turn as blue collar romeo Gavin Clancy in Rose’s Dilemma at Spotlighters, continuing as Aegeus in Mobtown’s  version of Medea and then ending things on  a career-defining high note as Gerardo Salas in Death and the Maiden  at Spotlighters (not to be sniffy, but actually a BASK Productions jam).  It must be said that veteran actors sometimes lose that certain sparkle as the rigors of everyday theatrical production (READ: NO MONEY) grind ’em on down but Shriner is as sparkly and hard-working as ever, continuing to deliver high-energy performances that feel fresh as a new  lamb.  If he’s is in something, spend your money, because shit’s gonna to be good.  Steven Shriner, you are HAVING A MOMENT.



Isabel Gordon (seen here in Into the Woods at Spotlighters)

Oh, man, I loved Isabel Gordon’s Little Red in Into the Woods at Spotlighters.  It really was a tie between her and the Princes for my favorite scenes in the play.  And, if I’m not mistaken, she’s only, like fifteen.  I’ve seen actors twice (or, let’s be honest, eight) times her age that don’t have her presence and timing and voice.  So feel free to go ahead and SHIT YOUR PANTS, OLD TIMERS, Isabel IS COMIN’ ON UP.




Little Shop of Horrors, Stillpointe Theater Initiative at The Strand Theater

I really did want to see this shiz.  The grapevine said it was full of gimmicky crap and, secret about me, I LOVE gimmicky crap.  Seriously, I heard there were, like, hobos that led you inside the theater (at least, I assume that was actually part of the show and not just life on Charles Street) and you got to sit behind the counter at Mushnik’s  and Audrey II was a giant vaginaish something?  I mean, more vaginaish than usual?  I’m sorry I missed this, sounds like it was THE BEST SHOW I DIDN’T SEE.  [Side note – I wish I knew what else was up at the Strand.  I know they have a new Artistic Director.  I guess I’ll just have to wait like everyone else.  Ugh, I feel so common.]



Orphans at Fells Point Corner Theatre directed by Steve Goldklang

Like I said in the review, most shows do not provoke the visceral feelings necessary for me to cry watching them.  But I got so involved with this one; I believed the characters so much that, whoops, out came the water works.  Just lovely.  The show was, I mean.  Not me.  I’m an “ugly crier”.  And Orphans was def THE SHOW THAT RUINED MY MAKEUP.



Death and the Maiden at Spotlighters directed by Anthony Lane Hinkle

I thought Death and the Maiden was really damned good.  Sometimes you see something and it just fucking works.  This was largely due to director Anthony Hinkle’s light but firm touch (I’m turning myself on, here) and Kathryn Falcone’s star turn as Paulina Salas, the crazy glue that held the whole thing together.  And it was well hung.  Everything, lights to sound to costumes to acting to set to soup to nuts just really gelled for me.  This shit was suuuuper creepy and I believed it jingling all the way.  It was definitely the show that got UNDER MY SKIN.



All in the Timing at Fells Point Corner Theatre directed by Anne Shoemaker

Okay, real talk – it’s not like I actually hate David Ives’ All in the Timing.  I don’t.  I mean, come on, it’s great – it’s a snobby, fast, wonderfully funny comic gem.  The issue is that I have seen it SO MANY TIMES.  Because it’s a collection of six snappy short plays, it makes great fodder for all manner of high-school drama competitions, college theater major showcases and, yes, community stages.  Anything with that much of a muchness does start to make you adnauseous.  So I  admit, I walked into All in the Timing at Fells Point Corner Theatre with a rather pronounced here-we-go-again thing happening.  And I walked out pleasantly surprised and really rather tickled.  This old thing felt new again due to the tight direction of Anne Shoemaker and great (yeah so sue me) timing by Holly Gibbs, Mike Zemarel, Brian M. Kehoe and Anne Shoemaker in her actor hat.  They were having a whole lotta fun and honestly so was I at the SHOW I THOUGHT I’D HATE.



The Gestation Theater Company in The Apple Don’t Fall at Mobtown (as played by Vince Costantino, Claire Coyle, Polly Hurlburt and Greg Bowen)

Brent Englar’s new play The Apple Don’t Fall was a kinda funny kinda serious take on the “what if I won a million dollars” trope in a sort of It Could Happen to You vein.  My favorite part by far was The Gestation Theater Company, a company-within-a-company that gave us the best scenes in the play.  This Christopher Guest-ish theater troupe, with it’s undulating, miming, I’m a tree, I’m a vine, I’m talking with my bodddyyyy “Enactors” played by Vince Costantino, Claire Coyle, Polly Hurlburt and Greg Bowen was quite the tongue-in-cheek reference to some of the most deadly serious performance art  I’ve seen over the years – and they were hysterical.  I could have watched them forever and never gotten tired of it.  Man, that was THE WEIRDEST SHIT THAT WORKED.



This painting on the set of The House of Yes at Mobtown



Kel Millionie for Death and the Maiden

Sometimes I think that the flashy lights get all the attention.  And unless you’re in a moving vehicle, that just shouldn’t be the case.  Anyone can throw a colored gel over a lens or snap a gobo into place but it takes an artist to do the truly hardest thing – fool us into thinking that stage lights are real, everyday lights.  I mean, think about it:  to be able to see the actors appropriately and evoke a mood, stage lighting is necessarily artificial.  If I can sit and watch a show and respond to this weirdo light as if it’s occurring in a real room, I’m pretty impressed.  Especially at Spotlighters.  Shit is cramped.  When I saw Into the Woods a few weeks ago I was legit worried that some of the actors might end up with forehead burns from being that close to the fresnels.  This makes Kel Millionie’s work in Death and the Maiden exceptional.  From really real looking night scenes (not just, “Oh, hey, let me turn on my giant blue bedroom star so I can conveniently sleep on what looks like the exterior surface of a UFO.”), to lighting the dark but not really dark to car headlights sweeping through the windows of a house where someone is waiting, Millionie’s work was superb.  It’s guys like him that remind us:  WITHOUT LAMPS THERE WOULD BE NO LIGHT.




The Mobtown Players

I’m really very sure that everyone is tired of hearing me bitch about this.  The thing is, I wouldn’t bitch if I didn’t care.  And I GET it.  Mobtown struggles against some pretty shitty odds, even for a regional small theater: weird space that’s hard for audiences to find (it’s located in the Meadow Mills complex which, silver lining, at least has the holy grail of free and ample parking) an insistence on doing new work or new takes on old work (which, while admirable and necessary, is rarely profitable unless it has, like, Tony Kushner, involved) and an executive board that has experienced some shake up over the last year.  That being said, though, come on.  Mobtown, as a space, is not doing justice to the often truly great stuff that they  put up.  The last time I went there were bins of stinky wine bottle recycling  in the middle of the lobby and dust caked around the lighting fixtures.  I hear there is some new blood over there, which is great.  A fresh coat of bright paint and someone who isn’t too tired to care might be just the ticket to turn this GOOD THEATER THAT COULD BE BETTER around.  Here’s hoping.



Oh, Spotlighters.  Honestly, I’ve seen worse spaces for a theater, but not many.  They are basically located in a basement that could be described as “Baltimore’s asshole”.  I hear that it used to be a restaurant and that the backstage is literally toxic for the actors – who KNOWS how those in musicals stand it.  And the weird thing is that they really do make it work, most of the time.  And they’ve been around forever.  I sincerely applaud this company’s mission  to putting up lots and lots of work even if their season tends to be alllll over the place and is a little hit or miss.  I remember, for awhile, that Executive Director Fuzz Roark’s traditional pre-curtain speech (LEGEND) included allusions to trying to raise funds for a new place but I don’t think it ended up working out.  And I hear that they can’t stay in the space after next year and that seems like a shame.  I talk a lot of shit, but I’ve got heart for an underdog, especially one as scrappy as this.  I think everyone should help a brother out.  Spotlighters, I know you AREN’T SCARED, NO SIR.



Baltimore Rock Opera Society (BROS)

I just can’t with the BROS.  It isn’t that I don’t go to their  shows, and it isn’t like I don’t have a good time.  That sort of spectacle, that craft, don’t come easy and it don’t come cheap.  I admire what they do.  They clearly care a whole bunch.  But I find them so inaccessible if you aren’t in with their in-crowd.  Now, I’m down to admit that perhaps I am a little jealous that BROS shows consistently sell out when the rest of us are hanging on with nine people in the audience.  But the swagger just seems a little more annoying than ironic.  Referring to yourself as “the next evolutionary leap in the Baltimore theater scene” takes more than a touch of hubris, which we all know is a fatal flaw.  Also, boys – if all five of your founding members, the vast majority of your creative team, and most of your actors actually are men then it is not funny irony to call yourself the “BROS”.  It’s just sexist douchebaggery.  Baltimore Rock Opera Society, sorry, but you are the SNOTTIEST SMALL THEATER IN BALTIMORE.



Baltimore Shakespeare Factory

Okay, Baltimore Shakespeare Factory, credit where it’s due.  Much like that oft-evoked Lady, you are quite obsessive.  That kind of dedication to theme should be lauded.  Whether, as an audience member, you feel that Shakespeare might be a touch done, a bit tired, a little stale (I do) or that it is something to be held holy as a sacred theatrical tradition (I don’t) the fact remains:  someone has to bring the bard.  And BSF bards hard.  Now, true, the current season might be a leeetttleee safe for a Shakespearean company (Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Midsummer and Tempest) but it’s  legit, if you’re the sort of person that likes this kind of thing, and you know who you are.  There’s comfort in knowing exactly what you’re going to get and that it’ll be the real deal – the Factory has legendary adherence to text.  The members of this company are serious, too.  It takes ye olden balls to perform Hamlet in a lightening storm outside in the middle of a field so Baltimore Shakespeare Factory, this OUT DAMNED SPOT award goes to you.

Bottom Line:  God, this shit is really hard.  You learn your lines on your lunch break, you get injured by falling debris, you  max out your credit card, you break your Macbook when someone steps on it, you write LOL on the budget line, you worry that there isn’t any marketing, you beg your friends to pleasepleasePLEASE come (again), you come to rehearsal tired, you come to rehearsal sick, you come to rehearsal pissed, you suck it up when there are four people in the audience and two of them are your parents, you fight, you cry when it isn’t working, you cry when it is working, you drink too late for work the next day, you spend sleepless nights wondering if you’ll ever be able to afford health insurance, you build everything out of spit and sweat and trash and sometimes, sometimes you think that none of it is fucking worth it because no one fucking cares.  Well, I CARE, damn it.  I watch and I see and I sympathize and I give a shit.  And I believe that truly giving a shit, truly showing respect, isn’t about being a cheerleader.  It’s about giving thoughtful (not pandering), honest (not trashing) reviews so that when it’s all said and done you have something to prove that the whole fucking thing wasn’t just some elaborate fever dream.  You have given me some of the best times in my life.  You deserve that.  So here’s a deal:  you keep keeping on, and so will I.

See you at the show, Baltimore.

Email The Bad Oracle at


  • There’s a campaign you can donate to to help the Baltimore Improv Group fix up Meadow Mill. Come to think of it, why wasn’t BIG mentioned in this article? They had an incredible year.

    • Hiya, Ian. Thanks for sharing the link. BIG wasn’t mentioned in the article because I’ve never been to a BIG show before – I don’t tend to review improv theater. I’m glad they’re having a good year, though.

  • Michael Donlan

    What about Performance Workshop Theatre’s productions of 2013? What is your opinion? Just curious. i was involved in all 3 productions, and thought that at least one of them deserved mention. Sure, my bias is clear, and I am not searching for praise, but I am sincerely curious of your thoughts. I thought ‘The Caretaker’ was a worthy show (not necessarily my performance, but rather the production of this rarely performed piece).
    Michael Donlan

    • Hiya, Michael. Performance Workshop’s productions aren’t included on the list because this site focuses on so-called “small” theater (meaning non-professional or community theaters). Performance Workshop is a professional stage and therefore outside of my scope. Thanks!

  • Thanks for coming to our shows in spite of your other feelings about our company. Do you want to come hang out at our workspace and talk about how we could be more inclusionary over a coffee or/and beer?

    • Hiya, Johno. I’d love to come swill a beer with ya but this blog is anonymish (my identify is a secret but a pretty poorly concealed one, I’m not, like, Batman or anything) so it would kinda blow my cover. Could be we could work something out, though.

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