Bob Scott says that when he first read The Baltimore Waltz, “it shouted, ‘Direct this one, Bob!’” Scott heeded that inner voice, and now he’s directing Waltz as it opens the Silver Spring Stage 2013-14 mainstage season tonight.The show runs weekends through October 12th.
The Baltimore Waltz is a hilarious and touching comedy/drama by award-winning playwright Paula Vogel, a DC native well-known for How I Learned to Drive. She wrote Waltz as a tribute to her brother Carl, who died in 1988 from complications due to AIDS before the two were able to enjoy a planned European vacation. In Waltz, Vogel transformed her anguish into the giddy, poignant story of a woman named Anna (played by Andrea Spitz) and her brother, also named Carl (Joseph Coracle). Anna, a first-grade teacher, has been diagnosed with a bizarre, fictitious illness called Acquired Toilet Syndrome. She and Carl, a librarian—as was the real-life Carl—head off on a whirlwind tour of Europe to find a cure, encountering an espionage scheme and discovering surprising twists and turns.
Waltz won the 1992 Obie Award for Best New American Play. The New York Times described it as “…A crazy-quilt patchwork of hyperventilating language, movie kitsch and medical nightmare…that spins before the audience in Viennese waltz time, replete with a dizzying fall.”
In addition to Spitz and Coracle, Silver Spring Stage’s production of The Baltimore Waltz features Henry LaGue as The Third Man—a role in which he transforms from one outlandish character to another–and Hazel Lozano as the Nurse. Bob Benn is producer.
Scott sees Waltz as “a commemoration of Vogel’s brother and his life.” That theme, along with Scott’s own experience, drew him to the play: “A few years ago, I faced a very similar situation as one of the characters. Medical advances healed my body, but the people around me saved my life.”
Spitz calls Waltz “a loving tribute” to Carl and to a bond so strong “that people would travel the world together to try to save each other.” Humor also suffuses the play, she says. “It’s funny, and it’s a fantasy. It has the feel of a lucid dream, and the technical elements of our production—sound, lights, set, costumes—work together wonderfully to create that fantasy world.” For cinema buffs in the audience, Waltz has many entertaining references to film noir.
Scott and his actors stress that The Baltimore Waltz is, as Coracle puts it, “much more than an ‘AIDS play.’” Says Coracle, “For me it is really about the unique relationship between a brother and a sister, the desperate attempt to preserve a fading innocence, and the sharp grief that comes with its loss.”
Still, “the AIDS allusion cannot be ignored, and it is still very relevant today,” says Scott. “People’s perceptions of the disease, the misinformation they still have, the daily concerns of people living with HIV—those things have not changed as much as one would hope.”
But The Baltimore Waltz is about love as much as loss, fantasy and humor as well as grief, and ultimately about tribute and uplift. “Paula Vogel has said, ‘I like theatre that makes me feel like it’s a healing,’” says Scott. “So do I.”
The Baltimore Waltz plays at Silver Spring Stage-10145 Colesville Road, in Silvr Spring, MD. For tickets, you can purchase tickets at the box office one hour before the show, or purchase them online.