‘Take A Bow!’ Part 2: The Staff of DCMetroTheaterArts’ Favorite DC/MD/VA Fall 2016 Performances/Directors/Designers

The Bald Ballerina in Dancing for Divas: A Labor of Love at Howard Community College.

The Bald Ballerina. Photo By Luis Pons.

Maggie Kudirka: The Bald Ballerina. Photo By Luis Pons.

There wasn’t a dry eye in the house after Margaret “Maggie” Kudirka’s heart-wrenching solo at the Dancing for Divas, A Labor of Love benefit concert at Howard Community College in Columbia Saturday, October 22, 2016. Set to Edith Piaf’s poignant song about having no regrets, (“Non, je ne regrette rien“) the tall, lithe ballerina ripped off her pink signature headscarf and dazzled us with a finale with classical ballet pirouettes, a modern dance fall into a split, and a recovery with arms up to the sky a la Alvin Ailey’s Revelations that brought the audience to its feet.

Stage 4 breast cancer has not deterred this 24-year-old Maryland native who left the Joffrey Ballet to start treatments at Mercy Hospital in Baltimore. She is truly amazing and deserves a bow. Her next appearance will be her own fundraiser at HCC’s Smith Theatre Sunday, January 8, 2017. Dozens of international dancers and Maggie, herself, will perform for this sweetheart ballerina.

LINKS:
Maggie Kudirka is known on social media as Bald Ballerina, where she shares her experiences and inspires others fighting cancer. Check her facebook page.

DCMTA preview of Dancing for Divas, A Labor of Love Benefit by Carolyn Kelelmen.

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Tori Boutin as Mash in Stupid Fucking Bird at Silver Spring Stage.
Tori Boutin and Zac Brightbill. Photo by Harvey Levine.

Tori Boutin and Zac Brightbill. Photo by Harvey Levine.

Tori Boutin gave a sarcasm-drenched performance as depressive, ukelele strumming Goth girl Mash. She sang entertaining songs throughout the show and remained onstage in character prior to the second act entertaining the crowd and showing off excellent improv skills.  

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Staceyann Chin as herself in MotherStruck at The Studio Theatre.

Staceyann Chin in ‘MotherStruck.’ Photo by Daniel Corey.

Staceyann Chin in ‘MotherStruck.’ Photo by Daniel Corey.

I have never seen a solo performer who blew me away the way Staceyann Chin did with her autobiographical detonation, MotherStruck. Chin—an acclaimed author and spoken-word artist—enters down an aisle, connecting to the audience with all emotion guns firing from the get-go. She starts to tell her heart-racing story: Born in Jamaica. Realizes she’s attracted to girls. Gets assaulted by homophobic teen boys. Moves at 19 to Lower East Side New York to escape the thuggery. Falls in with poets and dreamers and finds her LGBTQ tribe. After multiple lesbian affairs that don’t last, falls deeply in love with and marries a gay man. Then she decides to have a baby. And she is determined. Really determined. With a desire that drives this funny, furious, fast-paced show and Chin’s supercharged performance in it like a combusting propellant.-John Stoltenberg.

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Paul M. Davis as Pete White in Memories & Legends, at Wolf Pack Theatre Company.

Linda Whiting and Paul M. Davis. Photo by Rachel Duda.

Linda Whiting and Paul M. Davis. Photo by Rachel Duda.

As Pete White, Paul M. Davis is able to embody the “parental spirit” of Oran’s deceased father. He pushes Oran down his path towards self-realization, whether through an impassioned speech or a rousing song, and in the process gets the whole audience to come along for the ride with him.-Vanessa Berben.

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Daniel Douek as Jacob in La Cage aux Folles, at Other Voices Theatre.

Daniel Douek as Jacob. Photo courtesy of Mr. Douek.

Daniel Douek as Jacob. Photo courtesy of Mr. Douek.

Daniel Douek certainly steals the show as overly-flamboyant butler/maid, Jacob, a task not easy to accomplish in a cast filled with over-the-top flamboyant characters. Douek’s character voice and accent left the audience rolling as soon as he opened his mouth. Douek also has an impeccable sense of comedic timing and does a great job balancing his exceptional comedic bits without upstaging any of the other actors in the scene.-Johnna Leary. 

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Kathy Halenda as Lita Encore in Ruthless! The Musical, Creative Cauldron.

L to R: Kathy Halenda and Katie McManus. Photo by Keith Waters, Kx Photography.

L to R: Kathy Halenda and Katie McManus. Photo by Keith Waters, Kx Photography.

Kathy Halenda was another scene-stealer as musical-hating theater critic Lita Encore. There is something very Mermanesque about Halenda’s voice. Indeed, she has played Mama Rose many times (including on a national tour) so her voice is perfectly suited to a show which makes frequent sarcastic nods to Gypsy. Her rendition of “I Hate Musicals” left the audience and me howling.-Nicole Hertvik.

LINK:
Meet the Cast of ‘Ruthless! The Musical’ at Creative Cauldron: Part 1: Kathy Halenda by Joel Markowitz.

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Russell Harvard and Will Hayes as Tommy in The Who’s Tommy, at Open Circle Theatre.

Russell Harvard and Will Hayes as Tommy. Photo by Wilder Photography.

Russell Harvard and Will Hayes as Tommy. Photo by Wilder Photography.

Russell Harvard delivers a tour-de-force performance as Tommy that needed to be seen to be believed. He is both innocent and defiant, at times quiet and other times bursting with electricity — and it’s made even better by the immense talents of Will Hayes, who portrays the narrator and provides Tommy with his Voice.-Vanessa Berben.

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Leah Livengood as Peggy Rollins in Memories & Legends, at Wolf Pack Theatre Company.

Christopher Overly and Leah Livengood. Photo by Rachel Duda.

Christopher Overly and Leah Livengood. Photo by Rachel Duda.

To put it plainly: Leah Livengood as Peggy Rollins is the heart and soul behind Memories & Legends. As the matriarch of this “band of misfits” her connection to her character is clear and her choices are strong. With a glint in her eye and a smile on her face, she literally dances circles around her male counterparts and it’s simply fantastic to see this powerful actor on stage.-Vanessa Berben.

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William Leary for his Direction, Stephen Beitzell for his Technical Direction, and Stanley Livengood for his Musical Direction, for Memories & Legends, at Wolf Pack Theatre Company.

Director William Leary. Photo courtesy of Wolf Pack Theatre Company.

Director William Leary. Photo courtesy of Wolf Pack Theatre Company.

L to R: The cast of 'Memories & Legends': Christopher Overly, Paul Davis, Leah Livengood. Background Pierre Burgess, Daniel Douek, Lauren Patton, Amy C. Kraft, Linda Whiting, Susan L. Smithers, Michael Reeher, and Jamie Brill. Phot by Rachel Duda.

L to R: The cast of ‘Memories & Legends’: Christopher Overly, Paul Davis, Leah Livengood. Background Pierre Burgess, Daniel Douek, Lauren Patton, Amy C. Kraft, Linda Whiting, Susan L. Smithers, Michael Reeher, and Jamie Brill. Photo by Rachel Duda.

It takes a skilled team to handle a production like Memories & Legends. Featuring a large cast, a setting that goes from the States to Newfoundland, and rapid-fire dialogue sandwiched between rousing musical numbers – the directorial team behind this show was top-notch.-Vanessa Berben

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Allison McAllister as King Henry in Henry V, at The Rude Mechanicals.

The cast of 'Henry V': Left to Right: Joshua Engel, Paul Davis, Allison McAlister, Rebecca Korn, and Charlie Green. Photo by Prismatic Photography.

The cast of ‘Henry V’: Left to Right: Joshua Engel, Paul Davis, Allison McAlister, Rebecca Korn, and Charlie Green. Photo by Prismatic Photography.

In keeping with their tradition of gender-neutral casting, Allison McAlister tackles the role of King Henry with passion and nobility. It’s an electrifying performance, and it’s clear from the moment she rips onto the stage that her character is ready to shed the innocent roguishness of their youth and embrace this new role as ruler. –Vanessa Berben.

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Paul Morella as Otto Frank, in The Diary of Anne Frank, at Olney Theatre.

Carolyn Faye Kramer (Anne Frank) and Paul Morella (Otto Frank). Photo by Stan Barouh.

Carolyn Faye Kramer (Anne Frank) and Paul Morella (Otto Frank). Photo by Stan Barouh.

Paul Morella portrays Anne’s beloved father Otto Frank as a man who is a cut above the rest morally and intellectually. He carries a heavy weight and is smart enough to know the stakes at hand for his family. Morella’s final monologue is a raw performance delivered with the strength of a survivor.-Nicole Hertvik.

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Christopher Overly as Oran Tobin in Memories & Legends, at Wolf Pack Theatre Company.

Christopher Overly and Leah Livengood. Photo by Rachel Duda.

Christopher Overly and Leah Livengood. Photo by Rachel Duda.

As fading-rocker Oran Tobin, Christopher Overly delivers a powerful performance and is able to perfectly fluctuate between the two sides of his character: angry son and soul-searching man. His chemistry with the rest of the cast is brilliant and he gives each one their time to shine in their own right, an important trait in a leading actor.-Vanessa Berben.

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Craig Pettinati For His Direction of Cabaret, at Kensington Arts Theatre.

Craig Pettinati. Photo by Giang Pettinati

Craig Pettinati. Photo by Giang Pettinati

Director Craig Pettinati boldly taps into both the sexuality and politics at the heart of Cabaret. Pettinati’s direction makes strong choices that highlight both the comic aspects of the show and the harshness of 1931 Germany resulting in a production that is fresh, entertaining and thought-provoking.

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Janet Constable Preston as Claire in A Delicate Balance, at Peace Mountain Theatre Company.

Janet Constable Preston as Claire attempting to play the accordion. Photo by Harvey Levine.

Janet Constable Preston as Claire attempting to play the accordion. Photo by Harvey Levine.

And then there is Claire, the sister that lives with Agnes and Tobias, played with great humor and ‘bite’ by Janet Constable Preston. Why is she there? Why can’t she find her own place? Will they ever get rid of her? Will she ever take accordion lessons?

Preston is a hoot (and thank the Lord she provides some well-needed comic relief throughout the play) and her Claire is so relatable. Everyone of us probably has a Claire in their lives and you can’t help falling in love with her – and offering her many drinks – because she is needed by everyone in that living room. She makes their lives tolerable and reminds them of the need for everyone to love each other and to tolerate each other – one happy family! (Gulp!)-Joel Markowitz.

LINKS:
Joel Markowitz reviews ‘A Delicate Balance’ on DCMetroTheaterArts.

Meet the Cast of Peace Mountain Theatre Company’s ‘A Delicate Balance’: Part 5: Janet Constable Preston.

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Suzanne Richard for her Direction of The Who’s Tommy, at Open Circle Theatre.

Director Suzanne Richard. Photo by Open Circle Theatre.

Director Suzanne Richard. Photo by Open Circle Theatre.

The Who’s 1969 rock opera Tommy struck Director Suzanne Richard as an opportunity to fulfill her vision of bringing the experience of disability to life. The result was a rockingly excellent production featuring a gifted cast and a stellar technical team.-Vanessa Berben.

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Anya Rothman as Mary Lennox, Henry Baratz as Colin Craven, and Daisy Eagan as Martha in The Secret Garden, at Shakespeare Theatre Company

Henry Baratz (Colin Craven) and Anya Rothman (Mary Lennox ). Photo by Scott Suchman.

Henry Baratz (Colin Craven) and Anya Rothman (Mary Lennox ). Photo by Scott Suchman.

Daisy Eagan (Martha) and Anya Rothman (Mary Lennox). Photo by Scott Suchman.

Daisy Eagan (Martha) and Anya Rothman (Mary Lennox). Photo by Scott Suchman.

What a team! One Tony Award winner, a young actress playing the role that her co-star won a Tony Award for, and a young actor with a great singing voice playing a bedridden boy who needs his Mother’s secret garden to change his life.

Seeing Daisy Eagan back on the stage in The Secret Garden – one of my all-time favorite musicals – was such a thrill for me and then to see the beautiful performances of Anya Rothman and Henry Baratz as the two cousins whose lives are changed after they meet – was the highlight of my theater-going year. All three played their roles with so much heart and watching Anya and Henry not play their roles as loud spoiled brats (as many others have done in the dozens of productions of The Secret Garden I have seenwas such a relief. I could feel Colin and Mary’s pain, fears, and elation as their lives are transformed. And Daisy’s performance as Martha was filled with joy and optimism. Thank you Daisy, Anya, and Henry for  bringing back my many wonderful memories of the 1991 Broadway production, and for creating so many wonderful new memories I will always cherish because of your heartfelt performances. -Joel Markowitz.

LINKS:
Daisy Eagan: From Her Tony Award-winning Mary Lennox to Playing Martha in ‘The Secret Garden’ at Shakespeare Theatre Company.

Henry Baratz on Playing Colin Craven in Shakespeare Theatre Company’s ‘The Secret Garden.’

Anya Rothman on playing Mary Lennox in Shakespeare Theatre Company’s ‘The Secret Garden.

*All the interviews are by Joel Markowitz.

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Kevin Sockwell as Father, Cheryl J. Campo as Eve and Kevin James Logan as Adam/Noah in Children of Eden, at Damascus Theatre Company.

Center: Father (Kevin Sockwell) Eve (Cheryl J. Campo) and Adam (Kevin James Logan) . Photo by Elli Swink.

Center: Father (Kevin Sockwell) Eve/Mama Noah (Cheryl J. Campo) and Adam (Kevin James Logan) . Photo by Elli Swink.

The performances in Children of Eden are superb. Kevin Sockwell as Father has a rich and commanding voice as he sings “Let There Be” and “Father’s Day” and he has the perfect combination of edginess and arrogance as he sings “The Mark of Cain.”

Kevin James Logan is a wonderful singer who is the hero of the piece, sort of. In both of his characters, he starts out as a bit of wimp but comes through as a strong, principled man in the end. His excellent vocal dynamics are very much in evidence as he sings “A World Without You.” And, he combines beautifully with Father in “The Hardest Part of Love,” as they attempt to sort out their feelings for their children.

The characters Eve and Mama Noah are stunningly portrayed by the talented actress Cheryl J. Campo. She becomes the conscience of the group as she sings “Children of Eden” and leads the cast in the rollicking gospel number, “Ain’t It Good?”-Paul M. Bessel and Barbara Braswell.

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Rebecca Speas for her Direction of Henry V, at The Rude Mechanicals.

Rebecca Speas in 'Over Her Dead Body: A Bluegrass' at this year's Capital Frine Festival. Photo by Ryan Maxwell Photography.

Director Rebecca Speas in ‘Over Her Dead Body: A Bluegrass’ at this year’s Capital Frine Festival. Photo by Ryan Maxwell Photography.

Rebecca Speas, a Spring DCMTA ‘Take a Bow’ honoree for her performance in the 2016 Capital Fringe Fest’s Best Overall show Over Her Dead Body, makes her directorial debut by crafting a moving version of Shakespeare’s classic historical drama. An ambitious project for a first-time director, she successfully portrays the seeming futility of war and the toll it takes on those who carry it out. If this is how she makes her debut, we can’t wait to see what’s next!-Vanessa Berben. 

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 Yury Urnov’s Direction of Kiss at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company.

Yuri Unov. Photo by Sarah Alerasoul.

Yuri Unov. Photo by Sarah Alerasoul.

Now that Kiss has closed, the full extent of Yury Urnov’s bombshell direction of it can be disclosed. To do so during the play’s run in the concrete-block-walled Woolly rehearsal room would have given too much away. But now it can be told. The text is constructed in three acts each staged in a distinct style from a different point of view and performed without intermission. The play seems to begin trivially, on a living room set. Curiously it looks like it’s in some foreign city but it’s a little off; the wall, for instance, is a carpet. Here Urnov gives us an off-kilter melodrama, a silly/sly send-up of telenovelas.  The second act is a communication via Skype between the actors we’ve seen performing the soap opera—the script of which they found on the Internet—and a woman they have identified as its author. Here Urnov begins transporting us toward the surreal even as the political content of the play becomes all too real. The Skype transmission is shown as a rear projection through what had been the carpet-wall; the woman and her translator can be seen huddled over a computer in half light backstage. Then in the third act, everything changes. The living room set pulls back opening a new playing area that Urnov turns into a combat zone—with realistic bomb bursts and  strobe effects and actors yelling at the top of their lungs and fighting for their lives…except their weapons are plastic toy guns. That excruciating coda, faithful to the text but conceived by Urnov, leaves the audience shell shocked—and may well have been the season’s most stunning coup de théâtre.

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Musical Director and Conductor Stuart Y. Weich And His Musicians: Matthew Dohm (Keyboards);Julian Kopolove (Keyboards);Janet Thompson (Percussion);Kevin Uleck (Cello);Eric Oganesoff (Guitar/Banjo);Audrey Chang (Violin);Meagan Frame (Viola);Anna Riehle (Viola);Gwyn Jones (Reeds);Dana Gardner (Reeds);Rose Weich (Reeds);Howard McCullers (Reeds); Paul Weiss (Trumpet);Steve Ward (Trombone);and Tony Aragon (Bass) For Cabaret at Kensington Arts Theatre.

Dr. Stuart Y. Weich, Musical Director. Photo courtesy of Holy Cross Hospital.

Dr. Stuart Y. Weich, Musical Director.

Cabaret was performed by a beautiful sounding orchestra conducted by Music Director Stuart Y. Weich. I have seen several productions of Cabaret, but rarely has the score been played with such power. The playing of these outstanding musicians really stood out for me at the opening of Act Two and brought emotional intensity to the title song “Cabaret.”-Nicole Hervik.

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Carl Williams and Aaron Loggins as Cousin Kevin, in The Who’s Tommy at Open Circle Theatre.

L To R: Aarron Loggins (ASL Cousin Kevin), Russell Harvard (Tommy), Carl Williams (Cousin Kevin. Photo by Wilder Photography.

L To R: Aarron Loggins (ASL Cousin Kevin), Russell Harvard (Tommy), Carl Williams (Cousin Kevin. Photo by Wilder Photography.

Carl Williams and Aarron Loggins work together perfectly as Cousin Kevin. Williams’ vocals frequently shine throughout the production and his performance is well-matched by Loggins, who provides striking movement to the character. In a large cast that’s easy to get lost in, both actors shined in standout performances.-Vanessa Berben.

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Jake Null for His Music Direction, Assistant Musical Director Deborah Jacobson, and Musicians Jason Wilson, Jaime Ibacache, and Brad Emmett, for The Who’s Tommy at Open Circle Theatre.

Jake Null. Photo courtesy of The Keegan Theatre.

Jake Null. Photo courtesy of The Keegan Theatre.

Thanks to Jake Null and his Assistant Music Director Deborah Jacobson, The Who’s Tommy lived up to all of this reviewer’s expectations. Joined by Jason Wilson, Jaime Ibacache, and Brad Emmett, these artists created the show’s biggest character – the music. The Who would be so proud!-Vanessa Berben.

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Devora Zack as Julia, in A Delicate Balanceat Peace Mountain Theatre Company.

Janet C. Preston (Claire) and Devora Zack (Julia). Photo by Harvey Levine.

Janet C. Preston (Claire) and Devora Zack (Julia). Photo by Harvey Levine.

Let’s just say that every time Devora Zack appeared on the stage in A Delicate Balance some form of hysteria consumed the stage. Just don’t throw a wedding shower for Julia!

 In an interview I did with Devora, I asked her to describe Julia:

I play Julia, the four-time divorced daughter of Agnes and Tobias. She’s a real live wire!

Yep and she played that live wire with enthusiasm, with just the right amount of ‘bite,’ and craziness, and warmth. You actually felt sorry for her.Devora delivered a muli-layered performance of what could have been a cartoonish character. That’s great acting and directing by Laurie Freed.-Joel Markowitz.

LINKS:
Joel Markowitz reviews ‘A Delicate Balance’ on DCMetroTheaterArts.

Meet the Cast of Peace Mountain Theatre Company’s ‘A Delicate Balance’: Part 6: Devora Zack.

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LINKS:
‘Take A Bow!’ Part 1: The Staff of DCMetroTheaterArts’ DC/MD/VA Fall 2016 Favorite Performances/Directors/Designers.

‘Take A Bow’ Part 1 in Philadelphia: The Staff of DCMetroTheaterArts’ Favorite Fall 2016 Performances/Directors/Designers.

‘Take A Bow!’ Part 2: The Staff of DCMetroTheaterArts’ Favorite DC/MD/VA Fall Performaces/Directors/Designers.

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One Response to ‘Take A Bow!’ Part 2: The Staff of DCMetroTheaterArts’ Favorite DC/MD/VA Fall 2016 Performances/Directors/Designers

  1. Kathy Halenda December 8, 2016 at 4:45 pm #

    Thank you all so much, for honoring me again this year! What a supportive and collaborative group of critics we have in this area…