Review: ‘Dirty Pictures’ at Rapid Lemon Productions

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Closing its 2018 season with a World Premiere by a Local Author, Rapid Lemon debuts Dirty Pictures at Theatre Project. Pucker up: it’s about sex and love and ambition and alcoholism and bad choices and did I mention sex? It’s a unique mix of edginess and sit-com setups with payoffs that fumble and sex sequences that do the same.

Allison Sarah Burrell and Matthew Lindsay Payne in ‘Dirty Pictures.’ Photo courtesy of Rapid Lemon Productions.

Author D. W. Gregory’s dialogue is interesting, naturalistic, sometimes even quotable. Her Reagan-era phrasing succeeds most of the time. Points for creating characters who are almost but not quite archetypical, and giving them some depth despite the predictable trope of appearances and art. Despite being set in a bar, the show contains elements of bedroom farce, which, since I like farce, appeals to me. However, the ‘less is more’ adage has no application, particularly during scenes of ‘intimacy’ which I suspect are meant to be played for comedy, but present more clumsily than sexy requires and less clumsily than comedy requires.

Who to blame for a variety of awkward pauses, clumsy interactions and uncomfortable physical connections is unclear. The script certainly has possibilities, contains some excellent monologues, and once it sorts out what it wants to be, it will be terrific. As is, it’s a study in contrasts. When it’s great, it’s really great.

Matthew Lindsay Payne as Chet has a likable charm; as overworked and under-appreciated Judy, Allison Sarah Burrell shines or glows or scorches, depending on the scene. Chara Bauer as Bonnie really nails down the flippant attitude of pretty party girls, and in the role of Dan, Terrance Flemming blusters and flails, eventually giving way to some touching vulnerability.

The production features quality lighting and sound. Lighting designer Daniel Weissglass has a brilliant light plot for this single-set show. I particularly admire the headlights. Sound designer Max Garner adds depth to the setting. Much of the show hinges on Special projection designer Stephen Hoppe’s photography, which opens and closes the show. If you like the photos, his card is available in the lobby.

Set designer S. Lee Lewis gives us a bar in the ‘80s that has all the trimmings. It contains a lot of detail, except for a couple of practicalities that set construction failed to accommodate. It is a much more representational set than we’re accustomed to seeing in Theatre Project’s stark space, and it looks super-duper. There’s also a jukebox and a fortune-telling machine

The costume designer is uncredited, but when a show dresses two characters nearly identically, I expect a Hollywood “briefcase switch,” and though there is ample opportunity, it never materializes.  

The Mount Royal neighborhood of Baltimore City is hopping with cultural activity and peppered with places to eat. Soup’s On is a small local business that serves- you guessed it- soup, and it’s finally the right weather for enjoying soup. Go before the show; it’s not open afterward.

Parking in the lot right across the street from Theatre Project is extremely convenient; be sure you have cash for it, though: the sign read Event Parking $12 Cash Only. I happened to find free street parking, but you should never count on that.

For a kooky evening of theatre that pushes the envelope, it’s hard to beat Theatre Project, and Dirty Pictures is no exception. Sneak a peek at some naughty bits and have a laugh while you’re at it.

Run Time: Two hours; one 20-minute intermission.

Rapid Lemon Productions’ Dirty Pictures plays at Theatre Project through October 21. Showtimes October 18th, 19th and 20th are 8pm; 21st is 3 pm. There is also a 4 pm show on Saturday the 21st, a change from the original 3 pm matinee time, because of the Baltimore Running Fest. For tickets, phone the Box Office at 410-752-8558; additional details are online.

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