DCMTA 2018 Staff Favorites: Outstanding Community Theater Productions

Here are some of the community theater productions that made an indelible impression on our writers this year. Did we overlook a favorite of yours? Let us know in a comment!

As the year draws to a close, we asked DCMTA writers to think back on the productions that left an indelible impression on them in 2018.

Here are the community theater productions that left the biggest impression on our writers this year.

Jerry Schuchman, Annette Kalicki, and Christen Stephansky in A Shayna Maidel. Photo by Harvey Levine.
Jerry Schuchman, Annette Kalicki, and Christen Stephansky in A Shayna Maidel. Photo by Harvey Levine.

A Shayna Maidel, Peace Mountain Theatre Company
Peace Mountain Theatre Company’s production of Barbara Lebow’s A Shayna Maidel is a piercing, unabashed look at life before and after the Holocaust through the eyes of two separated sisters. What unfolds is arresting and haunting. Director Laurie Freed profoundly and unapologetically tackles the subject matter, glossing over nothing. Annette Kalicki leads a cast full of accomplished performers. – Julie Janson
Julie Janson’s Review

Anything Goes, September Song.
September Song’s Anything Goes was an artful production featuring a spectacular set and stellar acting and singing. It rivaled many professional productions in quality. Abigail Weinel delivers a knock-out performance as Reno Sweeney. – Susan Brall
Susan Brall’s Review

Bad Jews, Vagabond Players
Bad Jews, Joshua Harmon’s bitingly witty maiden voyage into playwriting, has landed in Baltimore at The Vagabond Players. Director Miriam Bazensky uses the small, historical space in The Vagabond Theatre to amplify the cramped quarters of this New York apartment while still allowing the cast to move about freely. The script is ripe with snappy dialogue and the ensemble carries the show without so much as a breath between screams. – Mara Bayewitz
Mara Bayewitz’ Review

Brigadoon, Rockville Musical Theatre
Rockville Musical Theatre’s delightful presentation of Brigadoon is a family-friendly combination of lyrical dance, whimsical music, and a storyline that proves that love transcends time. Laura Andruski directs a diverse and talented cast through dozens of realistic dances and ballads for a thoroughly delightful performance. Spectacular visual effects came in the masterful collaboration of light, sound, set, and stage designers Praveen Javehrani, Sarah Katz, Maggie Modig and Jerry Callistein. – Mark Ludder
Mark Ludder’s Review

Casa Valentina, The Colonial Players of Annapolis
The Colonial Players were the first community theater to put on Harvey Fierstein’s Casa Valentina and the first theater to produce it in the round. The production featured great use of costumes, wigs, and makeup combined with terrific acting, staging, and lighting. Directed by Mickey Lund, the production offered a powerful look at a still-misunderstood subject.
Charles Green’s Review
Charles Green’s Interview with Director Mickey Lund

Heather Plank as Émilie in Vienna Theatre Company’s production of Émilie: La Marquise Du Châtelet Defends Her Life Tonight. Photo by John Sharrard.
Heather Plank as Émilie in Vienna Theatre Company’s Émilie: La Marquise Du Châtelet Defends Her Life Tonight. Photo by John Sharrard.

Émilie, La Marquise Du Châtelet Defends Her Life Tonight, Vienna Theatre Company
The production at the Vienna Theatre Company, thoughtfully directed by Kathleen Barth, boasted Heather Plank in the title role of Émilie, offering a brave portrait of a scientific genius far ahead of her time. As played by Bruce Alan Rauscher, Voltaire is ego-driven, somewhat childish, and delightful to watch. – Chuck Leonard
Chuck Leonard’s Review

How I Learned to Drive, Dominion Stage
This raw, piercing play won Playwright Paula Vogel the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1998, and after experiencing it at Dominion Stage, I understand why. An insightful play that studies some of our society’s most uncomfortable topics, Sharon Veselic deftly directs a powerhouse cast through some extremely difficult material.
Julia Exline’s Review

I Hate Hamlet, Spotlighters Theatre
I Hate Hamlet is a witty, farcical comedy with outstanding performances. Jon Ingretson as Gary Peter Lefkowitz, Rally’s coattail rider, shoots energy out of every limb, his eyeballs protruding with each pelvic tilt. Spotlighters Theatre converted restaurant space for almost 60 years, valiantly creating shows on a stage that is reminiscent of a gothic boxing ring. Set designer Alan Zemla knows this space intimately and uses every nook and cranny to create the environment.
Mara Bayewitz’ Review

Kindertransport, Sandy Spring Theatre Group
Kindertransport, by Diane Samuels, revolves around a young girl named Eva (Sophia Anthony) who is sent to safety in England at the beginning of the Holocaust as part of what is called the Kindertransport. Bill Spitz’s directing brings the best out of his actors and allows the audience to draw their own parallels to the plights of today’s refugees. Anthony is a warm and touching Eva as we watch her deal with heart-wrenching pain as she leaves her family behind as she travels to an unknown country. – Susan Brall
Susan Brall’s Review

Magic Under Glass, Columbia Center for Theatrical Arts
Producing an original musical is tough enough for Broadway hot shots. But in August the staff and students of the Columbia Center for Theatrical Arts in Howard County staged a striking workshop production of a new “fantasy rock musical.” Developed from the novels of Washington County author Jaclyn Dolamore, it more than mesmerized teen playgoers with its first-rate cast and fanciful settings. The often catchy original tunes by Michael Francis Kline were given just the right staging by seasoned Artistic Director Toby Orenstein. This New Works for Young Artists presentation even caught the eye of LATV producers, who filmed the production and behind-the-scenes action for broadcast as a cultural affairs cable mini-series. The musical is now in development for a future New York engagement. – John Harding

The cast of 'Smokey Joe’s Cafe' at ArtsCentric. Photo by K.Finch Photography.
The cast of ‘Smokey Joe’s Cafe’ at ArtsCentric. Photo by K.Finch Photography.

Smokey Joe’s Cafe, ArtsCentric
Let me begin by saying ArtsCentric’s production of Smokey Joe’s Cafe is one of the best things I’ve seen on a Baltimore stage, ever, anywhere. I had high expectations for this self-proclaimed “color-conscious” company, and its current production took those expectations, twirled them around, and left me weak in the knees with satisfaction. The Baltimore theater company has created a Smokey Joe’s Cafe where romance and comedy and community are alive and well, and the audience is wholeheartedly invited to be a part of it. – Cassandra Miller
Cassandra Miller’s Review

Spring Awakening, Wolf Pack Theatre Company
Wolf Pack Theatre Company’s production of Spring Awakening is a powerfully moving show. This version, co-directed by Christopher Overly and William Leary, combines haunting music and singing with emotional acting and inventive choreography to tell a universal story about young people growing up. Rachel Sharp and Christian Gonzales have a complex, very physical relationship as Wendla and Melchior. – Charles Green
Charles Green’s Review

Mickey MacIntyre as Frank Merrick and Michael Abendshein as Josh Watson in The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence. Photo by Harvey Levine.
Mickey MacIntyre as Frank Merrick and Michael Abendshein as Josh Watson in The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence. Photo by Harvey Levine.

The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence, Silver Spring Stage
Thematically, The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence is simple and relevant: the frightening trend toward rejecting selfless, mutual, unconditional love with a person in favor of a mechanical invention that doesn’t require reciprocation or sacrifice. One actor plays all of the Watsons, as is the playwright’s intention, and Michael Abendshein works hard for that top billing. Director Seth Ghitelman’s use of physicality pops up unexpectedly and delightfully, and set designer Leigh Rawls creates a visually simple concept with great attention to detail. – Mara Bayewitz
Mara Bayewitz’ Review 

The Diary of Anne Frank, Rockville Little Theatre
Director Pauline Griller-Mitchell and the cast do an admirable job of maintaining acute high-wire tension throughout the production. We know all too well how the tragedy will unfold. Yet, we find ourselves willing to hope the Franks’ story will somehow end differently this time. Standout performances by Julie Kashmanian, as Anne, and Keith Cassidy, as her father Otto Frank, underpin this theatrical outing.
Amy Kotkin’s Review

The Front Page, Providence Players
There are few perfect things in life, let alone in theater. But Providence Players’ The Front Page comes darn close. Every aspect of the production is first-rate. Michael Donahue’s direction establishes the production’s concept and keeps its execution clear and consistently fast-paced throughout. There are no lulls here. The designers do their part with distinction. A succession of quirky characters parade in and out of the pressroom and each fits seamlessly into the fabric of the play. – Bob Ashby
Bob Ashby’s Review

'The Nance' at The Little Theatre of Alexandria. Photo by Matt Liptak.
Chuck Dluhy in ‘The Nance’ at The Little Theatre of Alexandria. Photo by Matt Liptak.

The Nance, The Little Theatre of Alexandria
Director Frank D. Shutts II has a keen professional eye and he intermingles the paradoxes, comic sketches, societal pressures, and pathos of this complex play with finesse and directorial aplomb. The well-chosen cast has a large and daunting theatrical juggling act on their hands as the sketches in the burlesque shows mirror the anxieties, harassment, and vulnerability that the main character (Chauncey Miles, played brilliantly by actor Chuck Dluhy) often feels in his mind. – David Friscic
David Friscic’s Review

The Nutcracker, Metropolitan Ballet Theatre
Metropolitan Ballet Theatre’s 28th annual production of The Nutcracker is a veritable feast for the senses. With a gorgeous array of costumes, a set that will evoke contented sighs from any Downton Abbey fan and choreography that highlights the diverse ages and skill levels of Metropolitan Ballet Theatre’s student base, this holiday staple is a highlight of the Montgomery County, Maryland arts scene. Although we haven’t reviewed this one in a few years, we see the show every year for pleasure and it never fails to impress.
Nicole Hertvik’s Review

The Nutcracker, Olney Ballet Theatre
OBT’s Nutcracker is a lavish, full-scale production mounted in the Historic Stage at Olney Theater Center. It has been the crowning glory of the Olney Ballet Theatre for 12 years, under the care of Artistic Director Patricia Berrend. The staging is both disciplined and flexible, like the dancers themselves. Day’s production features dancers ranging in age from 4 to 18 years old with about 110 students participate in the ballet. The company invites professional soloists from other companies to alternate in the most demanding roles, to give the pre-professional students an inspiring glimpse of what they hope to be one day. This Nutcracker is Holiday tradition at its best – light as snow, sweet as chocolate, and warm and welcoming as a family hearth.
Jennifer Georgia’s Review

[Related: DC Metro Theater Arts 2018 Staff Favorites for Outstanding Professional Production]

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Nicole Hertvik
A reformed child actor, Nicole got her BA in English literature before wandering the globe for a decade, writing and teaching English in Prague, San Francisco, Buenos Aires, and Paris. She eventually landed in NYC where she received a Master’s Degree in International Affairs from Columbia University and dabbled in theater as an actor, script reader, and dramaturg. Thrilled by the strong and diverse theater community she discovered in Washington, DC, Nicole wakes up every morning excited to contribute to DC Metro Theater Arts and other publications. Nicole studied journalism at Georgetown University and was a 2019 fellow at the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center's National Critics Institute. Email: nicole@dcmetrotheaterarts.com, Instagram: @nicolehertvik, Twitter: @nicolehertvik, Facebook: Nicole Hertvik.

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