All posts by Joshua Engel

Alice and The Book of Wonderland at Annapolis Shakespeare Company

Annapolis Shakespeare Company inaugurates its new space with a stunning, lavish play, an adaptation of Alice in Wonderland, which shows off the amazing capabilities of their new venue. Written by Sally Boyett (who also directed it) and Donald Hicken, it mixes Carroll’s novel with a frame story about the book Alice in Wonderland itself, given to Alice by Charles Dodgeson (Carroll’s real name) himself. It intersperses this bit of meta-textuality with a few modern references to,

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King Kirby at Off The Quill

Josh Mooney’s Jack Kirby opens at his drawing board, carrying the weight of one of the most crucial careers in modern arts. From lights up, the entire story unfolds in his eyes. King Kirby tells the story behind the man who created some of the most popular figures in modern media: Captain America, The X-Men, The Avengers, and many more. They fill the summer box office and take in billions of dollars.

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The Tempest at Annapolis Shakespeare Company

Directors Donald Hicken and Sally Boyett have created a sparkling Tempest under the stars at the Charles Carroll house in Annapolis. With a spreading tree dominating the scene and a shrub hedge covering the back stage, the hill slopes toward the river for Shakespeare’s watery play. Bring a blanket or a lawn chair… and some bug spray and you’re ready for Annapolis Shakespeare Company’s The Tempest this July. 

The early evening and the river bring a hint of cool weather to summer in Annapolis,

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She Stoops to Conquer at Britches and Hose


She Stoops to Conquer 
lives halfway between the comedies of Shakespeare and Oscar Wilde. Its mistaken identity plotlines bring to mind As You Like It and Comedy of Errors, while the class conflicts mirror both the contrasts of The Merry Wives of Windsor and The Importance of Being Earnest. It’s a bit like a Jane Austen novel, if Jane wrote comic plays rather than satirical novels.

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The Incest Rep: Tis Pity She’s a Whore at Brave Spirits Theatre

Let’s face it: Parma is a nasty, nasty place. It’s got people cheating on their spouses, and plots of revenge, even before it gets all incesty. Which, of course, it does, this being part of Brave Spirits’ Incest Rep, along with A King and No King, by Beaumont and Fletcher. Those Jacobeans liked their plays dark, and that’s perfect to help Brave Spirits’ pledge of “Verse and Violence”.

The most available bachelorette in Parma is the beautiful Annabella,

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Jacie (Caity Brown) prepares to throw a pie at Carla Pepperbloom (Diane Sams)

Review: Comic Potential at McLean Community Players

It’s a rare treat for a reviewer to be able to praise a performance as “robotic”. Caity Brown magnificently straddles the line between android and human in McLean Community Players production of Alan Ayckbourn’s Comic Potential.

Brown plays Jacie, a young female robot in a world where actors have been replaced by “actoid” acting units. This charmingly absurd proposition sets up a delicate challenge for Brown, who must be convincing simultaneously as a machine but also as somebody who has lived a thousand lives of intense human emotion —

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Review: Medea at Britches and Hose Theater Company

Mary Burnett is clad in the scarlet of fire and blood as Medea. Britches and Hose Theater Company’s new production of the Greek tragedy by Euripides both boils with anger and freezes with cold calculation. It opens with Arielle Seidman as the Nurse, skillfully relating how Medea has been wronged: her husband Jason has picked a younger wife, the daughter of the king, so Medea and her two children are to be banished.

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Review: Antony and Cleopatra at Brave Spirits Theatre

Jessica Lefkow is, indeed, “fire and air” in Brave Spirits Theatre’s brilliant, bold production of Antony and Cleopatra. She is riveting every moment she is on stage, evincing the kind of charisma that the fabled Egyptian queen used to enthrall two great Roman generals. One was Julius Caesar, who died in the eponymous play. The other is Mark Antony, played with passion by Joe Carlson. His spirit draws Cleopatra so powerfully to him,

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Review: The Last Schwartz at Theater J

At the start of The Last Schwartz, Anne Bowles as Bonnie deftly sets the tone, relating how she saw Siamese twins on Oprah. They strike her as oddly optimistic in hoping to get married. Her cousin, after all, can’t find love, “and she’s pretty and smart and has only one head.” Moments later, she’s weeping for her miscarriage: “… if I could have had him for just one full day…”  It’s a dark,

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Review: Another Way Home at Theater J

The most tender thing in the world is the love of a parent for a child.

The most mortifying thing in the world is a parent loving a teenager.

Another Way Home, by Anna Ziegler, explores this complex, combative time in everybody’s life from the point of view of the parents. Phillip and Lillian (Rick Foucheux and Naomi Jacobson) have come from Manhattan to Maine to visit their son Joseph (Chris Stinson).

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Review: Henri IV Part II at Brave Spirits Theatre

Brave Spirits’ bold, ambitious, brilliant Henri IV continues its exploration of gender with Part II. Shakespeare often sadly limited the roles that women can play, both in their interactions with men and with each other. Brave Spirits asks, why can’t a woman be a Chief Justice or a drunken sot, a warrior or a tailor? Where Shakespeare occasionally explores ways for women to be women, Brave Spirits explores ways for women to be people,

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Review: Henri IV Part I at Brave Spirits Theatre

Brave Spirits Theatre are brave spirits indeed. Henri IV is a vast, sprawling, powerful epic of a play. It ranges from intimate love scenes to political intrigue, battles of swords to battles of wits, comedy and tragedy and honor and cowardice. It takes an ambitious theater troupe to portray 67 characters with a dozen actors, and set a variety of different acting challenges. Brave Spirits has both ambition and the skill to achieve it.

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Teresa Spencer, Gary DeBreuil, Reed DeLisle, Megan Morse Jans, Jonathan Feuer, James Carpenter, Richard Pilcher, and Renata Plecha in Annapolis Shakespeare Company’s AS YOU LIKE IT

Review: As You Like It at Annapolis Shakespeare Company

“One man in his time plays many parts,” declares Melancholy Jacques, and that definitely describes Richard Pilcher’s magnificent performance(s) in Annapolis Shakespeare Company‘s production of As You Like It. A mere eight actors pull off four pairs of lovers, two courts of lords, and an array of miscellaneous country bumpkins. Pilcher plays four separate roles, each strong, distinct, and imbued with life. His Jacques is pitch perfect: melancholy without being glum,

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Review: If I Hold My Tongue at Compass Rose Theater

Desperation breeds desperation. The women of If I Hold My Tongue find themselves trapped, both from the outside and the inside, and struggle to break the patterns that hold them. Now playing in rotating repertory with Eleanor: Her Secret Journey at Compass Rose Theatre, this play written by Patricia Henley, is part of The Rose Play Festival in conjunction with the TheatreWashington’s Women’s Voice Festival.

The play is set in a halfway house in Baltimore,

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Review: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum at Montgomery College Summer Dinner Theatre

Comedy, at last! Having lost their opening night to a power failure, the students of Montgomery College Summer Dinner Theatre came roaring back with energy, style, and verve. A Funny Thingis a very, very funny thing. Directed by Walter Ware III with Musical Direction by John Henderson, this modern reimagining of Roman farces features songs by Steven Sondheim. The opening number, “Comedy Tonight” gets off to a roaring and hilarious start,

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Review: Ruddigore at Victorian Lyric Opera Company

Victorian Lyric Opera Company has found a gem in Ruddigore and they have set it in a jewel-piece of a production. It never received much love during its authors’ lifetimes, but in the adept hands of Director Helen Aberger and her tremendously talented cast, it is an absolute delight today. A lesser produced Gilbert & Sullivan work, whose alternate title is The Witch’s Curse, receives Musical Direction from Joseph Sorge and is well worth seeing this hot and humid summer.  

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Crab the Dog (L- Julie) and Launce (R- Matthew Alan Ward) in The Two Gentlemen of Verona

Review: The Two Gentlemen of Verona at Annapolis Shakespeare Company

Shakespeare’s Two Gentlemen of Verona is, by turns, hilarious and horrifying, and it’s hard to know which of these is more daunting to a director approaching the play. Annapolis Shakespeare Company‘s Sally Boyett conquers both with flying colors. Her 1920’s-inspired Two Gents is sharp, incisive, fearless, and polished.

Proteus and Valentine (Patrick Truler and Joel Ottenheimer) are young friends on the verge of manhood. Proteus loves Julia (Amy Pastoor),

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Review: Suite Surrender at Prince George’s Little Theatre

When the set has five separate doors— and a pun for a title— a farce is surely in the offing. A cast of nine and five doors means many opportunities for getting away, for being clueless, and… well, a few other things you can do with doors. These five doors belong to a luxurious suite at the Palm Beach Royale Hotel, where not one but two top-grade Hollywood divas have come to raise money for the USO.

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Review: Flyin’ West at Bowie Community Theatre

From the moment Kecia Campbell strides on stage as Sophie Washington in a plain, sensible dress and sturdy boots, toting a shotgun, Flyin’ West presents realistic, incisive portrayals of the women of color who settled the West in the 19th century. It’s set in the real-life town of Nicodemus, Kansas where newly-freed African Americans created a community following the Civil War. Presented by Bowie Community Theatre at The Bowie Playhouse and Directed by Estelle Miller,

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Review: The Arsonists at Maryland Ensemble Theatre

Maryland Ensemble Theatre picks up in the back half of their 2014/201g season with a fiery smart and dark comedy. The Arsonists is Max Frisch’s satirical look at the banality of evil. Directed by Gerard Stropnicky, the new translation by Alistair Beaton is sure to light a fuse of laughter through the audience with its twisted elements of absurdism. Intent on proving how simple it is for human beings to be manipulated into bringing about their own destruction,

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