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Jack L. B. Gohn

Jack L. B. Gohn A lawyer, blogger, and critic of many years’ standing, Jack is a regular columnist on public affairs and the law for the Maryland Daily Record. For several years he reviewed theater for the Baltimore Business Journal and books for the Baltimore Sun. His writings have appeared in the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal, as well as the Maryland and Georgetown Law Journals and other professional legal and literary publications. Check out his blog, www.thebigpictureandthecloseup.com . He is delighted to be reviewing theater once again.
MOST POPULAR ARTICLES
LAST 30 DAYS

BWW Reviews: MARLEY: A Rare and Topical Event at Center StageBWW Reviews: MARLEY: A Rare and Topical Event at Center Stage
Posted: May. 18, 2015


BWW Reviews: Solemn and Unusual: 1776 at Toby'sBWW Reviews: Solemn and Unusual: 1776 at Toby's
Posted: May. 18, 2015


LAST 365 DAYS

BWW Reviews: Is There an I in Robot? - UNCANNY VALLEY at CATFBWW Reviews: Is There an I in Robot? - UNCANNY VALLEY at CATF
Posted: Jul. 15, 2014


BWW Reviews: A Wonderful New Theater Inaugurated In Side-Splitting Style: A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM at Chesapeake Shakespeare Company's New HomeBWW Reviews: A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM at Chesapeake Shakespeare Co.'s New Home
Posted: Sep. 22, 2014


BWW Review: Fresh Production, Unfresh Play: AMADEUS at Center StageBWW Review: Fresh Production, Unfresh Play: AMADEUS at Center Stage
Posted: Sep. 22, 2014


BWW Reviews: CSC's AS YOU LIKE IT - You'll Like It Like ThatBWW Reviews: CSC's AS YOU LIKE IT - You'll Like It Like That
Posted: Jun. 21, 2014


BWW Reviews: PIRATES OF PENZANCE at Toby's is Silly and SublimeBWW Reviews: PIRATES OF PENZANCE at Toby's is Silly and Sublime
Posted: Jul. 21, 2014


BWW Reviews: It's a Wonderful IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE at Center StageBWW Reviews: It's a Wonderful IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE at Center Stage
Posted: Nov. 28, 2014


BWW Reviews: DEAD AND BREATHING at CATFBWW Reviews: DEAD AND BREATHING at CATF
Posted: Jul. 14, 2014


BWW Reviews: MARLEY: A Rare and Topical Event at Center StageBWW Reviews: MARLEY: A Rare and Topical Event at Center Stage
May 18, 2015

Even though the historical Marley was probably mainly thinking about apartheid when he sang these words, you could not possibly sing them on a Baltimore stage these days without making the audience think of events closer to home. Bob Marley, very self-consciously a prophet, sang for his moment, but he sang as well for the ages, which includes our own. Center Stage could not have bought Bob Marley's topicality, but it could earn it, and did. One could believe it really was Marley up there, singing right to us.
BWW Reviews: Solemn and Unusual: 1776 at Toby'sBWW Reviews: Solemn and Unusual: 1776 at Toby's
May 18, 2015

There are times it's hard to credit that 1776 is even a musical. In this retelling of the drafting and signing of the Declaration of Independence, there is some singing and some dancing, and even some laughs, but little effort to follow the tried-and-true path to rousing musical success. This is fundamentally a tale of a group of men sitting in a room debating, and Peter Stone, author of the book, gives us - a group of men sitting in a room debating. And yet the work has considerable power and appeal, and it is not strange either that it won the Tony for Best Musical in 1969, or that Toby's has revived it.
BWW Reviews: Cruella in a Mantilla?: BERNARDA ALBA at FPCT Needs Some RethinkingBWW Reviews: Cruella in a Mantilla?: BERNARDA ALBA at FPCT Needs Some Rethinking
April 21, 2015

Only a brave community theater would take on The House of Bernarda Alba, Federico Garcia Lorca's last play. Written by a closeted gay playwright at the very outset of the Francisco Franco's conservative fascist rule and savagely attacking that era's repression of female freedom, both social and sexual (and by implication other freedoms), it inevitably betrays an air of extreme avant-gardeism. Ibsen and Strindberg and Wedekind may have gone into the same territory, but as of 1936 not too many others. And Lorca drives home his message as if no one had ever conveyed it before - which was more or less true in his time and place.
BWW Reviews: Playing Marital and Mortal Odds: 13 DEAD HUSBANDS at CohesionBWW Reviews: Playing Marital and Mortal Odds: 13 DEAD HUSBANDS at Cohesion
March 14, 2015

If charming and silly are your thing, you'll have fun at Thirteen Dead Husbands by Tom Horan. Set in 'a Paris of the Imagination,' it centers around Dee-Dee (Cassandra Dutt) the 'most beautiful girl in the world,' whose stunning looks come with a serious drawback. The drawback: You marry her, you die promptly of some kind of unpredictable catastrophe. When the action starts, she has already been widowed twelve times, and has a trunk-full of wedding dresses to prove it. The question then becomes what kind of man would now seek Dee-Dee's hand, and what are his chances (of matrimony, and if so, of survival) if he does?
BWW Reviews: She's Not There: ZERO HOUR: TOKYO ROSE'S LAST TAPE Alights at TowsonBWW Reviews: She's Not There: ZERO HOUR: TOKYO ROSE'S LAST TAPE Alights at Towson
February 16, 2015

Playwright Miwa Yanagi is almost certainly right that the authorities convicted the wrong Tokyo Rose, but the main point isn't that, but rather that the spirit of Tokyo Rose was ethereal, ephemeral, and not subject to being captured, either by soldiers or even by memory. Except for recordings of her voice, she is absent.
BWW Reviews: Women's Fate in War: RUINED at EverymanBWW Reviews: Women's Fate in War: RUINED at Everyman
February 9, 2015

There is much more to the play than Mama's turn as a sort of Auntie Mame-of-the-Ituri-rainforest. It is also the unflinching story of how, in the words of Salima, men wage war "on [women's] bodies." Particularly in contemporary warfare rape is a form of combat, aimed at destroying societies. The scene in Act Two where Salima describes what happened to her is not only uncomfortable, it is a display of raw theatrical power and a tutorial about the mechanics of social destruction in the wake of rape.
BWW Reviews: A Stunning WHALE at the REPBWW Reviews: A Stunning WHALE at the REP
January 19, 2015

Trust me: you will become absorbed with these characters. You will care about who these people are and what they're going to do next. In the end the Whale's heroism matters; the motivations the dramatist tenders for that heroism don't much. It's just an interesting story touchingly told
BWW Reviews: It's a Wonderful IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE at Center StageBWW Reviews: It's a Wonderful IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE at Center Stage
November 28, 2014

At the end, the audience for this show is pulled not merely into the studio but into Bedford Falls, as the stage snow falls not only on the characters in the story set there but on the performers in the studio and on the audience as well. It is a perfectly magical double fourth-wall violation. Indeed, to state what must already be obvious, this whole show is perfectly magical.
BWW Reviews: Rebeck Loses Some Edge but the Cast Does Not in SEMINAR at FPCTBWW Reviews: Rebeck Loses Some Edge but the Cast Does Not in SEMINAR at FPCT
November 16, 2014

Seminar starts out strong, ripping into the fabric of the business of teaching fiction writing with knife-edged one-liners and characters you love to despise; then, as the plot, the characterizations, and the theme take a hairpin turn, it emerges that, no, the teaching is not a scam after all, the students' fiction has possibilities, and the characters are not what we thought them. All Rebeck's hilarious savagery dissipates. Like Rebeck's writing and show-running for the first season of TV's Smash, it is a little too affectionate toward the business and the people in it to stay as scathing as Rebeck could and should keep it.
BWW Reviews: Sarah Kane's Dazzling Apologia Pro Morte Sua, 4.48 PSYCHOSIS, at Iron CrowBWW Reviews: Sarah Kane's Dazzling Apologia Pro Morte Sua, 4.48 PSYCHOSIS, at Iron Crow
October 10, 2014

'How on earth do you award aesthetic points to a 75-minute suicide note?' asked critic Michael Billington after seeing the original 2000 London production of Sarah Kane's 4.48 Psychosis, her final theater piece, staged 16 months after Kane's self-inflicted death (by hanging in a psychiatric ward). The answer to Billington's question is, you award aesthetic points to a suicide note the same way you award aesthetic points to anything else: Is it well-written, does it show you something new, does it move you? The answers to these follow-up questions, with this piece (which is admittedly impossible not to view as a suicide note) are yes, yes, and yes. And Iron Crow Theatre has given it simply an outstanding production.
BWW Reviews: Kinks Above The Waistline: VENUS IN FUR at the REPBWW Reviews: Kinks Above The Waistline: VENUS IN FUR at the REP
October 6, 2014

If shifting psychodynamics are your thing, this version caters to your taste. Tkel is excellent as she repeatedly changes voice and accent and affect, a Noo Yoouhk-accented noodginess and klutziness as Vanda, a Judy-Holliday-in-Born-Yesterday sprightliness as a slightly more empowered Vanda making suggestions during the reading, and a cultivated Masterpiece Theatre voice and regally bitchy style as Wanda and as maybe-Venus.
BWW Review: Fresh Production, Unfresh Play: AMADEUS at Center StageBWW Review: Fresh Production, Unfresh Play: AMADEUS at Center Stage
September 22, 2014

There is nothing wrong with the handsome production director Kwame Kwei-Armah has given us, from the amazing two-storey set by Timothy R. Mackabee to the decolletage-heavy, periwig-topped, bustle-bottomed, gilded costumes of David Burdick, to the sturdy performances of Bruce Randolph Nelson and Stanton Nash as Salieri and Mozart, to literally everything else associated with this resurrection of the show. I am convinced that the problem lies with the script itself.
BWW Reviews: A Wonderful New Theater Inaugurated In Side-Splitting Style: A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM at Chesapeake Shakespeare Company's New HomeBWW Reviews: A Wonderful New Theater Inaugurated In Side-Splitting Style: A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM at Chesapeake Shakespeare Company's New Home
September 22, 2014

Wow to the theater, a three-tier structure that echoes the layout of Shakespeare's own Globe. Wow to the play, one of Shakespeare's funniest. Wow to the acting, the direction, the staging, the lighting. The audience is assured of over two hours of being in stitches.
BWW Reviews: Rousing MEMPHIS at Toby's Proves You Can Do Worse Than Be FormulaicBWW Reviews: Rousing MEMPHIS at Toby's Proves You Can Do Worse Than Be Formulaic
September 16, 2014

So far as I know, Toby's staging of Memphis: The Musical is the first local production to date in the Baltimore area, certainly one of the first, and a worthy introduction of the show to the region. It seems to have everything that the Broadway show has: fiery, precise dancing, tuneful belting of catchy songs, great period costumes. In other words, a sure-fire great time, as one would expect for a musical that, on Broadway, won the Tony for Best Musical, Best Score, and Best Book.
BWW Reviews: They Do Not Serve Who Only Stand And Wait - THE UNDERSTUDY at EverymanBWW Reviews: They Do Not Serve Who Only Stand And Wait - THE UNDERSTUDY at Everyman
September 2, 2014

We come into life with a desire to do meaningful things, just as an understudy comes into the theater motivated to produce great thespian art. Yet if the understudy is our avatar, how discouraging is his example! For, as in Rebeck's play, the understudy's task is condemned to nearly certain futility. Particularly so on today's Broadway, where plays are too often packaged as vehicles for screen stars whom the audience pays a large premium to see, in productions with limited runs. The setup is almost guaranteed to incentivize producers to demand that the big screen stars appear at every performance, and to incentivize the stars to do so, affording no opportunity to the understudies.
BWW Reviews: Facing Moral Dilemmas in a Crumbling Garage - NORTH OF THE BOULEVARD at CATFBWW Reviews: Facing Moral Dilemmas in a Crumbling Garage - NORTH OF THE BOULEVARD at CATF
July 21, 2014

Trip needs to get himself and his family 'up north of the Boulevard' to a more civilized neighborhood. Then an unexpected circumstance dumps an opportunity in Trip's lap. The only problem is that, to take it, Trip would need to leave his integrity behind and possibly risk going to jail. Is getting north of the Boulevard worth it for Trip and his buddies? Does Trip even have a meaningful choice?
BWW Reviews: PIRATES OF PENZANCE at Toby's is Silly and SublimeBWW Reviews: PIRATES OF PENZANCE at Toby's is Silly and Sublime
July 21, 2014

The heart of the operetta's appeal is the sublime silliness of its premise: pirates from the era of sail plundering Victorian steamships. It just never gets stale. And binding it all together is Sullivan's music. utside the sphere of grand opera, Sullivan has no equals on the stage except possibly Gershwin and Bernstein.
BWW Reviews: Insincere White Invitations, New Black Authenticity: THE ASHES UNDER GAIT CITY Premieres at CATFBWW Reviews: Insincere White Invitations, New Black Authenticity: THE ASHES UNDER GAIT CITY Premieres at CATF
July 20, 2014

This play, about a small group of black visionaries attempting to establish visibility in a white Oregon town which has excluded and disregarded them, is provocative but hard to follow.
BWW Reviews: Is There an I in Robot? - UNCANNY VALLEY at CATFBWW Reviews: Is There an I in Robot? - UNCANNY VALLEY at CATF
July 15, 2014

Alex Podulke progresses by tiny gradations over the course of an hour and a half from impersonating a machine in speech and movement to a near-human in those regards, and one finds oneself saying, Of course that's how a machine trying to imitate a human would look, even though one has never seen it before.
BWW Reviews: An Overstuffed ONE NIGHT at CATFBWW Reviews: An Overstuffed ONE NIGHT at CATF
July 14, 2014

There are the bones here of a perfectly respectable play about rape and what comes after in the U.S. military and veterans' system. They are often overwhelmed by formulaic exposition and too much going on. The play needs to be broken down and retooled.


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