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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: 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


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 Reviews: Visiting the Illyrian Casbah: Center Stage Does TWELFTH NIGHT ProudBWW Reviews: Visiting the Illyrian Casbah: Center Stage Does TWELFTH NIGHT Proud
Posted: Mar. 14, 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 Review: Fresh Production, Unfresh Play: AMADEUS at Center StageBWW Review: Fresh Production, Unfresh Play: AMADEUS at Center Stage
Posted: Sep. 22, 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: DEAD AND BREATHING at CATFBWW Reviews: DEAD AND BREATHING at CATF
Posted: Jul. 14, 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
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.
BWW Reviews: DEAD AND BREATHING at CATFBWW Reviews: DEAD AND BREATHING at CATF
July 14, 2014

The duel of these two characters is so absorbing and funny that I have to rate her black (in all senses) comedy as the strongest in this year's Contemporary American Theatre Festival. This is not just a duel of characters, but of actors. Lizan Mitchell, a face most viewers are probably familiar with from quality television like The Wire, is powerful and dignified, even with no clothes on - and delivers sharp-tongued zingers with scornful abandon. And N.L. Graham, a sassier sister of Laverne Cox of Orange Is The New Black (another great exponent of the art of making femininity issue from an originally male frame), mines every delicious wisecrack for all it might possibly be worth.
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
June 21, 2014

It's often been observed of Shakespeare that his plays don't tell you what he thinks about most subjects. But it is hard to doubt that he believed in romantic love, that mad, intoxicating, all-encompassing feeling that inspires courtship and marriage. Many of his comedies are essentially love delivery vehicles, giddy confections that give the audience an extraordinarily broad license just to roll in the bliss of it. I think especially of Twelfth Night, Much Ado About Nothing, and A Midsummer Night's Dream. But the most love-mad of all is surely As You Like It. And thankfully, that love-mad champagne feeling is served up nearly full-force in the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company's latest rendering of the play.
BWW Reviews: WILD WITH HAPPY Will Make You, Well, Wild With HappyBWW Reviews: WILD WITH HAPPY Will Make You, Well, Wild With Happy
June 8, 2014

Eventually Gil wins the struggle for the right to define his mother's obsequies. He is handed the urn with her ashes. He has sole custody. But then what? While Gil doesn't have the answer, Mo does. It involves a car chase down I-95 and the Cinderella Castle Suite at Disneyland, and a vision of Adelaide dancing in a magical white dress, and fireworks.
BWW Reviews: Better Living Through Electricity: A Stimulating VIBRATOR PLAY at the METBWW Reviews: Better Living Through Electricity: A Stimulating VIBRATOR PLAY at the MET
June 2, 2014

It is about sex, but mostly because that is where love starts. The effect is orgasm, of course, but it is also the breaking down of walls. As the barriers finally fall, the mood turns lyrical, and the action ends with a kind of latter-day echo of the wedding dance that would often finish a Shakespeare comedy.
BWW Reviews: First Crack at a New Comic Classic: VANYA AND SONIA at Center StageBWW Reviews: First Crack at a New Comic Classic: VANYA AND SONIA at Center Stage
April 26, 2014

It is gratifying that Christopher Durang's latest comedy, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, which is assuredly going to be produced in time by every community theater company in the country, gets its Baltimore premiere in style at Center Stage, as a sort of reference production by which other local ones can be gauged. The show, which rolled out over the last two years in regional test runs, then at the Lincoln Center, and then on Broadway, where it closed last year, is in joint production here with the Kansas City Repertory Theatre. The fun seems effortless; with a solid cast and wonderful direction by Eric Rosen at Center Stage, of course nothing is going to go wrong. But I'm willing to bet it would take a lot of trying to do this well-made play badly; I expect we'll find out.
BWW Reviews: Satisfying JOHN & JEN at Red BranchBWW Reviews: Satisfying JOHN & JEN at Red Branch
April 21, 2014

Of course, the musical is not just the tale of the working-out and the ultimate dispelling of a family curse. It is also a poignant account of a woman relating to a treasured younger brother and an even more treasured son in light of the early loss of the brother.
BWW Reviews: Only Two Duets: Red Branch Does Not Solve The Last 5 Years' MysteriesBWW Reviews: Only Two Duets: Red Branch Does Not Solve The Last 5 Years' Mysteries
April 6, 2014

The Last 5 Years is a treasure of the American musical theater, the quintessential chamber musical. Jason Robert Brown's mini-masterpiece boasts but two performers, a small musical ensemble, a challenging but moving score, and a simple but powerful structure designed to maintain dramatic equilibrium and balance between the characters from start to finish. Not surprisingly, it is often produced (34 productions announced this year - not to mention a film version).


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