BWW Reviews: Everyman Theatre Opens New Theatre with Robust Production of AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY
"Another opening, another show, from Philly, Boston, to Baltimo". That lyric from KISS ME KATE certainly fits the inaugural production of the new Everyman Theatre. The first production of a Pulitzer Prize winning play that also won the Tony Award for Best Play makes its Baltimore debut, not at the huge 2500 seat theater on Baltimore's Eutaw Street (which currently is running a non-Equity show), but at the brand new intimate 250 seat Everyman Theatre, with an Equity cast. Do not miss it!!
Artistic Director Vince Lancisi could not have picked a better way to begin the Everyman's new life on West Fayette Street than with Tracy Letts' wonderful AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY. I thoroughly enjoyed the Broadway production but once again, I found the Everyman's take on it more profound and more enjoyable.
On the Inaugural Opening Night, there was even an actual RED CARPET to walk on. There was a delightful reception prior to the show, small bites and drinks during the Intermission I, and a scrumptious desert during Intermission II. And after the show, there was a "Meet the Cast" party with more food, music and no one could recognize the future "Black Box Theatre" now used as a rehearsal space which was beautifully decorated. And the brisket??? All right...enough already. To the play and the theater.
The theater is just plain magnificent. There is no bad seat in the house. There are so many wonderful touches to the place. The seats are comfortable and the two side sections are angled to face the stage. The air-conditioning/heating system is completely silent. There's even a piano playing in the mezzanine about the lobby which features a nice bar. The color scheme is also terrific. There are murals which depict past productions (similarly done at the Signature Theatre). There are sconces which feature the likeness of current members of The Acting Company. My only complaint is that rest-rooms are solely on the second floor or the basement. I know there is an elevator but in my mind a theater should have rest-rooms on the first level, especially with so many theater-goers being members of the AARP.
What a great addition to theater in the Baltimore/Washington area. Besides plenty of parking across the street and next door to the theater, there is superb public transportation available via the Light Rail and the subway, both very convenient.
As to the play, yes, it's long...close to three hours, yet, I didn't once look at my watch.
Lancisi does an admirable job of keep the pace flowing. He also has an incredible ability to find talented actors. Six members are part of the Resident Company: Clinton Brandhagen, Deborah Hazlett, Beth Hylton, Wil Love, Bruce Randolph Nelson, and Carl Schurr. Each of them are just outstanding. Love, who I adore, has one scene where he is asked to give a "grace before meals" and just brings down the house.
There are many actors making their Everyman debut including Veronica Del Cerro, Ron Heneghan, Heather Lynn Peacock, and Nancy Robinette who has been a mainstay in the Washington, DC theater scene and I'm thrilled she finally is getting a chance to perform in Baltimore. Robinette was just nominated for a Helen Hayes Award for her role in THE GOVERNMENT INSPECTOR at the Shakespeare Theatre Company. She is a remarkable actress. Returning to Everyman are Maia Desanti and Rob Leo Roy.
Making her Everyman Theatre debut playing the incredibly difficult role of Violet Weston is the astonishing Linda Thorson. Thorson may be remembered by some for her role as Tara King (replacing the role held by Dianna Rigg) in the British TV series "The Avengers" with Roger Moore. Her bio is too huge to mention here. Suffice it to say, this is a role you will remember forever. I asked her after her performance, how Baltimore was able to get her talents for this play. Her simple reply was "I auditioned and Vinnie liked me." She also mentioned that there were some top actresses from New York and Washington who auditioned. Leave it to Lancisi to land this amazing actress. I can only hope she returns.
The play is about a family, an unusual family and it deals with drug addiction, alcohol addiction, relationships which may surprise, AND it's funny. You will laugh uproariously. Yet, it's also sad.
The entire production team must be applauded. From David Burdick's wonderful costumes, Daniel Ettinger's set design (worthy of a Tony Award), Jay Hersog's incredible lighting, Chas Marsh's superb sound, and Anne Nesmith's Hair Design.
When was the last time you saw a professional team support a play. Well, hats off to the Baltimore Orioles who have done so here.
Lancisi explained why he chose AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY. "...first and foremost because it's one of the best plays written in the past decade. Tracy Letts has given us a tragi-comedy that is riveting, gut-wrenching, and hilariously funny all at the same time. Like most first rate family dramas, the characters are all vivid, complex, and well drawn. Actors love to play them and audiences revel in their dynamic, brutal honesty and for the lengths they will go to survive. These people are real and the family dysfunctional. We know them...We all relate to some degree.
You have until February 17, 2013. For tickets, call 410-752-2208 or visit www.everymantheatre.org. The next production will be GOD OF CARNAGE running from March 13 to April 7, 2013.
It's not often that TWO of Tracy Letts' plays are playing in one city during the same period. The Fells Point Corner Theatre is presenting SUPERIOR DONUTS. Visit www.fpct.org for ticket information.
Photo Credit: Stan Barouh
Deborah Hazlett and Linda Thorson