Jack L. B. Gohn

Jack L. B. Gohn A retired lawyer, and a 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 a member of the American Theatre Critics Association.


Making Deportation Politics Personal: MISS YOU LIKE HELL at Baltimore Center StageMaking Deportation Politics Personal: MISS YOU LIKE HELL at Baltimore Center Stage
Posted: Sep. 21, 2019

BWW Review: BRIGHT HALF LIFE at Strand Theater CompanyBWW Review: BRIGHT HALF LIFE at Strand Theater Company
Posted: Sep. 14, 2019


Inspired Self-Parody: CYMBELINE at Baltimore Shakespeare FactoryInspired Self-Parody: CYMBELINE at Baltimore Shakespeare Factory
Posted: Feb. 17, 2019

'Not Entirely Honest' an Understatement in REP Stage's Obscure But Funny THINGS THAT ARE ROUND'Not Entirely Honest' an Understatement in REP Stage's Obscure But Funny THINGS THAT ARE ROUND
Posted: Nov. 3, 2018

Fathers, Sons, and Dynastic Struggle: HENRY IV, PART I at Chesapeake Shakespeare CompanyFathers, Sons, and Dynastic Struggle: HENRY IV, PART I at Chesapeake Shakespeare Company
Posted: Feb. 18, 2019

How The Assembly Line Ended: SWEAT at Everyman TheatreHow The Assembly Line Ended: SWEAT at Everyman Theatre
Posted: Oct. 29, 2018

BWW Review: Profoundly Moving CHESTER BAILEY at Contemporary American Theater FestivalBWW Review: Profoundly Moving CHESTER BAILEY at Contemporary American Theater Festival
Posted: Jul. 11, 2019

SPRING AWAKENING Well-Sung and Well-Performed by StillpointeSPRING AWAKENING Well-Sung and Well-Performed by Stillpointe
Posted: Oct. 14, 2018

BWW Review: A Rewarding and Ambitious JERUSALEM at Fells Point Corner TheatreBWW Review: A Rewarding and Ambitious JERUSALEM at Fells Point Corner Theatre
Posted: Jan. 20, 2019

Personality Verging on Personhood: PROXY at Rapid Lemon
October 12, 2019

One of the things drama does so well is to make us think and feel about the vectors a society is following. And one of the things happening in our society that drama needs to address is our headlong rush into technology with a personality verging on personhood. Proxy is a thoughtful and perceptive consideration of that rush.

Making Deportation Politics Personal: MISS YOU LIKE HELL at Baltimore Center Stage
September 21, 2019

All politics is personal, as the saying goes. Seldom is this point made with greater dramatic clarity than in Miss You Like Hell. The ending is powerful, but because of the politics. Miss You Like Hell illustrates, in a very personal and detailed way, how deportation policies damage and destroy lives and families, even away from the border. An enjoyable and uplifting evening of theater.

BWW Review: BRIGHT HALF LIFE at Strand Theater Company
September 14, 2019

Bright Half Life is presented in a totally nonsequential fashion, and at nearly breakneck speed much of the time. We are left to piece together the whole story from dozens of fragments that appear and pass quickly, which can be both exhausting and exhilarating. And not just for us in the audience; this calls for enormous flexibility on the part of the performers too. Moments of ecstasy are juxtaposed with moments of terror, joy and sadness arrive cheek-by-jowl, and certain incidents are repeatedly revisited. The two performers must be emotional quick-change artists, and I found myself amazed watching as Ayesis Clay and Katharine Vary worked their way intrepidly through those changes.

BWW Review: From Farcical to Sombre in PERFECT ARRANGEMENT at Fells Point Corner Theatre
September 3, 2019

The title Perfect Arrangement refers to the compact of a male gay couple and a lesbian couple to hide in plain view from the disapproval of the world in 1950 by posing as two straight couples living in adjoining halves of a Georgetown duplex. The two halves are secretly connected through the residences' respective front closets, a passage that enables each real couple to reunite at night, unnoticed by the world outside. Such a setup is custom-made for farce.

BWW Review: CABARET at Olney Theatre Center Keeps Us Gasping
September 3, 2019

Keeping us gasping is what Cabaret in all of its incarnations has always been about. Gasping at the opulence, gasping at the decadence, gasping at the heedlessness and the horror. It is intentionally strong stuff, and if it delivers, then it succeeds. And by that yardstick, this version, whatever it may or may not owe to its predecessors, is a smashing success.

BWW Review: The Guys Are Alright: SUPPORT GROUP FOR MEN at Contemporary American Theater Festival
July 12, 2019

Support Group for Men will send you away happy. There is nothing profound or challenging in this show: just a well-crafted and very funny comedy of manners, specifically the manners of the male of Species Homo Americanus, youthful to mid-life, as observed in a middle-class Chicago habitat.

BWW Review: Profoundly Moving CHESTER BAILEY at Contemporary American Theater Festival
July 11, 2019

Dougherty unspools the stories of Chester and Dr. Cotton, his treating physician, with novelistic skill. The feeling of truly being in the World War II period never lifts. The stories reel us in: Chester's of the way he deals with his injury, and Cotton's of hospital life in wartime, with its politics, scandals, and sexual misbehavior. This show is the whole package: a polished, intriguing, thematically-consistent but otherwise dissimilar pair of stories well-told, leaving one profoundly moved.

Patriarchy Run Rampant: A WELCOME GUEST at Contemporary American Theater Festival
July 11, 2019

Then the government, represented by its functionary Lucius (Michael Rogers), brings in Shimeus (Wade McCollum), a derelict of another sort, whimpering and traumatized by an arson that killed everyone else in his family. Lucius orders the Browns to harbor Shimeus as a guest. Almost immediately, however, Shimeus stops whimpering, and, more importantly, stops behaving like a guest, and more like an invader - well maybe not a declared invader but a lot like a space alien whose intentions toward neighbors aren't entirely clear but don't seem encouraging, a la the plant in Little Shop of Horrors.

BWW Review: You'll Laugh, You'll Shiver: WRECKED at Contemporary American Theater Festival
July 10, 2019

It's an old trick, but a good one: Set two contrasting dramatic tones (usually domestic comedy and dread) against each other and let them fight it out throughout a play. It's the trick playwright Greg Kalleres employs to advantage in Wrecked,

MY LORD, WHAT A NIGHT! at Contemporary American Theater Festival: Clashing Views on Resisting Racism
July 9, 2019

The drama works because of the intriguing way the characters' ideas about how to act in response to Marian Anderson's two provocative exclusions (first from Nassau Inn and then from Constitution Hall) shift repeatedly in response to new information, so that consensus is almost impossible to achieve, at least until the play's very end. Anderson seeks progress through song, unimpeachable behavior and an avoidance of politics; Albert Einstein wants an end to both racism and antisemitism, and by the end is very worried about the Bomb; Mary Church Terrell embraces confrontation because all else seems to fail; and Abraham Flexner tries hard to protect the Institute as a means of keeping the Holocaust from consuming absolutely all Jews, even though he can save only a few.

Brooklyn Is In Him: ANTONIO'S SONG at Contemporary American Theater Festival
July 8, 2019

And now of course we are into the story of Antonio's family of origin, and the world of his origin, which has conditioned him to behave this way, which implicitly and explicitly looks to its men to solve problems with violence.

BWW Review: Necessity and Realism Prevail Along with Enchantment in LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST at Chesapeake Shakespeare Company
July 1, 2019

Berowne gloomily foresees: "Necessity will make us all forsworn Three thousand times within this three year's space." And by "necessity" we can be sure he means not simply the logistical necessity of dealing with women but what we might call Jurassic Park Necessity: Life finds a way. As Shakespeare himself wrote in a similar context: "The world must be peopled." And for peopling, you need relations between the sexes.

BWW Review: Topical and Mostly Sure-Footed Rendering Of ARTURO UI from Scena
June 18, 2019

A thinly-disguised parable of the ascendancy of Adolf Hitler, The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui may have been written in 1941, but it may as well have been addressed directly to Americans of 2019.

BWW Review: DISASTER! Slays at Cockpit In Court
June 15, 2019

Disaster! lovingly pokes fun at two staples of 1970s popular culture: disaster movies like Towering Inferno and The Poseidon Adventure and the disco-heavy pop music of the era. Whether to go is not going to present any great dilemmas. This is a perfect summer evening's smart-alecky entertainment.

BWW Review: The Songs May Not Stick, But the Happiness Will in Iron Crow's Production of A NEW BRAIN
June 3, 2019

The strange thing about this lyrical cornucopia: it doesn't stick in the mind much as one departs. There is a deliberate effort to craft just such a song, 'I Feel So Much Spring,' as the closer, and it feels and sounds good, but by the time the song finishes, there have been so many harmonic variations sung by the various characters that the core melody has largely been overwritten mentally. What will not be overwritten is the joyous feeling that the song, and the ending, bring about.

Birth and Death with Comic Brio: AND BABY MAKES SEVEN at The Strand Theater Company
April 7, 2019

The only thematic message, apart from the goes-without-saying affirmation of LGBTQ life choices, is that we should not 'be afraid to play,' which is about as anodyne as they come. But since when need hilarity justify itself with a message?

HENRY IV, PART 2 at Chesapeake Shakespeare Company Concludes a Tale of Fathers and Sons
March 17, 2019

For Prince Hal to attain his destiny, he like all sons must replace his father, and if in this case there are two fathers, it simply means that there are two to surmount, surpass and survive.

BWW Review: Dazzling and Uplifting INDECENT at Center Stage
March 8, 2019

Indecent is about the power of theater to dazzle and uplift. Playwright Vogel has discussed plays that make the hair stand up on her neck. That is exactly what Indecent does: makes the hairs stand up on the back of the neck, and we may be at a loss to explain.

BWW Review: INDECENT at Center Stage
March 11, 2019

Paula Vogel's 2015 play Indecent, in a production now arrived at Center Stage after stops at D.C.'s Arena Stage and the Kansas City Rep, is a staggering tour de force of playwriting prowess that is also a tour of a largely forgotten world: international Yiddish theater shortly after the turn of the last century. A play about a play about a play, it follows Sholem Asch's God of Vengeance on a circular path, from Lodz, Poland in 1906 to Warsaw, to various stages in Europe, through Ellis Island and various New York theaters, culminating with an abortive stay on Broadway, and thence back to Lodz once more, at the peak of the Holocaust. And then, in a sort of coda, it concludes in Connecticut with the last days of Mr. Asch. All these parts are contained within an initial framing device in which, like Pseudolus in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, a stage manager named Lemml (Ben Cherry), introduces the players and musicians, apparently members of a turn-of-the-century Yiddish theater troupe, and identifies the kinds of parts they will play (like male and female Ingenues). Everything that follows, i.e. a play about presenting a play, is presented as a play performed by this troupe.

BWW Review: Words Fail, But Humanity May Prevail in TWILIGHT, LOS ANGELES at the REP
March 6, 2019

Most of the characters fail to use words properly to convey directly what is important to them or us. But as I have said, the underlying problem is larger. It is a mismatch of moral paradigms. The possibility of rationally settling the underlying issues by a dialogue among the participants is hard to conceive. This play seems instead to be more about making people grasp, at a gut level, the speakers' personhood,