J. Wynn Rousuck

Maryland Morning Theater Critic

J. Wynn Rousuck has been reviewing theater for Maryland Morning with Sheilah Kast since 2007. Prior to that, she was the theater critic of The Baltimore Sun, where she reviewed more than 3,000 plays over the course of 23 years. Her feature coverage for The Sun included a comprehensive series chronicling the development of the Tony Award-winning musical, “Hairspray.” Judy got her start at The Cleveland Press and at Cleveland’s fine arts radio station, WCLV. Her broadcasting experience also includes a year as an on-air theater critic for Maryland Public Television.

A member of the Artistic Advisory Committee of Young Audiences of Maryland, Judy is also a freelance teacher for the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth and the Hippodrome Foundation, Inc. (the Hippodrome’s non-profit partner, which focuses on education and outreach). She was a faculty member at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center’s Critics Institute in Waterford, CT, for two decades; she is a former National Endowment for Humanities Journalism Fellow; and she was a visiting student at Brown University (2007-2008), under the mentorship of Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, Paula Vogel. Judy and her husband, Alan Fink, share their home with two dogs, who enjoy hearing their “Master’s Voice” on WYPR.

Photo by Tom Lauer

Godspell is a high-spirited, musical re-telling of the life and passion of Jesus Christ, created in 1971 by a 23-year-old wunderkind named Stephen Schwartz (who would later go on to score many more musical hits), with a book by John-Michael Tebelak. Since its Off-Broadway debut, Godspell has become an iconic and seemingly timeless work, played in numerous community theaters, touring companies and revivals, including a successful 2011 run on Broadway. Now, a new production of Godspell by Cockpit in Court is playing through Sunday (June 26) at the Essex Campus of the Community College of Baltimore.  Maryland Morning theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck caught the show and joins Tom in the studio with her review.

Shealyn Jae Photography

In the world of Neil Gaiman’s “Neverwhere,” there are talking rats, duplicitous angels and immortal assassins.

Most of the action takes place below ground in the London sewers and subway, or “tube.” The supernatural goings-on include a girl who can walk through doors -- where there are no doors.

With so much imaginative material, you might expect the theatrical adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s fantasy novel to take its own leaps of fantasy. But ambitious as Cohesion Theatre Company’s efforts may be, in many respects, director Brad Norris’ production and playwright Robert Kauzlaric’s script are too literal an interpretation of the book  (a book that was, itself, adapted from Gaiman’s BBC-TV series).

Jason Gillman

It is the season of love here in Baltimore as the classic play Love Letters by A.R. Gurney takes the stage at the Hippodrome Theatre. Ryan O’Neal and Ali MacGraw, stars of the 1970 film, Love Story, rekindle old flames in this charming story of an artist and a lawyer who fall in love through pen and paper.  Theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck joins Tom in-studio to give her take on this tale of distant lovers.

Mónica López-González, PhD

A windowless room, a few hardback chairs and a table with a bare bulb overhead. A female police Detective interrogates a murder suspect. The Suspect is also a woman. She was arrested at a party held to celebrate a book about – and supposedly written by -- a prominent, but notorious man.

He’s identified only as “the president,” though whether that refers to the political or corporate world is left unsaid. Now he’s been murdered. The Suspect was his ghostwriter. Was she also his killer? Does she have something to hide? Does the Detective?

Human communication has its limitations. And, when people deliberately conceal information – at a police interrogation, for example – understanding may boil down to a matter of perception.

Perception -- and its flaws -- is the central theme of Framed Illusion. This latest work by La Petite Noiseuse Productions is premiering at the Theatre Project. The one-act play is written, directed and stars the company’s artistic and scientific director, Mónica López-González.

Terry Richardson

    

John Waters celebrated his 70th birthday in April. From his early days as an enfant terrible film maker and the King of Sleaze, he has sustained a remarkable career as an author, a stand-up comedian, a visual artist, and one of America’s most thoughtful observers on the cultural landscape. He is the master of re-invention, and no work is more emblematic of that than Hairspray, which was a movie, a musical, and then a movie of a musical. This weekend, he’ll narrate Hairspray in yet another iteration: a Symphonic Production with the BSO. John Waters joins me this morning to talk about art, politics, and how to keep looking ahead.

Then, WYPR’s Lisa Morgan talks to Andrew Och, who goes on the road with America's First Ladies,and J. Wynn Rousuck previews the Baltimore Playwright’s Festival.

Photo by Rob Sivak WYPR

The Baltimore Playwrights Festival is one of the older new-play festivals in America.  It has produced more than 300 plays since it began in 1982.  Joining Maryland Morning theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck in our studio to talk about the festival’s history, goals, and new directions as it begins its 35th season, are two of its leading lights: Michael Stricker, the festival’s new chair, and Kimberley Lynne, one of its co-chairs. 

Joe Williams

You wouldn’t expect it from the title, but there’s a lot of violence in the play, Superior Donuts. The opening scene takes place the morning after this Chicago donut shop has been vandalized. And there’s a fight in the second act that almost has you ducking for cover. 

Playwright Tracy Letts started writing Superior Donuts right before his 2008 Pulitzer Prize winner, August: Osage County, had its first production.

He set out to write something very different from that sprawling Oklahoma family saga. And he did. In many respects, Superior Donuts is the superior play.

Photo: Nick Griner

Maybe you heard about the Rembrandt that was discovered in a New Jersey basement. Or, maybe you remember the little painting that was purchased at a West Virginia flea market and turned out to be a Renoir – a Renoir that was stolen from the Baltimore Museum of Art.

So there’s precedent for the unwanted, the overlooked, the discarded – let’s face it, someone’s trash – turning out to be a masterpiece. In the case of Stephen Sachs’ play, “Bakersfield Mist,” there’s a very direct precedent. 

Josh Loock

I hope that when the world ends, we’re surrounded by friends and take some joy in companionship. Maybe there will even be some songs, a bit of dancing and a toast or two at a place called the Apocalypse Café.

That’s what goes on in BrouHaHa, the ensemble-created work by Washington’s Happenstance Theater, now at the Theatre Project.

Happenstance subtitles BrouHaHa: “A clownesque escapade.” A clown piece about the apocalypse may sound like a contradiction in terms. But there’s something surprisingly comforting – and charming -- about BrouHaHa

C. Stanley Photography

Arena Stage in Washington is now featuring the Pulitzer-prize winning play, Disgraced by Ayad Akhtar. The play is set during a dinner party held by Amir, a successful son of South Asian immigrants. Dinner conversations spark Amir to question his career, culture, and identity.  Here's theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck's  review:

At first glance, it looks like the hippest, most sophisticated, intimate dinner party. Two young New York couples: The hosts are a Pakistani-American corporate lawyer and his white, artist wife; the guests are a Jewish curator at a prominent museum and his wife, an African-American corporate lawyer.

This small social gathering could be a picture of America at its best... 

Pages