J. Wynn Rousuck | WYPR

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.

Shealyn Jae Photography

Theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck joins Tom in the Midday studio most every Thursday. She's here today with her review of Das Barbecu, a fast-paced musical theater version of Richard Wagner’s “Ring Cycle.” Written in 1991 by Jim Luigs and composed by Scott Warrender, it premiered in Seattle and has been produced by theater companies across the US, including Baltimore's Center Stage.  Now, the popular musical is back in Baltimore, at the Audrey Herman Spotlighters Theatre.

Wagner's famed operatic masterwork is actually four long operas with a ton of plot. Spotlighters' new production of Das Barbecu (directed by Greg Bell, with musical direction by Michael Tan) is set in contemporary, twangy Texas.  It boils the vast Wagnerian storyline down to one evening of musical theater, with five actors frenetically playing more than 30 characters. Major plot-lines in this tuneful, light-hearted Western include mismatched lovers, feuding families, western rope tricks, a synchronized swimming scene, a tribute to guacamole, and of course, a magic ring of power.

Das Barbecu continues at the Audrey Herman Spotlighters Theatre through Oct. 30 

Photo by Joan Marcus

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is a play adapted from the 2003 mystery novel by British writer Mark Haddon. The novel is told from a first-person perspective by Christopher John Francis Boone, a 15-year-old boy living in suburban England who describes himself as "a mathematician with some behavioral difficulties."

Christopher's condition is never identified, but he appears to fit the profile of someone living on the autism spectrum, with a condition once referred to as Asperger's syndrome.  Haddon has blogged that he is not an expert on autism, and that "Curious Incident is not a book about Asperger's....if anything, it's a novel about difference, about being an outsider, about seeing the world in a surprising and revealing way."

Photo: Rob Clatterbuck

As she does most every Thursday on Midday, veteran theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck joins Tom in the Midday studio, this week with her review of  The Wild Party, the latest production by Iron Crow Theatre company, now on stage at the Theatre Project.  The musical is based on a lusty -- and lengthy --narrative poem from the 1920s by a writer named Joseph Moncure March.

Iron Crow's script moves the action out of the 1920s and closer to present-day, and the music, too, is more contemporary.  As Ms. Rousuck explains, this high-spirited musical also deals with some pretty  contemporary themes.

The Iron Crow Theatre’s production of “The Wild Party” continues at the Theatre Project tonight through Sunday (Oct. 9).

Photo by ClintonB Photography

Veteran theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck joins Tom with a review of Everyman Theatre's new production of "Wait Until Dark."  While most people might know that title from the Oscar-nominated 1967 film starring Audrey Hepburn as the blind protagonist, the tense thriller was originally a play -- Frederick Knott's 1966 Broadway hit, which also had a short-lived 1998 revival.  Then came Jeffrey Hatcher's 2013 adaptation of the Knott play, in which the story is given a new setting in 1944 Greenwich Village.  That's the version now on stage at Everyman, with Donald Hicken directing and Megan Anderson starring in the lead role as Susan. 

"Wait Until Dark" continues at Everyman Theatre through Sunday, October 9.   Click here for ticket information.

Walters Art Museum

Dr. Gary Vikan, who retired in 2013 as director of the Walters Art Museum here in Baltimore, has spent more than 40 years -- nearly 30 of them at the Walters -- overseeing prestigious collections of some of the world’s most precious art and artifacts.  Vikan  joins Tom this afternoon to talk about the memoir he’s written of those years, and about the challenges he often faced from the dark underworld of the global art trade. The book is called Sacred and Stolen: Confessions of a Museum Director.  

Then, veteran theater critic  J. Wynn Rousuck joins Tom in the studio, as she does every Thursday here on Midday, to preview some of the exciting new plays and musicals that will be gracing stages in Baltimore and around the region during the 2016-2017 season. 

Here are links to the theaters Judy mentions in today's season preview:  Center Stage;  Le Mondo;  Strand Theater Company;  Chesapeake Shakespeare Company;  Everyman Theatre;  Iron Crow Theatre Hippodrome Theatre;  Single Carrot Theatre.

Veteran theater critic  J. Wynn Rousuck joins Tom in the studio, as she does every Thursday here on Midday, to preview some of the exciting new plays and musicals that will be gracing stages in Baltimore and around the region during the 2016-2017 season. 

Here are links to the theaters Judy mentions in today's season preview:  Center Stage;  Le Mondo;  Strand Theater Company;  Chesapeake Shakespeare Company;  Everyman Theatre;  Iron Crow Theatre Hippodrome Theatre;  Single Carrot Theatre.

Carol Rosegg

Theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck joins Tom in the studio to talk about the new Broadway-bound musical, Come From Away, now playing at Ford's Theatre in Washington, D.C.. The musical drama recalls the horrors of 9/11 and the fact that moments after those terrorist attacks, the US government closed US airspace and ordered thousands of airborne jetliners to land immediately at the nearest airports. 

Thirty-eight planes, carrying more than 6,500 passengers, were diverted to Gander, a small town in the Canadian province of Newfoundland, doubling the community's population overnight.  Come From Away tells the story of how Gander residents offered these stranded passengers -- complete strangers -- food, shelter and friendship during the difficult days following 9/11. 

Come From Away is playing through October 16 at the Ford's Theatre in Washington.  For tickets or more information click here

Photo by Joshua McKerrow

Every Monday,  theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck graces the Maryland Morning studio with her reviews of the most noteworthy stage productions in Baltimore and across Maryland.  This morning, she's come with news of a funny and high-spirited production by the Annapolis Shakespeare Company of a three-decades old classic, The Complete Worlds of Shakespeare (Abridged)

The rotating three-actor cast manages to embrace all of the Bard's 37-plays in a hilarious, 90-minute roller-coaster ride of skits, written by Adam Long, Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield and directed by ASC's Artistic Director, Sally Boyett.  The fast-paced show sends up the Bard's most famous tragedies, comedies, histories and everything in between, and spotlights the talents of both Mr. Shakespeare and the Annapolis troupe.

ASC presents "The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged)" in the outdoor Courtyard at Reynolds Tavern, every Tuesday evening, now through September 27th. 

photo by Tina Revazi Studio Theater

Every Monday on Maryland Morning, our theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck joins Tom in the studio to share her thoughts on some of the best (and sometimes not the best) stage productions in Baltimore and throughout the Maryland region. This morning, she arrives with her knit hand puppet Chaussette ​(photo below) to tell us about a remarkable new production of the 2015 Broadway hit and multiple Tony-nominee, Hand to God, now playing an extended run at Washington, D.C.'s Studio Theatre until October 2.

 Set in a church basement in a Texas backwater town, it takes us into the world of a Christian puppet ministry, where one puppet becomes the very black sheep of this hapless flock.  The puppet's demonic energies trigger a torrent of angry and lustful epiphanies among the town's denizens, in what Studio Theater calls "a ruthless comedy about sex, sinners and sock puppets."

Photo by Will Kirk/BSF

There are two striking non-traditional elements in the Baltimore Shakespeare Factory’s production of “Julius Caesar.” First, it’s set at the time of the American Revolution. And second, although almost all of the characters are men, women play more than half the roles.

The reason for the changed time period, to paraphrase director Chris Cotterman’s program notes, is that the story of Julius Caesar was distant – but relatable – history to Shakespeare’s original audiences. So why not create a similar link – okay, not quite as distant – that would resonate with American audiences?

Baltimore Shakespeare Factory is dedicated to “recreating the experience that Shakespeare’s audiences would have had.” I can’t say how relevant his audiences might have found the hubris of the title character – the presumptive king. But I suspect it might touch a chord with audiences here.