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.

Photo by Seth Freeman, CATF 2016

For this week's review, our theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck traveled, as she has every year for more than two decades, to Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, host for the annual Contemporary American Theater Festival.  For the Festival's 2016 season, five new plays are being staged in a rotating repertory:   pen/man/ship, by Christina Anderson; Not Medea, by Allison Gregory; The Wedding Gift, by Chisa Hutchinson; 20th Century Blues, by Susan Miller; and The Second Girl, by Ronan Noone.  Notable this year is that four of the five plays are by women playwrights; three of the plays are having their world premieres.  

J. Wynn Rousuck talks with host Tom Hall about some of the standout features of this repertory feast.

[Full disclosure from J. Wynn Rousuck: She and playwright Christina Anderson were fellow students in the graduate playwriting program at Brown University in 2007-2008.]

Teresa Castracane

The Alexandre Dumas classic, The Three Musketeers, has found new  life in the forests of Ellicott City. The Chesapeake Shakespeare Company puts a fresh spin on the classic tale of runaway D'Artagnan as he ventures through 17th century France with the legendary three musketeers of the King's court: Athos, Porthos and Aramis.

Theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck joins Tom in-studio with her review of the live-action outdoor performance.  

And she waxes poetic about how the experience was, truly, tempest-tossed by the vagaries of weather.

MATTHEW MURPHY

The Tony Award-winning musical production of The Bridges of Madison County is now playing at The Kennedy Center. 

The 1992 book of the same name spent three years on the New York Times best-seller list and was made into a movie in 1995 starring Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep. Bridges tells the story of Iowa housewife Francesca Johnson and her whirlwind, forbidden romance with traveling photographer Robert Kincaid. Composer Jason Robert Brown won a Tony Award in 2014 for the musical’s original score.  Theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck joins Tom in-studio to give her take on The Bridges of Madison County.

Olney Theatre Center

If you didn’t know that Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice wrote “Evita” four decades ago, you might think this musical about the role of celebrity in politics was brand new.

The idea of a celebrity running for office is the overriding theme of Olney Theatre Center’s re-imagined, eye-opening production of this musical look at the life of former Argentine first lady Eva Peron.

Unlike director Harold Prince’s original interpretation of the show as an examination of media manipulation, at Olney we see Evita manufacturing her own fame and using it to catapult her husband, Juan Peron, to the presidency.

A microphone on a stand becomes a major prop in director Will Davis’ inspired interpretation. Commandeer the mike, get into power, win over the people – as Evita does – and you can tell them just about anything.

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. 

Pages