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 Tom Lauer

Midday’s theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck returns for her weekly review of a local stage production. This week, she discusses the Vagabond Players’ new rendition of The Complete History of America (abridged), written by Adam Long, Reed Martin, and Austin Tichenor and directed by Howard Berkowitz. Starring Fred Fletcher-Jackson, Sean Kelly, and William B. Meister, The Complete History condenses 600 years of American history into 90 minutes of outrageous satire.

The Complete History of America (abridged) runs through February 5th at Vagabond Theatre in Fell’s Point. 

Photo by Joan Marcus

Midday's theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck  joins Tom every Thursday with her reviews of local and regional stage productions. This week, it's the celebrated Fiasco Theater production that became a surprise hit in New York City: a minimalist re-invention of Stephen Sondheim's and James Lapine's classic Tony Award-winning musical-fantasy, Into the Woods, now on stage at the Kennedy Center.  

Into the Woods at the Kennedy Center runs through Sunday, January 8th.  Recommended for audiences ages 8 and up!

Photo by Joan Marcus.

Midday theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck joins Tom every Thursday with her reviews of local and regional stage productions. This week, her spotlight is on the touring company production of  A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder, now in its final week at the Hippodrome Theatre in Baltimore.

This romping musical tells the story of Monty Navarro, the cocky heir to a family fortune, who plots to eliminate all rivals for his inheritance, while he struggles to navigate his tangled romantic life and stay one step ahead of the law.  

The show stars John Rapson as the D’Ysquith heirs (eight of them in all!), Kevin Massey as Monty Navarro, Kristen Beth Williams as Sibella Hallward, Adrienne Eller as Phoebe D’Ysquith and Mary VanArsdel as Miss Shingle.

A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder won four 2014 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Direction of a Musical (Darko Tresnjak), Book of a Musical (Robert L. Freedman) and Costume Design of a Musical (Linda Cho).

A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder continues at The Hippodrome Theatre through January 1, 2017. 

Photo by Kiirstn Pagan

Midday theater critic  J. Wynn Rousuck joins Tom every Thursday with her reviews of local and regional stage productions.  This week, she's been to Everyman Theatre to see the Baltimore debut of the off-Broadway hit, playwright Colman Domingo's "Dot."

Domingo, whose other works include "Wild With Happy," and whose acting credits include a starring role in "Fear the Walking Dead," has written a touchingly comic play, set in the holiday season, about kinship, sanity, and the impact of Alzheimer's Disease on an African-American family in West Philadelphia.

Directed by Vincent M. Lancisi, "Dot" continues at Everyman Theatre through Sunday, January 8.

photo by Richard Anderson

Theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck joins Tom in the studio with her weekly review of local stage productions. Today, she shares her impressions of  Les Liaisons Dangereuses, directed by Hana S. Sharif at Baltimore's Center Stage. The classic tale of love and betrayal, set in pre-Revolutionary France, was written in 1985 by Christopher Hampton as an adaptation of Pierre Choderlos de Laclos's 1782 epistolary novel. The production runs through Friday, December 23rd.

Center Stage

Today, a conversation about Center Stage. Maryland’s State Theater is undergoing a major facelift. The first phase of the renovation has been on display since Thanksgiving weekend, when previews for their current show, Les Liaisons Dangereuses opened in a spruced-up Pearlstone Theater. Center Stage hopes to complete their renovations in the next few months.  

How will the new space inform the programming at Center Stage and create opportunities for up-and-coming playwrights and actors?  Tom is joined by Center Stage Artistic Director Kwame Kwei-Armah OBE, the theater’s Associate Director, Gavin Witt and Midday theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck. They’ll also discuss Center Stage’s new program “Wright Now, Play Later” that takes theater-making outside the building and into the community by bringing accomplished playwrights, patrons and performers together to turn an idea about a play into a spontaneous, lively performance executed in Baltimore’s local businesses and well-known public places. 

Midday theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck interviews writer, actor, and director Colman Domingo.

Colman Domingo is best known for roles in Fear the Walking Dead, Lincoln, and Selma, ​but he has also acted on and off-Broadway and directed shows at The Lark,  The Geffen Playhouse, and Lincoln Center's Director's Lab. He is also an acclaimed playwright, and his play  Dot  is currently showing at Baltimore's Everyman Theatre. Dot will be playing at Everyman through Sunday, January 8th, 2017.

Photo by Gary Emord Netzley

Midday theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck joins us today with her review of  A Christmas Story, The Musical -- a new rendition of the late author and radio-TV celebrity Jean Shepherd’s comic story of a childhood Christmas. Shepherd helped turn his story into a movie in 1983 -- he wrote the screenplay and narrated the film -- and it’s been a perennial holiday favorite ever since. Now it’s a musical, with book by Joseph Robinette and music and lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. A Christmas Story - the Musical is on stage at the Hippodrome through this Sunday, December 11.

Rousuck's Review: "Schoolgirl Figure" at Cohesion Theatre

Dec 1, 2016
Cohesion Theatre Company

Midday's theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck returns to Studio A with her weekly review of local area productions. Today it's Cohesion Theatre Company's production of Schoolgirl Figurenow onstage at the United Evangelical Church in Baltimore. Set in a high school, this edgy comedy examines the tragic complexities of body image in today's vanity-obsessed culture. The darkly disturbing play was written by Wendy MacLeod. It's  directed by Jonas David Grey, and stars Emily Sucher and Tatiana Ford, among the cast.

Photo by Katie Simmons-Barth

For her regular Thursday review of regional theater, Midday's drama critic J. Wynn Rousuck joins senior producer Rob Sivak in the studio with her take on American Hero, a dark comedy by Bess Wohl that's been getting its regional premiere at the  RepStage Studio Theatre, on the campus of Howard Community College in Columbia, Maryland.  Directed by Suzanne Beal, the play is set in a small subshop where three "sandwich artists" are trying to learn their new craft: a teenager, a single mom, and a dropout from the corporate banking world, all of whom are barely hanging on to the bottom rungs of the economic ladder.. When unexpected events shake things up in the subshop, they find themselves allied against the uncertainties and inequities of America's post-recession economy.

American Hero continues at the RepStage in Columbia,Maryland through Sunday, November 20.

Photo by Stan Barouh

Up-and-coming playwright Jen Silverman's The Roommate, which opened November 6th at Baltimore's Everyman Theatre, is described in the theater notes as "a mash-up between 'Thelma and Louise' and 'the Odd Couple.'"  If you're too young to get those cultural references, let's just say The Roommate -- set in a "big old house" in Iowa City -- is a funny play about two very different middle-aged mothers, played by Everyman's Deborah Hazlett and Beth Hylton, who wind up living as roommates, and whose close-quartered experience yields both friendship and self-discovery.  Silverman's wry comedy is directed by Johanna Gruenhut, with set design by Timothy Mackabee, lighting by Jesse Belsky, and costume design by Sarah Cubbage.  

As she does most every Thursday here on Midday, theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck joins Tom in the studio today with her review of The Roommate.

The Roommate continues at Everyman Theatre through Sunday, Nov. 27th.

Photo by Carol Rosegg

The classic fairy-tale of a young woman who's magically transformed from a chambermaid into a princess gets an attractive makeover in this new production of Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella. One of the most beloved of the duo's many legendary collaborations (including  OKLAHOMA!, Carousel, The King and I, South Pacific and The Sound of Music), the touring musical combines the story's iconic elements – glass slippers, pumpkin, and a beautiful ball --  with some contemporary plot twists.  Theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck, a Thursday regular on Midday, caught the show at the Hippodrome, and joins Tom with her review.                                           

Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella was scored by Richard Rodgers, with lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, a new book by Douglas Carter Beane and original book by Oscar Hammerstein II. Originally directed by Mark Brokaw and choreographed by Josh Rhodes, the tour is directed by Gina Rattan and choreographed by Lee Wilkins. Music adaptation and arrangements are by David Chase and music supervision is by Greg Anthony Rassen. Orchestrations are by Bill Elliott and are adapted from the original Broadway orchestrations by Danny Troob.

First written for television,  Cinderella aired in 1957, starring Julie Andrews. The show's long-anticipated Broadway debut finally happened in 2013.   

Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella  continues at the Hippodrome in Baltimore through Sunday, November 6th.

Photo by Teresa Castracane

Given the unique dynamics of this presidential campaign season, it's a remarkable coincidence that the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company has produced a play about the intersection of power and sexuality, with a strong, determined woman at its center.  Anne of the Thousand Days, written by Maxwell Anderson and directed by Kasi Campbell, describes the historic, 16th century romance between Anne Boleyn and King Henry the Eighth of England, who was desperately seeking a woman who could give him what his lawful wife, Catherine of Aragon, had failed to deliver:  a male heir.   The daughter Anne bore the King as his Church-defying second wife would eventually become Elizabeth the First, England's greatest monarch, but things didn't work out so well between Anne and Henry.  It's a great story and true, brought to life on the CSC stage with the help of sumptuously detailed costumes by Kristina Lambdin.

Our theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck, who stops by Midday every  Thursday,  joins Tom with her review.

Their conversation also turns to this weekend's Charm City Fringe Festival, an 11-day "explosion" of theater events around the city.  Click here to check out the events and schedules. 

Anne of the Thousand Days continues at the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company on South Calvert Street in Baltimore through Sunday, November 13.

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.

Photo by harry Bechkes

Now in its 35th year, the Baltimore Playwrights Festival has been going through structural and organizational changes. This summer’s season consists almost entirely of script-in-hand, staged readings, which continue into September.

The only full production is “Crash & Burn, P.A.,” written by festival veteran Robert R. Bowie, Jr., and produced by the Theatrical Mining Company. Bowie is a lawyer and like several of his previous plays, “Crash & Burn” is set in the legal world.

But unlike some of those earlier plays – which tackled subjects ranging from slavery to repressed memory – “Crash & Burn” is a farce, a farce that takes place in the office of a pair of bottom-feeding lawyers. Mark Crash is a low-level criminal attorney; his partner, Mike Burn, apparently prefers dead clients – he specializes in wills.

Photo by Mackenzie Smith

When William Golding's novel "Lord of the Flies" was first published in 1954, it was a sensational but disturbing best-seller. The dark allegory tells the story of a group of British schoolboys stranded on a remote island, who find that in their struggle to survive, the veneer of civilization can prove very thin indeed.

Annex Theater's new production of "The Lord of Flies," purposely departs from the plotlines (and the precise title) of the Golding novel, moves the venue to a high-security animal disease research center, and dives into another dark and troubling issue: how technology can become both a protector and a menace. Adapted by M. Coan, and collectively directed and acted by S. Jacklin, J. Budenz, S. Lamar, and R. Kidwell.,

The Lord of Flies continues at Baltimore's Annex Theater until August 7.

Photo by Laurie Sentman Starkey

Once a week, theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck joins Tom in the studio to review some of the best local and regional theater productions. This morning, she's talking Spamalot, the Tony Award-winning musical based on the 1975 film, Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The satirical and unrepentantly silly tale, based loosely on the King Arthur legend, is directed by Laurie Starkey, with book and lyrics by legendary Python co-founder Eric Idle, and music by John Du Prez. 

Spamalot is on stage now through July 31st at the College Community Center Mainstage Theater, at Cockpit in Court Summer Theater, 7201 Rossville Boulevard, Baltimore, MD 21237.  For ticket information, click here.

The Republican convention gets underway today in Cleveland. Elizabeth Copeland, a Baltimore Republican who is the founder of the Urban Conservative Project, gives a preview.

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.

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