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.

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.

Pages