The Rousuck Review | WYPR

The Rousuck Review

Photograph by Seth Freeman

Today on Midday, theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck ventures a bit beyond Charm City, as she shares her thoughts on the roster of new plays at the 2018 Contemporary American Theater Festival at Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, West Virginia -- about a 90-minute drive from Baltimore.

This year's CATF is featuring six powerful new plays, each portraying aspects of contemporary life through tragedy, romance, drama, and comedy: "The Cake," "Memoirs of a Forgotten Man," "Thirst," "The House on the Hill," "Berta, Berta," and "A Late Morning (in America) with Ronald Reagan."

Rousuck notes two standouts among the new CATF offerings:  In “Berta, Berta,” directed by Reginald L. Douglas, playwright Angelica Cheri creates a backstory for an American work song. Set in 1920s Mississippi, Cheri's prison pipeline account focuses on a widow and her former lover, who has done time in Mississippi’s notorious Parchman prison and fully expects to go back. Rousuck says though “Berta, Berta” contains seeds of hope, it will break your heart.

And the political thriller, "Memoirs of a Forgotten Man," written by D.W. Gregory and directed by Ed Herendeen, takes viewers back to Soviet Russia where the fates of a journalist, psychologist, and government censor become entwined as victims and collaborators in Stalin’s campaign to rewrite public memory. 

The Contemporary American Theater Festival continues at Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, through Sunday, July 29th.  Follow the link above for more information on tix, show schedules and directions.

Baltimore Center Stage

The Christians, directed by Hana S. Sharif and written by Lucas Hnath, is set in a modern day Megachurch; the play explores what happens when the church's spiritual leader, Pastor Paul-- played by Howard W. Overshown -- stops believing in hell. The production features performances from local choirs including the Greater Baltimore Church of Christ Choir; New Psalmist Baptist Church Choir; and Community Choir of Baltimore Center Stage, a choir convened for this production. Center Stage transformed their theater for this production to look and feel like a church, the audience is invited to participate in the production as members of the congregation. 

Everyman Theatre

Everyman Theatre's adaptation of the Tony Award winning play M. Butterfly stars Vichet Chum as Song and Bruce Randolph Nelson as Rene Gallimard. The Emmy award winning drama written by David Henry Hwang is based on the true story of the French diplomat who had a nearly two-decade affair with a Chinese opera performer and spy. The production is directed by Vincent Lancisi. 

M. Butterfly is at The Everyman Theatre through October 8th.

Felicia Chapple

It's Thursday, and that means theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck is here with her weekly review of the region's thespian offerings. She joins Tom with a review of Arena Player's Crowns: A Gospel Musical

After 17-year -old Yolanda's brother is shot and killed in Chicago, she's sent down south to live with her grandmother, who is an active and respected member of her church community. Crowns is a show that focuses on African-American church women and as the title suggests, big, stylish, hats play a major role in the musical. The hats are used to convey history, tell the women's stories and to impart social rules.

TiaJuana Rountree gives a standout performance as Grandma Shaw and Khadijah Hameen's singing is nearly show stopping. Crowns, which is inspired by a portrait book of the same name, has been performed all over the country, this is first time it's being performed in Baltimore.