"Murder Case, a nifty little comedy mystery written by local playwright Lance Woods, is the seventh offering of the Baltimore Playwrights Festival.
On stage at the Vagabond Theatre through Aug. 11 the clever script has amusing banter, surprising twists and lots of comical schtick.
The plot in a nutshell takes place in the solarium of a winery mansion in Pennsylvania. Elliott Case, the head of the winery by marriage to a discontented wife, is about to merge with his stiff competition, Col. Burton. Case's wife wants a divorce and Case will do anything to keep from losing the winery. He bribes his accountant to make love to his wife and in a turnabout, the two plot to kill him.
Meanwhile, Burton has a nefarious scheme of his own involving a poisoned bottle of wine. Case is sardonically aware of everyone's moves but even he is in for an unexpected turn of events.
A nosey reporter uncovers some dangerous information, and a female detective closes in on Case. The plot thickens as blackmail, lust and greed lead these unsavory characters to their ultimate fates.
Woods' play needs to be tightened and some obscure points clarified but this is a good work-in-progress that should be staged again after the changes. Unfortunately, the execution of Woods' work does not equal the quality of the script.
Ineptly directed by Cynthia Barbre, the play's pace is sluggish, often dragging, with only spurts of workable moments.
This farce has to not only have a breakneck pace but it must be acted in sophisticated, high comedy style. The inexperienced actors in this show are not capable of this type of performance. There is no sharp comedy timing and the smart lines and good funny business are lost.
Gary Rice, a talented actor who often does not live up to his potential, is Case. In this pivotal role the actor must set the pace for the whole show. Rice fails to do this. Aimlessly wandering around the stage without motivation, hesitant in his lines, he lacks the concentration to make his character succeed.
Others in the cast are: Jim Farriar, John Benedictis, Crista Yagjian, Teresa Martin, Alan Aymie, Brad Obrecht and Joyce Bauer.
"Oklahoma," Rodgers and Hammerstein's perennial musical, is currently on stage at the Liberty Showcase Theatre (Randallstown High School) through Aug. 10.
As directed by Ray Thompson, the 42-year old piece, despite several rough spots, gets some pleasantly sprightly treatment. (Thompson is one one of the most promising new directors on the Baltimore scene.)
Based on Lynn Rigg's play, "Green Grow the Lilacs," the show is the love story of two young farm people, Curly and Laurey, their courtship, struggles and marriage. The only one to stand in their way is the villainous, dark-tempered loner, Jud, who lusts after Laurey.
The main reason to see this particular production is for the exceptional vocal performance of Dwayne S. Miller as a most engaging Curly. His rich, well trained baritone gives depth and vivid color to the memorable old songs.
But the pace here, has got to pick up and the actors get more involved with their characters. The dancing chorus is uneven and the choreography and its execution leaves much to be desired.
Kendra De'Chantel Sweren's trilling soprano is fine technically but the actress must learn to relax and enjoy her character on stage.
Barbara Franklin is a tepid Aunt Eller and Jim Thompson has to inject a great deal more menace into the character of Jud.
Outstanding are: Kelli Kolodny as Ado Annie, Rick Trader as Will Parker, and Tim Fowler as the oily, womanizing peddler Ali Hakim. In the very small role of giggling Gertie, Karen Dircks absolutely delights.