Heavy staging weighs down `Wings'

Review: Donna Fox handles her dialogue in Arthur Kopit's poetic script about a stroke patient well, but the production is not as subtle as it could be.

May 24, 1999|By J. Wynn Rousuck | J. Wynn Rousuck,SUN THEATER CRITIC

This appears to be the year "Wings" took flight in Baltimore. Arthur Kopit's insightful play about a stroke patient made its local debut at Center Stage 16 years ago and, to my knowledge, hasn't been seen again on a Baltimore stage until this season.

Then in March, Fell's Point Corner Theatre presented the musical version. And now Towson University's graduate theater program has staged the original, in partnership with AXIS Theatre.

Told from the viewpoint of the stroke patient, a former aviator, "Wings" has always been a challenging work for both audience and cast -- especially for the performer who plays the lead. Not only does the bulk of the script fall to this actress, but many of her lines are spoken in the gibberish of an aphasia sufferer. At AXIS, Donna Fox, a member of the Towson faculty, handles the text with aplomb.

However, director Tim Brown and his designers have loaded the small play down with a heavy-handed production design. Brown indicates the displacement the stroke patient feels by staging most of the action behind a window-screen-like scrim. In addition, he frequently has the other four cast members wearing masks, and, if this isn't overt enough, in several instances, these actors surround Fox with large, distorted mirrors.

One of the play's strongest elements is the almost poetic way Kopit uses language to show the breakdown of speech. This production's approach, however, overpowers much of the subtlety of Kopit's beautifully observed script.

Show times at AXIS, 3600 Clipper Mill Rd., are 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays, through June 6. Tickets are $12 and $14. Proceeds from the May 27 performance will benefit the Inch by Inch Stroke Survivors Group at Bayview Hospital. For tickets, call 410-243-5237.

In other news from AXIS, the theater has received a $15,000 grant -- one of the largest in the theater's seven-year history -- from the St. Paul Cos.' Maryland Foundation, Inc.

The St. Paul Cos. is the Minnesota insurance firm that purchased USF&G last year. The grant will be used to support general operating expenses, according to producing director Jon Lipitz.

Free show of `Larry Kramer'

Here's the latest update on the filming of David Drake's one-man show, "The Night Larry Kramer Kissed Me," at the Theatre Project. The show's regular run ended this past Saturday and this week the filmmakers -- who are turning the off-Broadway hit show into an independent feature -- will be filming cut-away and close-up shots of individual scenes, without an audience.

At 7 p.m. next Saturday, a complete performance will be filmed in front of a live audience at the theater, 45 W. Preston St. Admission is free but space is limited. Call 752-8558 for reservations.

`Degrees' talk at BMA

The Baltimore Museum of Art and the Maryland Stage Company will present a free illustrated discussion on the connection between modern art and John Guare's play, "Six Degrees of Separation," at the museum's Freestyle open house at 7 p.m. June 3.

The talk will focus on artists Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Cezanne, whose work is referred to in the play, which deals, in part, with a New York art dealer. The Maryland Stage Company, the resident professional theater company at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, will present "Six Degrees of Separation" at Center Stage June 22-July 11. The production's director, Xerxes Mehta, and its designer, Elena Zloetscu, will lead the Freestyle discussion together with Bodil Ottesen, of the museum staff.

For information about Freestyle, call 410-396-6314; for information about the Maryland Stage Company production, call 410-455-2892.

New theater for children

The Baltimore Children's Theatre, a new local touring children's theater, is being formed by Mark Andrew Beachy, a 22-year-old Baltimorean who has written several shows for Pumpkin Theatre, including "'Bout Baltimore," the 1997 award-winning play that was televised by WMAR, Channel 2, in honor of the city's bicentennial.

"I create shows to educate and entertain the children of Baltimore and, specifically, I want to encourage them to read, I want to encourage good moral values and for them to have some plain old fun with live theater," Beachy said, describing the mission of the new theater, which will tour Baltimore area elementary schools.

Productions planned for the forthcoming academic year include "'Bout Baltimore" and Beachy's adaptations of "Rapunzel," "Alice in Wonderland" and "Rock It Science," all of which include his original music and lyrics.

The theater is looking for non-Equity adult actors and crew members. Actors should send head-shots and resumes (including a daytime phone number) to: Baltimore Children's Theatre, 10322 Globe Drive, Ellicott City, MD 21042. For more information call 410-203-1757.

Pub Date: 5/22/99

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