`My Giddy Aunt' a bit shaky

Theater

Plotting: Confusing shifts, uneven production mark Spotlighters' efforts.

April 17, 2000|By J. Wynn Rousuck | J. Wynn Rousuck,SUN THEATER CRITIC

Part comedy and part murder mystery, Ray Cooney and John Chapman's "My Giddy Aunt" doesn't quite succeed at either.

Set at a tea plantation in rural India, the play doesn't sustain interest in its characters or frequently shifting plot. Combined with director Mike Moran's sluggish, uneven production at the Audrey Herman Spotlighters Theatre, this is, at best, a shaky passage to India.

The action begins with the arrival of a lawyer bearing the news that Lady Hester Eppingham has inherited the plantation on which she lives with her two avaricious grown nephews. Complications ensue with the appearance of Lady Hester's illegitimate half-sister, Beatrice Horrocks.

When Lady Hester, who's a few tea leaves short of a cup, starts babbling about rewriting her will to leave everything to Horrocks, the nephews cook up a murderous brew of their own.

In the double role of dotty aristocratic Hester and her sister, Horrocks, a Cockney draper, Sherrionne Brown delivers the production's best and most amusing performances. The same cannot be said for Donald Evans Romano, whose bumbling solicitor is considerably more bumbling than the role requires. Bob Perry is appropriately ominous as the Indian butler, but he's plagued with a stereotyped role, and in the eleventh hour, he's forced to carry far more weight than a supporting character should have to bear.

By then, however, there's little reason to care who did what to whom, or why.

Show times at the Spotlighters, 817 St. Paul St, are 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays, through May 13. (No performances April 21-23.) Tickets are $10. Call 410-752-1225.

Age of Aquarius, again

The Age of Aquarius returned to town this month in Villa Julie College's production of the 1968 musical, "Hair" -- and the musical's composer and co-librettist showed up to see the student production, which ended its two-weekend run on Saturday .

Director Mary Hardcastle, an adjunct faculty member, was introduced to "Hair" composer Galt MacDermot by Richard Montgomery, a set designer who is also on the Villa Julie faculty, and who has worked on several shows with the composer.

MacDermot, in turn, introduced her to James Rado, who co-wrote the libretto with the late Gerome Ragni. Rado supplied Hardcastle with a recently revised script. "I wouldn't say there are any really significant changes, he just played around with dialogue, and he did change the juxtaposition of some scenes," she explained.

On April 7, Rado attended the opening night performance. He ended up staying through the next night's show and meeting with the cast.

"He seemed interested in the ensemble nature of the cast, the realistic nature of their relationships and having it reflect the life of these flower children," Hardcastle said of the production, which was staged in a more natural, park-like setting than most versions of the show. MacDermot attended the April 14 performance.

Hardcastle said that meeting the musical's creators was a thrill for the students, and Rado, in particular, made the 1960s come alive for them.

"He showed up with sunglasses with peace signs painted on them," she said.

"He very much embodied their whole image of that time."

Two by Brecht

"The Jewish Wife" and "The Informer," two short plays by Bertolt Brecht set in Germany in the early 1930s, will be performed at Johns Hopkins University at 7: 30 p.m. April 25. Produced by the South Baltimore-based Performance Workshop Theatre Company as a "Theatre in Dialogue" program, the evening consists of the plays, a documentary slide show and an audience discussion in which the actors remain in character.

Since it began its current tour last month, Performance Workshop Theatre Company has taken "Theatre in Dialogue" to synagogues, schools and community centers throughout the area. On April 27, it will perform at the National Catholic Education Association's annual convention at the Baltimore Convention Center.

The free performance at Hopkins will take place at the Arellano Theatre in Levering Hall on the Homewood campus of Johns Hopkins. For more information call 410-235-9194, press 2.

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