Everyman wins 2 Hayes awards

THEATER

Theater

May 10, 2001|By J. Wynn Rousuck | J. Wynn Rousuck,SUN THEATER CRITIC

Everyman Theatre's production of "The Glass Menagerie" took two major prizes at Washington's Helen Hayes Awards, including best locally produced play.

Baltimore shows usually aren't in the running for the Helen Hayes, but Everyman's production was eligible because it was co-produced by Round House Theatre in Silver Spring. When the award was announced Monday at Washington's Kennedy Center, Everyman Artistic Director Vincent Lancisi said he was so surprised, he gave Round House Artistic Director Jerry Whiddon a hug so tight, it knocked a lens out of Whiddon's eyeglasses.

As he accepted the award from presenter Richard Thomas, Lancisi placed it on the podium and told Whiddon, "Now, Jerry, keep your hands off this!" In his acceptance speech, Lancisi told the audience, "Everyman Theatre is in this little town called Baltimore, and it's just a few minutes up 95."

The production's other prize - Outstanding Director of a Resident Play - was won by Donald Hicken, who heads the theater department at the Baltimore School for the Arts. Not expecting to be honored, Hicken had scribbled his acceptance speech on his parking stub.

"I really thought we were a long shot - here's an American classic that's been done many times, and we were up against the Shakespeare Theatre and `Master Harold ... and the Boys,' which got really great reviews at the Studio Theatre," Lancisi said.

He added that the awards "really mean a lot for Everyman Theatre in terms of the amount of great talent that will be attracted to Everyman in the future, and possible co-production opportunities in the future."

Loves `She Loves Me'

I've always had a soft spot for the musical "She Loves Me" because it was the first show I saw on Broadway. Adapted by librettist Joe Masteroff and songwriters Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick from a Hungarian play (which also inspired the movies "The Shop Around the Corner" and "You've Got Mail"), this lovely chamber musical is an ideal size for a community theater.

The plot focuses on two feuding perfume shop co-workers who are unaware that they are each other's anonymous romantic pen pals. At Theatre Hopkins, director/chore- ographer Todd Pearthree imbues the production with many charming moments.

Among these are the touching delivery of "Days Gone By" by Dan Baileys, as the fatherly proprietor of the shop, and Holly Pasciullo's humorous rendition of "A Trip to the Library," in which her distinctly unbookish character finds love in the stacks. The few larger numbers work well, too, particularly the increasingly frantic "Twelve Days to Christmas."

As the romantic leads, Jane E. Brown and Edward J. Peters engagingly progress from enmity to enchantment, a turn of events Brown conveys with panache in "Ice Cream." All told, it's a production that's sweet without being cloying - like good perfume.

Speaking of "Ice Cream," the actress who introduced that song on Broadway, Barbara Cook, has just released her latest album, "Barbara Cook Sings Mostly Sondheim" (DRG 91464). Recorded at Carnegie Hall, the double album features not only songs by Stephen Sondheim, but also quite a few he's claimed he wished he'd written, including "Ice Cream."

"She Loves Me" didn't merely introduce me to Broadway, it introduced me to Cook. This album and Theatre Hopkins' production are wonderful reminders of the subtle grace that musical theater can possess.

Theatre Hopkins performs on the Homewood campus of Johns Hopkins University. Show times are 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 2:15 p.m. Sundays, through May 20. Tickets cost $12 and $15. Call 410-516-7159.

Rewriting Shakespeare

It sounds like a cute premise: An assistant professor, determined to prove that "Othello" and "Romeo and Juliet" are "comedies that Shakespeare plundered and made over into ersatz tragedies," finds herself thrust into the plays. Interacting with the characters - and trying to save them from themselves - she unearths clues to the plays' mysterious source.

Under Brian Klaas' direction, AXIS Theatre's production of Ann-Marie MacDonald's "Good- night Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet)" features some crisp comic performances, especially Darlene Deardorff as a bloodthirsty Desdemona, Sharol Buck as a fatalistic, sex-driven Juliet and Mark Bernier in roles ranging from a crude Tybalt to Juliet's mustachioed Nurse. Bethany J. Brown, however, is overly earnest as the overly earnest protagonist, a caricatured love-lorn romantic.

The hackneyed protagonist is just one of the script's flaws. When you take on Shakespeare, you'd better be sharp. Silliness can be sharp, as the Reduced Shakespeare Co. has proved, but "Goodnight Desdemona" is as sophomoric as a college skit. At one point, Romeo and Juliet - who regret their hasty marriage almost immediately - fight over a pet turtle, ripping it apart. It says something about the play that the fate of the turtle was more affecting than that of Shakespeare's heroines or the flailing professor.

Show times at AXIS, 3600 Clipper Mill Road, are 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays, through May 20. Tickets cost $12 and $14. Call 410-243-0167.

Three closings

The Tony Award nominations were only hours old when three largely overlooked shows announced that they will close Sunday. Two had tried measures to stimulate sales or cut costs. "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer," which garnered only two Tony nominations (both in design categories), had reduced its top evening ticket price to $30 earlier this month. And the cast of "Judgment at Nuremburg," which opened March 26 and received two acting nominations, had agreed to postpone a pay raise. The third show calling it quits is "The Gathering," which opened April 24 and was shut out of the nominations.

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