Adventurous bill for Rep Stage 10th

Anniversary season to feature melodramas, musical, political satire


July 25, 2002|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

An established theater company might see a milestone anniversary season as an opportunity to stroll down Memory Lane and woo audiences with some tried-and-true crowd-pleasers.

But that's not how Rep Stage, Columbia's professional Actors' Equity theater in residence at Howard Community College, plans to celebrate its 10th anniversary season.

"This will be an adventurous season full of plays most people probably haven't seen," says Kasi Campbell, Rep Stage's associate artistic director who has directed many of the ensemble's productions through its first decade.

"We'll have exciting theater, but the easy name recognition won't be there."

What will be there is a wide slate of offerings, ranging from heart-tugging melodramatics to dark, biting political satire.

Opening the anniversary season will be the 1940s melodrama Anna Lucasta, which will be directed in evocative film-noir style by Jennifer L. Nelson. It will play from Sept. 27 through Oct. 13.

Playwright Philip Yordan's tear-laden script, which tells the tale of a guilt-ridden father whose cruelty divides a family, helped launch the careers of such major African-American actors as Sidney Poitier, Eartha Kitt, Ruby Dee, Ossie Davis and Sammy Davis Jr.

Rep Stage's cast will feature some of the finest African-American performers in the Baltimore-Washington area, including Craig Wallace, whose Othello at Washington's Folger Theater won critical acclaim.

From Nov. 1 through Nov. 24, Rep Stage audiences will experience Brian Friel's Faith Healer, the haunting story of a charismatic healer whose itinerant life encourages an exploration of the mystery of faith and our need to experience a transformative power in our lives.

Faith Healer will be a vehicle for actor Nigel Reed, who was the recipient of the Helen Hayes 2002 Outstanding Lead Actor Award for his stunning portrayal of the vulnerable, epigrammatic, endlessly self-destructive Oscar Wilde in Rep Stage's production of David Hare's The Judas Kiss.

Once a full-time professional actor with a burgeoning resume in several mediums, Reed now works in video production for Howard County schools and participates in Washington-area theater for the sheer love of acting.

"He's so gifted, and we're very lucky to have him, as we are all our performers," says Campbell, Faith Healer's director. "We may not pay the highest wages around, but I think our actors trust us to do good work, which I think is why they keep coming here."

From Jan. 31 through Feb. 16, HCC's performing arts faculty will take center stage for The Italian Lesson and Other Divertissements, an evening of music and laughter revolving around a New York society matron who studies languages while managing her troublesome children, planning a dinner menu, gossiping on the phone and flirting with a lover - all at the same time.

Rep Stage artistic director Valerie Costantini and HCC Music Department Chairwoman Deborah Kent star in this lively show that marries a comedy sketch by Ruth Draper with the music of American composer Lee Hoiby. Jackson Phippin will direct.

The season will conclude with The Return to Morality, a "political fable" by Jamie Pachino, which will be receiving its regional premiere performances from March 14 though 30.

"It's a wickedly funny commentary on the merchandizing of American morality by politicians and the media," says Campbell, who will direct.

With publicists, professors, politicians and the public oozing hypocrisy at every turn, the audience is left to ponder the fate of a left-wing college professor caught in a vortex of power politics and media spinning that lands him the spot of keynote speaker at the Republican National Convention.

"This is a play that says a lot about what we're all dealing with these days," Campbell says. "That's what drew me to it."

Subscription prices for all four Rep Stage shows range from $39 to $75, with individual ticket prices running from $10 to $22. Show times are 8 p.m. Fridays; 2:30 and 8 p.m. Saturdays and 2:30 and 7 p.m. Sundays. Selected Thursday performances are scheduled. Smith Theatre is at 10901 Little Patuxent Parkway, Columbia. The box office is 410-772-4900 and the company's Web site is

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