Homeless Theatre Hopkins impressive

CRITIC'S CORNER

March 02, 2006|By J. WYNN ROUSUCK | J. WYNN ROUSUCK,SUN THEATER CRITIC

At some point in A.R. Gurney's What I Did Last Summer, just about every character proclaims that the play is about him or her. But in a sense, director Suzanne Pratt's production is also about Theatre Hopkins - a theater that is currently without a home.

This strong production - mounted for a brief two-weekend run in temporary quarters at Johns Hopkins University's Swirnow Theater - is the latest reminder of how much this fine community theater deserves a place it can call its own.

Gurney's play is set in a Canadian resort town on the shores of Lake Erie in 1945. There, a 14-year-old boy named Charlie finds himself uncomfortably negotiating a path between adolescence and maturity. As Charlie, adult actor Jonas Grey lets us see the remnants of the boy struggling with the man who will eventually emerge.

Finding a way to rebel and be responsible at the same time, Charlie takes a job working for the local eccentric - a free-spirited artist named Anna (unaffectionately known as "The Pig Woman"). Binnie Ritchie Holum imbues Anna with so much self-possession and cocksureness, there's no question that she'll leave her imprint on impressionable Charlie.

Gurney's plays (Love Letters, The Dining Room, Sylvia) frequently include some kind of gimmick, but the surprises in this one extend beyond the structural device of having the characters occasionally address the audience directly. In this case, we discover that Charlie and his apparently straight-laced mother (an overly tremulous Judy Thornton) have more in common than seems likely from their frequent battles.

The director also gets noteworthy performances out of the other adult cast members who portray teenagers. Each succeeds in seeming youthful without being cloying - especially Laurel Burggraf, whose character convincingly alternates between timidity and enthusiasm.

From the bare planks of designer Bill Roche's set to the warm, welcoming tones of Michael Klima's lighting, you can almost feel the hot summer sun and the breezes from the lake - even in the dead of a Baltimore winter. And, a few hours spent with What I Did Last Summer warms the spirit as well.

Show times at the Swirnow Theater, in the Mattin Center on the Homewood campus of Johns Hopkins University, are 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $15. Call 410-516-7159.

`Remembering T.'

A memorial service for T. Edward Hambleton, the pioneering producer who died Dec. 17, was held at New York's Century Association on Monday.

Approximately 180 people attended "Remembering T., A Memorial Celebration," a farewell salute to the native Baltimorean who helped found the off-Broadway movement. Speakers included directors Jack O'Brien (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Hairspray) and the legendary Harold Prince, as well as actress Rosemary Harris.

"There was a great deal of humor and a great deal of warmth," said Linda Hambleton Panitz, one of Hambleton's daughters."Everybody talked about what a gentleman [Hambleton] was and how unusual that is in the theater - or anywhere else in life."

j.wynn.rousuck@baltsun.com

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