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A Trip Not Taken Gives Paula Vogel’s Delightful Dark Comedy “The Baltimore Waltz” a Bittersweet Twist

The cast for "The Baltimore Waltz" includes (from left) Mary Forester as Anna, Kit FitzSimons as the Third Man, and Jesse R. Gephart as Anna's brother Carl (photo by Jonathan Young)

The cast for "The Baltimore Waltz" includes (from left) Mary Forester as Anna, Kit FitzSimons as the Third Man, and Jesse R. Gephart as Anna's brother Carl (photo by Jonathan Young)

A meltdown that leads to the loss of a job, a fatal illness, a sex tour of Europe, and a mysterious and somewhat sinister stranger who inexplicably shadows these events are the unlikely ingredients for Pulitzer Prize-winning How I Learned to Drive playwright Paula Vogel’s delightfully dark 1992 Off-Broadway comedy, The Baltimore Waltz, now playing at  Deep Dish Theater Company in Chapel Hill, NC, under the direction of guest director Chip Rodgers.

Mary Forester is delightful as Anna, a heretofore prim-and-proper elementary-school teacher whose worst nightmare comes true when her doctor delivers her terminal diagnosis — she has contracted ATD (Acquired Toilet Disease) while sitting on the children’s toilet. Thereafter, Anna becomes a mouse who roars — her new motto is: “When the going gets tough, the tough get laid” — and she embarks on a tour of France, Holland, and Germany, with hanky-panky — lots of hanky-panky — as priority one.

Jesse R. Gephart is a scream as Anna’s brother Carl, an openly gay San Francisco librarian who gets way out-of-line in a storytelling session for children and finds himself pink-slipped and on his way home to visit Anna in Baltimore, MD. Then, when Anna rolls snake eyes at her doctor’s office, she and Carl pack up for a whirlwind trip to Europe, during which Anna seduces every man who catches her eye.

Meanwhile, Carl repeatedly rendezvous with Kit FitzSimons as the Third Man, while carrying a stuffed bunny rabbit — his favorite furry friend from childhood — which may or may not contain currency and/or contraband that he hopes to trade for black-market drugs that Anna can take.

FitzSimons smoothly segues from role to role — and accent to accent — first as Anna’s Doctor and then as the trenchcoated Harry Lime from The Third Man movie, an Airport Security Guard, a Public Health Official, a Garçon, a Little Dutch Boy at age 50, a Munich Virgin, a Radical Student Activist, a Concierge, Dr. Todesrocheln (German for “death rattle”), etc.

Meanwhile, director Chip Rodgers gleefully orchestrates the action, staging the show with gusto on a simple but versatile set by Chris Bernier that facilitates lightning-fast scenes changes to heighten the hilarity of The Baltimore Waltz. All in all, the latest Deep Dish offering is a real hoot — a bittersweet fantasy inspired by a trip that the playwright was unable to take in 1986 with her HIV-positive brother, Carl, whose farewell letter furnishes some of the play’s funniest lines.

SECOND OPINION: Feb. 29th Durham, NC Independent Weekly review by Byron Woods (who awarded the show 3.5 of 5 stars): http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/deep-dish-theaters-revival-of-the-baltimore-waltz/Content?oid=2867203. (Note: To read Triangle Arts & Entertainment’s online version of the Feb. 24th Triangle Theater Review preview by Robert W. McDowell, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2012/02/the-baltimore-waltz-a-critically-acclaimed-comedy-by-paula-vogel-opens-feb-24th-at-deep-dish-theater/.)

Deep Dish Theater Company presents THE BALTIMORE WALTZ at 7:30 p.m. March 1-3, 2 p.m. March 4, 7:30 p.m. March 7-10, 2 p.m. March 11, and 7:30 p.m. March 14-17 in its performance space between The Print Shop and the Public Library at the Dillard’s end of University Mall, at the intersection of Estes Dr. and U.S. 15-501, in Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27514.

TICKETS: $19 Wednesday and Thursday and $21 Friday-Saturday ($14 students and $17 seniors on Wednesday and Thursday and $19 seniors on Friday-Saturday).

BOX OFFICE: 919-968-1515 or http://www.etix.com/ticket/online/venueSearch.jsp?venue_id=3094&cobrand=deepdishtheater.

SHOW: http://www.deepdishtheater.org/productions?p=51.

NEWS RELEASE: http://www.deepdishtheater.org/news?n=91.

SEASON: http://www.deepdishtheater.org/productions.

PRESENTER/VENUE: http://www.deepdishtheater.org/.

DIRECTIONS/PARKING: http://www.deepdishtheater.org/location.

NOTE 1: There will be a preshow ‘”Meet the Play” talk with dramaturg Lisa Keaton at 7 p.m. on Friday, March 2nd.

NOTE 2: There will be post-performance discussions on Sunday, March 4th, and Thursday, March 8th.

NOTE 3: The Deep Dish Book Selection is the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction winner, A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan, which will be discussed at 7 p.m. on Monday, March 12th, at Flyleaf Books (http://www.flyleafbooks.com/), 752 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, Chapel Hill, NC 27514. (For details about this novel, click http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visit_From_the_Goon_Squad.)

OTHER LINKS:

The Play: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Baltimore_Waltz (Wikipedia) and http://www.lortel.org/ (Internet Off-Broadway Database).

The Script: http://books.google.com/ (Google Books).

The Playwright: http://yaledrama.net/facebook/bio.php?display=212 (Yale School of Drama) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paula_Vogel (Wikipedia).

EDITOR’S NOTE:

Robert W. McDowell is editor and publisher of Triangle Theater Review, a FREE weekly e-mail theatrical newsletter that provides more comprehensive, in-depth coverage of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill theater than all of the other news media combined. This review is reprinted with permission from Triangle Theater Review.

To start your FREE subscription to this newsletter, e-mail RobertM748@aol.com and type SUBSCRIBE TTR in the Subject: line.

To read all of Robert W. McDowell’s Triangle Theater Review previews and reviews online at Triangle Arts & Entertainment, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/robert-w-mcdowell/.

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