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