“All of my writings address human desires and aspirations with a reverence for facts and principles.”

CABARET at Olney Theatre Center Keeps Us Gasping

CABARET at Olney Theatre Center Keeps Us Gasping

Keeping us gasping is what Cabaret in all of its incarnations has always been about. Gasping at the opulence, gasping at the decadence, gasping at the heedlessness and the horror. It is intentionally strong stuff, and if it delivers, then it succeeds. And by that yardstick, this version, whatever it may or may not owe to its predecessors, is a smashing success.

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From Farcical to Sombre in PERFECT ARRANGEMENT at Fells Point Corner Theatre

From Farcical to Sombre in PERFECT ARRANGEMENT at Fells Point Corner Theatre

The title Perfect Arrangement refers to the compact of a male gay couple and a lesbian couple to hide in plain view from the disapproval of the world in 1950 by posing as two straight couples living in adjoining halves of a Georgetown duplex. The two halves are secretly connected through the residences’ respective front closets, a passage that enables each real couple to reunite at night, unnoticed by the world outside. Such a setup is custom-made for farce.

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Patriarchy Run Rampant: A WELCOME GUEST at Contemporary American Theater Festival

Patriarchy Run Rampant: A WELCOME GUEST at Contemporary American Theater Festival

Then the government, represented by its functionary Lucius (Michael Rogers), brings in Shimeus (Wade McCollum), a derelict of another sort, whimpering and traumatized by an arson that killed everyone else in his family. Lucius orders the Browns to harbor Shimeus as a guest. Almost immediately, however, Shimeus stops whimpering, and, more importantly, stops behaving like a guest, and more like an invader – well maybe not a declared invader but a lot like a space alien whose intentions toward neighbors aren’t entirely clear but don’t seem encouraging, a la the plant in Little Shop of Horrors.

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Profoundly Moving CHESTER BAILEY at Contemporary American Theater Festival

Profoundly Moving CHESTER BAILEY at Contemporary American Theater Festival

Dougherty unspools the stories of Chester and Dr. Cotton, his treating physician, with novelistic skill. The feeling of truly being in the World War II period never lifts. The stories reel us in: Chester’s of the way he deals with his injury, and Cotton’s of hospital life in wartime, with its politics, scandals, and sexual misbehavior. This show is the whole package: a polished, intriguing, thematically-consistent but otherwise dissimilar pair of stories well-told, leaving one profoundly moved.

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MY LORD, WHAT A NIGHT! at Contemporary American Theater Festival: Clashing Views on Resisting Racism

MY LORD, WHAT A NIGHT! at Contemporary American Theater Festival: Clashing Views on Resisting Racism

The drama works because of the intriguing way the characters’ ideas about how to act in response to Marian Anderson’s two provocative exclusions (first from Nassau Inn and then from Constitution Hall) shift repeatedly in response to new information, so that consensus is almost impossible to achieve, at least until the play’s very end. Anderson seeks progress through song, unimpeachable behavior and an avoidance of politics; Albert Einstein wants an end to both racism and antisemitism, and by the end is very worried about the Bomb; Mary Church Terrell embraces confrontation because all else seems to fail; and Abraham Flexner tries hard to protect the Institute as a means of keeping the Holocaust from consuming absolutely all Jews, even though he can save only a few.

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Necessity and Realism Prevail Along with Enchantment in LOVE’S LABOUR’S LOST at Chesapeake Shakespeare Company

Necessity and Realism Prevail Along with Enchantment in LOVE’S LABOUR’S LOST at Chesapeake Shakespeare Company

Berowne gloomily foresees: “Necessity will make us all forsworn Three thousand times within this three year’s space.” And by “necessity” we can be sure he means not simply the logistical necessity of dealing with women but what we might call Jurassic Park Necessity: Life finds a way. As Shakespeare himself wrote in a similar context: “The world must be peopled.” And for peopling, you need relations between the sexes.

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About Jack Gohn

I lived in London and Vienna before coming to the United States, and grew up mainly in Ann Arbor. I was writing plays and stories as early as grade school. My undergraduate years at the University of Pennsylvania, where I first reviewed theater, for the college paper, were succeeded by graduate study at the Johns Hopkins University, where I earned a doctorate in English Literature.

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