Come dance 'The Baltimore Waltz'
By Penny Rathbun
It is unclear which direction the play is going to go in the opening minutes of Rover Dramawerks' production of "The Baltimore Waltz" by Paula Vogel.
When M. Shane Hurst as Carl begins explaining to the children who come for storytime at the library why he isn't going to be there any more, it is mildly amusing. Then when he begins to list the music he wants at his funeral it looks like the play is going to Tediumville in a hurry.
At that point Vogel could have lapsed into self-righteous and depressing artsiness, but instead the play begins a journey that isn't quite a Six Flags roller coaster ride, but still definitely worth the trip.
Anna, as played by Sherri Small Truitt, learns she has Acquired Toilet Disease. She caught it from her elementary school students. Marc Benjamin Rouse, as the doctor who tells her of the fatal diagnosis, rattles off incomprehensible medical-speak that may or may not actually mean something. The scene is a reminder of the common experience of listening to a doctor tell you about your illness and not being at all sure what he is telling you, but it sounds very serious.
In Anna's case, it is very serious. Because she doesn't have long to live, as near as they can tell from the doctor, she and her brother set out on a trip across Europe.
Having lived a life of quiet non-adventure, Anna sets out to have a fling with whoever strikes her fancy. Many men strike her fancy and they are all played by Rouse. Switching wigs, costumes, personas, and accents at the drop of a beret, Rouse brings believability and panache to the group of characters he plays. If Hurst and Truitt weren't such strong performers he would easily tie the show up with the strings from one of his costumes, but his castmates keep him from indulging in that temptation.
Truitt brings a vulnerability to her role of Anna, tossed between the lust she's indulging in for the first time and the familial care her brother lavishes on her. She is a bit soft-spoken and at times she is difficult to hear. Just be sure to listen closely to her.
Hurst has as many twists and turns in his one character as Rouse does in the gang he plays. Hurst can squeeze comedy out of merely lying down on stage. Watch for the adroitly executed tango he does with Rouse.
Eventually the siblings tire of Europe and decide to come home to get ready for the inevitable.
At one time or another we all experience grief. This play shows how one brother and sister handle it.
The minimalist set contributes to the look of Tediumville, but don't let that fool you. The light and sound make it exactly what is necessary for this play. Ande Bewley and Christopher Soden perform their own Baltimore waltz to execute all the cues flawlessly.
Richelle Grevesen has dual roles, as the stage manager and The Other Woman. She really is the stage manager. She performs both roles in front of and behind the flats exceedingly well.
Director Jason Rice has brought together all of the elements in a fascinating and poignant dance of everything that makes this play a memorable work of art about the human condition.
Come dance "The Baltimore Waltz.