J. Wynn Rousuck | WYPR

J. Wynn Rousuck

Midday Theater Critic

J. Wynn Rousuck has been reviewing theater for WYPR's Midday (and previously, Maryland Morning)since 2007. Prior to that, she was the theater critic of The Baltimore Sun, where she reviewed more than 3,000 plays over the course of 23 years. Her feature coverage for The Sun included a comprehensive series chronicling the development of the Tony Award-winning musical, “Hairspray.” Judy got her start at The Cleveland Press and at Cleveland’s fine arts radio station, WCLV. Her broadcasting experience also includes a year as an on-air theater critic for Maryland Public Television.

A member of the Artistic Advisory Committee of Young Audiences of Maryland, Judy is also a freelance teacher for the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth and the Hippodrome Foundation, Inc. (the Hippodrome’s non-profit partner, which focuses on education and outreach). She was a faculty member at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center’s Critics Institute in Waterford, CT, for two decades; she is a former National Endowment for Humanities Journalism Fellow; and she was a visiting student at Brown University (2007-2008), under the mentorship of Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, Paula Vogel. Judy and her husband, Alan Fink, share their home with two dogs, who enjoy hearing their “Master’s Voice” on WYPR.

Photo by Joan Marcus

It's Thursday again, so it's time for the weekly review from our peripatetic theater critic, J. Wynn Rousuck. This week, she spotlights Waitress, the new touring production of the hit Broadway musical, that's now on stage at Baltimore's Hippodrome Theatre.

Based on the popular 2007 movie of the same name, the musical stage version of Waitress is energized by an all-female creative team, with original music and lyrics by 5-time Grammy nominee Sara Bareilles, book by screenwriter Jessie Nelson and direction by Tony Award laureate Diane Paulus.

Waitress tells the story of Jenna (Desi Oakley) - a pregnant waitress and a gifted pie maker who dreams of escaping from her small-town and a loveless, stifling marriage. Her hopes for a happier life are stirred by a baking contest in a nearby county, the arrival of the town's new doctor (Bryan Fenkhart), and the encouragements of her fellow waitresses (Charity Angel Dawson and Lenne Klingaman). 

Waitress continues at Baltimore's Hippodrome Theatre until Sunday, February 4.  Ticket info here.

Photo by Rob Clatterbuck

Every Thursday, our resident theater critic, J. Wynn Rousuck, joins Tom in studio to regale us with her review of a local theater production. This week, she spotlights a new production of the opera Trouble in Tahiti at Stillpointe Theatre.

Originally composed and conducted by the legendary Leonard Bernstein (whose other works include "West Side Story"), this opera centers on a young suburban couple who live a seemingly perfect and beautiful life. In reality, both husband and wife are suffering a numbing discontent with their lives and relationship. Claire Galloway Weber and Peter Tomaszewski play the lead roles of Dinah and Sam.

Trouble in Tahiti is directed by David Schweitzer, with musical direction by Ben Shaver.  For ticket info, click here.

Photo courtesy Rapid Lemon Productions

It's Thursday, and that means theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck joins Tom in the studio for her weekly review of one of the region's many thespian offerings.  This week, she spotlights Love Is a Blue Tick Hound, Rapid Lemon Productions' regional premiere of a collection of four short plays by Audrey Cefaly, three of which have received New York premieres, and all of which have won festival awards throughout the U.S. and Canada.

Cefaly's suite of four intimate one-act duets -- Fin & Euba, Clean, The Gulf, and Stuck -- explores the many ways we struggle to cope with the complicated dynamics of life and love.

Part of the 2018 Women's Voices Theater Festival, Love Is a Blue Tick Hound is on stage at Baltimore's The Theatre Project now through Sunday, January 21, and at Washington's Trinidad Theatre/Capital Fringe from February 9-17.   Click here for Theatre Project tickets and here for Trinidad Theatre/Capital Fringe tickets.

Courtesy of Bruce F Photography

Today, Midday's intrepid theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck reviews the courtroom drama Inherit the Wind, now on stage at Vagabond Players.

Based on the 1925 Scopes "Monkey Trial," Inherit the Wind explores themes of science, religion, and intellectual freedom, as they swirled together in a historic courtroom debate over whether Charles Darwin's theory of evolution should be taught in public schools. Written in 1955 by playwrights Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee, the play was a broadside at the contemporaneous McCarthy hearings, the infamous Senate campaign to purge suspected communists from jobs in the US government, industry and the arts.

Inherit the Winddirected by Sherrionne Brown, continues at Vagabond Players through Sunday, February 4, with show times on Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets can be purchased here or at the door.

Spotlighters Theatre - Shaelyn Jae Photography

It's Thursday, and that means it's time for theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck to bring us her weekly review of one of the Baltimore-Washington region's thespian offerings, and this week it's First Date, a musical comedy now on stage at Spotlighter's Theatre

The minimalist romp finds blind-date novice Aaron (played by Reed DeLisle) set up with serial-dater Casey (Lindsey Litka), and their casual drink at a busy New York restaurant soon turns into a complex and comedic dinner for two that involves a suprisingly large cast of characters.

First Date is stage-directed by Fuzz Roark, with book by Austin Winsberg, music and lyrics by Alan Zachary and Michael Weine, and musical direction by Michael Tan.

First Date continues at Spotlighter's Theatre through Sunday January 21.  For ticket info, click here.

(Adult Language and Situations - Parental Guidance Necessary.)

ClintonBPhotography

It's Thursday, and that means it's time for our peripatetic theater critic, J. Wynn Rousuck, to join  us with her latest take on the region's thespian offerings. Today, she reviews "The Revolutionists," the new play by Lauren Gunderson that's now on stage at Baltimore's Everyman Theatre.

A comic spin on the bloody 18th century uprising known as the French Revolution, the play brings together former queen Marie Antoinette (played by Beth Hylton), assassin Charlotte Corday (Emily Kester), playwright Olympe de Gouges (Megan Anderson), and Caribbean spy Marianne Angelle (Dawn Ursula), as the people of France struggle against an oppressive monarchy and take to the streets for equality and freedom.  The sparks fly in what Everyman Theatre calls "a funny new work about feminism, legacy and standing up for one’s beliefs."

"The Revolutionists" -- directed by Casey Stengl, with costume design by David Burdick -- continues at Everyman Theatre through Sunday, January 7. 

Photo by Richard Anderson

It's Thursday, so it's time for our weekly visit from theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck, who joins us today with a review of Lookingglass Alice, the new spin on the Lewis Carroll classic that's now on the boards at Baltimore's Center Stage.

In this modern re-telling (which is suitable for audiences age 6 and up), Alice is a young African-American woman (played by Markita Prescott), who falls through the Looking Glass and finds herself on a journey of self-discovery and fulfillment.  Along the way, she encounters the familiar and the fantastical, and comes face to face with the intimidating Red Queen (played by Patrice Covington), along with a surreal parade of oddities that challenge Alice to stand strong and speak her mind.

Lookingglass Alice, directed by Jeremy Cohen and with costumes by David Burdick, continues at Baltimore's Center Stage through Sunday, December 31st.   Ticket info: click here.

Photo by Glenn Ricci

It's time for our weekly conversation with theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck, who joins Tom today with a review of Mr. Burns: A Post-Electric Play, a post-apocalyptic fantasy in three acts by playwright Anne Washburn, being produced by Cohesion Theatre Company at "The Fallout Shelter" at Baltimore's United Evangelical Church.

The play asks a series of questions:  What happens to pop culture after the fall of human civilization? What about 7 years after the fall? Or even 75 years?

Mr. Burns runs those scenarios out over three time-shifting acts. When nuclear power plants across the country begin to “go up,” a group of survivors gather in the woods and begin to recount an episode of The Simpsons.  As Cohesion Theatre Company's program describes it, "casual storytelling evolves into theater, theater evolves into ritual, and one Simpsons episode evolves into a myth and legend for a post-apocalyptic world."

Cohesion Theatre Company's Mr. Burns: A Post-Electric Play, directed by Lance Bankerd, continues at "The Fallout Shelter" at United Evangelical Church, located at 923 S. East Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21224, until December 17th.  For ticket and location info, click here.

Photo by Joan Marcus

It's Thursday, and that means it's time for our visit with theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck, who joins us each week with her review of one of the region's many thespian offerings. This week, she tells us about the new touring production of The Lion King, the Tony-Award-winning musical on stage at Baltimore's Hippodrome Theatre until December 10th.

A stage adaptation of Disney's Academy Award-winning 1994 animation, The Lion King tells the story of Simba, a young lion prince born into a royal pride of African lions. Simba idolizes his regal father, Mufasa, but resists the responsibilities of his status in the pride.  When his wicked uncle Scar seals his grip on power by taking his father’s life, Simba flees to neighboring lands, leaving the life he knew behind. Eventually, his responsibility to family comes calling on the adult prince, and Simba is persuaded to challenge his powerful uncle, bring goodness back to his ancestral home, and fulfill his destiny to be king.

Directed by Tony winner Julie Taymor, The Lion King is the highest grossing Broadway production of all time. The score by Elton John and Tim Rice features the songs “The Circle of Life,” “I Just Can't Wait to Be King,” “Hakuna Matata” and “Can You Feel The Love Tonight.” The show has been seen by over 90 million people worldwide, with 24 productions happening around the globe.

The touring production of The Lion King stars Gerald Caesar as Simba, Mark Campbell as Scar, Gerald Ramsey as Mufasa, Buyi Zama as Rafiki, Nia Holloway as Nala, Greg Jackson as Zazu, Ben Lipitz as Pumbaa and Nick Cordileone as Timon.

The Lion King continues at the Hippodrome Theatre until Sunday, December 10th.  For ticket information and showtimes, click here.

Photo courtesy Mean Girls Broadway

Our indefatigable theater critic, J. Wynn Rousuck, joins us with her review of  Mean Girls, writer-comedian Tina Fey's lively new musical theater adaptation of her hit 2004 movie, now getting its world premiere on the boards at The National Theatre in Washington, D.C., before heading to Broadway.

photo by Richard Anderson

It's Thursday, and that means our peripatetic theater critic, J. Wynn Rousuck, joins Tom in Studio A for our weekly look at the region's thespian offerings.  Today, Judy reviews Shakespeare in Love, the new stage version of the multi-Oscar winning 1998 film that's now on the boards at Baltimore Center Stage.  Adapted by Lee Hall from ​from Marc Norman's and Tom Stoppard’s original screenplay, Shakespeare in Love is a funny, bawdy back-story take on the famous Bard's creative muse, and on the complex relationship between art and love.

Photo by Jim Preston

Theater critric J.Wynn Rousuck joins us in Studio A every Thursday with a review of one of the region's thespian offerings, and this week, she tells us about a new production of Origin of the Species now on stage at Strand Theater Company in Baltimore.

Photo by ClintonBPhotography

It's Thursday, and that means theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck joins Tom with her weekly review of one of the region's many thespian offerings.   Today, she talks about Everyman Theatre's new production of Intimate Apparel, a play that premiered in 2003 at Baltimore's Center Stage.  It's a contemporary work written in classic style by Lynn Nottage, the first female playwright to win two Pulitzers.  

Inspired by a true story, Intimate Apparel centers on Esther (played by Dawn Ursula), a self-employed African American seamstress in turn-of-the-century New York who is working hard - and saving her money - making beautiful undergarments for her well-to-do clientele.  But she dreams of a grander life, while nurturing her fondness for a Jewish fabric merchant (played by Drew Kopas). As an emotionally wrenching turn of events puts Esther’s dreams at risk, the play explores the tenacity of the human spirit against the powerful pressures of class, race and culture. 

The play is directed by Tazewell Thompson.

Intimate Apparel continues at Everyman Theatre through Sunday, November 19th.

Photo by Rosiland Cauthen

It's Thursday, and time for our visit from Midday theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck, who joins us each week with her reviews of thespian offerings from the region's many stages. This week, Judy reviews Yellowman, the award-winning 2002 work by playwright  Dael Orlandersmith, now running at Arena Players.

A finalist for the 2002 Pulitzer Prize Yellowman is a multi-character play -- with just two multi-role actors -- that builds on the memories of an African American woman who dreams of life beyond the confines of her small Southern hometown --and the light-skinned man whose life is intertwined with hers, with an ultimately tragic outcome. 

The play is directed by Rosiland Cauthen, and stars George Oliver Buntin as Eugene Robert Gaines, and Rosey Young as Alma.

Photo by Matthew Murphy, 2017

It's Thursday, and that means our peripatetic theater critic, J. Wynn Rousuck, joins Tom in Studio A to review one of the region's many new stage productions.  Today, Judy's talking about the newly-revived traveling production of the Tony-Award-winning The Color Purple: The Musical, whose six-day run at The Hippodrome Theatre in Baltimore continues until this Sunday, October 22.

Photo by Britt Olsen-Ecker

It's Thursday, and that means our peripatetic theater critic, J. Wynn Rousuck, is back in Studio A with a review of one of the region's many thespian offerings.  This week, Judy joins Tom in a conversation about  Lear, a new production of a 2010 play by Young Jean Lee, now on stage at Single Carrot Theatre.

An artful weave of Elizabethan and modern pop cultures, Lear is a riff, of sorts, on Shakespeare's tragedy, "King Lear," that shows how dysfunctional, selfish and self-absorbed children can still wreak havoc on their elders -- and themselves.  

Lear is directed by Andrew Peters, with costume design by Nicki Siebert.  The play stars Surasree Das as Goneril, Paul Diem as Edgar, Tim German as Edmund, Chloe Mikala as Cordelia, and Elizabeth Ung as Regan.

Lear continues at Single Carrot Theatre through Sunday, October 29th.

Iron Crow Theatre

It's Thursday and that means Midday theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck joins us to spotlight one of the region's thespian offerings.  Today, she talks with Midday senior producer and guest host Rob Sivak about "The Cradle Will Rock," a 1937 "play in music" written by the late Marc Blitzstein that's getting a spirited revival by Iron Crow Theatre, at the Theatre Project, now until Sunday, October 8th.

Blitzstein’s pro-union, anti-capitalist musical was the first ever shut down by the federal government.  It's an allegorical but in-your-face indictment of capitalism and socio-political corruption -- too-familiar themes in today's headlines.  Even as it attacks the wealthy class and the political power it unjustly wields, it also pays homage to the oppressed and the poor, and those struggling to survive. Brechtian in its bold scope and style, The Cradle Will Rock is considered by many critics to be one of the most historically significant works in American theater.

The Cradle Will Rock revival by Iron Crow Theatre continues at The Theatre Project until Sunday, October 8th.

photo courtesy Red Branch Theatre Company

It's Thursday, and that means Midday's theater critic, J. Wynn Rousuck, once again joins Tom in the studio, this week with her review of a new musical production of The Bridges of Madison County, by the Red Branch Theatre Company in Columbia, Maryland.

Based on the best-selling 1992 novel by Robert James Waller (who died this past March at the age of 77), the musical adaptation describes a four-day romantic encounter between Francesca (played by Erin Granfield), a married but lonely Italian housewife in Iowa, and a traveling National Geographic photographer named Robert Kincaid (played by Ryan Burke). 

The sentimental storyline is enriched with a musical score by Tony Award®-winning composer Jason Robert Brown and book by Pulitzer Prize winning Marsha Norman.  The Red Branch Theatre Company production is directed by Clare Shaffer, with music direction by Paige Rammelkamp.

The Bridges of Madison County (which contains adult language and themes) continues at the Red Branch Theatre Company through Saturday, October 14.

Baltimore Center Stage

The Christians, directed by Hana S. Sharif and written by Lucas Hnath, is set in a modern day Megachurch; the play explores what happens when the church's spiritual leader, Pastor Paul-- played by Howard W. Overshown -- stops believing in hell. The production features performances from local choirs including the Greater Baltimore Church of Christ Choir; New Psalmist Baptist Church Choir; and Community Choir of Baltimore Center Stage, a choir convened for this production. Center Stage transformed their theater for this production to look and feel like a church, the audience is invited to participate in the production as members of the congregation. 

Everyman Theatre

Everyman Theatre's adaptation of the Tony Award winning play M. Butterfly stars Vichet Chum as Song and Bruce Randolph Nelson as Rene Gallimard. The Emmy award winning drama written by David Henry Hwang is based on the true story of the French diplomat who had a nearly two-decade affair with a Chinese opera performer and spy. The production is directed by Vincent Lancisi. 

M. Butterfly is at The Everyman Theatre through October 8th.

photo courtesy Hippodrome Theatre

It's Thursday, and that means our theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck joins Tom in the studio with her weekly report on the region's thespian landscape.  

This week, Judy looks ahead to the 2017-2018 season and spotlights some of the local and touring productions slated to grace the region's stages in the coming months, including two notable musicals coming to the Hippodrome:  Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber's sequel to his Phantom of the Opera, called Love Never Dies, and The School of Rock.  

Courtesy of Joshua McKerrow

Today, Midday theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck joins Tom with her review of  Alice and the Book of Wonderland, a new rendition of the classic being produced on stage by the Annapolis Shakespeare Company, in Annapolis, Maryland. Sally Boyett and Donald Hicken adapted Lewis Carroll's whimsical children's novel and gave it a modern twist. Boyett directs the action, which involves a series of absurd Carrollian vignettes that draws the curious young Alice deeper into Wonderland's surreal mysteries.

Photo by Tom Lauer

Midday Theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck joins Tom in the studio every Thursday to review one of our region's current theater productions.

Today, she spotlights Sister Act, a musical based on the 1992 film comedy starring Whoopi Goldberg as a lounge singer who is forced to hide out in a convent, disguised as a nun.  Sister Act is directed by Tom Wyatt at Cockpit in Court on the Essex campus of the Community College of Baltimore County. It will run through Sunday, August 6.

Photo by A. Mains

Midday theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck joins Tom for her weekly review of one of the region's thespian offerings.  

Today, she spotlights Fallout, the play by Laura King that's being staged by Baltimore's Vagabond Players as part of the Baltimore Playwrights Festival.  It's directed by Audra Mains Mullen, and stars Gareth Kelly as David and Ryan Gunning as Anna, two strangers with issues, who seek refuge from an unknown menace in a fallout shelter, a relic of the nuclear holocaust paranoia that raged during the Cold War.  In the tight confines of the shelter, Anna and David wrestle with their inner demons, even as they deal with their terror of what lurks outside.

The Vagabond Players' production of Fallout -- one of just two plays to be fully-staged in this year's Baltimore Playwrights Festival -- runs through Sunday, July 30.  Special Thursday show July 27, 8 pm; Friday and Saturday 8 pm, Sunday 2 pm.

The Vagabond Players is located at 806 South Broadway, Baltimore, MD 21231.
Tickets can be purchased here.

Spotlighters Theatre / Shealyn Jae Photography

Midday theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck joins Senior Producer Rob Sivak in the studio today with her review of the musical Spring Awakening, produced by the Spotlighters Theatre.   It tells the story of a group of 19th century German teenagers trying to discover more about one another and themselves, under the intense scrutiny and repressive control of the adults in their lives.

Seth Freeman

Midday theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck joins Tom in Studio A with her review of the six plays being presented this year at the annual Contemporary American Theater Festival (CATF), now underway on the campus of Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, West Virginia.  The plays' settings range widely - from Amish Country to Nazi Germany - but their stories share common and emotionally  powerful  themes.

Photo by Robert Neal Marshall

Midday theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck joins Tom in the studio each Thursday with her weekly reviews of the region's thespian offerings.  This week, she critiques the new production of The Tempest from the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company

Photo by Britt Olson-Ecker

Midday theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck joins Tom for our regular Thursday focus on the region's thespian happenings. Today, she reviews the Single Carrot Theatre and STEREO Akt world premiere production of Promenade: Baltimore.

Not your conventional stage production, Promenade: Baltimore invites its audience to board an actual bus and travel around the city, passing through neighborhoods familiar to some, and unknown to others. Audience members watch from their bus as actors on the street perform scenes portraying various aspects of life in Baltimore, accompanied by a live-mixed soundtrack of music, narration, and stories inspired by and, in some cases told by, neighborhood residents.  

Know Your Neighbors: A Promenade Post-Show Roundtable, Thursday, June 22, following the 6:30pm performance.  See the Single Carrot Theatre website for details on this and other post-show events.

Promenade: Baltimore continues at Single Carrot Theatre through Sunday, July 2nd.

Photo by ClintonBPhotography

It's Thursday, and that means theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck joins Tom in the studio with her weekly review of the region's thespian offerings.  This week, she's here to tell us about Noises Off, the British farce now playing at Baltimore's Everyman Theatre. 

Everyman’s Resident Company of actors collectively plays a British company of hapless actors in this broad comedy. With their opening night on London’s West End imminent, the company's actors blunder through their rehearsals, and things get worse as the actual play begins.  The cast struggles to control the chaos of lost lines and crossed lovers, and to pull their act together -- for the audience and for themselves.

Noises Off continues at Everyman Theatre through June 18.

Tom previewed Noises Off with Everyman's founding artistic chief and the play's director, Vicent Lancisi, and with Deborah Hazlett, who stars in the role of Dotty Otley...on the May 19 Midday.  To listen to that conversation, click here.

Photo by Dave Iden

Midday theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck joins Tom for her weekly review of thespian doings.  This week, it's the final production of Baltimore Annex Theater's 2016-17 season: The King of Howard Street is an original play based on the life of the formerly homeless Baltimore writer and housing rights advocate, Anthony Williams, who's portrayed in this production by Joshua Dixon.

For more than two decades, Williams lived in abandoned buildings up and down Howard Street. Several years ago, he began to chronicle his life story and the stories of his friends and family. Last year, Williams approached Annex Theater's Artistic Director, Evan Moritz, outside of the theater and handed him three spiral-bound notebooks filled with drawings and writings, including a draft of his autobiographical play.  Inspired by Williams' story, Moritz commissioned playwright Ren Pepitone and director Roz Cauthen to bring this story to a wider audience, and they've done so with a compelling mix of dance, music, and theater.

The King of Howard Street also features performances by Nathan Couser (Insurrection: Holding History) as Saint Lewis, William's right-hand man; Desirae Butler (The Tempest) as McFly; and Jonathan Jacobs  (Tempest, Master and Margarita) as Randall.  The cast also includes Malcolm Anomanchi, Kristina Szilagyi, Christian Harris, Mary Travis, David Crandall (Annex Company Member), and Elaine Foster. Costumes are by Stylz, Set by Bernard Dred, Lighting by Rick Gerriets (Annex Company Member), Sound by David Crandall, and Video by Rachel Dwiggins (Cook, Thief, Wife, Lover and Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman)

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