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Silver Spring Stage - ARCHIVE
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May 18 - June 10, 2007
Morning's at Seven
Reviewed by Brad Hathaway

Running time 2:25 - two intermissions
A solid production of a  sentimental piece of nostalgia

Click here to buy the script

A functional recreation of the back yards of two houses in small-town Americana sits straddling Silver Spring's unusual two-sided stage. It is populated by a quartet of sisters and their immediate family in Paul Osborn's play which may well have felt nostalgic the day it premiered on Broadway in 1939. Each of the sisters has individual traits that make her interesting, and they share a basic civility that makes it a pleasure to spend time with them. The plot of this gentle drama seems a bit strained, but it progresses easily toward fully understandable resolution that feels right for each of the four women. There's always a good reason to catch a show at Silver Spring, for they select quality plays and mount them well. If you need a reason to catch this one, try coming to see Roman Gusso who, as the shy-to-the-extent-of-a-handicap mamma's boy, gives a strikingly well constructed performance.

Storyline: In a small town in middle-America in the 1930's four sisters live out their lives in close proximity. One lives with her husband and one sister in a home sharing a backyard with the home another sister shares with her husband and her grown son. The fourth lives a few blocks away but walks over for a visit much more often than her husband would like. After years of courtship, the one offspring brings his fiancée home to meet his parents, setting off a string of reactions.

The program says the play takes place in 1938. However, the world it portrays is the emotional landscape of the sisters, who, being in their sixties, have lived in the same town with each other since the 1880s. It was written during the heyday of well-constructed human comedy/dramas, premiering in the same year as William Saroyan's The Time of Your Life, Lindsay and Crouse's Life With Father, and only a year after Thornton Wilders' Our Town. It was much less successful than any of those, and less successful than Osborn's biggest hit, On Borrowed Time. Its sentimental feeling of nostalgia, however, gives it staying power without seeming out of date just because it is dated.

Gusso takes the potentially-cartoonish mamma's boy character and slowly gives him depth and humanity without sacrificing the humor of the early going, much of which is at his character's expense. It isn't an easy balance to strike and he not only finds it, he keeps it throughout the evening. When he does develop a backbone, it isn't an instantaneous transformation. It is the culmination of a slowly-building internal pressure, and it works beautifully within the context of the play. (Gusso also served as co-set designer, for which he and his colleagues deserve credit, and as sound designer. Here, his choices are somewhat harder to understand as he features a number of popular songs from the past but many of them were written or became popular long after 1938.)

Roselie Vasquez-Yetter plays opposite Gusso as his long-time girlfriend/would-be fiancée and she is very good in the role, making it seem not too awfully strange that she would stick with him for so many years holding on to her own dream of life together for all she's worth. The performances of the four actresses playing the siblings range from delightfully ditsy (Pat Douglas) to dramatically satisfying (Toni Carmine).  The men in their lives are capably, if not particularly memorably fleshed out. The most important of the quartet is played by Ed Silverstein with a well thought out understanding of his character's dilemma even though he seems a bit stiff on stage.

Written by Paul Osborn. Directed by Judie Chaimson.   Design: Roman S. Gusso, Käthy Park and Roselie Vasquez-Yetter (set and properties) Jessica Sanders (costume coordination, hair and make-up) David Weaver (lights) Roman S. Gusso (sound) Neil Edgell, Jr. (photography) Michelle Brooks (stage manager). Cast: Toni Carmine, Pat Douglass, Roman S. Gusso, Roger MacDonald, Kathie Mack, Carol Randolph, Ed Silverstein, Larry Simmons, Roselie Vasquez-Yetter.

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January 12 – February 4, 2007
Visiting Mr. Green
Reviewed by William Bryan

Running time 2:00 – with one intermission
An intimate look at learning across generations

Click here to buy the script

Visiting Silver Spring Stage is always a welcome event. Visiting Mr. Green confirms that notion. The latest offering from this community stage with professional standards is a small two man show that is an interesting study in the relationships between generations. Set entirely in the apartment of the title character, the show portrays a few months in the lives of two men. One is old and set in his ways, bitter at the losses of life and having all but given up on living it. The other is young and climbing the corporate ladder with his own issues. Together they find common ground and learn that each has something the other needs to appreciate what they have in their lives. This was playwright Jeff Baron’s first play and it was the longest running play of the 1997-98 season in New York due to its comedy and its sense of portraying someone familiar. So universal are the two men and their issues, the play has gone on to be translated and performed in 23 languages around the world.

Storyline:  When a young man almost hits an elderly man with his car, he is charged with reckless driving and made to perform the community service of visiting the older man, Mr. Green, for one hour each week. The two discover that they share a heritage, but have much to learn from each other.

This is a play about two Jewish men. One is deeply religious, and the play and much of its humor would not work without this background. Director Ed Starr does a good job of making sure that everyone finds something funny. The classic line, familiar to many, “What, I should waste good food?” could easily translate into “You should eat that, there are starving children in Africa” that is heard by children around many tables. There is a fine chemistry between Itzy Friedman, who plays Mr. Green, and Christopher Tully, who plays the younger Mr. Gardiner. They proceed from the awkwardness of two strangers to something approaching the closeness of father and son.

A simple set makes up the home of Mr. Green, and perhaps more could have been done in this area. While the condition of the home works, it felt as if more attention to detail could have made it seem more of a slice of a home, rather than a slice of a stage. Still, the staging work is excellent as always at SSS, given the need for all directors to stage their work to present to left or to right, but never to center due to a large support column that runs from floor to ceiling in this basement facility. It never detracts from the play, and it is easy to forget that it is effectively being presented to two audience’s at the same time. This again is credited to the admirable work of Mr. Starr.

Finding a show where the familiar is comforting and entertaining is always rewarding. There are moments where the relationship between the two actors is visible as just that -- between two actors -- but most often the excellent work of Mr. Friedman carries the play along and presents a comfortable space for his costar to work. While the level of work at the Silver Spring Stage varies as shows do anywhere, it is seldom that a performance is unsatisfying. With a long history in the community and a knack for casting the right actors and using the right production staff, this show carries on their tradition of producing quality work at prices anyone can afford.

Written by Jeff Baron. Directed by Ed Starr. Design: Tom Smith (set) Jim Robertson (lights) Nick Sampson (sound) Neil Edgell (photography) Naomi Abrams (stage manager). Cast: Itzy Friedman, Christopher Tully.

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September 29 - October 22, 2006
The Play's the Thing
Reviewed by William Bryan

Running time 2:30 – two 15 minute intermissions
A farcical look at a bygone world backstage

Click here to buy the script

Some plays no longer fit in today’s society and sometimes that’s a very good thing. The Play’s The Thing, originally written by Ferenc Molnar, and adapted for the English stage by P. G. Wodehouse, would not survive today’s more demanding theaters that rely on the flashy, showy, startling or deeply emotional to satisfy its audience. Silver Spring Stage’s production of this classic work lets us take a look back at how comedies once let us laugh for laughter’s sake. Featuring a talented cast and a traditional one room stage, the focus shifts to the humor found in the story and the plight of the characters. Combining slapstick without the custard pie, excellent timing, and a good sense of melodrama when appropriate, this production is a pleasant return to a time when humor did not have to be at someone else’s expense, and when gentlemen wore tuxedo’s to dinner.

Storyline: Two successful playwrights and a young composer arrive at an Italian castle on the Riviera and mistakenly overhear the young man’s fiancé making love to a second-rate actor. The two writers must convince the young man they overheard a rehearsal of a new play before he destroys the music of their yet to open operetta.

Timing is everything with this play, and the company does a good job at getting it right. The two senior playwrights, played here by Jeffrey Westlake and Craig Miller, seem like two old colleagues who know each other well and work well together. Later in the show, while acting out their “new play,” Rich Amada and Anne Vandercook (the only female cast member) also seem a natural pair, their timing well rehearsed. Brandon Mitchell is the young male lead, and almost fades into the background without a partner throughout the show like the other two pairs. He is perhaps a little too soft spoken and unable to convey “comedic hurt” well enough to allow the production to achieve a better result.

The supporting cast also tends to fade into the background, their presence on stage often seeming more to rearrange props than to serve a full purpose.  An exception is the butler, played by John Barclay Burns, who turns in a scene stealing performance in many places, though some of his “pratfall” type mannerisms are a little overboard.

The play itself is well worth the viewing due to its place in theatrical history.  Perhaps one of the best “plays about a play,” it was the work of Ferenc Molnar, a Hungarian who may have been responsible in his day for making Hungarian theater some of the best in the world. His best known play, Liliom, was later adapted into Rogers and Hammerstein's musical Carousel. The Play’s The Thing was adapted by another famous writer of the time, P. G. Wodehouse, well known for his early 1900 short stories set in Blandings Castle, and his series of books featuring the unflappable servant Jeeves. He is often considered a talent almost at the level of Charles Dickens for the peculiarity and memorable nature of his characters, and this is readily apparent in his adaptation of Molnar’s play. Taken together the two men’s efforts produce a memorable work that will seem very familiar to many due to the way its storyline has been adapted in later years into many works.

Written by Ferenc Molnar. Adapted by P.G. Wodehouse. Directed by Pauline Griller-Mitchell Design: Andrew Greenleaf (set) Joan Roseboom (costumes) Jim Robertson (lights) David Steigerwald (sound) Neil Edgell, Jr. (photography) Rob Allen (stage manager). Cast: Rich Amada, Heather Burns, John Barclay Burns, Max Karneras, Chris Manscuni, Craig Miller, Brandon Mitchell, Anne Vandercook, Jeffrey Westlake, Maile Zox.

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February 24 - March 19, 2006
Bad Seed

Reviewed February 24
Running tie 2:45 - one intermission
A solid performance of a chilling story

Click here to buy the novel
Click here to buy the script

Maxwell Anderson's 1954 stage adaptation of William March's novel was the last in a long line of successes which included What Price Glory?, Elizabeth the Queen, Anne of a Thousand Days and Lost in the Stars. This drama of a truly vicious child was a shocker on Broadway and in its Hollywood incarnation, both starring Patty McCormack at about age ten. The film may still be found on late night television, or on the drama rack at the video store, but isn't seen too often on stage anymore. Here the strengths of the play are highlighted and it proves to be an absorbing evening as the awful truth about the overly darling daughter dawns not just on the audience -- Natalie Perz-Duel is, as the script requires, so precociously sweet that you know from the start that she's, indeed, the "bad seed" of the title -- but on her mother.

Storyline: A mother  comes to suspect that her seemingly too-perfect eight year old daughter has a fatal character flaw, a lack of moral grounding that may have led to more than one murder. Is it the result of some genetic defect passed from mother to daughter? How can she prevent further evil?

While those with some memory of the movie version with Patty McCormack's star-making portrayal of the awful child, it may come as a surprise to find that Maxwell Anderson's script, just like the novel on which it was based, focuses not on the child, but on the mother. This is her story and the success of any production of the play hinges on the strength of the actress portraying the mother. In Annette Kalicki, they have an actress who can carry the part off even if she can't turn it into the searing experience it might be. She solidly progresses from mild concern to horror, then to panic, and finally determination, in nicely measured steps. She carries the audience along with her and avoids the pitfall of seeming too slow to catch on to what the audience is coming to understand as the truth of the little girl's defect becomes too plain to ignore.

The supporting cast includes two very fine performances in the two most interesting smaller parts. Erica Drezzek is quite wonderful in the role of the inebriated mother of the little girl's victim. It is a part with a great deal of meat on it and Drezzek sinks her teeth into it with panache. Roman S. Gusso does the same with the menacing role of the handyman who somehow seems to be the first to really see how evil the little girl is. (It takes one to know one?) Millie Ferrara does a fine job with the less well written role of the clueless upstairs neighbor and Itzy Friedman and Jack P. Wassell have good moments as they debate the possibility of an inheritable trait of evil. Unfortunately, Gregory Mangiapane can't do much with the thankless role of the little girl's father, but, then, he is saddled with the surprisingly poor writing of one of his two scenes, the epilogue which seems to be tacked on without the polish of the central scenes of the play.

The strange space this theater uses in the basement of a strip mall appears to be challenging to any designer, but, in truth, this company figured out how to use it long ago and the job of the scenic designer now is to apply that solution to the current play. With the audience on two sides of the playing space and with a massive column at the front edge of the stage, the task is to create one set that plays well from two different directions. Roger MacDonald uses the solution the company has developed with assurance, creating a living room of a middle-class American home of the 1950s that can be viewed from either side with equal sense of reality.

Written by Maxwell Anderson, based on the novel by William March. Directed by Barry Hoffman. Design: Roger MacDonald (set) Millie Ferrara, Roman Gusso, Marilyn Johnson and Käthe Park (costumes) Käthe Park (properties) Bill Strein (lights) David Steigerwald (sound) Neil Edgell, Jr. (photography) Tammi T. Gardner (stage manager). Cast: Erica Drezek, Millie Ferrara, Itzy Friedman, Roman S. Gusso, Mitch Hanks, Annette Kalicki, Gregory Mangiapane, Natalie Perez-Duel, Ed Silverstein, Christine Walser, Jack P. Wassell.

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January 7 - February 5, 2005
The Pavilion

Reviewed January 21
Running time 2:10 - one intermission
Click here to buy the script

Craig Wright's lovely, lyrical play about time, the consequences of mistakes and the desire to fix the unfixable feels right in Silver Spring's basement theater. This intimate piece fits that intimate space, and Wright provides intriguing roles for a small cast of three along with a collection of observations to be pondered within an absorbing and entertaining framework. The play calls for three performers although there many characters. There are the leading man, the leading woman and the narrator who also plays all the different people who appear on the dock at The Pavilion. In this production, a fourth on-stage performer is added, Matt Wilschke, who sits to one side throughout the evening watching the events and playing his guitar. He may be simply providing incidental music but his constant presence (and constant attention) adds a nice touch of theatricality as well. His music underscores some of the more affecting scenes.

Storyline: The twentieth reunion of the Pine City, Minnesota High School class of 1982 is being held at the old wooden pavilion down by the lake. Kari and Peter were the best looking couple of their senior class but are now seeing each other for the first time since he abandoned her and fled for college. Now, she’s unhappily married and and he’s unhappily unmarried. He wants her to leave her husband and seek happiness with him.

Brendan Murray and Erika Imhoof play the couple reuniting long after their life-changing mistakes. Murray's characterization deepens remarkably as the evening progress. His light touch in the early banter is a lot of fun while his internal emotional responses to the flood of memories and the eventual realization that the mistakes of the past simply aren't going to be erased is quite touching. Indeed, he succumbs to tears with the final realization in a heart-felt reaction that carries the audience along with him. Imhoof has the more restrained character to bring to life, the one whose psychological pain is deeper and whose wounds less healed, at least on the surface, and she avoids overdoing either the glimmer of hope or the underlying sadness. It is a fine piece of acting that captures the burnt-out quality of the life to which she has become resigned.

Ted Schneider is the narrator and everybody else. It is a role which is part Our Town's stage manager, part Carousel's Starkeeper as well as all the other characters in the evening's events. Schneider is at his best when addressing the audience directly - explaining the nature of time, the universe and our place in it with Wright's unique wit and eye for detail. He is also quite effective in the segments of the play where he interacts with the couple in character as the role of storyteller. His touch is strained a bit, however, with the effort to play "everybody else" and he comes perilously close to gimmicky shtick at times.

Jack Sbarbori's set is simplicity itself, with an ornate entryway to the doomed pavilion at the rear flanked by large panels on which Lily Bradford projects star effects to illustrate the narrator's discussions of the nature of the universe and the couple's encounters with shooting stars. The simplicity of the design emphasizes the importance of the words in this very verbal play, an effect enhanced by the presence of the musician. The entire production is consistent in its avoidance of excess, which is the right approach for this intimate mixture of intellect and emotion.

Written by Craig Wright. Directed by Audrey Cefaly. Design: Jack Sbarbori (set) Lily Bradford (lights) Audrey Cefaly (sound) Neil Edgell, Jr. (photography) Jeff Flaherty (stage manager). Cast: Erika Imhoof, Brendan Murray, Ted Schneider, Matt Wilschke.

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June 25 - July 24, 2004
Bedroom Farce

Reviewed July 3
Running time: 2:15 - one intermission

Click here to buy the Script

From its title you might expect that this show is about sex. You'd be wrong. The show is about marital relationships, not marital relations. The title refers to the setting for the comedy, the bedrooms of three couples who have in common their relationship with a fourth, a couple having marital difficulties. Silver Spring gives Alan Ayckbourn's clever comedy a nicely understated feeling which stresses the affection and commitment to each other of the man and the woman in each pair, while giving the comedy of the relations between the couples a broader approach. Many of the laughs come from the physical comedy, but the show is distinctive because it blends warm smiles with the laughs and these smiles come from the partnerships that bind these spouses to each other.

Storyline: Four couples interact in a single Saturday night. Three spend most of the time in their own bedrooms while the fourth, Trevor and Susannah, flits back and forth, on the verge of a breakup. The central bedroom is in the home of a couple who are throwing a party - it is where the guests coats are thrown on the bed. On one side of the stage is the bedroom of Trevor's parents and on the other side, the bedroom of a couple who have been invited to the party.

In any intimate play such as this mounted in a small theater, a key to the believability of the characters is their establishment of eye contact with each other. Here this company excels. Each actor actually appears to be talking or listening to his or her partner with intense concentration. Kudos to director Pauline Griller-Mitchell for the way her company establishes and maintains actual conversations with his or her partner. She also deserves credit for the intelligent pace of the performances, avoiding the excesses that the title reference to "farce" might suggest. As a result, when she and they go for a gag, it usually lands solidly and gets the laugh the show needs.

The cast includes Itzy Friedman and Carol Randolph, who work together very well as the parental pair, Brian Butters and Gina Deavers, who are very good at the kind of communication shorthand that couples develop over years of shared experiences, and Stephen Alexander and Sena Rich as the youngest pair who are still building their relationships. Alexander takes on a part of a whiny, selfish and self-centered young man and manages to make it something less than grating through the utter honesty of his performance. He actually seems to be in the pain that his character is supposed to be feeling due to a sprained back. Had Alexander appeared to be an actor faking a bad back the character would seem to be faking and all sympathy would have evaporated. Rich pulls an interesting trick as she threads earrings through her pierced ears while seeming to be looking in a mirror when the set doesn't actually provide a mirror. Andrew S. Greenleaf and Kristin Anderson are the couple whose difficulties impact the world of the others in various ways.

Greenleaf is also credited with the design of the properly busy but very functional set. It can't have been easy to find a way to fit three accurate representations of bedrooms of three different styles in the unusual playing space in Silver Spring Stage's basement theater where the audience sits on two sides of the room with a structural pillar marking the edge of the stage. Greenleaf uses break away walls (with exposed fiberglass insulation in between siding and interior walls no less) to make all three rooms, which seem separate and enclosed, visible from both sections of the audience. 

Written by Alan Ayckbourn. Directed by Pauline Griller-Mitchell. Design: Andrew S. Greenleaf (set) Sandy Eggleston (costumes)  Tammi T. Gardner and Pauline Griller-Mitchell (properties) David Silber (lights) David Steigerwald (sound) Neil Edgell, Jr. (photography) Rob Allen (stage manager). Cast: Stephen Alexander, Kristin Anderson, Brian Butters, Gina Deavers, Itzy Friedman, Andrew S. Greenleaf, Carol Randolph, Sena Rich.

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May 16 – June 14, 2003
True West

Reviewed May 24
Running time 2 hours 10 minutes

Only the first half of Sam Shepard’s 1980 two-act play is really first class Shepard. It features the verbal fireworks, strong characterizations and familial (in this case sibling) rivalry that marks the best of his work - and at his best, Sam Shepard is very, very good. The second act, however, features the things Shepard is frequently accused of -- sloppy plotting, reliance on contrived events, excessive reactions. For this play to work as a whole, it requires a director who can use the first act to set up the second and that requires a level of skill few directors possess. Here director John Anthony William Sciarretto does a competent job of staging the play, but a merely competent job isn’t enough to make this show work for an entire evening.

Storyline: Two brothers, one a screenwriter on the brink of what he hopes will be a breakthrough assignment, and the other a drifter with a story idea for a movie, are holed up in their Mother’s house east of Los Angeles while she’s on a trip to Alaska. Their task is to write a screenplay based on the drifter’s story but their egos, passions, old psychic injuries and shared history have them at each other’s throats. Will one kill the other before the script is completed?

Shepard wrote the part of the drifter with a more straightforward progression than the part of the screenwriting brother. Therefore, Andrew S. Greenleaf seems to come off as somewhat better than David Gorsline, but Gorsline has the greater challenge. He has to be extremely up-tight in the first act and yet come unglued in the second while Greenleaf just gets stranger, wilder and stronger. Both are at their best in the first act when the fireworks are more verbal than physical but Sciarretto’s direction has them trading lines back and forth which should actually be overlapping each other. The you-talk-then-I’ll-talk rhythm not only robs the act of much of its tension, it make the act play too long. Then, as act two gets underway, Gorsline attempts a drunk-act that looks much too false.

The supporting cast is unfortunately weak. Stan Rosen is somewhat victimized by the wait-your-turn approach to the dialogue, having to stand or sit with a bemused expression while waiting for his cues. When it is his turn his line readings deliver the text clearly but without much oomph. This part requires the kind of manic energy of a manipulative con man to hold its own against the two brothers in the midst of sibling combat.

The production has a good solid physical feel to it with a workably detailed set well dressed by Bridget Muehlberger and set designers Andrew Greenleaf and John Griffin. Griffin also handled the sound design featuring some crickets and coyotes as well as a touch of country-rock music but the real sound of the show is the sound of the typewriter. The show also has the services of Arthur Rosenberg, a fight choreographer who manages to make the fisticuffs between the two brothers safe for the actors and fairly convincing for the audience.

Written by Sam Shepard. Directed by John Anthony William Sciarretto. Fight choreography by Arthur Rosenberg. Design: Andrew Greenleaf and John Griffin (set) Ryan Young (lights) John Griffin (sound) Neil Edgell, Jr. (photography) Bridget Muehlberger (assistant director and stage manager). Cast: David Gorsline, Andrew S. Greenleaf, Shelley Rochester, Stan Rosen.

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April 5 – May 4, 2002
The Lion in Winter

Reviewed April 12
Running time 2 hours 30 minutes
t Potomac Stages Pick

Frequently you come away from a community theater with the feeling that they did a good job for a community theater. Then there are times, like this one, when the fact that they are a community theater is not part of the equation. James Goldman's 1966 play covers the fireworks between King Henry II and his queen Eleanor of Aquitaine over the succession to the throne of England. It has such marvelous dialogue that even a merely acceptable production is a pleasure. When it is a quality production like this one, it is more than merely a pleasure, it is a pure delight.

Storyline: At Christmas time in 1188 King Henry II gathers his family at his castle in his considerable domains in France. He and his wife, whom he long ago confined in a distant castle only to be brought out for state occasions, are locked in a battle over which of their three sons, Richard the Lionheart, Geoffrey or John should succeed him. Add to the plot the fact that his house guest is the King of France and that Henry’s current mistress is both a French princess and the adopted daughter of the queen.

Both Henry and Eleanor revel in the struggle and the two actors cast in those roles revel in their rivalry. Nick Sampson’s Henry begins the evening practically giddy with delight at having his Eleanor back to fight with. But he is gradually worn down by the pain he feels as, one by one, he discovers that the inadequacies he always recognized in his children are fatal to any hope he has that one of them might be able to carry his kingdom on after his death. Elizabeth McWilliams stretches her mental muscles as an Eleanor released from intellectual as well as physical confinement. For her, the battle with Henry is almost more important than the issue of succession – but not quite. While she seems to echo some of the distinctive line readings of the most famous performer of the role, Katherine Hepburn, her character is fully formed. The wit and vigor of their sparing are something not to be missed.

Director Ed Bishop lets his leads and his supporting players have a marvelous time with their meaty roles but never lets them forget that there is a story to tell. The pace, therefore, is rapid but not frenetic. Of the three sons, the finest performance comes from Dan Murphy as the middle son favored by neither parent. Ken Kasprzak is a suitably strong (and headstrong) Richard. The only problematic performance comes from Brian Stepowany as the youngest son John. Stepowany is a tall young man with a strong stage presence who has to play a scrawny, withdrawn kid. His stature is not a good match for the character. The strongest performance among the supporting cast comes from David Dieudonné who, as King Philip of France, starts out as the pipsqueak Henry expects to have as an opponent, but grows into a full-fledged conniver of a ruler.

Silver Spring gives the cast a fine design in which to work. The set is suitably substantial without being distractingly clever. The costumes are realistically sumptuous for an 1188 court without being ostentatiously theatrical. The sound design features a distinctively modern touch on chants which set a proper mood rather than a literal placement in time. After all, the actual music of 1188 would fall strangely on modern ears. The choice of music that alludes to time rather than replicates it was a fine choice among many fine choices that make this evening so satisfying.

Written by James Goldman. Directed by Ed Bishop. Design: Michael Stepowany (set) Mary McKeithen (costumes) Theryn Knight (lights) David Steigerwald (sound.) Cast: Nick Sampson, Elizabeth McWilliams, David Dieudonné, Ken Kasprzak, Dan Murphy, Brian Stepowany, Toyia Brown.

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January 11 – February 9, 2002
Isn’t it Romantic

Reviewed January 25
Running time 2 hours 5 minutes

Wendy Wasserstein’s 1983 comedy preceded her more well known hits, The Sisters Rosensweig (556 performances on Broadway) and The Heidi Chronicles (622) but it ran longer than either of them after she revised it in the wake of difficult reviews. The revised version played a total of 733 performances as it transferred from Broadway to Off-Broadway. Now it is licensed for community theaters -- the Silver Spring Stage gives it a fairly perfunctory production with a few highlights of note.

Storyline: Two modern women of the 1980’s move to New York to make it on their own, pursuing careers, independence and relationships. They know they can’t have it all but they don’t know how to chose between the options.

The key pleasures of this production take place when the two leads are on stage together. Terri McKinstry plays the one who wants success writing for Sesame Street while Julie Zito is the one who wants success in the corporate world.  Both of them also want a successful relationship with a man. They have a pleasant rapport between them and it shines through in their joint scenes.

Unfortunately, the same rapport and charm is missing in the scenes they have with the men in their lives. Norm Gleichman has the difficult task of making a sympathetic character out of a smarmy snake of a married man on the make. Brian Butters has the almost equally difficult job of humanizing a mama’s boy of a doctor who was obviously raised to believe that once he had his MD all things would be his for the asking. Neither actor overcomes the lack of charm of their characters and it appears the actresses don’t particularly enjoy sharing the stage with them. Wasserstein’s play provides a varied selection of supporting roles including the already successful mother of Zito’s character and the slightly wacky parents of McKinstry’s. Sy DuBow makes the most of the smaller part  of the immigrant cab driver with an energetic approach that works very well.

Silver Spring’s design team does a fine job in the low-ceilinged basement theater that, due to a structural pillar, is forced to place the audience on two sides of the stage. Don Slater returns to do both set and lights after working with the Washington Shakespeare Company for their In The Summer House at Virginia’s Clark Street Playhouse. Along with Director Laurie T. Freed’s costume designs and Nick Sampson’s selection of various Rodgers and Hart song cues, the tone of the show is very good, indeed.

Written by Wendy Wasserstein. Directed by Laurie T. Freed. Design: Don Slater (set and lights) Nick Sampson (sound) Laurie T. Freed (costumes.) Cast: Terri McKinstry, Julie Zito, Norman Gleichman, Brian Butters, Renate Wallenberg, Jerry Breslow, Karen Twible, Sy DuBow.