By Mary Johnson, Special to The Baltimore Sun
9:30 AM EST, November 6, 2011
Compass Rose Studio Theater is a new company that opened its first production in Eastport Shopping Center on Oct. 21. Running Thursdays to Sundays through Nov. 20 is the Pulitzer Prize-winning work "Lost in Yonkers."
A welcome addition to our area, this new theater is also the home of a recently established acting school founded and directed by Lucinda Merry-Browne, who left her artistic director position at Bay Theatre to start this new theater teaching company. Her new venture is already paying dividends in supplying several talented cast members to this enjoyable opening "Lost in Yonkers" production.
Skillfully directed by Compass Rose teaching artist Brandon McCoy, "Lost in Yonkers" features a cast of professional actors, Compass Rose teachers and acting students. The play, set in 1942, was created by Neil Simon, arguably America's most successful playwright.
Anthony Bosco plays the role of Eddie, father of Jay and Arty, who must leave town for a better job to pay medical bills accumulated during his wife's terminal illness. Shady dealer Louie is temporarily hiding out in Grandma Kurnitz's Bronx home. New York actor Sarah Strasser plays sister Gert.
Eddie's sons, whom he deposits with their stern German immigrant grandmother, are played by 13-year-old Compass Rose acting student Eli Pendry as older brother Jay to Will Fritz a sixth-grader at the Key School who plays younger Arty and is Merry-Browne's former student.
Playing the challenging role of the boys' Aunt Bella is Compass Rose education coordinator Brianna Letourneau.
Performances range from Merry-Browne's finely nuanced portrayal of scarred Grandma Kurnitz to Letourneau's multi-dimensional portrayal of Bella and Bosco's constantly beleaguered Eddie. Daniel Vito Siefring's Louie is both menacing and humorous. Strasser plays caring sister Gert sympathetically. In the demanding roles requiring delivering reams of dialogue, often with comic flair, young Pendry and Fritz do surprisingly well.
The Compass Rose presentation of "Lost in Yonkers" offers an entertaining evening of theater that should be enjoyed by supporters of local performing arts.
Ticket information is available by calling 410-980-6662 or visit the website at compassrosetheater.org.
Another noteworthy performance last weekend was Annapolis Opera's 2011-2012 season opening "Simply Shakespeare" concert, a pastiche of operatic arias, ballet, and enacted drama. This Halloween Eve concert was more treat than trick, with much to amuse, bits to delight and some to perplex.
A year in planning, Annapolis Opera's 39th season is Shakespeare-themed as a result of choosing Charles Gounod's "Romeo and Juliet" as its fully staged opera to end this season in May. Also scheduled are two concerts partnering with local arts organizations before the annual Vocal Competition in March and Children's Opera in May.
"Simply Shakespeare" introduced four rising opera stars singing arias from three operas — Giuseppe Verdi's "Falstaff," Otto Nicolai's "Merry Wives of Windsor," and Ralph Vaughan Williams' "Sir John in Love," Each production describes rotund would-be suitor John Falstaff in romantic misadventures as created by Shakespeare in "The Merry Wives of Windsor."
A departure from previous Annapolis Opera concerts, this event was a collaboration showcasing young actors of the Annapolis Shakespeare Company, Ballet Theatre of Maryland intermediate level students, and young dancers from Baltimore School for the Arts, in addition to the talents of AACC classical guitarist Jesse Washburn.
Amid these changes was Maestro Ronald J. Gretz, starting his 29th year as Annapolis Opera's artistic director and conductor. He dazzled this audience with his talent for discovering rising opera stars and with his skills at piano accompaniment of this newest quartet of singers.
The first opera segment was the "Letter Scene" from Nikolai's "Merry Wives of Windsor," beautifully sung in German by silvery soprano Sarah Davis as Alice Ford and warm-voiced mezzo Cynthia Cook as Meg Page. Each displayed strong vocal and acting skills and later relished stints at comedy.
The segment of "Sir John in Love" was sung in English by mezzo Cook and soprano Davis, here joined by award-winning Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia artist Margaret Mezzacappa who portrayed servant Mrs. Quickly.
The last opera segment was from Verdi's "Falstaff," sung in Italian by Cook, Davis, and Mezzacappa, now joined by another award-winning soprano, Aundi Marie Moore, who displayed a stunning voice of power and beauty.
In her second season as Annapolis Opera, general manager Jennifer Fletcher has introduced the concept of a season theme to allow audiences to travel through a wide variety of theatrical works inspired by Shakespeare. Her innovation showcased the high school and middle school actors of Sally Boyett-D'Angelo's Annapolis Shakespeare Company, who clarified in their expanded basket scene and letter scene what had been heard in earlier opera excerpts.
The "Midsummer Night's Dream" segment offered by Ballet Theatre of Maryland students and choreographed by BTM artistic director Dianna Cuatto was well danced. So was the dance offered by Baltimore School for the Arts dancers in "Another April" from J.S. Bach's Concerto for Two Harpsichords in C Minor, choreographed by Annapolis native Anton Wilson.
Next on schedule February 12, 2012. is "Shakespeare in Love." For information check the website at AnnapolisOpera.org.
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