Cockpit's 'Our Song' thoroughly entertains


Two neurotic composers hungry for a hit song travel the rocky road of romance in Cockpit in Court's scintillating version of the musical "They're Playing Our Song," being presented on the Mainstage of Essex Community College through Sunday.

This snappy, bright and very funny look at the up-and-down relationship between a man and a woman was written by Neil Simon, with grand music by Marvin Hamlisch and lyrics by Carol Bayer Sager that incisively reveal the frustrations, longings and hopes of all lovers everywhere.

Excellently directed and choreographed by Todd Pearthree, the show features a terrific performance by Liz Boyer as an eccentric, aspiring lyricist. Klaude J. Krannebitter is just as good playing a successful, self-absorbed composer looking for the perfect love.

Both actors are knockouts when they sing the Hamlisch-Sager songs such as the happily bouncy "They're Playing Our Song" or the plaintive "If He/She Really Knew Me."

There is fine orchestration under the direction of Elizabeth Fink and a capable backup chorus. The show moves along at a soaring pace andconstantly entertains.

A very creditable rendition of "Biloxi Blues," Neil Simon's second play in his autobiographical trilogy, is playing in the Upstairs Cabaret at Cockpit in Court through Sunday.

Directed by Robert E. Stoltzfus, the play is alternately hilarious, poignant and rawly realistic. The story centers on the young Eugene Jerome's hardships and adventures in a Mississippi boot camp during World War II. The fresh recruits are all from different ethnic backgrounds and cultures so personalities and tempers often clash.

Although some of the minor roles are not effectively The main characters are strong,especially Brian A. Ruff as a disturbed Army misfit,Patrick Ian McConnell as disliked army martinet and Nathan Lance Irwin as an ignorant bully.Young Matthew Douglas Rowe is a genuinely believable Eugene but he needs to enrich his character and develop his flippant asides to the audience.

Bowman Ensemble is in its second season in residence at McDonogh School. This fine summer repertory theater is offering a commendable theater program.

Rick Davis, associate artistic director at Center Stage, adapted and translated Carlo Goldoni's 18th century comedy for Bowman. "The Fan" is being staged on the grounds of the Child's Memorial through Aug. 8.

Davis has simplified the text, making it more palatable to ordinary ears, and inserted some amusing modern idioms. Well directed by Russell Muth, the new version plays well as it tells of the lives of assorted residents of an Italian village who all frantically seek to recover a treasured fan.

The subtle humor of this very physical classic farce has been well preserved. Some of the performances are uneven, not matching the superb standard set by Bradford F. Cover as a penniless but cunning and conniving count.

But well-rounded performances are offered by Carol Dunne, Karen A Bishop, Ron Bopst and Timothy Thilleman. The stunning Italian village set was designed by Kaem Coughlin, and the attractive period costumes are by William E. Crowther.

Bowman is also presenting John Guare's "Marco Polo Sings a Solo," a very contemporary, futuristic satire set in 1999.

A sophisticated piece representative of the modern theater of the absurd, Guare's work is being given intelligent, surrealistic treatment by director Matthew Ramsay. Although there are many good moments, this sardonic parody on life plays too seriously and the brittle, high-comedy style required is missing.

In the cast Michael Stebbins is exceptional as the vulnerable victim of his own fears. Also giving good performances are Jimi Kinstle, Jacqueline Underwood and Susan H. Cover..

* Worth mentioning:

A lyrical and compelling work, "Seven Stages," is appearing at the Theatre Project through Sunday, prior to its engagement at the Edinburgh Theater Festival in Scotland in August.

Conceived and directed by Towson State University faculty member Mahmood-Karimi-Hakak, the experimental six-character movement piece (with brief, tasteful nudity) delicately enacts the text of the 13th century poet Jalalu'ddin Rumi and the modern poem cycle of the late woman Iranian poet Forough Farrokhzad. The piece is different and spellbinding.

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