Crownsville isn't exactly known for the performing arts, and General's Highway isn't exactly where one would expect to find fine cuisine. But Trifles, a little bungalow of a restaurant in the woods along General's Highway, is serving up surprises in eats and entertainment.
Owners David and Maria Brown have had jazz nights and magic shows at their place before, but this month they have a new trick -- dinner theater.
Paragon Theater, a troupe from Baltimore, is performing "Bourbon and Laundry" and "Lone Star" -- two one-act comedies by James McLure -- the next two weekends.
"It's a great way to have our little neck of the woods exposed to something a little different," Maria Brown said. "Here, folks have to go to Annapolis to see live entertainment."
A piece of Texas
Members of Paragon Theater transform a corner of the dining room into a back porch in a small Texas town in 1972, the setting for "Bourbon and Laundry," then quickly turn it into the rear of Angel's bar for "Lone Star."
There's lots of music -- jazz, country and oldies -- filling the dining room during intermission, but you won't find the actors singing at Trifles.
"Rather than musicals, we like to bring something different," said Herman Kemper, who directed the plays and founded Paragon Theater this year with his son, Gregory. "There's nothing wrong with musicals, it's just that everyone does it," he said.
The Kempers have a combined 30 years of theater experience with companies such as Vagabond Players in Fells Point and Dundalk Community Theatre. The actors they have chosen have appeared in productions at Howard Community College and Catonsville Community College, and by Mount Vernon Players in Washington. The performances at Trifles are Paragon's first as a professional company.
The Browns decided to try dinner theater because of successes over the past two years with jazz performances and their regular Friday night magic show. Maria Brown said she wanted to build a stage in the nearby woods and serve cocktails under the stars, but the Kempers persuaded her that she had enough space inside and that it would be little trouble to set up there.
The Kempers chose the two Texas plays because they thought they would fit the country look of the restaurant.
"The rustic look that they have lent itself to that environment," Gregory Kemper said. "It was easy to blend this into an old bar."
Change in the menu
The crew strung up coffee can lights along the ceiling, built a sturdy platform and constructed the shingle-siding wall that served as the porch and house backdrop for "Laundry and Bourbon." Remove the railings and the tire swing, flip the shingled walls and pull out an old car's bench seat and you have the outside of a bar, the other backdrop.
The Browns created a Southwestern menu to go with the plays. It includes a salad topped with Texas chili and corn muffins, a pickled cactus-and-mandarin orange salad, chicken with bourbon sauce and pineapples, catfish with jalapeno tartar sauce, sauteed plantains and fried yucca with tomatillo salsa. They even shipped in Lone Star beer. "The ideas that we want to do aren't mainstream," Brown said. "We try to customize the menu. We think we can give it a little flair."
Pub Date: 6/11/98