Christina Collins Burton
Laughter, gasps and sobs are all that can communicate Kevin Greene’s senior thesis performance of Paula Vogel’s “The Baltimore Waltz” put on by the theater department.
Featuring a cast of three major characters, Carl, Anna and the Third Man, and four invisible characters, the relationship between the actors on stage could not be ignored.
“I wanted them to just get on their feet,” director Melody Rahbari said. “There are table readings with these actors and they have such great chemistry that they were just able to get on their feet and start.”
Before the play began, audience members were able to read a personal letter from Vogel’s brother. The letter was addressed to her before his death describing a flamboyant list of request for his funeral such as, open casket means full drag.
“I can imagine myself doing that,” Kevin Greene, who played Carl, said. “When I read that letter I knew this was the project I wanted.”
Opening with a personal statement from Anna, played by Stephanie Aguilar, we discover that the two main characters were destined for Europe for a final trip together as brother and sister.
“I thought [Anna] was adorable the first time I read her,” Aguilar said. “I am so used to playing these dark characters that she was a breath of fresh air for me.”
As Anna awkwardly stumbles through a dictionary looking for Dutch and French translations, her brother introduces himself to the audience by marching around the stage with his middle fingers up holding a pink slip. Carl had been laid off work for wearing a pink triangle to show his gay pride.
From this point on, Aguilar and Greene’s chemistry on stage showed the audience a brother and sister’s attachment for each other as they hear the news that Anna has caught Acquired Toilet Disease.
The disease is a made up illness caught by single elementary school teachers.
Secretly going to find a miracle cure for his sister, Carl packs up Anna and they set off for their last adventure together.
By this point in the play, the four invisible characters have made minor set changes dressed in all black. These changes were barely noticed as the main dialogue was being directed toward the audience.
The transitioning of hotel rooms, restaurants, cities they visited and hospital waiting rooms was natural and added to the comedy and seriousness of every scene.
As the story progressed, the Third Man, played by Jordan Randall, began to stalk the two through their trip.
Randall portrayed every extra character that Anna and Carl came into contact with.
Having to do costume and character changes on stage, on top of quick accent changes as the duo traveled through Europe was challenging.
“We rehearsed the play piece by piece and putting it together was exhausting,” Randall said.
Midway in the play, Anna and Carl’s relationship begins to suffer as Anna begins to explore her sexual side after years of being considered a good girl.
As Carl stops appearing on stage as often, the audience is made to focus on Anna’s internal turmoil of not spending enough time with her brother before her death.
However, as she finally goes to see the doctor it is revealed that Carl has been dead the entire time. Anna had been dealing with her grief by imagining this trip.
“I believe that the Third Man was someone that Anna created in her fantasy,” Randall said.
“In real life, it was the doctor that delivered the news,” Randall said.
Vogel wrote the play after her brother died of pneumonia complications due to AIDS.
She communicated her grief through Anna’s imagination of their trip with Carl around Europe.
“The Baltimore Waltz” was an entertaining piece about the final dance of a brother and sister.
This play was creative in bringing the misconceptions of AIDs to the surface a made up disease.
They filtered it through the grief of the loss of a sibling.
The excellent cast choice made the connection to reality stronger.
Every performance was golden and the story was wonderfully communicated to the very end.
Christina Collins Burton can be reached at email@example.com.