Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The Baltimore Waltz"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide


"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

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note: entire contents copyright 2000 by Beverly Creasey

The Last "Waltz"

Reviewed by Beverly Creasey

The best theater in Boston is often just outside Boston, hiding in church basements and tiny hole-in-the-wall theatres tucked away in back alleys....and in university settings. If you can get yourself out to Wellesley College (only 25 mins, from downtown) you'll find the Wellesley Summer Theatre, p[resenting first rate productions of compelling plays --- like last summer's luminous "Dancing at Lughnasa". One of the joys of attending a resident company lies in seeing the same director and actors tackle different roles.

If you make it out this week you can see Paula Vogel's irreverent valentine to her brother, who died of AIDS in 1988. "The Baltimore Waltz is about the trip to Europe they wanted to, but never did make. Vogel invents an imaginary disease to stand for AIDS, and it's the sister in the play who's dying from ATD (Acquired Toilet Disease). Vogel sends up the Center for Disease Control with some delightfully sardonic stuff about this "pestilence" which is transmitted to elementary school teachers by small students, affirming those maternal admonitions about public toilets.

Director Nora Hussey (and ass't dir. Jenny Caplan) play up the sweetness of the script without sacrificing the raucous humor. What a treat to see Derek Nelson (so wonderful in "Dancing at Lughnasa" and "Hallowed Ground") sink his teeth into a dozen oddball supporting characters (dressed to hilarious perfection by Caplan) from an embarrassed bellhop to a haughty French waiter whose command of w's (as in "white bread") is worth the price of admission.

Alicia Kahn manages to make promiscuous behavior seem down-right righteous as the dying sister making up for thirty years of chastity. Kent French, too, plays his role of the patient brother for earnestness. Despite some pretty nutty cloak-and-dagger business (involving a stuffed rabbit) French makes you fall in love with his dashing White Knight......which makes the ending all the more poignant.

Having seen a few over the top, tongue-in-cheek interpretations of the Vogel script, I vote for this more innocent version...which waltzes its way into your heart for keeps

"The Baltimore Waltz" (till 29 June)
Wellesley College Theatre, WELLESLEY

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide