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June 29, 2011

A fantasy ride toward death in 'Linus and Alora' at Single Carrot Theatre

Mortality is such a downer.

No wonder many of us live in a perpetual state of denial about death, which is the approach of a young woman given nine months to live at the start of "Linus and Alora," the recent Andrew Irons play running through July 10 at Single Carrot Theatre.

Alora takes it one step farther than denial, actually, all the way into fantasy land. Not a bad way to go.

Gradually and sometimes painfully, husband Linus agrees to join her there. In the process, he doesn't just humor Alora, but also finds a way to confront his own, long-suppressed issues about death.

Irons has approached a topic all too familiar from disease-movies-of-the-week and given it enough freshness, enough surprise to create quite an absorbing experience. "Linus and Alora" -- am I the only one who thinks that's an ineffectual title? -- makes a snug fit for the avant-garde-friendly Single Carrot troupe, which brings vibrant acting and stagecraft to the material.

The production, directed by Genevieve de Mahy, has ...

an effective rhythm, and not just because of the periodic live music and video episodes -- or the thump of a heartbeat (that sound is really too cliched to be effective). The flights of fancy take off with considerable expressive flair; tender and bittersweet scenes are nicely handled.

De Mahy also designed the set, which includes a pit filled with stuffed animals that seem ever on the verge of animation. Several artists contributed to the evocative film projections. Chelsey Schuler's costumes do the trick.  

Alora is an intriguing character, whose previous escapes into an imaginary world have given her a most creative impulse. The dark medical news she receives sets that impulse into overdrive, inspired initially by the ironic nine-month factor in her prognosis -- the first thing Alora invents is a pregnancy.

Susannah Edwards is telling in the role, deftly conveying the gentle soul behind the desperation. Nathan A. Cooper likewise does vivid work as the angst-ridden, vulnerable Linus.

One of the best moments in the play, one that will resonate with anyone who has lost (or is afraid of losing) a loved one, comes when Linus expresses his deep fear of losing Alora. Her simple response: "You won't be alone." Cooper and Edwards make that small exchange remarkably touching.

Alora's imaginary brothers -- she must have watched a lot of "The Three Stooges" as a kid -- are portrayed with vocal and physical flourish by Kaveh Haerian (Neal), Nathan Fulton (Owen), and Mike Zemarel (Arthur).

Jessica Garrett and Paul Wissman handle their dual assignments deftly. Melissa Wimbish and David Kellam, as a spectral Cuban couple, move stylishly through the play.

The finely matched musicians -- Madeline de Mahy, Paul Diem, Jeremy Durkin -- and the colorful, folksy score (a collaborative effort) add greatly to the atmospheric layering of the production.


Posted by Tim Smith at 12:50 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Drama Queens, Single Carrot Theatre


I thought Nathan and Susanah were kinda "blah," as actors and as a couple. I agree with you about Wissman (though I still have no idea who\what Sunshine was). I'm guessing you hated one of Ms Garrets characters (she played THREE: the doctor, Noodle and Samantha)

I thought the set was kinda cool with the slide and the toy pit, as were the brothers (ghosts perhaps? It explains the whole "Linus can see us now" thing).

Really nice article, and it's good to see you covering smaller shows!

Sorry for slighting Jessica's triple gig; just carelessness, not fault-finding. Thanks for the feedback.TIM

Thanks to Mr. Smith and Mr. Twiggar for reviewing shows at smaller venues. It's a genuinely delightful sign that members of the press take seriously what the small theatres (community, ensemble-based and otherwise) work so hard to create. Also, I took no offense to the "dual role" quote. Just as long as everyone thinks I'm pretty.

You looked mah-velous! TIM

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About Tim Smith
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I couldn't help but develop a keen interest in politics, but music, theater and visual art also proved great attractions. Music became my main focus after high school. I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead, earning a B.A. in that field from Eisenhower College (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) and an M.A. from Occidental College (Los Angeles). I then landed in journalism. After freelancing for the Washington Post and others, I was classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, where I also contributed to NPR. I've written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and I'm a longtime contributor to Opera News. My book, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music (Perigee, 2002), can be found on the most discerning remainder racks.

I joined the Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and, in 2009, also became theater critic, giving me the opportunity to annoy a whole new audience. In 2010, my original Clef Notes blog expanded to encompass a theatrical component -- how could I resist calling it Drama Queens? I hope you'll find both sides of this blog coin worth exploring and reacting to; your own comments are always welcome and valued (well, most of them, at least).

Think of this as your open-all-hours, cyber green room, where there's always a performer or performance to discuss, some news to digest, or maybe just a little good gossip to share.
Note: Tim Smith now writes about the fine arts at This blog will be kept in place as an archive for an indefinite period. Please visit the new location to get the latest Mid-Atlantic arts coverage.
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