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June 7, 2011

Iron Crow Theatre Company digs into 'Love and Human Remains'

Iron Crow Theatre Company, Baltimore's ensemble troupe devoted to LGBT issues and perspectives, wraps up its first full season with a mostly persuasive production of "Love and Human Remains," the gritty and witty work by Canadian playwright Brad Fraser.

It's not an easy piece to embrace, what with the recurring spectre of a serial killer haunting a story about seven far-from-fully adjusted characters. But there's a lot of meaty, provocative stuff here about relationships -- friendly, abusive, sexual, romantic.

The play has something to say about fear, too. Everyone in this story shrinks from intimacy at one point and to one degree or another. Everyone is afraid not only of what might be outside the door, but also afraid of what might be inside the room, sitting alongside on a coach, lying alongside on a bed.

At the center of the piece are two roommates, David and Candy. He's gay, an actor who's back to waiting tables and more cynical than ever. She is David's former lover (he had a experimental phase), and she still believes in the possibility of genuine, soul-sharing mate. Candy ends up entangled with a man, an amiable bartender named Robert, and also a woman, Jerri, who fixates on Candy at the gym.

David, in between his preferred just-for-pleasure encounters, tries to make sense of his busboy, Kane, who has a puppy-dog attachment to him.

Then there's Bernie, David's longtime buddy, who seems to be awfully jumpy -- and curiously bloody. Rounding out this menagerie is Benita, a friend of David's who goes in for pleasure-and-pain diversions and apparently has psychic powers.

There is a long arc to the play, but ...

the power of individual vignettes proves a little greater than the whole. The playwright has an impressive, often remarkably succinct ability to cut to the heart of what drives people together and apart.

Fraser's way of having characters utter a single word at a time every now and then creates a certain poetic force, even if it becomes less telling after a while.   

And his humor spices things up, whether in groaning sitcom-style (David to Candy, returning from work: "Honey, I'm homo") or out-of-the-blue observational (Kane tosses out a particularly funny-wise line about the effect of puberty).

In the end, though, the darkness of the subject matter, punctuated by periodic (and sometimes gratuitous) crudity, dominates. It's an unsettling play.

Director Joseph Ritsch uses the space at the Swirnow Theater to emphasize the separate, hard-to-connect worlds of the characters.

The action has been transplanted from Edmonton -- Fraser placed the play in his hometown -- to Baltimore, a move primarily achieved by sprinkling the dialogue with local references.

A touch of formstone would, I imagine, have been too specific and distracting a touch for the minimal set designed by Ritsch and Daniel Ettinger. But the ratty sofa in David and Candy's spot sure does reek of atmosphere.

Steven J. Satta gets across David's glib, bitchy personality neatly. Michele Minnick offers a good deal of nuance as Candy, especially as the plot sickens. Ryan Airey does a winning job in the role of the naive, slowly awakening Kane.

There is vibrant work from Erin Gahan (Jerri) and Christopher H. Zargarbashi (Robert). Tim Elliot captures the manic personality of Bernie with sufficient flair. And Katie O. Solomon, decked out in Victoria's Secret-like regalia, makes a colorful Benita. She delivers the recurring folk song nicely, but its use does get a little annoying after awhile.

Conor Mulligan's lighting adds considerably to the visual effectiveness of the production, while Michael Perrie's music does the same for the aural.

The production runs through June 18.


Posted by Tim Smith at 6:29 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Drama Queens

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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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