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September 29, 2011

Unfinished business: Glass Mind Theatre, Baltimore Concert Opera

I know I am late sharing my incredibly important views on some events I attended last weekend, but I kept getting swept up in the eddies of life. Stuff happened. Stuff is happening still.

All the while, the guilt kept piling up (I wasn't raised Catholic for nothing), so that just made each day all the more torturous (feeling pity for me yet?).

But I am determined, even at this late date, to impart a few words about two worthy organizations in Baltimore that work hard at pumping up the local culture.

Glass Mind Theatre is one of city's cool ensemble-based companies, the kind with a tight-knit group of founding members who pitch in to do everything that needs doing, from acting and directing to box office and PR.

To open its second season, Glass Mind turned a work by Stephen Adly Guirgis, the playwright who made things so difficult last season for family newspapers and non-premium cable TV because his Broadway hit had a title unprintable and unspeakable ("The Mother----- With the Hat").

A decidedly dark (and slightly padded) comedy from 2002 called "Den of Thieves" proved to be a smooth fit for the Glass Mind players Saturday night in the tucked-away Load of Fun Theater. I'm sorry to say the run is over, so you'll have to take my word for it.

In brief, the crazy plot involves petty and serious crime, addiction of one kind or another, and a lot of colorful characters, from a pretend-Latino named Flaco to a mobster named Big Tuna. Beneath and around the more well-worn elements (like low-end thieves convinced they can pull off the perfect robbery of drug money), there's substance, too, not to mention a lot of wicked humor, in "Den of Thieves."

The Glass Mind cast, directed by Britt Olsen-Ecker, effectively communicated a lot of that substance, thanks especially to ...

two keenly detailed performances.

Christopher Kryzstofiak was terrific as Flaco, with a delectably punchy New York street accent and no end of swagger. The actor also managed revealed a real person beneath the ridiculous bravado, and that paid off handsomely in Act 2, after the would-be robbers found the tables hideously turned.

As much for her communicative eyes as for her assured handling of lines, Sara Ford Gorman was another standout  as Flaco's former girlfriend, Maggie, a woman who has any number of challenging personal issues before getting caught up in the messy theft attempt.

The rest of the cast proved generally effective in this low-budget, high-energy production.

My other left-over-from-the-weekend business is operatic in nature. I only had time Sunday afternoon to catch the first act of "Madama Butterlfy" at Baltimore Concert Opera. It was nice to see a good house at the Engineers Club, despite the book festival that added some logistical challenges that weekend.

I confess that my appetite for operas in concert format with piano accompaniment is not ravenous. But this company makes a considerable effort to present worthy singers and to provide audiences with a respectable performance, and this "Butterfly" got off to a reasonably persuasive start.

Except when pushed at the very top of her range, Alexandra LoBianco offered a creamy tone cream and sensitive phrasing in the title role. James Taylor, as Pinkerton, sounded underpowered and often under pitch, but generated some expressive sparks. Ron Lloyd produced an impressively beefy sound, as well as warm nuance, in the role of Sharpless.

The other singers and the chorus did competent work. Ronald Gretz conducted efficiently. James Harp was his usual attentive self at the piano.

PHOTOS COURTESY OF GLASS MIND THEATRE

Posted by Tim Smith at 9:22 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Clef Notes, 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 baltimoresun.com/artsmash. 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.
View the Artsmash blog
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