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June 6, 2012

Iron Crow Theatre offers telling production of 'The Typographer's Dream'

The three people in Adam Bock’s “The Typographer’s Dream” want to believe they made wise, satisfying career choices, but they’re not really so sure about that, or anything, by the end of the play.

This slender, but absorbing, work, which has been effectively staged by Iron Crow Theatre, showcases the writer’s gift not just for language, but for speech — the pauses, repetitions, nervous stutters that are part of everyday conversation.

Bock also understands human nature, the walls and bridges we build, the blinders we put on, the defense mechanisms we adopt. One more thing -- the playwright can be very funny, too.

“The Typographer’s Dream” starts off like some sort of oddball panel discussion about professions; the house lights are undimmed, emphasizing the non-theatrical environment (Conor Mulligan designed the set).

Eventually, things look more play-like, but ...

the enhanced sense of intimacy remains as the characters gradually impart information, secrets, advice (not all of it sought or welcomed).

Annalise (Jenny Male) is a Canadian geographer obsessed with boundary lines have emerged on the grizzled face of the earth, and how her chosen field has been cheapened by the way schools blend it into “social studies.” Margaret (Sarah Ford Gorman), in librarian clothes and sensible shoes, sounds a little bored by, yet still strangely addicted to, the process of choosing type and seeing it “kiss the paper.”

Dave (Steve J. Satta-Fleming) is a stenographer/court reporter terribly proud of each calibrated aspect of his work, unaware that his own personality has become rather like the machine he uses to capture every word in court.

The 75-minute play is fueled not by a traditional narrative, but by linguistic vibrancy and, in a well-timed twist, revelations about how the trio of “-ographers” are connected personally, how various factors threaten their friendship (Dave’s unseen boyfriend has a critical part in this).

The three variously challenged souls end up questioning the ways that they are defined by their jobs, at the workplace and beyond, the ways they communicate — or don’t (Dave has a really big problem using personal pronouns). These are not necessarily the deepest of issues, but we’ve all faced them, and Bock makes them freshly relevant in this imaginative play.

The Iron Crow cast, sturdily directed by Michele Minnick, gets a particular boost from Male’s dynamic, finely nuanced work as the ever-so-slightly manic Annalise. Gorman is likewise telling. She captures the mix of timidity and wonder that make Margaret so intriguing; when she goes silent mid-sentence, you can hear the wheels spinning inside her tense, uncertain mind.

Satta seems a little too buttoned-up at times, but he makes Dave a sympathetic soul who, like the others, is trying to cope in a world where words and demarcations matter, but where things unsaid and unsettled turn out to matter more.

"The Typographer's Dream" runs through June 16.


Posted by Tim Smith at 6:46 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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