Laughing in the Face of Death at Cape Rep
By: Jeannette de Beauvoir, July 4, 2012
ROBERT TUCKER/FOCALPOINT STUDIO - Ryann Weir plays Anna, a schoolteacher afflicted with a rare disease who gets a new lease on life during a whirlwind trip through Europe with her brother Carl, played by Salty Brine, in the Cape Rep's production of "The Baltimore Waltz."
There’s no intermission at the Cape Rep’s production of The Baltimore Waltz, and that’s just as well, because the energy and magic of the piece keeps moving you forward at such a clip that to interrupt it would shatter the illusion.
And illusion there is, as the cast takes the audience through a whirlwind tour of Europe—and, at the same time, of their characters’ hearts.
Anna has just been diagnosed with a rare disease she caught from the toilets in the elementary school where she teaches.
“Five-year-olds,” she assures the audience, “can be deadly.”
If you go...
The Baltimore Waltz
3299 Rte. 6A, Brewster
Performances are Wednesdays at 7 PM, Tuesdays and Thursdays - Saturdays at 8 PM through July 21.
With her brother Carl, she plans to embark on a quest to seek out a cure and as Anna adds, “in whatever time this schoolteacher has left… to fuck my brains out.”
Carl has his own mysteries. He’s just been fired and spends much of the play clasping a stuffed rabbit tightly to his chest. Comfort or metaphor? For a very long time, the audience is not really sure which.
The disparate scenes in the play are humorously held together by short grammar lessons, the narrator at one point noting that “there are three moods to the verb verlossen: indicative, imperative, and subjunctive. Anna and Carl are never in the same mood.”
Which brings up the presence of the Third Man. Alternately narrator, doctor, virgin, public health official, waiter, and many more characters, he creates the background that Carl and Anna need to play out their drama of impending loss. Played spectacularly by Andrew Farmer, these various characters provide comic relief, story continuity, unanswerable questions and generally move the illusion along at breakneck speed.
Ryann Weir as Anna is at her best when she’s being funny, which is—oddly enough, when you consider the premise—for a good part of the play. Weir is both emotionally needy and emotionally sustaining, conflicted about her brother and about her own role in life, and ultimately showing strengths the audience didn’t suspect she had.
Salty Brine as Carl treads a fine line between terrific characterization and overacting, and comes out this side of over-the-top. He’s witty, engaging, and thoroughly delightful, whether playing the brother coping with imminent tragedy, the “Get Smart”-style spy or the lost little boy.
A new lease on theater
Set changes are accomplished primarily through the moving of curtains, occasionally accompanied by '50s television music scores; once again, the Cape Rep’s penchant for minimalist sets works to perfection here.
Veteran playwright Paula Vogel includes a poignant note in the playbill indicating the similarities between this play and the loss of her own brother to AIDS in 1988. Clever audience members will read the playbill, note the title, and anticipate the twist at the end.
Coming to grips with imminent death may not sound like a fun night out at the theater, but The Baltimore Waltz will keep you laughing, gasping, and generally appreciating life. It’s a definite winner and a must-see this summer.