FORTUNE'S CHILD Debuts at Theatre Project

Cybelle Pomeroy,, Published January 12, 2015

Theatre Project’s current show is the debut of a new script written by local playwright Mark Scharf, who has been examining the minutiae of ordinary people onstage for about two decades. Regular theatergoers in the Baltimore area may have seen earlier Scharf productions such as LAST NIGHT AT THE OWL BAR, GET STUFFED or KEEPING FAITH, the last of which involves a couple so desparate to keep their daughter from marrying an unsuitable man they are driven to lawlessness and felony. FORTUNE’S CHILD examines a small, broken family in the process of coping with terminal illness and squeezing as much good from itself as is possible within its own limitations. It’s a sweet and tender family, full of recognizable foibles and humor. Scharf’s dialogue combined with actor Kathryn Zoerb’s sensitive performance absolutely nail ‘teenaged girl’, to the point that my companion and I (as parent/handlers of teenaged girls) suspected spying. Her characterization of eighteen-year-old Sarah resembled my offspring, who is 16, but my friend assured me that Zoerb accurately demonstrated behaviors of a certain nineteen-year-old daughter as well. Playing Susan, Marianne Angelella, who is always a delight to watch, surprised me by appearing nearly dowdy in her first sequence. She and Lance Lewman, who plays Susan’s brother Mike, create a very believable sibling relationship. Lewman, after settling down for the second act, is plausible both as a father and a psychologist. The bonus treat of the cast is Travis Charles Hudson: he is charming and clever in all three of his roles. The set is suggestive rather than fully representational, and is enhanced by a projection screen with lighting and scenic projections designed by Terry Cobb and a highly detailed soundtrack by composer and sound designer Ann Warren. The soundtrack is as rich as the set is sketchy: it creates weather, an additional character and horses on a horseback trail, among other, more prosaic, phenomena. The lighting/projections and the soundtrack permit the black box area of Theatre Project’s stage to be cemetery, home, yard, Ireland, New Zealand and Hawaii. DIrector Yvonne Erickson allows characters to exist naturally, without seeming stagey, though there are a few deliberate artifices which support rather than distract from, the practical actions within the play. Of particular interest to me were several dialogue-free sequences in which characters revealed themselves and actors demonstrated significant prowess as physical performers. Theatre Project is housed in a building that is 125 years old, and though two large space heaters valiantly attempted to bring the temperature of the gigantic room to something approaching ‘reasonable’, audience members by and large kept their coats with them and were glad they’d done so. The wine offered at intermission might’ve been nicer mulled, but was refreshing and also permitted inside the theater during Act II. The steep stairs had been cleared very nicely, which was pleasant- I had been concerned, but the white snow shining against the black stairs was only in the corners.