Tuesday, March 10, 2020

'Baltimore Waltz' proves timely at Dragon Theatre

Carl (Asher Krohn, left) ignores Anna's (Ellen Dunphy) concerns about the strange man (Filip Hofman) following them.

When the leaders of Redwood City’s Dragon Theatre slated Paula Vogel’s “The Baltimore Waltz” for this season, little did they know how timely it would be.

Vogel wrote her 1992 play, which she sets in a Baltimore hospital, as a tribute to her brother, Carl, who died of AIDS before they could take a hoped-for trip to Europe.

In this three-person play, Anna (Ellen Dunphy), a first-grade teacher, and her gay brother, Carl (Asher Krohn), a San Francisco librarian, likewise have planned a trip to Europe.

However, just before they’re supposed to leave, she’s diagnosed with a strange new illness, acquired toilet disease, or ATD. Apparently she contracted it from sitting on the toilet seat used by her students.

It’s fatal, but she has no outward symptoms. Therefore, she and Carl embark on their trip. His main goal is to see all the sights, while hers is to bed as many men as possible, since ATD can’t be sexually transmitted.

Those men, plus all of the other male characters, are played by Filip Hofman, here called Third Man. Like several other fun parts of the play, which is often quite humorous, it’s a classic film reference.

Another humorous scene with a film reference involves an 80-year-old urologist in Vienna who has what might be a highly unorthodox cure for ATD. He constantly fights with one of his hands, on which he wears a black glove, a la Dr. Strangelove.

Then there’s the mysterious man who follows the siblings. He carries a stuffed rabbit, as does Carl, who has had one since childhood. His parents allowed him to play with it because he wasn’t supposed to play with his sister’s dolls.

As he clings to it, the mysterious man tries to take it away from him.

Finally, it becomes evident that the trip to Europe is taking place only in Anna’s imagination. It’s Carl who’s ill. Therefore, the rabbit might represent life, while the mysterious man might symbolize death.

Today, with coronavirus raging throughout the world with no known cure or vaccine, “The Baltimore Waltz” strikes some all-too-familiar chords.

Sensitively directed by Troy Johnson, this production features an outstanding cast. Dunphy as Anna has an appealing vulnerability, while Krohn as Carl displays a range of emotions and brotherly love.

Hofman is versatile to the nth degree, portraying men of different nationalities and personalities.

Projections by set designer Bora “Max” Koknar, sound by Jonathan Covey, costumes by Pati Bristow, lighting by Jeff Swan and choreography by Sarah Haas add greatly to the enjoyment of this production in Dragon’s intimate theater.

Running about an hour and 25 minutes without intermission, “The Baltimore Waltz” will continue through April 4 at Dragon Theatre, 2120 Broadway St., Redwood City.

It’s running in rotating repertory with another AIDS-related play, “Confession” by Barry Slater.

For tickets and information, call 650) 493-2006 or visit www.dragonproductions.net.

Photo courtesy of Dragon Theatre