Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay

The Baltimore Waltz
Magic Theatre
Review by Richard Connema | Season Schedule

Also see Richard's reviews of Noises Off, The Last Five Years and Hamilton

Patrick Alparone, Lauren English, and Greg Jackson
Photo by Jennifer Reiley
Magic Theatre is presenting a brilliant revival of Paula Vogel's fantastical satire The Baltimore Waltz with a superb cast of three actors. I first saw the play in 1992 at Circle Repertory Theatre in Manhattan. I didn't know anything about the play and I had never heard of the author but I was blown away by the 90-minute production. I have not seen this implausible parody since then. Three marvelous actors, Patrick Alparone, Lauren English and Greg Jackson, are presenting some incredible acting in this Magic Theatre production.

The plot concerns a European trip taken by Carl (Patrick Alparone) and his sister Anna (Lauren English), a whirlwind odyssey through Paris, Amsterdam, Munich and Vienna in search of romance and a cure for Anna. She has been told she's slowly dying of the fictitious disease ATD (Acquired Toilet Disease), from the bathroom of her elementary school classroom where she has been teaching. (The play was written during the AIDS crisis, when there was a rumor falsely stated that you could get it from toilet seats.) Patrick has been fired from his job as a children's librarian for wearing a pink triangle, the symbol for homosexuals during the Nazi period. He has discovered there is a doctor in Vienna who supposedly has a cure for ATD but first he wants to take his sister to visit the capitals of Europe.

The Baltimore Waltz is episodic, with scenes about six minutes in length. A stuffed rabbit carried by Patrick features into the farce, though its exact meaning is left intentionally abstruse. One of the last scenes takes place in Vienna and it's a hilarious take-off on The Third Man as Patrick meets Harry Lime (Greg Jackson).

Patrick Alparone and Lauren English are outstanding as Carl and Anna. I have seen these two fine actors on stage for many years and these may be their best acting yet. They even dance well to waltzes played at the end. Greg Jackson plays every other role, including suspicious persons creeping about in trench coats holding similar bunny rabbits. He also plays waiters, doctors and bellhops fabulously. His parody of the little Dutch boy who stuck his finger in the dike is sidesplitting.

Director Jonathan Moscone deploys the play's delicate tone shifts so adroitly you may be surprised at how quickly laughter gives way to tears. It's all performed on Nina Ball's sparse stage with a huge piece of white silk covering the back of the stage.

Bottom Line: Magic Theatre is to be applauded for reviving The Baltimore Waltz with the empathy, humor, perception and dignity it deserves.

The Baltimore Waltz runs through April 16, 2017, at the Magic Theatre, Fort Mason, 2 Marina Blvd, Building D, 3rd Floor, San Francisco Tickets on line at or by phone 415-441-8822. Coming up in May is the world premiere of Han Ong's Grandeur starring Carl Lumbly.

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