Theater Info for the Washington DC region

Kensington Arts Theatre A New Brain

By • Mar 12th, 2008 • Category: Reviews

Listen to our review of the Kensington Arts Theatre’s production of A New Brain [MP3 6:07 2.8MB]. Also read Andy Izquierdo’s interview with Joel Markowitz.

A New Brain
Kensington Arts Theatre
Kensington Town Hall, Kensington, MD
$20/$17 Students and Seniors/$13 Kesington Residents
Through March 22nd

Laura: This is the ShowBizRadio review of A New Brain, performed by the Kensington Arts Theatre in Kensington Maryland. Mike and I saw the performance on Sunday evening March 9, 2008.

Mike: This is a fun show. It would have been very easy to make it dark and foreboding and depressing. But the upbeat music combined with very nice choreography made for an interesting and fun evening.

Laura: I thought the choreography was great. The singing and music was so much fun. Even though at times the topic was depressing, talking about brain surgery and that kind of thing, it was also upbeat at the end and really a great time.

Mike: A New Brain is a musical with music and lyrics by William Finn. Book by William Finn and James Lapin. A New Brain is the musical story of a composer who dreams of greatness, but finds himself stuck writing songs for the egomaniacal host of a children’s television show. When it is discovered he has a brain tumor, the composer must cope with the possibility that his best work may remain unwritten while also dealing with his oppressive mother, his distant lover, his frustrated best friend, and a demanding 6-foot frog.

The song writer, Gordon Michael Schwinn, was played by Andy Izquierdo. I really liked his character, especially at the beginning when he was frustrated with his job. Then later when he had his problem with his brain and being at the hospital and having to adapt. I liked his reaction when Gordon was walking through town for the first time after his surgery and he realized that a homeless lady was selling his books. That was a very nice scene. That feeling of outrage and injustice really worked well for the scene. Then when his boyfriend Roger told him to take it easy, it’s not that important, that was a very nicely done scene.

Laura: Rhoda, Gordon’s agent, was played by Susanna Todd. I like her. She stuck by him through the good times and the bad times. She was the one who called Gordon’s mother and had her come down to the hospital. She was very caring and had some great songs. My heart went out to her.

Mike: There were a lot of characters in this show. One that jumped out to me was The Minister, played by Tim Adams. He had a gorgeous voice. I liked his portrayal and the songs he did. One thing that kind of annoyed me, I didn’t quite understand why this decision was made. When the minister went to see Gordon while he was in the hospital, and Gordon tells him to go away and he goes away. But as he’s leaving he pulls out a flask of some kind of beverage and drinks it. I’m not quite sure what that has to do with the character of the Minister.

Laura: Mimi Schwinn, Gordon’s mother was played wonderfully by Lisa Anne Bailey. She did such a good job. She was quite the overbearing, overwhelming mother. She knew what to do and knew how to take care of Gordon and knew that everything was going to be alright. Even though that irritated the bejeebers out of Gordon. She was in control and in charge and wasn’t going to let anything stand in her way and was going to get her son through this ordeal. She had some really nice songs. One of the ones I liked the best was ‘The Music Still Plays On’ towards the end of the show. It was really moving and very powerful. She sang it very well.

Mike: Gordon’s partner was Roger, played by Ryan Khatcheressian. They had a nice song very early on called ‘Sailing.’ It was defining what was important to each of them. Roger sang that he preferred to be sailing above anything else. It was such a poignant song and it did set the tone of the relationship a little bit. By the end of the show you realized that Roger really did care about Gordon.

Laura: The Music Director was David Rohde and the music was fantastic. Everything moved right along. There were times when I felt the music was a little too loud. Sometime with the orchestra and the singing could not be heard, but I really enjoyed it. I liked how some of the songs really moved me.

Mike: The choreographer was Shannon Khatcheressian. She did a great job. I liked that it was not one static set. Sometimes you were at the hospital bed, and sometimes you weren’t. That sounds awkward, but since a lot of the show is taking place in Gordon’s mind, you didn’t have to be at the hospital bed the whole time and they didn’t. I really liked that. They weren’t constrained by conventional thinking. The choreography was fairly upbeat as well. There were a few numbers where there were a lot of people on stage and they worked together very nicely.

Laura: The lighting was also very well done. Lighting Designer was Kevin King. The dream sequence were very well done. You weren’t asking yourself if this is what was happening in Gordon’s mind or was it real because the lighting really told you which was which.

Mike: Andy Izquierdo did an interesting interview with Joel Markowitz of DC Theatre Scene. One of the comments in the interview was that a lot of people will find things in the show that are parallels with their own life. I did have flashbacks to something that happened to Laura and me about nine years ago. Laura had a stroke and I had to make those phone calls that some of the characters did. Phone calls to our mothers and to our friends. It was interesting that it hit me so deeply at that scene. I really wasn’t expecting that from this musical.

Laura: Of course I don’t remember any of it because I was the one having the stroke:)

Mike: The show lasted an hour and forty minutes without an intermission. It is playing through Saturday, March 22 at the Kensington Town Center. Friday and Saturdays at 8. A Sunday performance on the 16th at 7 PM and a special Thursday night performance on the 20th at 8 PM.

Laura: Once you’ve seen the show we’d like to hear your comments. You can do that here at We’d also like to invite you to join our free mailing list so you can informed with community theater happening in the northern Virginia, DC, Maryland region.

Mike: And now, on with the show.


  • Gordon Michael Schwinn: Andy Izquierdo
  • A Homeless Lady: Katie Pond
  • Rhoda: Susanna Todd
  • Waitress: Karissa Swanigan
  • Mr. Bungee: Randall Jones
  • Richard (the Nice Nurse): David M. Moretti
  • Nancy D. (the Thin Nurse): Karissa Swanigan
  • Dr. Jafar Berensteiner: Duane Monahan
  • The Minister: Tim Adams
  • Roger Delli-Bovi: Ryan Khatcheressian
  • Mimi Schwinn (the Mother): Lisa Anne Bailey


  • Keyboards: David Rohde, Scott Richards
  • Reeds: Dana Gardner
  • Horn: Lora Katz
  • Cello: Virginia Gardner
  • Percussion: Bob Weber


  • Producer: Malca Giblin
  • Director: Jeffrey R. Breslow
  • Music Director: David Rohde
  • Choreographer: Shannon Khatcheressian
  • Stage Manager: Patty Hackett
  • Assistant to the Director: Nick Upchurch
  • Scenic Design: Matt Karner, Dave Kaysen
  • Master Carpenter: Dave Kaysen
  • Scenic Painting Design: Billy Smith, Lucy Todd
  • Construction/Painting Crew: Jenna Ballard, Kevin Boyce, John Decker, Malca Giblin, Matt Karner, Shannon Khatcheressian, Dave Moretti, Joel Richon, Billy Smith, Lucy Todd, Susanna Todd
  • Set Decoration: Jenna Ballard, Andy Izquierdo
  • Properties: Malca Giblin
  • Lighting Design: Kevin King
  • Lighting Execution: Kevin King, Meng Chiao
  • Sound Design/Execution: Nick Upchurch
  • Costume Design: Eric Scerbo
  • Makeup/Hair Design: Kat Brais
  • Stage Crew: Jenna Ballard, Malca Giblin, Doe. B. Kim, Craig Pettinati, Ellyne Spano
  • Program Cover Design: Ernie Achenbach
  • Program Design: Doe B. Kim
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started ShowBizRadio in August 2005 because they love live theater. They each have both performed in and worked behind the scenes in DC area productions, as well as earned a Career Studies Certificate in Theater from Northern Virginia Community College. Mike & Laura are each members of the American Theatre Critics Association, and Mike is a member of the Online News Association.

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