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Kensington Arts Theatre Rent

By • Feb 24th, 2010 • Category: Reviews
Rent by Jonathan Larson
Kensington Arts Theatre
Kensington Town Hall, Kensington, MD
Through March 7th
2:40 with one intermission
$20/$17 Seniors and Students/$13 Kensington Residents
Reviewed February 20, 2010

Rent is a rock opera with Book/Music/Lyrics by Jonathan Larson, based on Giacomo Puccini’s opera, La Bohème. Rent follows a group of poor young artists and musicians as they try to find their place in the world. Rent closed on Broadway in September 2008, after a run of 12 years. This is the third production of Rent in the DC region since October, with one more coming this summer. Rent includes adult situations, language and brief nudity.

Director Craig Pettinati has put together an energetic, young cast. The large cast meshed together well and sang the songs passionately. During a few of the group numbers, it was difficult to discern the lyrics, which may have been part of the show’s message of chaos in a chaotic world. If you aren’t familiar with the show before seeing it, you could be confused.

The scarf-wearing Mark Cohen (Greg Meyer) was the filmmaker unwilling to “sell his soul” to the corporate world played the role with determination. Meyer seemed a bit too sure of himself, I didn’t see him struggling with the decisions Mark had to make. Roger Davis (Andrew Kurland) personified the starving artist. He had some really great solos and his duets with Roger and later Mimi Marquez (Amy Baughman) were powerful and moving. Mimi was a girl who wanted to be loved, but just couldn’t seem to break her cycle of destruction. Baughman really brought out the two sides to her character as she seemed so vulnerable around Roger, yet had that New York chip on her shoulder as she got her fix from neighborhood drug dealers.

Matt Karner’s scenic design was inventive. The scaffolding on the sides of the playing area allowed for the actors to climb, swing, hang, and jump around the stage. This made for some interesting choreography and not having to move huge set pieces kept the pace moving nicely, although the stability of the scaffolding on the stage right side was distracting. Lauren Jane Pedersen’s costumes in many styles enhanced the overall style of the show, allowing for actors to make very quick costume changes into another persona.

I wonder how long it will take before a theatre company will be brave enough to take a fresh look at Rent and try out new ideas, set it somewhere else or in a different time (lyrics’ references to place and time be damned or tweaked), or , why does Mark seem to always wear a scarf. Despite its traditional interpretation of the story, Kensington’s production was vibrant and stimulating. The audience on Saturday evening was animated, giving the cast a standing ovation.

Photo Gallery

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Photos by Ernie Achenbach for Kensington Arts Theatre.

Cast

  • Mimi Marquez: Amy Baughman
  • Benjamin “Benny” Coffin III: Darius Epps
  • Joanne Jefferson: Tina Ghandchilar
  • Tom Collins: Montario Hill
  • Roger Davis: Andrew Kurland
  • Mark Cohen: Greg Meyer
  • Angel Dumott Schunard: Jase Parker
  • Maureen Johnson: Autumn Seavey
  • Mrs. Cohen: Jennie Lutz
  • Alexi Darling: Alicia Osborn
  • Mr. Jefferson: terry Barr
  • Mrs. Jefferson: Mayumi Baker
  • The Man, The Waiter: Eric Jones
  • Paul, Dance Soloist: Brook Urquhart
  • Gordon: Tim Adams
  • Ensemble: Tim Adams, Felicia Akunwafor, Mayumi Baker, Terry Barr, Lena Feliciano, Eric Jones, Jennie Lutz, Alicia Osborn, Jacqueline Salvador, Brook Urquhart

Crew

  • Producer: Darnell Morris, Craig Pettinati
  • Director: Craig Pettinati
  • Music Director: Brian Victor
  • Asst. Director/Asst. Stage Manager: Donna Shute
  • Choreographer: Laurie Newton
  • Asst. Choreographer: Nicole Martin
  • Stage Manager: Bridget Muehlberger
  • Scenic Design/Scenic Painting Design: Matt Karner
  • Master Carpenter: Joel Richon
  • Construction/Painting Crew: Matt Karner, Stephanie Clements, Mike Ricci, Lenora Spahn, Brian Campbell, Craig Pettenati, Doe B. Kim
  • Scenic Decorations/ Properties: Brian Campbell
  • Lighting Design: Andrew Scharwath
  • Lighting Execution: Meng Chiao, Lenora Spahn
  • Sound Design: Kevin Garrett
  • Sound Execution: Mike Ricci, Kevin Garrett
  • Costume Design: Lauren Jane Pederson
  • Makeup/Hair Design: Eric Jones
  • Stage Crew: Brian Campbell, Donna Shute
  • Audition Pianist: Elisa Rosman
  • Program Cover/ Photography: Ernie Achenbach
  • Program Design/House Manager: Doe B. Kim

Orchestra

  • Keyboard/Guitar/Conductor: Brian Victor
  • Keyboard: Arielle Bayer
  • Guitar: Rick Peralta
  • Bass: Max Hamel
  • Percussion: Shaun Rodgers

Disclaimer: Kensington Arts Theatre provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.

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This article can be linked to as: http://washingtondc.showbizradio.com/goto/4742.

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.

7 Responses »

  1. I agree with you… when will RENT be set in like… the 60s or something? That would be FRESH!

  2. I want to point out that the script of Rent is very specific about the timeframe and location of the show. There are specific references to NYC and it takes place when AIDS was ravaging the artistic community and society as a whole. It is the key factor that ties all of the characters together. This is not something that should be adjusted to try and make the show “fresh.” You must remain true to the purpose of the piece or you will do the show an injustice.

  3. Yes, you are correct, Rent cannot be moved in locale or time. I’ve struck that line from the article. Now costuming on the other hand, Angel is scripted as wearing a Santa outfit, but the scarf?

  4. The scarf is in the script, too.

  5. Where? I didn’t see it when I re-read my script. Thanks.

  6. Mark wears a scarf because they have no heat in their building, but most important, how could you not mention Jase Parker and Montario Hill who were wonderful as Tom Collins and Angel?. In fact, how can you review RENT and not mention Angel and Tom Collins, or Joanne or Maureen? Autumn Seavey was amazing as Maureen and Tina Ghandchiler as JoAnne, and they both rocked the house with their rendition of “Love Me or Leave Me”.

  7. Somehow I think the deletion of a scarf isn’t going to ‘make over’ a production of “Rent”.

    I do thoroughly understand your point, Laura and Mike, but think you can answer your own question by considering other shows that include elements (props, costume, set decoration, etc.) that have become iconic to that show and/or character.

    Additionally, I haven’t seen “Rent” before and I appreciated having a distinct visual cue to instantly pick “Mark” from the gaggle of denizens. I’m not trying to be snarky, really, but if you are focused on such a small element, perhaps you’ve seen the show a few too many times? It’s like being able to pick out the actor’s face behind the Darth Vader mask; one must be thoroughly inured to the magic of the overall production in order to even ‘see’ something like that.

    My lady and I have to agree about the stage right scaffolding, but mostly because we were sitting right under it, and the swaying and creaking were a little unnerving. We enjoyed ourselves completely- as usual, the Kensington crew has created a spectacular production.