‘The Baltimore Waltz’ sheds light on the AIDS epidemic
November 15, 2019
What do a pajama-wearing character, two latex gloves and a stuffed rabbit add up to? Theater-goers will find out tonight and Saturday, as they leave Wish Theater and enter the alternate world of The Baltimore Waltz.
“It’s kind of like a puzzle. You really have to piece it together,” director Joosep Vorno ’22 said.
Masque and Gown’s fall-production, “The Baltimore Waltz,” written by Paula Vogel, is a series of vignettes following siblings, Anna, played by Salina Chin ’23, and Carl, played by Ben Allen ’23, as they embark on a European adventure. A loose allegory of the AIDS epidemic, the play begins after Anna has contracted the fictional Acquired Toilet Disease (ATD) at the school where she teaches. Anna and Carl each navigate newfound sexual experiences with a “third-man” while traveling abroad, simultaneously strengthening their relationships with each other in what Vorno describes as a “fantastical, dreamy experience.”
This is emphasized by small details that might seem accidental or random. However, Vorno assures these details are intentional.
“There are things that are out of place. Ask yourself why, why those things are there. Nothing’s there just because,” he said.
In addition to the small details, a character known as the “third-man,” played by Will Rackear ’22, contributes to the play’s ominousness with an exaggerated stage presence. The third-man plays all the characters the siblings interact with, including lovers, friends and a doctor.
The play also explores the personal impact of the AIDS epidemic.
Vogel wrote “The Baltimore Waltz” to memorialize her brother Carl who died from complications of AIDS before the two were able to take a long-awaited European vacation.
“[The AIDS epidemic] was something that was kind of hard to talk about. I think [the play is a] good approach [to discussing the epidemic], because to someone who’s not paying close attention, it’s just like, ‘oh, they’re taking some weird trip to Europe,’ but if you’re really paying close attention, there are subtleties that show [what the experience] is really about,” said Rackear.
Although the seriousness of the AIDS epidemic is at the forefront of the play, suffering is not. The play explores the emotional journey of AIDS patients and their loved ones.
“While the subject matter of the play is quite tragic, life is not comedy or drama. Life is not always super serious or super comedic, and this play does a great job at finding comedy and joy in topics that one might not expect them to be,” Vorno said.
Chin said the biggest challenge of playing a character who is experiencing joy, excitement and loss is maintaining vulnerability for the entire play.
“There’s only one scene where I am not onstage, so it’s been difficult keeping the character up through the entire time,” Chin said. “It’s getting into the attitude that I’m gonna do things I normally wouldn’t share with people who I’m not very close with.”
Chin said she hopes the play strikes a personal tone.
“I hope they think about what it’s like to be remembered and what a legacy feels like,” Chin said. “And I hope they call their family members and tell them how much they love them.”
“The Baltimore Waltz” will play tonight in Wish Theater in Memorial Hall at 7:30 p.m. and on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m..
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