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A very good play balancing good ­fortune with bad luck

“To live in poverty is to exist in a war zone,” award-winning Colonial Players director Edd Miller notes in the playbill for Good People. “Not necessarily with bullets and bombs but with situational choices of conscience.”
    Do choices pull people out of poverty? Determine our lot in life? Or is it luck? Or hard work? Pulitzer Prize winning playwright David Lindsay-Abaire and Miller ask us not to decide but to ­consider.
    The 2011 drama is set in South Boston, or Southie, in 1998, but its questions are timeless and beyond boundary.
    To help us do that Lindsay-Abaire gives us Margie (with a hard “g”), a middle-aged single Southie mother who loses her job at a dollar store because she’s always late, usually because her adult handicapped daughter can’t be left alone. Margie doesn’t want a handout, just a job that will pay the rent. To find that, she sets aside her ego and reluctantly asks help from her years-ago boyfriend Mikey, an Irish lace doctor who escaped from the neighborhood and got rich because … luck? Hard work? Choices?
    Act I sets us up with the firing by young manager Stevie, with Margie and her friends Dottie and Jean urging her, sometimes hilariously, to look up Mikey. Turns out he has no work to offer. But he has an extravagant birthday party coming up, and Margie invites herself. When she hears by phone that the party is off because of a sick child she believes she is being disinvited lest she won’t embarrass Mikey in front of his non-Southie friends. She goes anyway and is mistaken by Kate, Mikey’s wife, for a caterer picking up dishes that weren’t used because the party was indeed canceled.
    Identities straightened out, Kate invites Margie to chat, much to Mikey’s dismay. Now fly the slings and arrows of good fortune versus bad luck.
    With Miller at the helm, this fine cast navigates the stream of comedy at the surface of much of this show while personifying the undercurrents of deception, despair and distrust. Shirley Panek gives us a Margie who shouldn’t be likeable, but is, thanks to Panek’s deft ability to deliver a stinging yet funny blow to the ego while allowing us to see the pain in her eyes. It is a riveting and emotional performance.
    Likewise, Ben Carr takes Mikey beyond a caricature of a local boy who made good to a finely crafted multidimensional character who relishes his success but, under Margie’s jealous glare, becomes so defensive that his own doubt about luck vs. work show through. Panek and Carr click, so for the audience Margie and Mikey do, too.
    As Kate, Ashley Spooner does some navigating as an elite African-American inexperienced in the past lives of Mikey and Margie. Her Act II performance in a long, yet riveting, three-person scene moves from elitist to understanding as flaws in her husband and their marriage are revealed.
    Karen Lambert’s Jean and Bernadette Arvidson’s Dottie are fine Southie friends, delivering hilarity that resonates with despair. As Stevie, the young store manager whose mother was the women’s friend, Glen Pearson displays the nervousness of a character appearing as the cause of despair.
    Director Miller’s multi-use set cleverly moves from a store alley to a Southie house to a bingo hall to a well-off doctor’s living room all with minimal movement — clear proof that in theater in the round, less is more. His cast keeps the pace moving, and each is clearly invested not only in what we see of their characters but also in what we can feel is so subtly moving under the surface.
    Good People is very, very good.


About two hours, 15 minutes with intermission. Stage manager: Herb Elkin. Costume designer: Dianne Smith. Sound designer: Theresa Riffle. Lighting designer: Frank Florentine.

Thru June 25: ThFSa 8pm, Su 2pm, Colonial Players Theatre, Annapolis, $20 w/discounts, rsvp: ­www.thecolonialplayers.org.

Modern fathering is new to me. But I like what I see

As it’s time once more to talk about fathers, let me ask you a question.
    Did you grow up in a patriarchy? Or a matriarchy?
    Matriarchy for me. Like elephant calves, I grew up surrounded by women. From the center out: my dominant, buzz-saw mother, Elsa; my doting paternal grandmother, Florence Martin; my godmothers Virginia Dalton and Kay King; the waitresses at our family restaurant and the cook, Lovie.
    Because we lived in or near our restaurant — the Stymie Club in St Louis — my father, Gene Martin, was always around, taking care of business and pleasure.
    When I was old enough to tag along, he introduced me to the world as he knew it: clubbing; St Louis Cardinals baseball; horseracing; motor boating on the Mississippi River; Chicago, his native city; and tales tall and true. Dad taught me how to have a good time, what to expect from a good date and the satisfaction of a well-told story. Not a bad role model, as I’ve enjoyed a husband with those same qualities for 43 years.
    Most schoolmates had seemingly more traditional families, with father who went to work and came home, so I imagined my matriarchal upbringing was odd. Now I’m not so sure. In the 1950s, when I grew up, raising kids was pretty much women’s work. How much, I wonder, did fathers of that era invest in their children? I’d like to hear your stories.
    When my sons came along, I raised them in a matriarchy. From the center out: me; their grandmother, Elsa; their godmother, Linda; and my amoebic circle of girlfriends, especially Janice, Judy and Sue.
    What they have taken from their father, who often lived many states away, is their story. As is their inheritance from Bill, their steadfast buddy and stepfather.
    Alex and Nat were well along before I saw the father who opened my eyes to the potential of the calling.
    Bill Freivogel, a colleague of Bill’s at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau, not only split one full-time journalism job and raising four kids with his wife, Margie. Bill could also change a wet diaper while holding the kid on his hip.
    That, I thought, is a serious father.
    Other D.C. cohorts of Bill showed me more tricks of the trade of fathering. Jon Sawyer, founding director of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, put himself into raising his and Kem’s three girls and now a half-dozen grandchildren. Tim Poor, also from the Post-Dispatch, ran his miles with baby Elizabeth in a stroller. Donald Foley kept up with wife Louise Hilsen in raising their comingled family of five, and now three grandkids, while both kept moving ahead in high-level policy jobs.
    Around my neighborhood, Scott Smith, Jack Brumbaugh, Steve Smith, Mike Brewer showed the same dedication and delight in fathering. “Raising Eric was such a rich part of my life,” Scott Smith told me the other day, just before little Alex Groves, son of Wes, one of a new generation of dedicated fathers, raced into Scott’s arms. Steve Smith’s son John is our neighborhood’s other daddy-on-the spot with daughter Sienna.
    In my own family, I see fatherhood in action as Alex and Nat join their wives in raising Jack, Elsa and Ada, sharing work, joys and outrage.
    Of course daughters-in-law Lisa and Liz tell me theirs is still the lionesses’ share.
    And that’s a role I understand.

    While we’re on the subject, this week’s Chesapeake Curiosities reveals a famous — if little known — fact about Father’s Day. That we celebrate it at all is due to the tenacious efforts of a daddy’s girl named Sonora Smart Dodd. Read on to discover that story.
    For other role models, dads and mentors are all over our pages this week. Enjoy!

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com

A girl learns that money and a sick boyfriend have advantages in this gross romance

Lou (Emilia Clarke: Game of Thrones) needs a job. So when the Traynor family advertises for a companion, she signs on — despite her lack of experience or training in healthcare. Her charge is Will (Sam Claflin: The Huntsman: Winter’s War), a former financial wiz and extreme sports enthusiast who’s now quadriplegic. Will is angry, depressed and in no mood to deal with bumbling Lou.
    Eventually, he warms to her — because what men want is a girl who smiles while taking a litany of abuse. Soon they fall in love, but there’s a hitch in Lou’s happily-ever-after: Will wants to die.
    Can Lou convince him to give life with her a chance? Or is this romance doomed?
    Me Before You isn’t a movie; it’s a manipulation. Director Thea Sharrock (Call the Midwife) makes do with close-ups of pretty people shedding tears. There’s no hint of the demanding work of caring for a quadriplegic, no mention of managing bodily functions, no inkling that Lou understands what she’s getting into. Her job is to make tea, wear outfits seemingly assembled by a demented toddler and smile relentlessly while looking vaguely confused. She’s shown helping in Will’s physical care only twice, lifting his head (don’t strain yourself, Lou).
    There is no substance to their relationship.
    Would the story be so sweepingly romantic if Lou worked at a government-run facility instead of a stately manor. Would she have fallen in love with Will if his family’s money couldn’t afford a private plane to Tahiti (complete with nursing care so Lou can continue to smile and work on her tan)?
    The only actor unscathed by performing in this film is Stephan Peacocke (Wanted), Will’s nurse.
    In the interest of disclosure, I will admit that my seatmate vehemently disagrees with my assessment. And people cried, but not me. I’m saving my tears for where this film is leading the romance genre.

Poor Romantic Drama • PG-13 • 110 mins.

Big fish love to eat them

It started with a comment by an angling buddy who had been fishing for white perch the day before. “I was getting them two at a time, but they were nowhere near big enough,” he said. “I had to search another three hours before I found any keepers.”
    Early the next morning, I was on that very same site with my trusty perch tackle: a light six-foot rig able to handle drifting a two-ounce sinker and a hi-lo rig in deep water. My No. 6 hooks, dressed with orange beads and a small spinner, were baited with nice bits of juicy bloodworm.
    Slowly cruising the area, I found promising marks on my electronic finder and lowered the baits to the bottom 20 feet below. Within a few minutes, I had a thrashing beauty to the surface and then in my hand: a five-inch white perch. Another 20 minutes resulted in a dozen more swimming in my live well. These guys were going to be perfect baits to live-line for rockfish.
    I racked the perch rig in the console rod holder, fired up my Yamaha, kicked the skiff up on plane and headed for my new destination at full throttle. There was not a minute to lose. This was going to be a morning bite — if there was to be any bite at all.
    The bridge I had in mind had not been very productive of late. Jig anglers who normally target the structure for rockfish had migrated. Throttling down and approaching at slow speed, I noted that I had no company.
    Being the only angler in a normally congested area can mean one of two things: Either I was going to be the first to discover a good bite … or everyone else already knew something I didn’t. Hoping for the former, I netted the smallest perch I could find from the live well, gently slid the 6/0 hook just under its skin in front of the dorsal and flipped it over the side close to a concrete pier.
    As the released perch headed for the bottom, I lightly thumbed my reel letting the spool spin freely as 20-pound mono followed the fish into the depths. With no weight and a light fluorocarbon leader, I was depending on the perch to get down to the proper depth where, I hoped, it would be ambushed by a rockfish.
    I did not have to wait long. First I felt the perch make a number of rapid dashes, then all movement stopped. Slowly, then more rapidly, my line began to move away from the structure, going deeper, then heading for the other end of the concrete pier.
    When a striper takes a white perch, it inevitably does three things. First it disables the baitfish with a crushing bite. Then, because of the perch’s sharp spines, it turns it head-first in its jaws. Only then does it swallow the baitfish. Hoping that the fish below had completed these steps, I put the reel in gear and struck.
    The satisfying bend in my rod indicated success as the fish below went wild, pulling line off my reel. I let it run while I shifted my quietly idling motor into reverse to pull away from the bridge.
    Thumbing the spool to add more resistance to the running fish, I slowly increased separation from the bridge and began to draw my adversary into more open water where I could let it run at will. Twenty-pound mono is no match for barnacle-encrusted bridge piers.
    A few minutes later, I led a fat, shining rockfish into my landing net. After measuring and admiring the 23-inch fish, I deposited it into my fish box and covered it with ice. I had dinner plans for this one.
    It took another hour before I could put its twin on ice as well. Releasing the remaining perch from my live well, I fired up my outboard and headed for home, well before noon.

Keeping up, veggie by veggie

This has been a great year for asparagus. Spears are popping out of the ground daily, growing four to six inches in one day. I find it best to cut the asparagus just below the soil line and harvest spears that are at least six inches above ground. This allows you to snap the bottom of the stem, which guarantees they will be free of woody tissues. Keep asparagus beds free of weeds by hoeing weekly. To avoid promoting additional weed growth, scrape away the weeds with minimal disturbance of the soil.
    If your asparagus bed has been growing for three years or more, it is safe to harvest spears until early July.
    Within days after the last harvest, top dress the bed with either organic or chemical fertilizer, and cultivate the fertilizer into the soil to minimize the loss of nitrogen into the atmosphere. Soil incorporation of fertilizers is the only effective way of minimizing de-nitrification. To minimize weeding, mulch the asparagus bed with a layer of shredded paper about four inches thick.
    Soon broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Chinese cabbage and kohlrabi will be ready to harvest. A good replacement crop to occupy this vacant space is okra. For a jumpstart on okra, sow individual seeds in two- or three-inch pots filled with potting soil. Place one seed per pot because okra seeds germinate 100 percent within 10 days. As soon as the seeds germinate, place the pots in full sun outdoors and water as needed. In three to four weeks, the plants will be ready to transplant 18 inches apart in the garden. Okra plants grow best when the weather gets hot. Plants started in a protected area will quickly establish themselves in the garden.
    If you planted garlic in the fall, be on the lookout for firm round stems growing from the middle of the whorl of leaves. These round stems are an indication that the plants are going to flower. As soon as you see swelling near the end of the round stem, cut just below the swollen area to remove the premature flower head. Allowing garlic to flower and produce seeds will result in smaller garlic bulbs and cloves.
    As soon as the foliage of garlic plants starts to wilt and turns brownish-green, it is ready to harvest. Soft-neck garlic can be braided at this time. Hard-neck garlic cannot be braided and is best stored by tying in loose bunches before hanging in a shaded and well-ventilated area.
    If you use stakes or cages to support your tomato plants, treat the cages and stakes with a solution of one part bleach to nine parts water.
    Watch the bottom leaves on your tomato plants. When they start to turn yellow-green, it is time to side-dress the plants with additional nitrogen. If you are an organic gardener, your best source of nitrogen is blood meal. If you are a traditional gardener, use calcium nitrate. Either way, apply one-fourth cup fertilizer per plant and cultivate into the soil.
    As soon as cucumbers, melons and squash start to produce vines, they should be given additional nitrogen if they are to yield their best crop. Vine crops also benefit from additional nitrogen when they are extending their vines and producing fruit at the same time.


Ask The Bay Gardener your questions at DR.FRGouin@gmail.com. Please include your name and address.

Sometimes you need fertilizers

Am I an organic gardener? I’m often asked that question. I suspect that many who read this column conclude that my frequent reference to composting and compost in gardening means I must be an organic gardener. They seem shocked when I say that I use chemical fertilizers in addition to amending my soils with compost. My reasoning is that of a scientist.
    Before my research into compost, my primary area of research was mineral nutrition of plants. My research for the thesis for my master’s degree resulted in the development of a slow-release fertilizer marketed as Osmocote 18-6-12. The three-year study was conducted on yews, a narrow-leaf evergreen common in landscape plantings. At the time, the nursery industry was starting to grow more plants in pots. Nurserymen were using the same fertilizers as in field production. The two are totally different growing conditions. Plants growing in pots require more frequent irrigation, which washes more nutrients through the bottom of the pots. Plants grow faster in pots because of high rooting-media temperatures and better aeration. But the rooting media used for growing plants in pots do not store nutrients well.
    My research and reviews of the results of many other plant-nutrient experts convinced me that it can be very difficult to satisfy the nutrient requirements of plants at different stages of growth.
    My later work in the use of compost in the production of nursery and greenhouse crops reinforced the conclusion that it takes both organic and mineral fertilizers to achieve both plant health and high crop yields.
    In the spring when soils are cool, compost, animal manure and organic fertilizers are unable to generate sufficient nutrients because they require microbial activity to release nutrients. For spring-planted crops such as peas, cabbage, broccoli, onions and cauliflower, chemical fertilizers can provide those nutrients.
    Again when tomato and pepper plants are flowering and fruiting simultaneously, the demand for nitrogen is greater than organics are capable of generating. Plants drop bottom leaves because the nitrogen within them is migrating out of the leaves and moving up the stem. This makes the plants more susceptible to blight.
    In mid-summer when sweet corn is growing rapidly in advance of tasseling, organics are not capable of generating sufficient nitrogen for big, sweet ears. Thus the corn stalks drop their bottom leaves.
    We know from studies on the use of compost to grow bedding plants that the nutrient-supplying power of rooting media containing compost can supply adequate levels of nutrients for only about six weeks.
    Nitrogen is the element plants need in greatest abundance. Organic matter is incapable of supplying all that is needed. Numerous research studies have confirmed my initial research that most plants require five to six times more nitrogen that phosphorus and two to three times more potassium than phosphorus. As day length, moisture and temperature affect plant growth, using the combination of soils rich in organic matter with supplemental applications of chemical fertilizers gives you the best of both worlds.


Ask The Bay Gardener your questions at DR.FRGouin@gmail.com. Please include your name and address.

Chesapeake Curiosities

Daughters of the American Revolution erected the first roadside markers in 1927 and 1928 to rally support for a coast-to-coast national road. The Daughters’ Madonnas of the Trail were 18-foot-tall statues dedicated to the women pioneers who had crossed the country in covered wagons. One of these markers stands in Bethesda (on Wisconsin Ave. across from Metro), with 11 others across the country.
    As car travel became more popular, roadside markers gained support. In Maryland the DAR and the State Roads Commission collaborated in the early 1930s to identify and mark sites of historical significance. The Maryland Historical Trust now oversees about 800 historical markers on our roads.
    In Maryland, these include a series of markers placed in 1932 to mark General’s Highway, according to Nancy Kurtz, National Register Coordinator for the Maryland Historical Trust.
    Did you know the significance of that name?
    It’s the route of General Washington’s journey, December 3 to 23, 1783, from New York to Annapolis to resign as Commander-in-Chief of the first American army.
    Each state has its own marker program.
    If you know of an interesting historical place not marked by a roadside sign, you can propose a new marker to the Maryland Historical Trust: http://mht.maryland.gov/
historicalmarkers/Propose.aspx.
    “It can take from 12 to 18 months for a marker application to be reviewed, revised, ordered, cast and installed,” Kurtz says. It takes eight to 12 weeks to cast and ship a marker.


    Chesapeake Curiosities investigates regional oddities and landmarks to increase understanding of our unique local culture and history.
    Has a sight stymied you? Does an oddity bewilder? Your curiosity may be featured in an upcoming column. Send your questions to chesapeakecuriosities@gmail.com.

We can’t eat salad forever. Now we won’t have to.

These are our salad days.    
    Billowy red leaf, upright sheaves of Romaine, tender baby lettuces, tart sorrel with its lovely red edges, verdant deep green spinach, peppery arugula that takes off like its English name, rocket. They, like my herbs, loved our cool, rainy May and are determined to fill our bowls and bellies before heat makes them bolt into bitterness.
    At the same time, curly kale and rainbow Swiss chard are demanding to be picked and eaten. Can’t you wait, I ask them, but they answer eat me, eat me!
    Less patient still — and always welcome — are radishes, peeking out of the chocolate of our well-composed soil beneath the shade of towering leaves to remind me that their time is short. Red globe and French breakfast, they are brilliant in their color contrast, red on white, crisp to the teeth and sharp to tongue and palate.
    The earth they leave behind awaits okra, red okra I hope, for last year’s from Betty Knapp’s Loch Less Farm nursery was as delicious and bountiful as it was beautiful, coming along at the time of tomatoes, to create and satisfy our craving for a sauté of those two vegetables with shrimp and rice.
    Among onions, we’re harvesting chives, scallions and shallots now and garlic soon, for its three-foot-high stalks are budding and bending in curlicues.
    Underground, potatoes are forming, their rising leaves tell us. Tomatoes and peppers, too, are promises to be kept.
    If only our rhubarb grew as lush as our horseradish.
    Husband Bill Lambrecht’s birth place in McLean County, Illinois, is blessed with soil that ranks at the top of all Earth has to offer. Like that black gold, his Illinois farm roots are deep. Under Bay Gardener Dr. Frank Gouin’s tutelage, he is reviving them, and we are eating well. He does all that in feet rather than acres, proving — along with his lettuce — that a little can go a long way.
    Still, it could have been I, before these salad days, hungrily raiding Chesapeake’s Bounty shelves as first-time Bay Weekly writer BJ Poss describes in this week’s feature, Living Up to a 100 Percent Local Commitment.
    I’ve been a regular customer since proprietor William Kreamer opened a second Chesapeake’s Bounty in North Beach, having been long prepped by the bountiful tales of more southerly Calvert countians used to shopping at the original St. Leonard location. Food that shares your space on earth is an easy taste to acquire.
    That’s just what’s happened to us over the years we’ve been making Bay Weekly, years that coincide with the ripening of the local food movement in Chesapeake Country. Since 1993, we’ve chronicled farmers and farmways, watermen and waterways. At the same time, we’ve followed our words with our custom. We’ve been members of Community Supported Agriculture; shoppers at farm stands and farmers markets; questers for fresh asparagus, strawberries, apples, eggs and honey; buyers of locally raised meat and Bay seafood.
    (The shrimp that go with that okra are local to Gulf rather than Chesapeake waters — but they’re not farm-raised in China or Vietnam. When husband Lambrecht is not tending our garden, he’s writing investigative stories that explain why we don’t buy fish from those sources, or honey either.)
    At the same time, we’ve revived our grandmothers’ old traditions of putting food up.
    For lagging moderns like us, the missing link was a market to carry us over winter, to expand our local ­choices and to consolidate it all in one place, one trip. Chesapeake’s Bounty fills the gap.
    Among my consequent expansions: milk, butter and yogurt, as well as flour, table salt and cooking oil. (Alas, olives for olive oil don’t grow in the Chesapeake Watershed.)
    If you don’t live far enough south in Anne Arundel County to make such bounty worthwhile, maybe you’ll be the one to fill another gap.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com

A sure bet for a good time

From auditions to curtain, every theater production is a gamble, but 2nd Star Productions’ Guys and Dolls beats the odds. A period piece lampooning its own subculture, this 1950 Tony winner for Best Musical still feels funny and frisky from the opening Call to Post to the classic Fugue for Tinhorns. It grabs you by the lapels and doesn’t let go as Nicely Nicely Johnson (James Hulcha), Benny Southstreet (Nathan Bowen) and Rusty Charlie (Daniel Starnes) vow I Got the Horse Right Here.
    Ya gotta love characters like Nathan Detroit (Brian Mellen), who runs The Oldest Established Permanent Floating Crap Game In New York, and his adorable doxie, Miss Adelaide (Jamie Erin Miller), who headlines at The Hot Box nightclub. Never was there a sweeter, more devoted couple, even after 14 years of engagement.
    Then there’s suave Sky Masterson (E. Lee Nicol), a high-roller on the sticky end of a sucker bet whereby he must convince prim Sister Sarah (Erica Miller) of the Salvation Army to go out with him — to Havana. Despite their professed disdain for each other, it’s an offer she can’t refuse when he promises to deliver 12 certified sinners to a critical prayer meeting where General Cartwright (Carole Long) will determine the mission’s fate.
    Broadway is crawling with sinners. There are gamblers: Big Jule from Chicago (Steve Streetman), Harry the Horse (Julian Ball), Brandy Bottle Bates (Eric Meadows), Liver Lips Louie (Stevie Magnum), Angie the Ox (Joshua Hampton), Society Max (Tyler White), Scranton Slim (Andrew Gordon), Li’l Pete (Michael Mathes), Jimmy Two Bags (Jerry Murray) and Black Jack Jolly (Brian Jollie).
    And the Hot Box dolls: Mimi (Lucy Bobbin), Betty Lee (Debra Kidwell), Penny (Allison Baudoin), Lily (Victoria Brown), Josephine (Emily Morgan), Ruby (Christa Kronser), Charlie (Genevieve Ethridge) and La Rue (Sarah Williams and Angeleaza Anderson).
    Despite Sarah’s daily sermonizing to Follow the Fold and Stray No More — complete with a band of Uncle Arvide (Dave Robinson), Agatha (Hillary Glass), Calvinette (Alice Goldberg) and Martha (Kimberly Hopkins) — the sinners see the mission as just another potential gaming site where they can hide from Police Lt. Brannigan (Gene Valendo).
    It’s all so suspenseful! Will the sinners find salvation? Will Sarah and Sky find each other’s arms? Will Adelaide drag Nathan to the altar?
    Jamie Miller is phenomenal as the old-fashioned girl in fishnets, whether spouting her mother’s homespun wisdom or performing at the Hot Box.
    Brian Mellen makes it easy to see why she loves such a weasel as Detroit in his Sue Me.
    E. Lee Nicol (recently of The Music Man) charms in such hits as Luck Be a Lady and I’ve Never Been In Love Before. Erica Miller is flush in the campy If I Were a Bell and her Marry the Man Today duet with Adelaide.
    Dave Robinson delivers a tender More I Cannot Wish You. James Hulcha and Nathan Bowen are Aces in the title song and dance. Hulcha’s jackpot of Pentecostal fervor, Sit Down You’re Rockin’ the Boat, brings the house down.
    From barbershop to choral extravaganzas, the harmonies are always true and the clever lyrics clear to the back row. The choreography is kitschy and tight with several big dance numbers such as Havana and The Crapshooters’ Dance spotlighting the eye-popping moves of choreographer Andrew Gordon alongside Bobbin, Kidwell and White. The Hot Box chorus girls, under the management of the Emcee (Mangum), turn burlesque into burlee-cute whether dressed in short coveralls for I Love You a Bushel and a Peck or undressed in lacy corsets for Take Back Your Mink.
    With a live pit of 12 musicians, five winning sets and at least 60 period costumes, this is spectacle to beat all spectacles. For a little action, Guys and Dolls is a sure thing for all ages.


Guys and Dolls by Frank Loesser, Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows. Director: Debbie Barber-Eaton. Music Director: Sandy Melson Griese. Choreographer: Andrew Gordon. Producer: Nathan Bowen. Stage Manager: Joanne D. Wilson. Set Designer: Jane B. Wingard. Costumes, Makeup and Hair: Linda Swann. Lights & Sound: Garrett R. Hyde.

Playing thru June 25, F & Sa at 8 pm, Su at 3pm at Bowie Playhouse, 16500 White Marsh Park Dr., Bowie. $22 with discounts, rsvp 410-757-5700; ­www.2ndstarproductions.com.

Mutants rise up to face an ancient foe in this meandering superhero tale

In ancient Egypt, godlike pharaoh En Sabah Nur (Oscar Isaac: Star Wars The Force Awakens) enters his elaborate pyramid not for death but for resurrection in a new, eternal body. Lest his tyranny prove eternal, conspirators knock down the pyramid. En Sabah Nur is entombed.
    In the 1980s, his tomb is opened, and En Sabah Nur rises, taking the name Apocalypse, which should give you a hint as to his plans. To cleanse Earth of the vile humans who make society weak, he recruits four strong mutants.
    One is Magneto (Michael Fassbender: Steve Jobs), long-lost friend of Charles Xavier (James McAvoy: Victor Frankenstein). Magneto has good cause to hate humans; they’ve killed everyone he loved and have hunted him for decades.
    This time Charles is on the other side, and with Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence: Joy) gathers a warrior band.
    Who will win the battle of the mutants?
    X-Men Apocalypse could have been a great film. The cast is powerful, the director (Bryan Singer: X-Men: Days of Future Past) has done well with the franchise and the story introduces all the popular X-Men.
    Instead, it is overlong, smug and frustrating.
    Singer stalls the plot with long scenes of destruction. If all the slow-motion shots were excised, the film would run about 90 minutes instead of two and a half hours.
    Roles lack character and motivation. Apocalypse is a nebulous bad guy who soliloquizes on doom and death and can’t seem to make friends. Only Magneto seems to have a clear purpose for his actions. But the ever-expanding cast makes his scenes few and far between.
    The only spark of life comes from the younger generation. As heroes in training, Scott (Tye Sheridan: Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse), Jean (Sophie Turner: Game of Thrones) and Kurt (Kodi Smit-McPhee: Galipoli) are funny and offer interesting examples of what happens when mutations appear during puberty.
    If you’re a diehard fan of the X-Men comics, X-Men Apocalypse is worth the ticket.

Fair Fantasy • PG-13 • 144 mins.