Local talent shines in ‘Variations on Change’ from Rapid Lemon Productions

Rapid Lemon Productions’ Variations on Change is a showcase of local talent. It is part of the Variations Project, an annual 10-minute play contest, with each year’s theme chosen by the previous year’s audiences. The 12 short world-premiere plays presented in this year’s production depict the theme of change in humorous, obvious, serious, and subtle ways. Directed by Tracie Marie Jiggetts at Motor House in Baltimore, each performance is also live-streamed.

Clockwise from top left: EN’B, N. J. Saroff, Rocky Nunzio, EN’B in ‘Variations on Change.’ Photos courtesy Rapid Lemon Productions.

The cast of seven actors handles the multiple roles well. In Malik Berry’s “To Love an Ass,” Isaiah Mason Harvey brings up Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream to comment on the strange situation his fiancé (EN’B) finds themselves in. In Taylor Leigh Lamb’s “Nothing Fundamental,” EN’B plays a slick, manipulative political consultant, while Jamal Kitchen Jr. plays the angry mayor Jay, frustrated at the glacial pace of change. In Jalice Corral’s “The Lost Traveler,” Kitchen plays Marcus, an astronaut desperately seeing to escape his prison on an alien planet. In R.A. Pauli’s “Bright Creatures of the Air,” Kitchen plays a Caterpillar, looking for his transformed siblings, while Crystal Sewell and N.J. Saroff play flighty Butterflies, unwilling to see any connection between themselves and the Caterpillar.

N.J. Saroff gives a wonderfully comic performance in Karen Li’s “Meltdown” as a fruit smoothie melodramatically narrating their adventure on the ferry. Steven J. Satta’s “Lily, Arthur” is filled with hints and subtext as seemingly simple Private Mac (Rocky Nunzio) talks with “tour manager” Arthur (Isaiah Mason Harvey) backstage about “singing for men” and other subjects. Nunzio and Harvey bring humor, subtlety, and heart to these roles that make the play shine. Harvey channels Hannibal Lecter as a delightfully sinister Cat in Victoria Rentz’s “Vote,” while the Mice (N.J. Saroff, Jamal Kitchen Jr., Majenta Thomas, and EN’B) argue over why they elected him as President. Thomas gives a quirky friendliness to Jazz in Jessica Rota’s “Birthday Party,” encouraging and supporting Amy (Crystal Sewell) as she regrets not accomplishing her 10-year goals.

Clockwise from top left: Isaiah Mason Harvey, Crystal Sewell, and EN’B; Crystal Sewell and Majenta Thomas; Jamal Kitchen Jr, N. J. Saroff, and Crystal Sewell; Rocky Nunzio and Crystal Sewell in ‘Variations on Change.’ Photos courtesy Rapid Lemon Productions.

Set Designer Bruce Kapplin has created a simple yet effective set, with a sofa, chair, small table, and bench appearing as necessary. Sound and Video Designer Max Garner throws up various images on a background screen and provides sounds such as offstage voices, a TV program, and the static of a communication device.

Costume Designer Oliver Behrens has colorful cloaks that look like butterfly wings for “Bright Creatures of the Air,” a blue shirt and frilled pants for “Meltdown,” a donkey’s head for “To Love an Ass,” and military-looking uniforms for “Lily, Arthur.” Lighting Designer Martin Smith blacks out the stage in between plays and scenes.

Tracie Marie Jiggetts does a great job as director. The actors navigate the small stage and each other well and move from one role to the next quickly and seamlessly. As an incentive for seeing the show in person, the audience can vote for next year’s theme. Variations on Change is a great opportunity to see the Baltimore area’s talented playwrights, performers, and tech crew.

Running Time: Approximately 2 hours, including one 15-minute intermission.

Variations on Change plays through October 2, 2022, at 8 pm on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays and at 3 pm on Sundays presented by Rapid Lemon Productions. All performances will be live, and available both online and in person at Motor House, 120 W. North Avenue, Baltimore, MD. Purchase tickets ($18) online.

The Variations on Change program is downloadable here.

COVID Safety: In-person attendance will follow strict COVID safety protocols in accordance with City of Baltimore guidelines.