Shirley Valentine continues through April 21.
SHIRLEY VALENTINE at Williamston Theatre is a one-woman treat directed by Lynn Lammers. In the title role, Julia Glander makes it a joy for the audience to "be the walls" she is talking to as she cooks egg and chips in a very real kitchen. This middle-aged, middle-class British housewife disarmingly explores the too-small life that confines her, and entertains the opportunity to jet off to Greece for an adventure. Willy Russell's script cleverly introduces us to characters we never see and creates a surprisingly broad story through the narrow but charming channel of one charismatic actress. The very realistic kitchen set effectively transforms to a Greek beach for Act II, with "windows" of sea and sky all around the auditorium to include the audience in the setting. (Set design Daniel C. Walker; lighting design Genesis Garza) This show is a "vacation" for the mind and prompts us to challenge the limits of our own lives.
Shirley Valentine continues through April 21.
Homegrown Productions is a relatively "new kid in town" theatre group in St. Johns, just 20 minutes north of Lansing - and we finally got to see one of their shows, Plaza Suite, which closed last weekend. We saw it too late to send a "proper" review since the run was all but over. It was a nostalgic trip for us, since Mark and I first met when we were cast in that first act 26 years ago at Spotlight Theatre.
The production was classic Neil Simon humor, with uneven talent, but high points including Lansing theatre veterans, Susan DeRosa, Marie Papciak and Bob Murrell. The venue is an elegant old school proscenium stage, which the group is privileged to use for free, and is raising funds to renovate. They have already installed comfy theatre seats, and are now raising funds to upgrade electronics so the unfortunate lighting tech (John Gross) doesn't have to operate from a backstage cubbyhole where he can't even see the actors.
So anyway, keep your eye out for Homegrown Productions on the GLUT and/or their Facebook page - (search "Homegrown Productions" and choose the one that says "St. Johns") and watch for future shows and auditions.
Wilson Auditorium is easy to find - take 127 or 27 north. Cass Street is one block south of M 21 (State St.)
101 W. Cass St.
St. Johns, MI 48879
Compulsion, or the House Behind at Peppermint Creek is a new script by Rinne Groff, directed by Mycah Artis. It certainly fulfills Peppermint Creek's mission to present theatre that "…addresses vital issues in our society, raises awareness, and encourages dialogue…"
It's the story of Sid Silver modeled on the writer Meyer Levin, who wrote his own story as a curator of Anne Frank’s memory in “The Obsession.” He cajoles and fights with various publishers, and his wife, as he is driven to tell Anne's story his way. His version of a stage play makes Anne the voice for every Jew, and he fights against the a softer, more sentimental version (by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett.)
We vacillate between sympathy and irritation with our heroic but irrational lead character, earnestly played by James Houska. James brings human warmth to this character, despite his temper tantrums and chauvinistic soap boxing. Genevieve Taricco and Joe Dickson get purple hearts for differentiating their characters in multiple roles, with multiple costume and hair changes, especially for Ms. Taricco. Some of these slow the pace, but the evocative music fills the space and continues the mood.
The set is spare but versatile, meeting the challenge of accommodating multiple, large marionettes, who "dropped in" and participated in some scenes. These were created by noted Lansing puppeteer, Fred Englegau, and were somewhat rustic and stylized, interesting, but at times awkward and distracting. Silver, like Levin, had once run a marionette theatre, but beyond that literal connection, they bring to life the haunting presence of Anne Frank, and others, and help us question who is "pulling the strings" in the legal battles over telling the Anne Frank story. Puppeteers were Sierra Olson and Leo Poroshin.
This show continues through March 30. 8pm Thur/Fri/Sat and 2pm Sunday, March 24 only.
Miller Performing Arts Center on the south side, on Curry Lane, off Miller Road, next to North School.www.peppermintcreek.org
I was a little fearful because SWEET MERCY included my two "areas of difficulty" in theatre: history and Shakespeare, both of which I tend to "not get" and then feel unqualified to "review" a show. This new script overcame those fears—and instilled the more profound fear of man's inhumanity to man — along with hope from, and for, those who want to help.
We get to know and care about real characters in conflict as the past fights its way into the present. There's a "real story," not just a historical soap box. References to Titus Andronicus and Romeo and Juliet set us up for the themes of revenge, love, and tragedy. ("Sweet mercy is nobility's true badge." Titus Andronicus.) What are our ethical responsibilities in the face of such conflicts?
Read more about Jane and the creation of the G.L.U.T. on the "About G.L.U.T." page.
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