Friday Five: Ki5, Turner Luce, Studio Lounge, kaito ian, Mree

MUSIC FRIDAY FIVE

Cover art for the albums and singles featured in the Friday Five.

Friday Five highlights music by Washtenaw County-associated artists and labels.

This week features a cappella techno by Ki5, Americana by Turner Luce, quirky pop by Studio Lounge, electronica by kaito ian, and dream folk by Mree.

A Fair of Affairs: Ann Arbor Civic Theatre's "The Real Thing" is all about the dangerous game of love

THEATER & DANCE REVIEW

Actors sitting on a couch. Chris Grimm (Henry), Kara Williams (Charlotte), Manny Abascal Jr. (Max), and Sara Long (Annie) in Ann Arbor Civic Theatre's The Real Thing.

Four scores: Chris Grimm (Henry), Kara Williams (Charlotte), Manny Abascal Jr. (Max), and Sara Long (Annie) tend to affairs of the heart in Ann Arbor Civic Theatre's The Real Thing. Photo courtesy of Ann Arbor Civic Theatre.

A typical Tom Stoppard play features a whole lot of words just to get to a basic point. It can be intellectually stimulating—or a wee bit draggy if you're looking for more action on stage.

But the high-energy Ann Arbor Civic Theatre production of Stoppard's The Real Thing that opened last Friday to a sold-out crowd flows at an excellent pace thanks to director David Widmayer and grips your attention throughout.

The play is set in 1980s London and focuses on two couples. Henry (Chris Grimm) is a playwright married to Charlotte (Kara Williams), an actress who frequently stars in Henry’s shows, including his current piece, House of Cards. They are good friends with Annie (Sara Long) and her husband Max (Manny Abascal Jr.), who is also an actor and starring in House of Cards with Charlotte. 

AARON BURCH EMBRACES AMBIGUITY AND NOSTALGIA IN HIS NEW ESSAY COLLECTION, “A KIND OF IN-BETWEEN”

WRITTEN WORD INTERVIEW

Author Aaron Burch is on the left and the cover of his essay collection, "A Kind of In-Between" is on the right.

Aaron Burch recounts major life changes and memories in the essays of A Kind of In-Between. Throughout the pages, Burch questions what is important in life. What do you remember? What does it mean? Why are you happy or not? 

Focusing on the places he has been is one approach that Burch takes to inform these inquiries. He shares that he grew up in Washington and has subsequently lived in Michigan and Illinois as an adult. In the sentence that lends itself to the book’s title, he narrates his road trip:

I’m somewhere in the middle of Pennsylvania, driving around this big, long turn while also going down a decent decline. I don’t know how steep; I don’t really have any idea how to measure or guesstimate that kind of thing. I can tell it’s steeper than anything in Michigan but less so than Washington, a version of the kind of in-between that I return to again and again—known but not, neither childhood nor adult, not quite then or now, here or there. 

This ambiguity begins in the physical world and then seeps into other contexts. The human urge to name and define things breaks down when something is neither one nor the other. Burch concludes this essay called “Ohiopyle” with a question: “Were you to ask me, somewhere in the middle of Pennsylvania, whether home meant Washington or Michigan, what would I answer? I’m not sure.” Still, maybe one does not have to decide, as Burch highlights “the interconnectedness of everything and everyone” in the first essay of the collection. 

Friday Five: Prism Quartet, Jib Kidder, Virga, Blowhole, Frontier Ruckus

MUSIC FRIDAY FIVE

Cover art for the albums and singles featured in the Friday Five.

Friday Five highlights music by Washtenaw County-associated artists and labels.

This week features classical/jazz/new music by PRISM Quartet, glitch pop by Jib Kidder, indie rock by Virga, thrash-punk by Blowhole, and indie-folk by Frontier Ruckus.

Deck Halls the Halls With Boughs of Corn: Encore Theatre's "White Christmas" hits all the right nostalgic spots

THEATER & DANCE REVIEW

Encore Theatre's production of White Christmas.

Photo by Michele Anliker Photography.

As a starting point, let’s just agree: White Christmas is pure, nostalgic corn. 

But ever since I was a kid, watching the 1954 Bing Crosby movie with my musical-loving mom, it’s always gotten me right in the feels. The world-wise romantic leads who initially dislike each other? The outwardly gruff but paternal General who’s deeply beloved by his men? The snow that refuses to fall in Vermont until conflicts are resolved, and love and goodness prevail?

Like it’s on the cob, ready to be shucked, people.

But recognizing how a story blatantly pulls on your heartstrings sometimes does little to defuse its impact, which is why I was all too happy to check out the stage musical adaptation of White Christmas at Dexter’s Encore Theatre.

This Is Your Song: Jeff Tweedy's New Book Makes Us Think About How We Connect With Our Favorite Music

MUSIC WRITTEN WORD REVIEW

Jeff Tweedy stands with April Baer of Michigan Radio's Stateside.

Jeff Tweedy hangs out with April Baer of Michigan Radio's Stateside. Baer spoke with Tweedy about his latest book, World Within a Song: Music That Changed My Life and Life That Changed My Music, last month at U-M's Rackham Auditorium in partnership with Literati Bookstore. Photo taken from Jeff Tweedy's Facebook page.

Back in 2009, I actually heard Wilco for the first time.

It’s not that I didn’t know the band’s music, but it was the first time I had developed an emotional connection to one of their songs.

It was “You and I,” a heartwarming duet with Feist from the band’s self-titled album. The track addresses two lovers trying to preserve a relationship as Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy sings, “You and I, we might be strangers / However close we get sometimes / It’s like we never met.”

While I’ve never met Tweedy and or any of the other Wilco members, “You and I” emanates a comforting familiarity in terms of its memorable lyrics, bittersweet harmonies, and smooth bassline.

There’s an unexplainable pull I feel to it, and it’s something Tweedy easily masters after nearly three decades of writing Wilco songs.

“I’m much more fascinated by the blurry area between a song and the mind that receives it, puts it back together in a shape that fits their own life, and allows the heart to take ownership,” writes Tweedy in his latest book, World Within a Song: Music That Changed My Life and Life That Changed My Music.

That statement nicely encapsulates the key takeaway from Tweedy’s third book, which highlights the memorable connections—both positive and negative—he’s made with 50 different songs throughout his life.

Much Ado: U-M Theatre's "Imogen Says Nothing" bears bizarre and haunting moments

THEATER & DANCE REVIEW

Cast members of Imogen Says Nothing on the Power Center stage.

Photo by Peter Smith Photography

U-M theater professor Malcolm Tulip has long established a reputation for bringing challenging, provocative productions to local stages, going back to his days as a director (and performer) at the sadly defunct Performance Network Theatre.

So it was no surprise to find Tulip at the helm of the U-M theater department’s strange, darkly haunting production of Aditi Brennan Kapil’s Imogen Says Nothing, mounted at the Power Center this past weekend. Inspired by a character, Imogen, who has no lines, but is nonetheless mentioned in the first folio edition of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, the play imagines a woman who fights to perform on stage in Shakespeare’s time, when only men played theatrical roles (by law!), and campaigns to appear in the first written version of the play, too.

Plus, there are bears.

Imogen is a former bear (!) who has escaped the bear-baiting arena next to the Globe Theatre, which hearkens back to one of Shakespeare’s most famous stage directions, in The Winter’s Tale: “Exit, pursued by a bear.”

While enmeshed with a troupe of actors, Imogen confronts her former peers, and the line that encapsulates the play, “It is a lonesome thing to be absent,” further expands its meaning.

New Day Rising: Penny Seats' "Sunrise Coven" tackles the opioid epidemic and second chances

THEATER & DANCE REVIEW

Jeannine Thompson (Hallie), Allison Megroet (Winter Moon), David Collins (Ethan) in Penny Seats' Sunrise Coven.

Jeannine Thompson (Hallie), Allison Megroet (Winter Moon), David Collins (Ethan) star in Penny Seats' Sunrise Coven. Photo courtesy of Penny Seats Theatre Company.

It’s no secret the United States has a drug problem, and painkillers are at the top of the list. The Penny Seats Theatre Company’s Sunrise Coven tackles that conversation and then some.

Written by Brendan Bourque-Sheil, the show takes place in Buckstop, Texas, a small town where everyone knows everyone else and all their business. We meet Hallie Heaton (Jeannine Thompson), a diabetic nurse practitioner who has wound up in the hospital because she overdosed on Oxycodone. The doctor taking care of her is Annie (Inchai Reed), who reveals she has based her entire career on Hallie and sees her as an idol.

Hallie gets the unfortunate news that due to her OD, she has lost her nursing license. On top of that, her eyesight is starting to go bad and she's having visions she can’t explain. 

The Folds of Space: EMU’s "A Wrinkle in Time" was a quick-paced journey for the whole family

THEATER & DANCE REVIEW

EMU's production of A Wrinkle in Time.

Time travelers: Laney Bass (Mrs. Which), Josi Middaugh (Charles Wallace), Lydia Tucker (Happy Medium), Annabelle Rickert (Meg Murray), Chandler Graham (Calvin) starred in Eastern Michigan University's production of A Wrinkle in Time. Photo courtesy of EMU Theatre.

Audiences at Eastern Michigan University’s Liberty Theatre traveled through time and hopped across realms over the weekend.

Tracy Young’s adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time, based on the book by Madeleine L’Engle, was a fast-paced family adventure that follows Meg Murry (Annabelle Rickert), an outcast at school who has trouble fitting in and making friends. The only people she’s close to are her mom (Amanda Bates) and her spunky younger brother, Charles Wallace (Josi Middaugh). Meg’s father (Jonathan Bias) has been missing for quite some time, and she’s still determined to figure out what happened to him.

One day, Charles Wallace convinces Meg they should check out the haunted house at the bottom of the hill. On the way they run into Calvin (Chandler Graham), who joins the siblings. At the house, they meet the eccentric Mrs. Whatsit (Brookelyn Hannah), Mrs. Who (Maura Doyle) who only talks in quotes, and the ominous voice of Mrs. Which (Laney Bass) whose presence is everywhere but isn’t seen by the kids. Turns out they are magical beings that can travel through space and time via a tesseract, a form of traveling by folding the fabric of space and time. 

Friday Five: Joe Hertler, Modern Lady Fitness, DFRNC & Alexa Kenny, zagc, BigPlanet

MUSIC FRIDAY FIVE

Cover art for the albums and singles featured in the Friday Five.

Friday Five highlights music by Washtenaw County-associated artists and labels.

This week features an Ann Arbor-filmed video by pop-rockers Joe Hertler and the Rainbow Seekers, artsy indie by Modern Lady Fitness, hip-hop R&B by DFRNC featuring Alexa Kenny, percussive techno by zagc, and hip-hop by BigPlanet.