Slapstick Shenanigans: Purple Rose Theatre finds the funny side of friendship in "What Springs Forth"


Purple Rose's What Springs Forth. Photo by Sean Carter Photography.

Dwandra Nickole, Sarab Kamoo, Sonja Marquis, and Suzi Regan wrestle with physical comedy in Purple Rose's What Springs Forth. Photo by Sean Carter Photography.

Playwright Carey Crim has conjured up a rollicking, raunchy and, at times, revealing comedy about summer, friendship and the perils of Michigan outdoors.

The Purple Rose Theatre is presenting the world premiere of Crim’s What Springs Forth

Director Kate Thomsen and her four-women cast serve up a comedy that combines more than a bit of raunch, expertly executed physical comedy, some quiet reflection on unfulfilled dreams, and most importantly, the strength of female bonding.

As the play begins, two women are driving up to meet their other bestie who has invited them to enjoy Michigan outdoors. Sallie Ben and Robyn are imagining a posh spa, invigorating massages, and quiet walks on a summer evening. 

That would be a great weekend away from Robyn’s rambunctious boys and Sallie’s troubled daughter. 

Of course, it doesn’t work out that way.

Purple Rose's What Springs Forth. Photo by Sean Carter Photography.

Sonja Marquis, Dwandra Nickole, Sarab Kamoo dive into the slapstick that's a huge part of Purple Rose's What Springs Forth. Photo by Sean Carter Photography.

Their friend Emma, a businesswoman who tries to make up for her poor business skills with over-the-top enthusiasm for any new-age, back-to-nature scheme. Her dear friends are her test group. Emma has been inspired by someone she’s met while volunteering at a prison. Malou is part guru, part drill sergeant, and more.

Thomsen puts the emphasis on rapid patter and outlandishly funny physical comedy at the heart of Crim’s play. She and her cast also ease it down enough to make emotional and bonding moments credible. But it’s the slapstick that gets the howls. Rebirthing has never been funnier.

Sarah Kamoo plays the nonstop cheerleader Emma who has failed at business and has invested in a property that is nothing but an empty lot in the deep woods. Kamoo’s Emma is a firecracker waiting to go off, charming but gullible. And when she goes off, it’s epic.

Sonja Marquis plays Sallie, a transplanted Southern girl. Marquis has the twang, the snap, and a great sense of comic timing, whether it’s reeling off inspired riffs on menopause and body issues or handling the well-choreographed physical comedy.

Dwandra Nickole plays Robyn, the most level-headed and grounded of the three women. Robyn opens the play multi-tasking while Sallie drives recklessly to the voice of Elvis. Nickole presents Robyn’s indispensable command but also her comedy chops. She snaps off the comic responses and seems to be having great fun getting physical. 

Bonding has a whole new meaning in this play.

Purple Rose's What Springs Forth. Photo by Sean Carter Photography.

Marquis_Regan_Kamoo_Nickole. Sonja Marquis, Suzi Regan, Sarab Kamoo, and Dwandra Nickole star in Purple Rose's What Springs Forth. Photo by Sean Carter Photography.

Suzi Regan is the mysterious Malou—or just Lou. As guru, Lou has invented a fake back-to-nature routine for her friend and “business partner” Emma. She’s a mystery, a tough woman, and more. Regan is particularly good at deadpan, with right-on-cue dry responses to the various complaints of Robyn and Sallie. And she shows off some commando moves.

The abstract set design by Sarah Pearline is flexible and colorful—and totally not a quiet forest setting, but it works to provide room for romping.

The importance of women bonding seems to be a theme at Purple Rose this season. Artistic director Jeff Daniels' revival of his play Diva Royale also features a group of women friends who share a love for Celine Dion. The stories and characters are very different between Diva Royale and What Springs Forth, but Daniels and Crim both celebrate the strength and triumph of women when they bond together, no matter how crazy things get.

Hugh Gallagher has written theater and film reviews over a 40-year newspaper career and was most recently the managing editor of the Observer & Eccentric Newspapers in suburban Detroit.

The Purple Rose Theatre presentation of Carey Crim’s “What Springs Forth” continues at the Purple Rose Theatre, 137 Park Street, Chelsea, through August 31. Tickets can be purchased at the theater Tuesday-Saturday, 1-6 pm, and Sunday, 12-5 pm, online at, or by calling 734-433-7673.