Dual Struggles: Encore Theatre's "Big Fish" puts up a good fight

THEATER & DANCE REVIEW

Encore Theatre's Big Fish

David Moan as Edward Bloom, Emmi Bills as Sandra Bloom, and John Reed as Young Will in Encore Theatre's production of Big Fish. Photos by Michelle Anliker Photography.

A colleague of mine once observed that when you ask people about their mothers, you tend to hear stories and fond memories, but when you ask people about their fathers, tears flow within minutes. 

Why?

Perhaps because traditional, American modes of masculinity and emotional expression have stood at loggerheads for many generations, making father-child relationships highly complicated. Yet it’s precisely this dual struggle to connect that drives Big Fish, the novel-turned-movie-turned-stage-musical now playing at Dexter’s Encore Theatre.

Discomfort Food: Chef Tunde Wey turns up the heat on racial inequities

THEATER & DANCE REVIEW INTERVIEW

Tunde Wey by Deji Osinulu

Tunde Wey by Deji Osinulu.

“I was eager to be successful. I still am.”
--Tunde Wey

When I heard chef Tunde Wey would be hosting dinners and food trucks in Ann Arbor and Detroit designed to get people talking about race in America, I sought more information. 

The word that came up most was "provocative"; runner-up: "uncomfortable."

For late April and early May, Wey has brought his Saartj dining concept to Michigan, which is where the Nigerian chef came to study at age 16. This is also where he started to make his mark with (revolver), the pop-up restaurant in Hamtramck featuring a cast of rotating chefs.

The Saartj project calls attention to privilege. In one version of the project, white people were charged more than minorities for their food. In the Detroit version, diners fill out a questionnaire providing information about their race, education, and income mobility; the price of their dinner then increases according to their relative privilege.

Brass Tacks' "39 Steps" has giddy fun with the Hitchcock classic

THEATER & DANCE REVIEW

Brass Tacks Ensemble's The 39 Steps

Daniel Bizer-Cox, Dory Mead, Isaac Ellis, and Maegan Murphy make the most of their invisible car in Brass Tacks' minimalist take on Alfred Hitchcock's The 39 Steps.

The bare-bones thrust stage in a playroom at the Children’s Creative Center is the perfect setting for the Brass Tacks Ensemble’s production of Patrick Barlow’s playful The 39 Steps

Barlow turns Alfred Hitchcock’s famous thriller into an imaginative comic romp. While staying true to Hitchcock’s script, the play lets four actors engage is theatrical play as giddy as many days of child’s play at the Creative Center. 

"Gruesome Playground Injuries" continues Kickshaw's dedication to challenging theater

THEATER & DANCE REVIEW

Kickshaw Theatre's Gruesome Playground Injuries

Doug (Michael Lopetrone) and Kayleen (Dani Cochrane)flirt with romance and self-sabotage in Gruesome Playground Injuries. Photo by Sean Carter Photography.

Fittingly, Rajiv Joseph’s Gruesome Playground Injuries, now being staged by Kickshaw Theatre at Ann Arbor’s trustArt Studios, starts in a parochial school’s infirmary, where a deep, lasting friendship takes root between a girl and a boy who recognize in each other a common compulsion toward self-destruction.

The boy, Doug (Michael Lopetrone), is a reckless, thrill-seeking daredevil, while the girl, Kayleen (Dani Cochrane), suffers from stomach problems and later develops a serious cutting habit. The 80-minute play shows glimpses of these two characters at several different ages, between 8 and 38, but it jumps around in time, inviting us to piece together the puzzle of Doug and Kayleen’s intense connection by shifting from childhood to adulthood and back again.

Art and science come together in Civic Theatre’s production of Tom Stoppard's "Arcadia"

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A2 Civic Theatre's Arcadia cast

L-R: Kate Umstatter as Hannah Jarvis, Laura Lilly Cotten as Thomasina Coverly, Chris Grimm as Septimus Hodge, and Russ Schwartz as Valentine Coverly in Ann Arbor Civic Theatre's production of Tom Stoppard's Arcadia. Photo by Lisa Gavan | Gavan Photo.

Melissa Freilich loves Tom Stoppard’s plays.

“Tom Stoppard always asks you to think and feel as well,” she said.

Freilich is directing the Ann Arbor Civic Theatre’s production of Stoppard’s Arcadia, opening April 19 at the Arthur Miller Theatre.

It’s a play that combines entertainment with thought-provoking discussions of everything from poetry and mathematics to thermodynamics.

Tripping Hither, Tripping Thither: UMGASS delights with "Iolanthe"

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The Fairy Chorus and Iolanthe Herself

The Fairy Chorus of Iolanthe at the Mendelssohn Theater.

This weekend, the University of Michigan Gilbert and Sullivan Society (UMGASS) stages Iolanthe, bringing Thirsty Fairies, Peer Pressure, and one long strange trip of a dream sequence to the Mendelssohn Theater. Iolanthe is the seventh of Gilbert & Sullivan's 14 comic operettas, steeped in the class divisions and political satire of the day, with a hearty dollop of supernatural weirdness.

Directed by Greg Hassold and featuring an extremely solid pit orchestra led by Thomas Burton, this wonderfully busy production has a lot going on in every scene and is just dripping with the talent of fresh-faced leads, seasoned supporting characters, and a chorus that is plainly having a wonderful time.

From the Hartland: Purple Rose Resident Artist David MacGregor pens plays in Michigan

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David MacGregor

Playwright David MacGregor on the set of Gravity, staged by the Purple Rose Theatre in 2010.

“What the hell?” David MacGregor says from across a Formica table in Leo’s Coney Island in Hartland, Michigan.

This "what the hell?" is not coming from frustration or outrage, but from a sense of “what are the odds?” 

MacGregor says his story is entirely unlikely. After all, he is a successful playwright living and working in Hartland, Michigan, who has received international acclaim for his works Gravity, The Late Great Henry Boyle, and Vino Veritas, all of which have been performed by Jeff Daniels' Purple Rose Theatre Company in Chelsea, where MacGregor is a Resident Artist.

Theater for the People: U-M's "Me and My Girl" is a rollicking populist musical comedy

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U-M's Me and My Girl

Elliott Styles as Bill Snibson and Sophie Madorsky as Sally in the U-M Department of Musical Theatre’s production of Me and My Girl playing at the Power Center April 12-15. Photo by Peter Smith Photography.

It feels a bit like director/choreographer Linda Goodrich, a professor in U-M’s musical theater department, has long had a date with destiny regarding the 1937 British musical Me and My Girl.

For although the show had long been one of Britain’s biggest home-grown stage musical hits, it didn’t make its Broadway debut until 1986 -- the same year Goodrich moved to New York.

“I remember seeing it on a marquee, but I never did see it,” said Goodrich. “In fact, I’d never seen it on stage before we started rehearsals. I’d always been familiar with the music and been curious about the show, but it just never crossed my path again.”

Purple Rose Theatre delivers a hilarious send-up of Sherlock Holmes

THEATER & DANCE REVIEW

Purple Rose Theatre's Sherlock Holmes cast

Alternate Fictional Realities: Paul Stroili (Watson), Tom Whalen (Vincent van Gogh), Sarab Kamoo (Irene), and Mark Colson (Sherlock Holmes) mix it up in Purple Rose's Sherlock send-up. Photo by Sean Carter Photography

Arthur Conan Doyle purists may be shocked. But imagine an alternative universe in which Doyle’s famous detective Sherlock Holmes and “the woman” Irene Adler are lovers and live together at 221B Baker Street with Holmes’ trusted companion and chronicler Dr. John Watson.

That’s the set up for Detroit playwright David MacGregor’s hilarious Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Elusive Ear at the Purple Rose Theatre.

Pulp & PencilPoint TheatreWorks Presents the AADL Pub Reading Series

THEATER & DANCE PREVIEW

Pulp Presents the AADL Pub Reading Series

Why do we bother going out to movie theaters -- with their expensive, salty popcorn and sticky floors -- when we could just sit in the comfort of our own homes binge-watching television? I believe it’s because there’s something nourishing in having a communal experience with others when we’re listening to stories. 

There’s something even more fulfilling in watching live theater, especially local and intimate theater, when you’re packed into a room listening to performers who have honed their craft. When done well, it feels deeply personal. 

This is the intention of the AADL Pub Reading Series presented by Pulp in partnership with PencilPoint TheatreWorks: a set of staged readings that will be performed at Conor O’Neill’s on the fourth Sunday of each month from April through July. All four of the plays chosen for the Pub Reading Series focus on connecting, and on people who struggle to form a community. They’re also each a witty and brilliant play in their own right.