REVIEW: Five Lesbians Eating a Quiche

In the light of today, I didn’t suspect to be given the opportunity to write a review for Basement Arts’ production of “Five Lesbian Eating a Quiche”, but last minute, the theater department received an email inviting us to see the show, despite it being what was supposed to be the show’s dress rehearsal. So at 7:30p, fifty-one people filed into the Newman Studio in the Walgreen Drama Center, program in hand, and cheered on five lesbians with a severe quiche addiction.

The show was a delight. It was funny, satirical, well-acted, clever and all-together a terrific production. Anna Demarinis served as Lulie, the president of the Susan B. Anthony Society for the Sisters of Gertrude Stein, leading the show as a true powerhouse. Ruby Perez, “Dale”, and Patricia Joseph “Wren”, portrayed a compulsive, but heartfelt couple, so glad to be able to admit, in the face of the nuclear apocalypse, that they were in fact, lovers. Sofia Angelopolous portrayed Vern, a rigid, and rather intense officer in charge of maintaining the community center. And Maddy Paxson, with an unexpected British accent, served as a perfect contrast to the rest of the group, as the new officer “Ginny”, who was unawares to the lesbianism of the rest of the group. Sydney Prince’s directing was spot-on, and despite the news of the day, all fifty-one of us left laughing.

But what struck me about “Five Lesbians…” was its timeliness. After today’s announcement and as many students mourned the closing of campus for the rest of the semester, seeing five women look down the barrel of the end of time was hard. No, I’m not comparing coronavirus to the nuclear end, but for many students in STMD, they saw the majority of their work go down the drain. Performances were canceled, projects were postponed indefinitely, and no one seemed to know what was next. Basement Art’s production reminded me though, quite clearly, that in times of uncertainty, there are certain things we can, and have to, rely on.

We’ve had many discussions through my time at SMTD about creating art in the time of uncertainty. And while some may not consider a show as silly and entertaining as “Five Lesbians Eating a Quiche” art that addresses such a subject, I would wholeheartedly disagree. By the end of the show, I could’ve said, with great certainty that I felt a little more hopeful about our situation today. Maybe it was the relief of knowing I didn’t have to walk out the door and face nuclear fall-out, or that I wouldn’t have to decide which person in the room we’d have to kill. But whatever it was, it was enough to know we’d all survive.

More than that, “Five Lesbians…” was willing to share a little part of their process knowing that most of its audiences had given up theirs. Art in times of uncertainty relies on what art is founded on; community and generosity. Art provides us with a safe place to go, to return to, and to look forward to. Our art, whatever it may be, has the possibility to be an anchor in our lives, and in times of chaos and unknowing, times like today, it can provide us a roof over our heads in a storm: it doesn’t stop the weather outside, but it gives us a place to rest our heads. Thanks, Basement Arts, the cast, and all involved for a little bit of shelter tonight. To anyone reading this, I wish you could’ve been there.

 

 

PREVIEW: The Captive

The Residential College Players, better known through campus as the RC Players, is presenting their first full-length play of the semester, “The Captive” this Friday and Saturday, at 8:00p both days, in East Quad’s Keene Theater! Originally written in 1926 by French playwright, Edouard Bourdet, the three-act melodrama was shut down after 160 performances on Broadway because the lesbianism portrayed in the play was considered “obscene”. The story depicts a young woman, Irene, who is hopelessly and painfully in love with the unseen character, Mdme. d’Aiguines, despite her imminent engagement to a young gentleman, Jacques Virieu. Her love for Mdme. d’Aiguines keeps Irene captive, in more ways than one.

Be sure to stop by the Keene Theater this weekend to catch this one-of-a-kind performance!

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PREVIEW: Five Lesbians Eating a Quiche

Presented as part of student organization Basement Arts’ mainstage season, “Five Lesbians Eating a Quiche”, directed by Sydney Prince, is bound to be one of the craziest plays you’ve ever seen! Playing in the Newman Studio (located in North Campus’ Walgreen Drama Center) this Friday at 7:00p and 11:00p, and Saturday at 7:00p, “Five Lesbians…” by Andrew Hobgood and Evan Linder invites audiences into a 1956 meeting of the Susan B. Anthony Society for the Sisters of Gertrude Stein. The annual quiche contest is upon the society, and the only thing getting in the way seems to be the imminent threat of nuclear war. 

Of the production, director Sydney Prince, a senior FTVM and LSA Drama double major, says “Recently, I have felt like there is a lack of comedy at this school so primarily, I wanted to find something that would make people laugh and make people think.” When asked about why she proposed the play to Basement Arts, Prince said, “I’ve never read a play that so wholeheartedly embraces its world and is able to develop such a sentimental and real story about something that is so comedic and strange.

Be sure you don’t miss out on this one-of-a-kind piece of theatre, this Friday, March 13th at 7:00p and 11:00p, and Saturday, March 14th at 7:00p. As per Basement Arts’ mission, this event is free to the public! 

 

REVIEW: Mary Poppins

It’s a real tall order to ask a live performance to be able to make magic in front of their audience’s eyes, and you can bet none of these 100+ Burns Parks Elementary students are much over 4’10”.

Somehow, the group of kids, with the help of a few adult actors, crew, and directors, did just that. From the wondrous costume design to the joyful choreography, this production succeeded in every meaning of the word.

While I might usually stick to metrics of artistry and professionalism to review a performance, this production of Mary Poppins is impossible to judge that way. It was just too darn adorable. Exhibit A is to your right. Image may contain: 4 people, people sitting, hat, child, stripes, outdoor and closeup

Emily Betz is the magician behind the costume design, which really brought the show together. The way she balances bold, whimsical colors without it being too brash or distracting is amazing. It’s no wonder she specializes in all things Disney. It takes a special, rare kind of person to so perfectly embody childishness as art in the way she does. The fact that just about everything was handmade was shocking, and I’m sure a great joy to the financial aspect of the project.Image may contain: 1 person, indoor

The show also featured a Queen Victoria cameo by community theatre devotee Fredda Clisham, a centennial and all-around fabulous lady. She has been in Burns Park Players shows for the past 15 years, and is known for a move where she coyly pushes up her breasts, a tradition with origins in a previous play’s improvised scene.

Several other Burns Park Players veterans were also involved in the production. The director, Rachel Carpman, has been coming to see the group’s plays since 1994. Omkar Karthikeyan, is a parent of one of the young actors, but rather than simply driving his second-grader to play practice, he got fully involved. He played the chimney sweep Bert in the production, and was totally, completely his character. As energetic as the children both on stage and in rehearsals, he is surely a permanent member of the Players family.

All of this hard work coming from a crew of around 200 children and adults is lovely to see. Local theatre groups are a gift to a community, truly. The pressure is low, but the belief in the art is great. The art of pretending, of community-building, of creating something so earnestly certainly is a magic of its own, perhaps even rivaling our favorite nanny. You can take a child’s enthusiasm for granted maybe, but the adults are also so clearly passionate about the troupe. So much joy is lost in the transition from childhood to adulthood, but some things have the power to save us. The creativity involved in a story like Mary Poppins is strong, between the costumes and the flying away via umbrella and the floating quality of the songs. It brings the performers, crew, and audience together with a present-tense nostalgia unlike anything else.

Note: As my pictures were of bad quality, taken far from the stage, I borrowed a few from what was posted on the Burns Park Players Facebook page. Photo credit to Kara Cuoio.

PREVIEW: Mary Poppins

Whether you’re five or 95, Mary Poppins is an absolute delight.

The Burns Park Players present a special, family-oriented production of the Disney classic this week, intent on bringing all of Ann Arbor the joy and wonder of the nanny we all wanted for ourselves.

Since its 2013 departure from Broadway, productions of the play can be hard to find. Luckily the talented actors of this local troupe are doing us this service. Plus, the proceeds from ticket sales goes toward funding the arts in schools around town!

Showtimes are:

February 27, 7:30 PM

February 28, 7:30 PM

February 29, 2:00 PM

March 1, 2:00 PM

All at the Power Center, 121 Fletcher St.

Ticket prices range from $15-25, with special student pricing of $5 off when you apply discount code SPRINGBREAK at checkout.

Get your tickets here or at the door.

REVIEW: Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!

Truth be told, across all societal provocations, nothing makes me want to take flight faster than a sniffly horde of fruit-juice-charged youth excitedly tugging at their weary caretakers’ outwear. Yet for the sake of reviewing Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! (The Musical!) from the most irrelevant age bracket’s perspective, I was ready to face even the most high fructose children of Ann Arbor.

Family engagement is a major part of most forms of educational entertainment fed to American children, and this show was no exception. Prior to the show, the Michigan Theater compiled a fun guide to facilitate viewers’ interaction during the performance that included detachable finger puppets and a musical cues document. Also, before the puppets took the stage by storm, an enthusiastic man led the audience in a collective warm up dance that had entire families jumping up and down in anticipation for the pigeon-ness that was to follow.

Mo Willems’ original children’s book series for Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! has a minimalist aesthetic – most pages consist of one subject, most memorably the blue feathered protagonist, and a stylized speech bubble containing expressive text. However, director Jerry Whiddon and the show’s set designers went beyond Willems’ original minimalist aesthetic and transformed the stage into a colorful and flashy puppet world in which the sounds of a bus sputtering are personified into 30-second-long gibberish monologues. My favorite set elements were the two dynamic mini doors framing the main scene; actors would occasionally pop out of its segments to deliver funny additions to the musical number. Besides the wonderful gibberish bits and intense hot-dog eating noises, the performers shone with Jessica Hartman’s playful choreography with each musical number.

As far as the narrative goes, little bits and pieces of the performance triggered vague memories from my childhood experience with Willems’ works. In the original picture books, the Pigeon puts forth countless attempts to convince the reader to let them drive the bus. This component is often credited as a great introduction to teaching kids philosophical topics like the moral implications of giving into persuasion or viewing punishment and disappointment through new perspectives. In comparison, the musical adaptation seemed to capitalize on the concept of ‘finding oneself’, or one’s purpose, and the overall process of growing up – as told through the perspective of a wide-eyed periwinkle-colored pigeon. Indeed, Willems’ writing even suggested that the Pigeon was undergoing an existential crisis, which would shed light on much of the erratic behavior exhibited by the main puppet. The Pigeon’s bumpy journey from under-appreciated bird to important bus-driver’s assistant is reminiscent of many cartoonish underdog characters who discover their purpose within the universe’s workings near the story’s resolution, like Rudolph, Wilbur the pig, or James and his giant peach. Because it is a universally ideal human experience, especially for children and confused adolescents, this approach comes across as heartfelt and fulfilling in ending.