REVIEW: Cabaret

“Leave your troubles outside.  So… life is disappointing?  Forget it!  We have no troubles here!  Here life is beautiful…”  And that’s just what the show of Cabaret was.  The second the Emcee (Trish Fountain) walked onstage, the audience was captivated.  Captivated by the orchestra, captivated by the talented Kit Kat Club boys and girls, and captivated by the hauntingly beautiful storyline.

Cabaret, done by the Ann Arbor Civic Theatre, is a musical that captures a time in Berlin when Nazis were coming into power.  The story revolves around American writer Cliff Bradshaw (Chris Grimm) who travels to Germany to find inspiration for his novel.  That’s where he meets “mysterious and fascinating” cabaret performer Sally Bowles (Laura Dysarczyk) from England.  Along the way, we meet lovable characters such as Fraulein Schneider (Jessica Ryder) and Herr Schultz (Edmond Reynolds).

The Ann Arbor Civic Theatre did this show justice.  So many emotions were felt throughout.  Love for newly formed relationships, uncomfortableness for moments that left the audience in silence, and pain for the decline of characters and political situations.  Moments left the audience with their mouths wide open, shocked.  And at the end, the Emcee reminds them of the troubles that they have left behind… Is it because the troubles have actually disappeared?  Or is it because they realized that their troubles are so small compared to the one’s of the characters’ onstage?  Just something to think about while leaving the theatre, not knowing what emotions to feel.

This sold out show was performed beautifully.  Unfortunately it is over now, but I highly recommend seeing more shows done by the Ann Arbor Civic Theatre.  Information and tickets can be found at: http://www.a2ct.org/.

REVIEW- Insurrection: Holding History

Reading the synopsis of this play online had done little to prepare me and my friend for the powerful, and emotional journey into the US’s dark history of slavery that awaited us in the intimate space of the Arthur Miller theater. This interpretation of Robert O’Hara’s 1995 play was brilliantly adapted by the Department of Theater and Drama into a nearly three-hour long production filled with twists and turns.  O’Hara’s play is a time-traveling look into Nat Turner’s 1831 slave insurrection, from the point of view of Ron, a modern-day college student completing his thesis on slavery, and his 189 year-old grandfather, T.J., who was a part of the rebellion himself.

Before the play even began, I noted how intimate the Arthur Miller theater was, and that proved to only add to the emotional impact of the play itself.  The set was minimal and yet entirely sufficient to capture the feeling and multiple locations of the play.

One of my major takeaways was that every single actor had their intensity dialed up to the very top for the majority of the play’s runtime.  There were moments that left me breathless, as the actors went through emotions of extreme fear, anger, sadness in quick succession.  In the second act this was particularly noticeable, as the few moments that were quieter in nature were even more impactful, soft whispers standing in drastic contrast with the high energy shouts and cries of other scenes. Most of the actors also played multiple characters, and I was shocked at how easily they seemed to switch from one to the other.

Additionally, the actors were clearly working hard physically, with a large portion of the play being heavily choreographed or strenuous to do. I noticed that many of the actors would be sweating by the end of a short monologue, which only added to the emotional intensity.  While I know little about stage direction, it was an extremely lively play with never a dull moment, as the actors tripped, danced, and ran around not only the stage, but the entire theater.
I wasn’t expecting there to be the amount or level of comedy in this play as there ended up being.  Almost every other minute the actors sent the audience into a load roar of laughter.  Considering the dark themes of the play, the comedy felt uncomfortable at times, but I assume that was part of the point.  

I highly recommend attending future shows put on by the Department of Theater and Drama.  I couldn’t have imagined a more entertaining or engaging weekend.

PREVIEW: Insurrection: Holding History

 This weekend join the Department of Theater & Drama for a poignant production of the award winning Insurrection: Holding History.  The play dives into a time-traveling exploration of black history as a young grad student who shares a mental bond with his 189-year old grandfather travel through eras of US history, gaining new perspective in each one..

The show will be running from April 6th to the 9th in the Arthur Miller Theater on North Campus.  You can purchase tickets for all the upcoming show times online here.  General admission is $28 with  students only paying $12 with their M-card.  As a warning the play contains very mature films, so think carefully about who you bring.

PREVIEW: Ah, Wilderness!

ah-wilderness

When: Friday Oct. 14 at 8:00 pm, Saturday October 15 at 8:00 pm, Sunday October 16 at 2:00 pm

Where: Arthur Miller Theatre

How Much: $12 student tickets, $28 general admission

Come see the Department of Theatre and Drama perform a wildly funny performance of Ah, Wilderness!, written by Eugene O’Neill. The play is a coming-of-age story filled family values and romance. It’s bound to be a good show!

by Kim Sinclair

PREVIEW: Twelfth Night

Image via lolaslolz.wordpress.com

Do you remember in the 2006 Amanda Bynes movie, “She’s the Man,” Channing Tatum went off on a glorious inspirational speech that went like this : “Be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them.” He was actually directly quoting a line from Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night,” which the plot of “She’s the Man” was based on!

The original love triangle comedy will be performed by the Ann Arbor Civic Theatre, a community group that has stolen local hearts with past productions, like Shrek and Les Miserables. I’m very much looking forward to see if the troupe modernizes the Shakespearean classic or keeps it in its traditional form.

What: Ann Arbor Civic Theatre’s “Twelfth Night”

When: 10/30 -11/2 (8 pm Thursday-Saturday, 2 pm Sunday)

Where: Arthur Miller Theatre on North Campus

How Much?: Free with a Passport to the Arts; $11 at the door.

If you like to read up on Shakespearean plays before you go (which can be very helpful sometimes), I recommend a quick summary skim on Sparknotes. Or, better yet, just grab some friends and host a pre-play screening of “She’s the Man”!

REVIEW: Romeo and Juliet

In their new studio production, the Department of Musical Theatre presents William Shakespeare’s most well known tragedy Romeo and Juliet. Set in Verona, the play follows Romeo and Juliet, two young lovers from feuding families. Through a serious of rash actions and unfortunate misunderstandings, the lovers’ lives come to a tragic end, which ultimately reconciles the two families.

Performed in the intimate Arthur Miller Theatre with a minimal set, almost no props, and very basic costumes, this was an interesting production that seemed to want to focus on the raw emotion and drama in the play. The simplicity of the production worked well in that in allowed the audience to engage with the language of the play and the portrayals of the characters. However, it also caused some aspects of the performance to feel out of place, and sometimes a bit awkward, such as the use of physical swords in the final scenes since swords were not otherwise used in the production.

Another interesting aspect of the production was the casting choices. This production had actors playing roles of the opposite gender, with females playing the traditionally male roles of Mercutio, Benvolio, and the Friar, as well as a male playing the role of Juliet’s nurse. While this was sometimes confusing, especially at the beginning, it ultimately worked well, and brought out aspects of the characters that may not always be seen. In addition, the use of the cast within the production was also an interesting choice. While it is normal to have parts doubled, this production used the entire cast as the chorus. While it was nice that everyone was included, having all of the actors run on stage in the dark and crouch under a bright light while speaking in monotone unison was ultimately off-putting.

Although most of the cast performed well, one of the best aspects of the performance was Cameron Jones’ exuberant and sassy, but always caring, portrayal of Juliet’s nurse. Although not one of the lead roles, Jones shined in every scene he was in, captured the audience’s attention and affection, and brought humor and lightness to an otherwise emotionally tense and tragic play. As he strutted across the stage in his long black dress and apron wittily addressing other characters, he fully engaged the audience who laughed, smiled, and applauded all of his scenes.

Overall, this was a somewhat unusual production that had some great moments. While there was some awkwardness, the minimalistic set and costumes highlighted the emotions in the play and allowed the focus to be more on the actors and the scenes they were creating.