Review: Basement Arts – No Exit

Basement Arts, an awesome organization on campus, produced the play No Exit by Jean-Paul Sartre. The performances were on Thursday at 7 PM, on Friday at 7 and 11 PM and Saturday at 7 PM. All the performances were free and held in the Walgreen Drama Center. The performances were pretty well attended, as Basement Arts shows usually are. The Director was AJ Kolpach, Assistant Director, Alison Hacker, Stage Manager and Lighting, Jake Meyers, Set Designer, Daniel Estrella, and Sound Designer and composer, Samuel Johnson.

No Exit is an existential play, originally in French, in which two women, Inez and Estelle, and one man, Garcin, are escorted by a valet into a locked in a room where they remain together for all eternity as their hell. The most famous quote from the play, “Hell is other people” summarizes the entire plot. Plagued by the mistakes made when they were alive, and unable to find peace in the room due to their inherent flaws, the characters Garcin, Inez, and Estelle, reveal their biggest transgressions on Earth and, after an hour and a half, reach an impasse in their interactions with each other, revealing how they will remain stuck in an impossible dynamic with each other for all eternity.

Garcin was played by Aaquil Rowe, the Valet by Mingquan Ma, Inez by Nicole Gellman, and Estelle by Cayley Costello. Costello was by far the best actress. Her character was a social climber who had married an old, rich, man after her parents passed and was in hell for drowning the child she had with a lover. In the room, she is tormented by her need to feel desired by men. Costello did a great job of making her character vulnerable, high society, and really captured how worthless Estelle felt without validation. Aaquil Rowe was very passionate as Garcin, a pacifist who deserted the war, and abused his wife. Garcin was tormented by the idea that anyone would find him a coward, and is unable to physically love Estelle until Inez stops thinking of him as a coward. He was very expressive but flubbed his lines a few times.

No Exit
No Exit

Nicole Gellman did a good job of playing the sarcastic, cruel, lesbian, Inez, although the character seemed a little two dimensional, although that is not necessarily Gellman’s fault. Inez enters the room ready to admit to the murder she committed and fully realizes the point of the room and pits Garcin and Estelle against each other, which means, by the end of the play, the character has not really grown. The Valet, Mingquan Ma, was ok, although his diction was a little unclear.

The set on stage was a bit sparse, but still succeeding in creating the scene, with two couches, one chair, a door, a mantle, and a styrofoam bust. There was only one set issue which really brought the audience out of the moment. There is supposed the “unmovable” bronze bust on the mantle but it clearly moved and shifted around the mantle whenever anyone touched it. Original music was also created for this production by Samuel Johnson. Most of the background music was fine but there was one song sung by Inez which seemed out of place and did not have much to do with any of the characters.

Overall, Backstage Arts is a great organization on campus. This particular production was fine, anyone would have had difficulty with such an unusual play. Everyone seemed to have tried their best to make this existential play relatable and down to earth. I look forward to the next Backstage Arts production.

If you want to get involved, here are some links:
Basement Arts: Facebook
Basement Arts

PREVIEW: Monkeys and Playbills

Head over to Arthur Miller Theatre November 8-10 to see Basement Arts’ FREE performance of “[Title of Show]”. Basement Arts is an entirely student-run performance network on campus and their shows are always beyond one’s expectations. The show, [Title of Show], is super clever. It tells the story of four friends who band together to write a musical. The songs are great, the laughs are rich, and its a great time. I can’t wait to see the show and you shouldn’t either! AND IT’S FREE!

Title of Show
Title of Show

Hope to see you there 🙂
more info on their website: www.basementarts.org

REVIEW: Comic Potential

Thursday night, January 26th, the small black-box theatre in Studio 1 of the Walgreen Drama Center filled with students and families who came to watch a handful of talented student-actors perform the romantic sci-fi play, Comic Potential, written by Alan Ayckbourn, which first premiered in the late 1990’s. The show began with a once-famous director, now a has-been and an alcoholic, working on the set of the cheesy soap opera he now works on with his crew of three “actoids” (actor androids–the new robotic invention that has replaced real human actors in the movie and television industry) and two lesbian lovers who film the episodes. The set was very simple, consisting of a bed, a table and chairs, and a video camera, yet very versatile, as the bed used in the hospital scene of the soap opera was converted to be used as the hotel room the two main characters stayed in later in the play.

The main plot of the play concerned the relationship between a young aspiring writer, the nephew of the man who owns the production company, who wants to learn from the once-famous director whom he adores, and the female actoid, known as JC, with a sense of humor that defies the rules and mechanisms of her robotic composition. The young writer discovers her unique sense of humor and decides that he wants to work with her on an old-fashioned comedy sitcom, and asked the director to let him use JC in a comedy show that he will write and pitch to the producers to be shown on the network. The director reluctantly agrees, but when the idea is pitched to the bratty accountant who wanted to date the young writer and was hurt and offended that he chose JC over her, she turns down the idea and decides that the actoid should be “melted down”, her memory erased and system re-booted, so that her “faulty” sense of humor would be no more.

The young writer, having fallen in love with the funny actoid, convinces her to run away with him, to rescue her from being melted down. They go to a clothing store, to get her some normal-looking clothes so she can get rid of the nurse-outfit she was wearing from the soap opera hospital scene, and they then go in hiding at a hotel, where they are discovered at the hotel restaurant, and are forced to flee to a dingy motel in a bad neighborhood, where JC has a run-in with a prostitute who suggests to her that the young writer is only using her, like all men use women. JC then gets upset and fights with the young writer, when the pimp in charge of the working-girls in the hotel barges into the room and threatens them, thinking JC was one of his girls. The young writer defends JC and he gets stabbed, lying on the floor in a pool of blood.

JC returns to the television studio, thinking the young writer was dead, and decides to allow herself to be melted down, in order to forget all of the pain, feeling guilty that she allowed so much trouble to come to the young writer who she loved. But she changes her mind, and when she comes back the young writer is there, and they lovingly reunite. In the end, the bratty accountant loses her job and JC is offered the prestigious position instead. The young writer gets his chance at filming his sitcom, and all is well again in the lives of all the characters on set.

The play had an underlying satirical message concerning the entertainment industry, suggesting that the individuals who have money and manage money are truly in charge of what is created and presented to the public for entertainment, cheapening what should be artistic and meaningful to mere money-making, cookie-cutter productions. The actoids, man-made and purchased, suggest that actors are no more than blank canvases, bringing no personal creative input to their craft. The artist must sell-out, as the director did, in order to remain in the business, working on superficial projects, like the cheesy soap-opera, that will be profitable to the individuals and companies funding the project. Looking at most of the films that are being made and released to the movie theatres today, I can’t say I disagree with this premise.

I enjoyed the premise of the story, and the actors did a wonderful job, especially in such an un-real, futuristic script. The actress who played the role of JC did an especially incredible job. She did really well at convincing you she was a robot, while still being humanly real and accessible, relate-able. She was very impressive in switching between dialects and characters in the many scenes where she recalled the characters she had previously played in her history as an actoid. She was very funny.

Personally, I think the play started out strong, and then the story fell off at the end. This is no fault of the actors, but the script itself. I disagree that the love story was a necessary part of the play. I think it would have possibly been more interesting without it. It almost made the play into the very cookie-cutter love story that is profitable and prominent in entertainment media that the play advises against. The happy ending also didn’t seem fitting, and I was left wondering if it would have been more interesting to have the actoid melted down, to bring back the original point of the current state of the entertainment industry, leaving the audience with that premise in mind, bringing the story full-circle. If I were to re-write the story, there are definitely some things I would have done differently.

Overall, I enjoyed going to see a free play on Thursday night, and I would highly recommend going to check out other plays put on by Basement Arts some time this semester. The actors are very talented, and the script was interesting and unique. It was a very laid-back atmosphere, and an enjoyable way to spend a Thursday evening. For more information on Comic Potential, as well as a schedule of upcoming productions being put on by Basement Arts, check out their website: http://basement.studentorgs.umich.edu.

Review: Better Be at Bare

Fantastic! That’s what I have to say about Basement Arts’ production of “Bare: A Pop Opera.” I had no idea what to expect, but what I saw was great! The show is basically Rent except Catholic Highschool style. Studio 1 was kind of small, but we all managed to fit in and enjoy the show. I’ve been listening to the soundtrack online ever since, I liked it so much. I hope they do it again next year!

The show was off-broadway years ago, which I can understand because it is not the kind of show that can make it on the big stage. It is set in a high school, severely limiting the target audience to a much younger crowd. Though I’m sure many people would enjoy the show,

Driving in your car andautoverzekering vergelijken is something very common.

it does not have as mature of a feel as something like Rent or Spring Awakening. It does have important messages for young people going through situations of depression, addiction, eating disorder, sexual discovery, self-hate, teen pregnancy, and loneliness. These messages come through quite clearly in an exciting, but slightly predictable plot.

What I enjoyed most about the show was the music. The melodies alone prove to be unique and contemporary, with interesting twisting harmonies that are surprising and beautiful. The lyrics are clever and perfectly chosen. They convey a very adolescent language while tastefully delivering the deeper messages of the show. My favorite song of the show, “See Me,” is the main character coming out to his mother on the phone. Peter and his mother are dancing around one word and it really brought many of us to tears. Michael Hartung, Peter, has the most beautiful voice and plays this part splendidly. It was such a heartbreaking performance. I actually believe that Michael rocked this performance to its core. He was amazing and I wish he would sing just one song to me. Any song. At all. I’m actually sending the video to my mom. Seriously, this is how much I loved it….Anyway, didn’t mean to have an outburst. Most of the cast was amazing. I especially like Sister Chantelle. She is so sassy and wise at the same time!

The only complaint I have about this show? I’m sick of all musicals about Gay people ending in the gay guy DYING!!!!! All of them do that! I do not understand! I want to see one happy gay couple end the play together, because in all of them, the gay couple is perfect. Please, if you are a musical writer reading this, right me a happy gay ending!
On an ending note, I had a great time and this coming weekend I am somehow finding time to go see Little Women! I’m really excited, so if you like my posts, keep a lookout 🙂

Sending you love and light,

Danny Fob

(Coffee is on me if you can name the show that my sign off is from!)

REVIEW: Bare, a pop opera

Last night I attended Bare, a musically-charged and sexuality-questioning explosion propelled from the stage and onto the laps of the audience. Certain songs were heavy with harsh beats and foot stomping rhythms, while others captured your heart, a cello pleading softly from the pit. If I could only choose one thing that I liked most about this musical, however, it would definitely be the lyrics. They were so heart felt and poetic; I found myself thinking over each refrain, even after the song was long ended.

Basement Arts put on the performance, so we were sure to get there early to form a line outside the doors. It was in Studio 1 at the Walgreen Drama Center and if you’ve ever been in there you know how small and intimate a theater it is (which was absolutely stellar for this performance). Tickets are free, so everyone just waits in line hoping they’ll be room for them inside. I’m pretty sure they didn’t have to turn away many, if any, people last night, so that’s good.

The Spectrum Center sponsored the event, so I had a hunch on what to expect in the plot. And if that didn’t clue you in to the sexuality themes of the musical, the cover of the playbills would reinforce the message. One key idea in the musical was how to know what is right or normal when those people and institutions in your life, like your parents, school, church, tell you it’s wrong. It was a very moving performance, and the story itself led to many open discussions on issues such as drugs, sex, alcohol, love, the church…etc. These heavy and controversial subjects were handled with respect and consideration, which was good because of the wide range of audience members present. I thought it was beautifully done.

Furthermore, the actors were fantastic and the singing was pretty good; however, probably not one of the best vocals I’ve heard out of a student theater organization. The students didn’t have microphones, so I did appreciate that they had to compete with a drum set, cello, keyboard, and bass guitar to be heard. I thought the two leads, Sam Lips and Michael Hartung, along with the mother of the main character were extremely talented. They stood out the most to me, in terms of talent.

What’s interesting about this musical is it has never been on Broadway, only off. It has performed in numerous tour productions all over the country, but never has it been accepted to perform on Broadway. After seeing the show, and discussing it with a few friends, I think I understand why it has never been able to perform on the same stages as Les Miserables or Wicked or The Phantom of the Opera. It’s good, but the plot is somewhat one dimensional and cliché, in my opinion. The ending, which I’ll refrain from giving away, is somewhat of a cop-out. Not to sound insensitive to the issue it presents, but it does leave the audience a bit dissatisfied (and not like a comfortable open-ending either, but just like…wait, you are really going to ignore the other characters right now??). For me, the story was really focused on Peter, a student at a Catholic school in love with his best friend Jason. I felt the ending shifted away from the struggles of Peter and onto Jason. If I were to rewrite the plot, I would change a few scenes to develop Jason’s character further, especially considering he’s the character we are thinking most about at the end of the show.

Bottom line, it really was a great show, and I’m glad I attended. Supporting Basement Arts and the Spectrum Center AND World AIDS week is always excellent – especially all at the same time!

P.S. If you were wondering who was the creeper running around the Walgreen Drama Center taking pictures with all the Little Women posters…that’d be me. Preview and review coming soon!!!

Preview: Heart Bared?

Tonight is the first showing of the musical, “Bare,” a Basement Arts production. I know some of the people in it and it just so

Spelen op online gokkasten is enorm leuk online gokkasten.. Probeer het eens..

happens to work perfectly into this busy last two week schedule that we all have. The show is set at a Catholic boarding school and uses an exciting contemporary musical score to play out a plot of sexual and social exploration. The students are struggling with countless questions and tonight I, at least, will see if they receive answers.

The show is completely free and is showing Thursday, Friday, Saturday at 7pm, and Friday at 11pm in studio 1 of Walgreen Drama Center on north campus. Doors open at 6:45pm.Please come support your fellow students and see what they have to offer us!

I hope to see you there!

Sending you love and light,

Danny Fob

(Coffee is on me if you can name the show that my sign off is from!)