PREVIEW: Basement Arts and The Spectrum Center present BARE

Sponsored by World AIDS Week, Basement Arts presents “BARE: A Pop Opera.” I’ve heard so many great things about this show, and I’m so excited to finally get a chance to see it. And it’s FREE! Basements Arts with support from The Spectrum Center is putting on this sure-to-be-stellar musical at the Walgreen Drama Center on North Campus, Studio One. UM Events website says, “A group of high school seniors at a Catholic boarding school faces issues of sexuality and personal identity…they struggle to come to terms with who they are, and who the world thinks they should be…” (UM events). It is sure to be a fantastic event; especially since the other event I went to sponsored by the Spectrum Center was absolutely amazing. I don’t think we will be disappointed.

The performances of “BARE” run December 1st 7pm-9pm, Dec. 2nd 7pm-9pm and 11pm, and Dec. 3rd 7pm-9pm. Attending is free and more information regarding World AIDS week can be found at their website: worldaidsweekum.wordpress.com

Hope you can make it!

Review: The Difficult [Ring] Tone of ‘Cell Phone’

Jean and Gordon Kiss In The Laundromat.  Or Some Weird Metaphor Like That.
Jean and Gordon "Kiss" In The Laundromat. Or Some Weird Metaphor Like That. (Basement Arts Facebook photo)

Play reviews are difficult. It’s sort of like reviewing some shlops singing karaoke at the local tavern. Although the town drunk may have picked your favorite song (perhaps Ricky Martin’s ‘Livin’ La Vida Loca’ or Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’), he’s still five drinks deep (cheap rum, most probably) and lacks both rhythm and pitch.

The Basement Arts production of Sarah Ruhl’s ‘Dead Man’s Cell Phone’ was rather opposite of the karaoke dilemma.  Although the acting was, for the most part, stellar, it had a difficult time carrying a play that failed at developing a connection between the audience and its characters.  ‘Cell Phone’ is about a woman, Jean, who, annoyed at the incessant ringing of a cell phone at the next table at a diner, picks up a stranger’s cell phone.  Complicating the situation, she soon finds out that the man, Gordon, has not picked up his cell phone because he is dead.  Jean, in acting as his secretary and, soon afterward, his legacy-maker, speaks to his colleagues, his family, and friends.  In a string of lies, Jean personalizes Gordon in her own mind and conceives of a dieing Gordon to explain to his loved ones.

Unfortunately, although closely involving herself in Gordon’s affairs – attempting to assuage some pain, Jean never becomes more than a liar.  The playwright, Ruhl, attempts to personalize her in, among other ploys, declaring a love for stationary that she shares with Gordon’s brother, Dwight (a role similar to Buster of Arrested Development fame).  However, even Jean’s budding relationship with Dwight is built upon lies and stories.  To Ruhl, Jean is supposed to be a, slightly misguided, heroine.  Instead, she creates an internal mess of a mess.

This takes away nothing from the exceptional acting in the Basement Arts production of the play on Friday night (also performed at 7pm Friday and 7pm, 11pm Saturday) (Full disclosure- a close friend, Neal Kelley, played the role of Gordon.  Even fuller disclosure- although not necessary today, I am zero percent afraid of talking shit about my friends.  They probably deserve it.)  The actors’ performances on Friday night were truly great.   Grounded in an exceptional performance by Margot McGrath as the overly-emotional Mrs. Gottlieb (Gordon’s mother), the actors displayed a deep intimacy and knowledge of each other and each others’ roles in the play.

The ‘sold-out’ crowd (some mortals even sitting in the aisles for a two hour play!) at Studio One in the Walgreen Center ate it up, laughing hysterically at any sign of a joke.  Unfortunately, just as these are the same kids who speak to hear the beautiful sounds of their own voice, there were many members of Friday night’s audience who really wished they were on stage-they really wanted to be the center of attention-so, rather unnaturally, they chose to yell their laughs.  (My slightly intoxicated friends- whom I met there- enjoyed laughing at the flamboyant crowd more than the show itself.)

If nothing else, I’m now a fan of the Basement Arts.  Quality acting with a price tag of $free.fifty is unlikely to be beat in these parts.  Although not my choice of plays, I will, again, choose to make the trek Up North to the Walgreen Center for a Basement Arts production.

Oh yeah, and I would probably choose Al Green’s ‘Love and Happiness’ for my karaoke performance.

Bennett. bstei@umich.edu. ‘No Shirt, No Radio’ Wednesday nights, Midnight-1:30am, WCBN

Preview: UofM Basement Arts Presents ‘Dead Man’s Cell Phone’

Dead Man's Cell Phone Image

It may be old news that cell phones have changed our everyday lives and changed our culture as a whole (Check out David Brooks’ editorial this week on sexting and the like) however, Dead Man’s Cell Phoneeven further personalizes the cell phone’s power.  The show by American playwright and MacArthur Genius Award recipient, Sarah Ruhl, tells the story of Jean who answers the phone of a stranger sitting at the next table, who she soon finds out is dead, and her subsequent discussions with his friends and relatives. 

Ruhl is the author of ten original plays including, the Pulitzer Prize nominated, The Clean House.  In a statement honoring her MacArthur Fellowship, the organization states that she is a “playwright creating vivid and adventurous theatrical works that poignantly juxtapose the mundane aspects of daily life with mythic themes of love and war.”

This evening, Friday, November 6 at 7pm and 11pm and again tomorrow evening at the same times, the Basement Arts, a student-run theater organization, presents this new comedy with the exceptional talent of University of Michigan student actors, directors, choreographers.  Responsible for the now world-famous, A Very Potter Musical, The Basement Arts have a solid history of presenting free theater as a priceless experience.

Tonight, Friday, November 6 @ 7 and 11pm.  Tomorrow, Saturday, November 7 @ 7 and 11pm.  All shows at Studio One, Walgreen Drama Center (1226 Murfin), North Campus.   Free Admission!

Check out the trailer for the Basement Arts production of \’Dead Man\’s Cell Phone\’

Bennett.  bstei@umich.edu. No Shirt, No Radio. Wednesday nights Midnight-1:30 WCBN