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.

REVIEW: The Vagina Monologues

By the start of Saturday’s show, the Vagina Monologues had raised over $2,500 for Safe House, which was wonderful to hear. There were far more women than men in the audience–either it was the subject material, or maybe it was because the men were too busy watching the latest NCAA Tournament game.

The show was split into two halves: the first half consisted of students on campus telling their stories, and the second half a rendition of Eve Ensler’s play of the same name. Out of respect for the women in the first half, I won’t post any quotes or pictures. Instead, a checklist of things I gathered:

  1. Found out what the clitoris is
  2. That virginity is a social construct meant to control women
  3. PCOS (polycistic ovary syndrome) makes you have irregular periods, and makes it really hard to lose weight
  4. There is a huge lack of women and diversity in Hollywood (duh)
  5. Don’t spray perfume up your vagina!
  6. Just because you enjoy Anime doesn’t mean you have yellow fever (probably)
  7. Don’t hook up with girls and then refuse to date them
  8. Don’t refuse to take girls out to eat, but then offer to eat them out later
  9. No means no.

The second half–Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues–was in a way more concise than the previous monologues. This was partly due to the fact that each monologue was actually from a compendium of interviews Ms. Ensler had conducted with over 200 women in preparation for the play.

Some stories were raunchier than others, some were funny and some were so serious that the Rackham Amphitheater got so quiet you could hear the breaths of the people in the audience.

One women said the word cunt, and then kept repeating cunt, as well as words that were related and/or sounded like cunt.

Another woman was obsessed with making other women happy, so she stopped being a lawyer to become a sex worker that worked only for women. She was a dominatrix that loved hearing women moan, and the audience received quite the description of the different moans she had heard from various women.

There was only one moment when I felt the urge to “man-splain” something. Regarding Pap smears, one woman wondered aloud why she had to wear a papery apron instead of a velvet robe, and why they used such uncomfortable instruments rather than something else more pleasurable. If Pap smears were like that, the hospital bill would probably be a lot higher than it currently is for the procedure. But alas, I am a graduate student in a physiology program, so medical things stand out to me.

Overall, the Vagina Monologues is a worthwhile event to go to, especially if you are a man. Although not as provocative as it might have been in a more conservative town, the Vagina Monologues is still a raunchy, R-rated show that can help you expand your horizons if you let it.

 

 

PREVIEW: Beyond Sacred: Voices of Muslim Identity Ping Chong + Company

Ping Chong + Company is a New York-based theater company that is putting on an interview-based theater production centering around Muslim-American identities in our post-9/11 world.

Below is a preview of the one-day event coming up this Saturday:

Where: Power Center

When: February 18th at 8 PM 

Cost: FREE with a PASSPORT TO THE ARTS

The event page on the UMS web site states that

“Participants come from a range of cultural and ethnic backgrounds and include young men and women who reflect a range of Muslim identities…Beyond Sacred illuminates the daily lives of Muslim Americans in an effort to work toward greater communication and understanding between Muslim and non-Muslim communities.”

You can also register for a reminder about a livestream of the performance here

REVIEW: The Importance of Being Ernest

Every single male role was played by a female, and the most imposing female role was played by a male. Such was Rude Mechanical’s original conception of “The Importance of Being Earnest,” Oscar Wilde’s classic play published in 1895.

The play is all about relationships. Algernon, played by Cailean Robinson, and Jack, played by Mason Van Gieson, discuss romance and courtship. Both men develop a facade as they pursue two different women, and they build up a tower of lies until it all comes crashing down at the end in perfectly absurd Wilde-like fashion.

Although the play was supposedly changed to have its setting in the 1950’s, I didn’t notice much of a difference from Wilde’s original conception. Perhaps I just don’t know enough about English social history. Either way, the decision to switch genders was brilliant.

I didn’t realize how well the play would go with women in the shoes of men. Every role was well-acted, from Algernon’s well-timed poses as he recited Wildean witticisms, to Lady Bracknell’s diva pose every time he/she entered the stage.

Also losing his/her pants
Also losing his/her pants

Some of the one-liners were especially ironic, given the change of gender, such as when Algernon tells Jack:

“My dear fellow, the truth isn’t quite the sort of thing one tells to a nice, sweet, refined girl. What extraordinary ideas you have about the way to behave to a woman!”

Or this rendition’s focus on the actors fondling their own and each others’ genitalia right in front of the audience (see above picture).

The set design was tasteful without being too imposing. Each act, from Algernon’s flat in London to the drawing-room of the Manor House in the country, had plenty of eye candy and props that the actors were free to interact with at will. There were some scenes where I couldn’t tell if the actions were rehearsed, or if they were entirely ad-libbed. My favorite example of this was in the Garden, where Cecily (in pink) grabs a flower pot and makes some raunchy gyrations with it.

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The only drawback of the play wasn’t because of the acting or directing, but due to Oscar Wilde himself. Say what you will about the man, but you have to admit that he likes his sensational plots. The first act goes out in all different directions, and the second act seems to tread out without telling the audience where its going. It isn’t until the very end of the third act that the play pulls itself together and makes sense of things.  Luckily, Rude Mechanicals made the journey worth it.

PREVIEW: The Importance of Being Ernest

Gather round connoisseurs of aesthetics, readers of 18th century plays, and lovers of Oscar Wilde.

Rude Mechanicals’ is putting on a version of The Importance of Being Ernest–set in the 1950’s–this weekend! See this link for specific showtimes and how to purchase tickets online.

Where: Mendelssohn Theater (Michigan League)

When: November 4 – 6 

Cost: $7 for students or FREE with a Passport to the Arts (yay!)

“Be yourself; everything else is already taken”

–Oscar Wilde

 

 

PREVIEW: Biorhythms Medical Student Dance Show

Biorhythms is an opportunity for graduate students to maintain an interest in the arts and perform on stage. The spring show is one of their two annual shows. Both shows are student-directed, produced, and performed.

  • When: Sunday, January 25th @ 7 PM
  • Where: Lydia Mendelssohn Theater (Michigan League)
  • Cost: $7 at the door (cheap!)

As t hey state on the web site: “This year’s lineup includes: Brazilian, Hip-Hop, classical Indian, Flags, Tahitian, singing, rapping, and Mance!”

What is Mance you ask? I don’t know either but I intend to find out.

Check out the website:  https://biorhythmsdance.wordpress.com/about/