REVIEW: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

8:00pm • Friday, January 13, 2023 • Arthur Miller Theater • SPOILER ALERT

Ann Arbor Civic Theatre’s production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time was a painful but moving exploration of self-discovery, neurodivergency, abuse, and family. The small troupe of 8 actors and actresses did an excellent job of maneuvering between, according to the program, 15 locations, 20 characters, and 49 scenes. Their acting felt tender and genuine, their expressions and voices never played out of proportion, so it felt like I was looking in on a few moments from the characters’ lives.

I also appreciated the way the organization took care to prepare for the play’s portrayal of a protagonist on the autism spectrum appropriately: seeking actors with neurodivergencies to cast in the role of Christopher, forming a relationship with the Autism Alliance of Michigan and creating a dedicated role in their production staff for an ASD Ally/Advocate. Drew Shaw, who played Chris, the protagonist, brought the character to life with authenticity and enthusiasm.

That said, the play was also much darker than I expected, with several upsetting scenes depicting emotional and physical abuse. Mr. Boone lies to Chris about Mrs. Boone’s death; in many scenes, he swears at his son, in one instance hitting him; ultimately, he describes his abusive behavior as an accident and coerces Chris’s forgiveness by buying him a puppy. Chris’s mother, who was in an affair with a neighbor and left the family two years before the play, writes to Chris in a letter that she left because dealing with his autism put too much of a strain on her relationship with her husband and her own personal liberty. I found few redeemable qualities in either of Chris’s parents, so when the ending of the play treated their burgeoning reconciliation as a happy ending, I was left with a bad taste in my mouth.

The path Chris took to courage and independence was, for me, the only truly uplifting part of his play. As he untangles the mystery of his neighbor’s murdered dog, he also unearths family secrets which eventually motivate him to travel alone across the country, a daunting mission for any 15-year-old. The play ends with Chris facing the audience, surrounded by the rest of the cast, in wonder of all he has accomplished, asking “Does this mean I can do anything?” We as the audience were left to answer that question, torn between the reality of his difficult home situation and his heart-warming optimism.

REVIEW: Urinetown

I never thought I’d watch a musical called “Urinetown”, but there I found myself, sitting in the Lydia Mendelssohn Theater on a Sunday afternoon with a playbill on my lap entitled “Urinetown.” However absurd the title is, and however absurd the characters and play is, the underlying message of it all makes you leave, thinking about what Urinetown really means.

In a town suffering from a water drought, the poor must pay Urine Good Company in order to urinate in public toilets. While such a society may seem ridiculous, the grim reality of the show proves that it’s not so crazy. Caldwell B. Cladwell and Penelope Pennywise keep the poor in order by demanding the fees with zero exceptions. Cladwell and Senator Fipp’s agreement also reflects the grim truth about how corporations influence politics.

Cladwell’s daughter, Hope, enters the company and sings an anthem about hope. While it may seem cheesy, the number was performed beautifully by Zoe Van Slooten and offered a naive optimism that was necessary. The numerous dance numbers throughout kept the musical light, which Little Sally noted should make it a happy musical. Bobby Strong’s hero persona was appealing, leading the revolution until he was forced to visit Urinetown. Even though Office Lockstock spoils what Urinetown is in a flippant manner since that’s not something he can casually mention in Act 1, Bobby’s death came as a surprise, and his drawn-out fall offers a stark reflection of the dramatic reality of possibility.

The dialogue between Little Sally and Officer Lockstock satirizes musicals in a wonderfully meta way, and Lily Gechter’s portrayal as an innocent and curious Little Sally was convincing. Kevin McDanglebunny was probably the real star of the show though. While the over-the-top “gasp”s and “whaaaat?!”s could’ve been cringey to watch, the cast pulled it off, fully buying into the absurdity of their lines and actions. You could tell the audience loved this show with the constant laughter and never-ending clapping. Robby the Stockfish, played by Rachel Francisco, was an absolute favorite on the stage, her stilted walking and movements eliciting much joy.

However, despite the laughter that the cast brings, the drastic ending is certainly not happy at all, emphasizing the balance between draconian rules and freedom. As the world is changing and affected by climate change, a future filled with drought that forces people to pay a megacorporation to pee—as absurd as it may sound—doesn’t seem too far away anymore.


PREVIEW: Urinetown

Have some particular thoughts about capitalism, the legal system, and bureaucracy? Well then this is the perfect show for you! Urinetown is a satirical comedy musical that takes place in a Gotham-like city, where there is a government-enforced ban on private toilets. Forced to pay for public amenities that profits a single company, the people fight back against the system and plan a revolution. Ann Arbor Civic Theatre’s bringing this unique musical to the Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre this weekend. Tickets are $15 for students, but with a Passport to the Arts, students can attend for free!

PREVIEW: Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

What happens when two lifelong French con men try to one-up the other in an attempt to prove who is the ultimate con artist by swindling $50,000 from an American heiress? Based on the 1988 comedy film featuring Steve Martin and Michael Caine, the Ann Arbor Civic Theatre is bringing the Broadway musical of the same name to the Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre. The jazz musical comedy Dirty Rotten Scoundrels will be sure to keep you tapping your toes and laughing the entire time. Performances are September 6-9, with a 7:30pm show on Thursday, 8pm show on Friday and Saturday, and a 2pm matinee on Sunday. Tickets are $15 for students or FREE with a Passport to the Arts.

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:

PREVIEW: Cabaret

The Ann Arbor Civic Theatre is bringing the classic show of Cabaret to the stage!  If you’ve never seen this show before, I would highly recommend it!  And I haven’t even seen the performance yet!  But the story itself is so beautifully heartbreaking.  I had the honor of assistant directing it at a different theatre last year, so I am super interested in seeing how they transform the story through different eyes.

I won’t spoil much of the story right now, but as the Ann Arbor Civic Theatre posted in their website, “Set against the crumbling decadence of the [Kit Kat Club], with darkly witty, bawdy, and sometimes scathing songs, Cabaret is a reminder of what the winds of political change, particularly when ignored, can bring.”  Like I said, you have to see this show at least once in your lifetime!  So might as well make it now!  And I suggest bringing some tissues 🙂

Cabaret runs at the Arthur Miller Theatre, October 26-29.  The Thursday show is sold out, but Friday through Sunday still have tickets!  Tickets are $14-16.  Buy them online now at

Photo Credit: found on their website at