Preview: Our Town

Thornton Wilder’s 1938 Pulitzer Prize winning play, “Our Town” is being staged by the University of Michigan Department of  Theatre and Drama, under the direction of Jerry Schwiebert, between Feb 18-Feb 21.

The play is quoted to be “the quintessential American play on life, love and death”. When it made its debut in 1938, it created a buzz  for its minimal props, no sets and  even lesser scenery. The plot revolves around the everyday lives of  two young people, George and Emily who fall in love with each other. The complex script takes us through their lives alongwith those of the other townsfolk. Hence, it’s also the character portrait of a typical American town with other supporting characters depicting the typical routines and life in a town.

Without the help of a set,scenery, etc., the complex script relies on superb acting skills of the performers. It will be interesting to see the director’s take on the play and it’s relevance to today’s life.

Where: Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre

When:

Feb. 18 at 7:30 p.m.;
Feb. 19 & 20 at 8 p.m.;
Feb. 21 at 2 p.m.

Tickets at the League Ticket Office ($9 with student ID).

Yours truly,

Krithika, for [art]seen

Preview: The story of Macbeth’s power lust unfolds @ the Power Center

‘Macbeth’ is Shakespeare’s most intriguing and bloody tragedies ever. It has all the elements for a perfect thriller. We have sinister witches with their equivocal prophecies, a power- hungry wife who eggs her husband on to get a crown that doesn’t rightfully belong to him, a war-hardened man who kills his way to the throne, visits from ghosts,  lots of bloodshed (like in Tarantino’s “Inglorious basterds’- this one’s not for the queasy too!), cunning plots and then of course, the tragic  and dramatic climax. Though it was Shakespeare’s shortest tragedy, it was one that left the readers/viewers with shudders. No one can forget Lady Macbeth sleepwalking and lamenting thus- “Here’s the smell of the blood still: all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand. Oh, oh, oh!”

The U of M production of ‘Macbeth’ by the Department of Theatre & Drama and directed by Philip Kerr, is set in a military hospital during the early 20th century. ‘Macbeth’ is about the erosion of the soul by guilt and how one’s deeds will catch up with them eventually. War also ravages the soul quite a bit, often leaving everybody involved with a question as to its point  (if not convinced, see  “Saving Private Ryan”, my personal favorite among war movies) .  All things are fair in love and war – and in politics and in gaining power! So it will be extremely interesting to see how Philip Kerr’s production is staged and how they portray the story as this play has so much of potential for the actors to really bring out their talents.

They say that Shakespeare had used real witch spells and that “the Bard’s play” brings  bad luck to actors and the theatres, so much so that actors and other theatre people often consider it bad luck to mention Macbeth by name while inside a theatre. So people, don’t mention “Macbeth” inside th Power Center and bring a horseshoe for some extra good luck, ok?

Show times:

Dec 10th @ 7.30 pm; Dec 11th & 12th @ 8 pm; Dec 13th @ 2 pm- Power Center

Tickets @ the Michigan League Ticket Office (Students $9)

Yours truly,

Krithika  for [art]seen

P.S. Hmmm… did the weather in Ann Arbor get so bad because ‘Macbeth’ is playing and there was “Double, double toil and trouble;fire burn and cauldron bubble”?

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