Thursday, April 13, 2023 • 7:30 pm • Power Center
SMTD’s Rent was an incredible experience! Everything from the artists to the accompaniment to the set and costuming was spot-on, and I’m so grateful I got to see this iconic show live.
Shoutouts for favorite performers go to Alex Humphreys (Joanne Jefferson) and Sevon Askew (Tom Collins). I loved Humphreys’ tightly-wound portrayal of Joanne, holding back until her full voice finally exploded through in “Take Me or Leave Me.” Askew played a perfect Tom Collins, simultaneous dreamer and voice of reason. The duet with Angel (“I’ll Cover You”) was beautiful while somehow still hinting at the tragedy to come, and the reprise was heartbreaking.
As I mentioned earlier, the set for this show was super cool. The structure evoked a corner of the East Village circa 1990, every element of the stage simultaneously a darkened street, a lot, a tent city, a community of apartments. Not that I can exactly vouch for its accuracy, but it matched my generation’s faux-nostalgia for the grungy late-80s, early 90s. The program detailed a little of the dramaturgs’ approach to the historical integrity of the play, including details like following AZT dosage instructions or matching the brands of makeup popular at the time. As far as the set goes, I liked how the lack of borders between elements of the set seemed to reflect the transience of housing in the show–one moment the cast was in Mark and Roger’s apartment, the next they were on the street.
The last time I watched the 2005 screenplay version of Rent was probably 2018 or so, when I was in ninth grade, and I think a lot of it went over my head, especially the historical elements like the HIV/AIDS crisis. I took a course on social movements this year where we spent a long time analyzing the ACT UP movement, which brought me a whole new level of appreciation for Rent‘s relationship to and portrayal of the epidemic.
I’m glad I got to see SMTD’s last show of the season, and I can’t wait to check out some of their 23/24 lineup when I get back after the summer. Access to so many incredible performances is one of the things I love most about living in Ann Arbor, and if you’re a student reading this, I hope you’ll take this opportunity and make the most of the campus art scene while you’re here.