Reviewed by Carolyn Gillespie
Flint Community Players has mounted Ernest Thompson’s poignant gem On Golden Pond in its intimate Ballenger space. The play opened on Broadway in 1979 with Tom Aldredge and Frances Sternhagen playing the long-married Thayers who face their golden years with equal measures of fear, love, and bitterness. A popular film version followed featuring Henry Fonda and Katherine Hepburn, with Jane Fonda playing the Thayer’s daughter Chelsea whose troubled relationship with her failing father lies at the heart of the family drama. Other versions of Thompson’s work followed, including a TV version with Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer, and the late Glenne Headly, as well as a Broadway revival with James Earl Jones and Leslie Uggams.
Though the play is set in Maine, Steve Munsell’s cozy set will transport Michiganders directly to the family cottage “up north” with its handsome fireplace and kitschy furnishings; and the intermittent sound track is high on nostalgia, complete with the eerie call of the loon. As the play begins, we meet the Thayers who are opening the house for the season – their 49th as summer residents of their small community. Ron Fournier plays Norman, a sharp-tongued retired professor of English, who is showing early signs of dementia, much to the dismay of his wife Ethel, played by Mary Rice. Ethel works to keep her worries about Norman at bay, but his erratic behavior, cutting remarks, and black humor cast a pall over the fond memories of other summers. The local mail carrier, Charlie who brings news of local townies along with the post, is played with heart and an idiosyncratic laugh by J.R. Nunley. Charlie has been slogging the same route since he was a fifteen year old in love with Chelsea. Unmarried, he still harbors a longing for her, and her unexpected arrival to visit her parents fills him with hope of another chance in spite of the fact that she arrives with a fiancé and his 13 year old son.
Chelsea’s arrival presents a challenge/opportunity for the Thayers as she asks her parents to care for young Billy Ray, Jr. for a month while she and Bill Ray travel to Europe. Carla Feamster brings considerable energy to the role. Christopher Dinnan as Bill Ray demonstrates initial deference to Norman, but eventually abandons his pretext of affability in the face of Norman’s caustic responses to his efforts at civility. We begin to see what lies at the root of Chelsea’s rupture with her father – she addresses him as “Norman” and will not honor him by calling him “Dad”. Ethel is delighted to host the boy, but is concerned about Norman’s ability to cope. She needn’t. The boy brings Norman great joy and seems to alleviate the signs of his growing senility. They fish daily, they laugh. Ever the English professor, he encourages the boy to read youth classics. In turn, the boy teaches Norman the current slang and how to laugh without bitterness. After the month is over, Chelsea returns, and that is the rest of the story.
Opening night posed a few problems for the company. Director William Kircher might clarify the signal event in each scene, and the cast has room to grow into the dense emotional terrain the play lays out. Stricter attention could be paid to realizing small elements – the reality of a glass of milk, the work of opening and closing a house, clothing choices that suggest summer, the weight of a picnic. Nonetheless, there is plenty to think about in this family drama, especially for those of us in the Ethel/Norman age bracket.
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
On Golden Pond continues at FCP’s Tom & Bea Nobles Performance Hall, 2462 S Ballenger Hwy Flint, 48507 on Nov. 3, 4. 10 & 11 at 7:30 pm and Nov. 5 & 12 at 2:30 pm. For tickets and more information contact the box office at 810-441-9302 or www.flintcommunityplayers.com
Reviewed by Kathleen Kirby
It has always been deemed taboo to dabble with or in any way rearrange the lines written by William Shakespeare. Troupes have changed the time and the setting but never the words. Still, even though it’s patently amazing that these tales have survived intact for over 400 years, the time may have come to spruce them up for the new millennium.
With that said, what better vehicle to give a little shake and stir than Shakespeare’s As You Like It which opened at the University of Michigan-Flint Friday. Indeed, this wonderfully fresh adaptation by Robert Kauzlaric doesn’t just update the dress code; it updates the script as well.
Opening on a barren stage, we are reminded that this is theatre; not real, but a mere story being told. This will eventually evolve into a colorful autumnal forest, yet rendered to resemble cutouts thus continuing the story told impact.
Leading and often “directing” the action is Farrell Tatum as the staff wielding Jaques. She is quite impressive as dressed in boots, long frock coat and top hat she exudes a sense of melancholy that places her in a somewhat ethereal realm of control.
The story swirls around a political conflict that has torn two families apart causing one family to flee the city and seek refuge in the nearby Forest of Arden. A third family finds itself usurped as the reigning Duke (Jason Briggs) demands allegiance from Oliver de Bois (Lucas Moquin) thus leaving his younger brother Orlando (Gage Webster) with nothing.
Briggs struts and intimidates with the best of them but has one weakness – his daughter Celia (Curr’esha Beatty) – who will eventually bring him to reason. Meanwhile, Celia’s best friend is the daughter of the exiled Duke (Andrew Eisengruber). She and Rosalind (Alyssa Banister) are the story’s driving duo as they escape to the forest to find freedom and, well, also Orlando. One problem: Rosalind has disguised herself as a boy in order to safely flee the city, but her getup is so convincing even Orlando believes her to be a man.
It’s a comedy so all comes out well in the end, but getting there is a real treat in this production. Director Janet Haley (who incidentally played this characterization of Jaques in the Michigan Shakespeare Festival’s As You Like It) has turned much of the interpretation and production development of Kauzlaric’s script over to her cast of students. What emerges here is perhaps the most refreshing and creative version of a Shakespearean play we have ever seen.
Stage choreography is hip and fun, the guitarist (Seth Hart) strums throughout and the lines Silvius (Edward Giovanni Moore III) sings to Phebe (Andrea Orpinel) are now and then close to modern rap. Constantly chasing Phebe, Moore is hysterical as he is often obstructed by her “sheep” that follow her everywhere.
Costumes are timeless and colorful, especially those of the goat herder, Audrey (Michaela Nogaj) and her wild and outspoken suitor, the court jester Touchstone (Joshua Cornea). These two are a hoot to watch as they shepherd the “goats” and themselves.
Animals do abound in this show – aside from the sheep and the lambs, watch for deer, a buck (sad story here), a lion, a snake and a bird!
Other classy portrayals worthy of mention include Le Beau, the personal assistant to the usurping duke. Enrique Vargas is prim comic perfection in this role. Marie Blacknall is Corin, grandmother to Silvius, who seems to look after the younger ones. Connor Klee plays Adam, servant to Orlando who though old and lame, insists he go with his master into the forest.
Finally, we trust the tech crew has ironed out the couple of lighting issues encountered Friday so that we can solidly encourage you, even if you have avoided plays by Shakespeare, to make an exception and scurry out to see As You Like It.
Performances continue October 28-29 and November 3-5 at the University Theatre, 303 Kearsley St, Flint MI 48502. For more info and tickets contact either the box office – 810-237-6520 or online at umflint.edu/theatredance
Reviewed by Kathleen Kirby
Nearly a packed house gathered Thursday to see, hear and even join in as The New McCree Theatre presented Voices From Heaven: The Story of the Caravans, an original script written by McCree’s Executive Director Charles H. Winfrey. A singular tribute to the history of gospel music, this production features a host of incredible local singers and one amazing song after another.
Director Cathye Johnson returned from Missouri especially to oversee this effort. Her stamp of perfection is all over this show from the interesting and clever choreography to the smooth interaction between musical numbers. Every movement is clearly motivated and well planned to convey the action along. (We loved the ladies simultaneously singing and striking the set to be ready for the next number.)
So who are the Caravans? As the show explains, they were the best female gospel group of the last 60 years as well as a training ground for new singers destined to become gospel greats. Albertina Walker (Tiana Rison) is one of the most constant members and often comments on the abundance of talent that joined the group, moved on and then returned periodically throughout the Caravan years.
A few others manage to stick close including Dorothy Norwood (Alina Oliver), Inez Andrews (Barbara A. Armstrong), Iris Humble (Seena Brandon), Shirley Caesar (Ayana S. Mitts) and song writer/supporter James Cleveland (Curtiss Stewart).
A large ensemble brings this show to vibrant life with at least 16 singers and dancers taking part. The story unfolds as a review with one musical number following close on the last with the band right smack in the middle of the action upstage center. Marlon Miller (keyboards) is the musical director here along with Anthony Williams (lead guitar), Carlos Gilbert (bass guitar) and Davey Wade (drums). Microphones are used liberally allowing these fine musicians to play without covering the vocals.
Probably the most energetic and engaging number occurred at the end of the first act when Mitts as young Shirley Caesar ran down the aisle asking to audition for the Caravans. This rendition of “Sweeping Through the City” was patently amazing as Mitts wound the audience right around her finger while the ensemble responded with terrifically choreographed excitement and vocal backup. One word for this number – Wow!
We also must give credit to Alphonso Foster for the beautiful and yet simple set design. Eight large flats adorn the stage with each one painted to depict a stained glass church window. They are most artfully done.
If you appreciate powerful vocals, great instrumentals and vintage gospel, you can’t miss this. Voices From Heaven has only three performances remaining – tonight at 7:00 pm and Saturday at 2:00 and 7:00 pm. The theatre is in the New Standard Academy (Old Powers High School), 2040 W. Carpenter Road, Flint, 48505. For more information and tickets contact the box office at 810-787-2200 or online at http://www.thenewmccreetheatre.com/tickets.html
Reviewed by Kathleen Kirby
Flint Youth Theatre opened a magical, exciting and even a bit scary production Saturday evening of the Madeleine L’Engle classic tale as adapted by Tracy Young, A Wrinkle in Time. Staged in the cozy Elgood Theatre, the audience was brought in close to this story of cosmic travel, ominous black clouds, and bravely intelligent children to the rescue.
Briefly, A Wrinkle in Time is the story of a young girl who, along with her younger brother and her friend, is transported on an adventure through time and space to rescue her father, a gifted scientist, from the evil forces that hold him prisoner on another planet.
We knew we were in for a “sky” story the minute we entered the theatre. The entire multi-level set is painted a sort of sky blue and lit by stars. It is a striking first impression. Indeed, lights and sound play a huge role in the passage of time and place effects. The rain is especially effective.
We love it when kids are cast as kids and FYT is terrific at this. Leading the action here is Paige Benner as the smart but awkward, unpopular and defensive middle-schooler, Meg Murry. She will nevertheless step up to hero status before the play is done.
Meg’s younger brother, Charles Wallace Murry is played amazingly by young Haedyn Scott. He brings this slightly odd but highly intelligent, probably autistic, child to life quite nicely. His devotion to his sister (he reads her mind) and the family will find him tested mightily as well. We did wish he would speak louder though, as much of what he had to say was swallowed up by some sound effects and a lack of vocal projection.
Rounding out the trio of time travelling kids is Calvin O’Keefe, a boy from a very large family with an overburdened mother. He is looking for someplace more joyful than his own home. Syd Brown plays this character with a nice mix of hesitancy and confidence as they set out to traverse time and space together.
They don’t do it on their own of course. Charles Wallace introduces them to three immortal characters living in a haunted house in the woods. Mrs. Whatsit (Amy Dolan-Malaney) is a sweet woman dressed in layers of multicolored fabrics. She is kind to the children and even flies them on her back in a most amazing and technically splendid scene.
Brittany Reed is Mrs. Who, a bespectacled woman fluent in dozens of languages and given to communicating in quotes. Mrs. Whatsit explains that Mrs. Who is not so comfortable using her own words. But her glasses nearly save the day!
Rounding out this trio of spirits is Mrs. Which played by Kristina Riegle who also plays Meg’s mother. Mrs. Which is perhaps the most ethereal of the three with her witch hat and glowing orb.
These three spirits invoke the tesseract, a way of folding time and allowing them to travel quickly through space and the cosmos. This visual effect is quite amazing and the players react to it perfectly as they seek to rescue Meg’s father from imprisonment on Camazotz.
Others worthy of mention include Bret Beaudry as Meg’s imprisoned dad, Dekotah James Myers for his terrific enactment of Fortinbras, the dog, Sarah Jarrett as the loveable Aunt Beast, and those two adorable twins, Lucas and William Eldredge.
We won’t spoil the outcome for you but we will say that this production’s technical team is to be commended. Lights, sound, and visual effects literally change the set from one planet and one place to another.
Kudos must also go to director Michael Lluberes. The staging features a lot of movement as it cleverly provides a constant reminder that we are reading a book as the story unfolds before us.
A Wrinkle in Time runs just over 90 minutes and continues at Flint Youth Theatre’s Elgood Theatre through October 22. For more information and tickets contact the box office at 810-237-7333 or online at theFYT.org
Reviewed by Kathleen Kirby
Clio Cast & Crew opened their 2017-2018 season Friday with Poe’s Midnight Dreary, a show surely chosen for its supposedly spooky overtones. Written by Richard McElvain, the play consists of vignettes from the works of Edgar Allen Poe and even features the poet as narrator.
Christopher Dinnan plays the role of Poe who is ostensibly dying in a Baltimore hospital. He repeatedly arises to live out his musings about various works he has written – living each of them as if for the first time. Dinnan is effective in this role. His facial expressions are impressive even when he is only observing.
If you are a Poe aficionado, you will recognize the scenes that reflect the “The Tell-Tale Heart”, “The Black Cat”, and “The Raven”. (Speaking of that crow, the ending has a potentially terrific representation of the raven at Poe’s death played in an amazing costume by Brett Beach.) Other works featured include “Annabel Lee”, “The Fall of the House of Usher”, and “The Premature Burial” with an aside nod to “The Cask of Amontillado”.
Although a young cast, a few merit mention. Cassidy Couturier was interesting in the role of Bertram. Short of stature, she still managed to exude the evil nature of the character’s intent.
Kaity Honnen played a variety of feminine roles well but with little delineation between the characters. Preston Sannicolas managed to be the bad guy most of the time with his portrayals of the Banker and Roderick. Also, Rochelle Dula was intriguing as the Cat with her feline gyrations, yowls and hisses.
This script seems to aim at a youthful audience, so the casting of many youngsters was appropriate. Director Shane Wachowicz may have needed to rehearse them a bit more to achieve the desired impact. Many of them made up the chorus of monks and other shrouded figures. They were often called upon to speak in unison in response to Poe and to echo things said. This technique can be very impressive done correctly. Instead, this aspect seemed under rehearsed so that their sound and diction was ragged.
Wachowicz employed a two-story set often used at Clio that affords multiple exits and entrances. He used them to advantage throughout the show. Poe’s deathbed is rolled in when he needs to make comments from there and is then rolled out again. (We wonder if a stationary hospital setting that Poe could go to and from might have been more subtle and less distracting.)
Overall, the spookiness factor fell victim to bright lights and a certain lack of definition between vignettes. This isn’t your usual plotted play that begins, transpires, and then ends. Instead it transitions between stories, often assuming the audience’s familiarity with Poe’s work, which, if present, would enhance the scare quality.
We applaud CCC for their willingness to take on a show like this – it is certainly an appropriate one for October with its potentially scary characters, murder and mayhem!
Poe’s Midnight Dreary continues at Clio Cast & Crew’s Theatre 57, 2220 W. Vienna Rd, Clio on October 7, 13, 14 at 7:30 pm and October 8 & 15 at 2:30 pm. For tickets and more information contact the box office at 810-687-2588 or online at www.cliocastandcrew.com
Michigan’s professional theatre for young audiences, Flint Youth Theatre (FYT) presents A Wrinkle in Time, adapted for stage by Tracy Young, based on the book by Madeleine L’Engle. Performances for this thrilling new adaptation begin Saturday, October 7, 2017 and run through Sunday, October 22, 2017. Tickets are now on sale.
After the disappearance of her scientist father, three peculiar beings send Meg, her brother, and her friend on a journey through time and space in order to find him. FYT presents a new version of this mind-expanding science fiction story that’s still a favorite with the young and young at heart.
A Wrinkle in Time is directed by FYT’s new Producing Artistic Director Michael Lluberes (The Boy in the Bathroom, Peter Pan: The Boy Who Hated Mothers). The cast includes Bret Beaudry (The Adventures of Robin Hood), Paige Benner, Syd Brown, Lucas Eldredge, William Eldredge, Sarah Jarrett, Amy Dolan-Malaney (Mary Poppins), Dakotah James Myers, Brittany Reed, Kristina Riegle and Haedyn Scott. The production team includes Scenic Design by Lisa Borton (Tipping Point Theatre’s Boeing Boeing), Costume Design by Katherine Nelson (Pinocchio), Lighting Design by Doug Mueller (The Watsons Go to Birmingham-1963), Sound Design by Gene Oliver (The Adventures of Robin Hood) and Projection Design by Alison Dobbins (Mitch Albom’s Ernie & Hockey The Musical). The Stage Manager is Nicole Broughton (The Adventures of Robin Hood).
Performance dates for A Wrinkle in Time are Saturday, October 7, 7 p.m.; Sunday, October 8, 2 p.m.; Friday, October 13, 7p.m.; Saturday, October 14, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.
(College Night); Sunday, October 15, 2 p.m., (ASL interpreted); Friday, October 20, 7 p.m.; Saturday, October 21, 2p.m. and 7 p.m.; Sunday, October 22, 2 p.m. Tickets are $18 for adults, $16 for seniors and teens, children (12 & under) are $14 and $10 for college students. Tickets can be purchased by calling (810) 237-7333 or online at http://www.TheFYT.org. This show is recommended for ages eight and older.
A Wrinkle in Time is sponsored by Tom Glasscock and Helen Bas, William Hentgen, Ron and Cathy Prevett, Dr. Frederick and Gloria VanDuyne and Sheila Zorn.
Flint Youth Theatre is located at 1220 E. Kearsley St., Flint, MI 48503. Since 1957, Flint Youth Theatre’s nationally acclaimed, award-winning intergenerational programming has provided Flint area residents with opportunities to experience the unique joys of discovery and self-expression through the performing arts. A program of the Flint Institute of Music, FYT is the resident theatre company at the Flint Cultural Center. A nonprofit organization, FYT receives support from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, a partner agency of the National Endowment for the Arts. For more information about Flint Youth Theatre please visit http://www.TheFYT.org.