FVP Delivers Impressive “Death of a Salesman”

Reviewed by Kathleen Kirby

Arthur Miller’s Pulitzer Prize winning Death of a Salesman isn’t a project for the faint of heart, but Fenton Village Players proved themselves up to the challenge. A serious drama, it takes the audience on a journey inside the head of an aging traveling salesman as he comes face to face with his own shortcomings. This is an impressive production.1280x450-About-New-York-2-by-magdalenaroeseler-at-Flickr-CC-BY-NC-SA-2

Written and set in 1949, Willy Loman, played masterfully by Steven Shelton, is the title character. His emotional range is striking. Returning home unexpectedly, Willy tells his wife, Linda (Patti Lee) that he was just too tired to continue. Lee is wonderful as the faithful and long-suffering wife and mother. She exudes strength and understanding even as her husband begins to retract into his own world.

We find that the two grown Loman boys are also home for a visit that will turn out to be less than loving before they’re finished. Zach Bach plays Happy who has spent most of his life in the shadow of his older brother Biff. He has managed to become employed and to support his playboy lifestyle, which is more than his brother can boast.

As Biff, Chris Vitarelli oozes angst over what at first seems to be his failure to live up to his father’s expectations. We will find as Willy continually relives his past that there is definitely more to the story of Biff’s broken dreams than meets the eye.

Biff’s boyhood friend, Bernard (Grant Kenney) was something of nerd, but of course grows up to be quite successful while Biff is still struggling to find his way. His father is Charley played by Matt Osterberg. A true friend, Willy still holds him at arms length even as he proves his friendship over and over.

Willie spends a lot of time living in the past and often speaking to his dead brother, Ben who is played with cogent grace by Geno Essenmacher. Ben left home early and made his fortune in diamonds, an adventure Willy longs to emulate but, of course, cannot.

Miller clearly expects us to recognize Willy along with his issues and struggles. He takes the character on a roller coaster of emotional memories where we can literally see him relive these not so happy experiences with which we are obviously supposed to empathize. Did I mention that this is not a comedy?

Director Joseph Mishler brings his cast to ensemble quality very nicely. The range of emotion that each must deal with emerges naturally and believably. Movement around the skeleton-style set is fluid.

About the set – Essenmacher has done double duty here. He seems to have followed the playwright’s directions to a tee and the result is quite intriguing. Players move in, around and through the “walls” as the set becomes other places. It would seem this would be difficult to follow, but it isn’t.

Overall, just the idea of producing this story of Willy Loman is daunting, but FVP has powerfully managed to bring it to vibrant life. We understand him and the values by which he lived and was ultimately destroyed. If there was anything missing Thursday, it was the full house that this show so richly deserves.

Death of a Salesman continues through April 30. For more information and tickets contact the box office at 810-750-7700 or online at www.FentonTheatre.org

 

 

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Fenton Village Players Presenting “Death of a Salesman”

Death of a Salesman

April 20th – 23rd, 28th – 30th

1280x450-About-New-York-2-by-magdalenaroeseler-at-Flickr-CC-BY-NC-SA-2

A story about the last days of Willy Loman, a salesman, who, in is quest for the “American Dream”, cannot understand how he failed to win success and happiness. It remains one of the most profound classic dramas of the American theatre.

Production Staff

  • Directed by Joseph Mishler
  • Produced by Mary Powers

Cast

  • Willy Loman — Steven Shelton
  • Biff — Chris Vitarelli
  • Happy — Zach Bach
  • Linda — Patti Lee
  • Charley — Matt Osterberg
  • Bernard — Grant Kenny
  • Ben — Geno Essenmacher
  • Howard/Stanley — Tim Maggard
  • The Woman — Karen McClellan
  • Miss Forsythe — Rachael Rittichier
  • Jenny/Letta — Grace Lee

More Info

Tickets – call box office at 810-750-7700 or online at http://fentontheatre.org/tickets/

 

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UM-Flint’s Brings Bright Interpretation to Oscar Wilde’s “Earnest”

earnest_poster_2016_copyReviewed by Kathleen Kirby

When Irish playwright Oscar Wilde was writing in the late nineteenth century, conservatism ruled society. It was a time of upper crust pomp and general disdain for the lesser classes. The University of Michigan-Flint Department of Theatre and Dance plunged headlong into this era Friday with Wilde’s comic poke at such stuffy society, The Importance of Being Earnest.

This is an often-produced piece, but we’ll wager you’ve not seen it quite like this before. The opening finds Algernon ‘Algy’ Moncrieff (Gage Webster) at a piano playing with gusto and singing at the top of his voice. Nothing straitlaced in his behavior at all! Throughout, Webster exudes a playboy persona, quick to con and deceive all while enjoying himself immensely.

His butler, Lane, played by George M. Marzonie provides even more comedy with his stiff but often melancholy demeanor.

Algy is soon visited by his good friend John (Jack/Ernest) Worthing (Lucas Moquin), a fellow with an apparently much stiffer upper lip, but who is guarding a secret life as well. Moquin brings this ramrod personality to both of his “characters” garnering many chuckles in the attempt.

Both of these fellows are enamored and very close to falling in love. Worthing’s lady friend is Algy’s cousin Gwendolen Fairfax (Farrell Tatum), an impeccable, slightly haughty figure dressed in extravagant and beautiful style. Not quite the opposite, but of a more sweet, homespun and mischievous disposition, Algy’s love interest is Cecily (Dominique Hinde), Worthing’s ward.

Lady Augusta Bracknell (Shelby Coleman) rules the resident roost with her pristine Victorian sense of right and wrong and her high decibel voice. When it is apparent that John/Earnest Worthing was a foundling child left in a bag at Victoria Station, she declares the engagement null. After all, she cannot allow her niece to “form an alliance with a parcel”.

Director William Irwin describes this production as “lavish and fun” and that, sir, it certainly is. Lavish may be too a simple an explanation for Scenic Designer Tyler Rankin’s amazing gardens and observatory. It is a stunning setting for all the scurrying about that happens as each of the two gents proclaims himself to be Earnest. (Seems the ladies find that name too tempting to resist.)

We loved Act I in the London sitting room at teatime with Algy’s “musicality”, but Acts 2 and 3 are set in a country manor house and may be worth the price of admission alone. It’s simple to imagine Miss Prism (Taylor Boes) and the Rev. Chasuble (Andrew Eisengruber) strolling through the garden just beyond the ivy-laden archways. Also the interactions on the garden wall walkway between Cecily and the servant Merriman (Jordan Kinney) are sweet and well done.

Inside the glass-walled conservatory the effect is even more impressive as all of the confusion comes to its happy conclusion with many a cockeyed twist and turn in the effort.

There isn’t one weak link in this ensemble. This is a very well directed and talented cast backed up by an accomplished set and technical team. Even if you think you’ve seen Wilde’s Earnest before, have another go at this one. You will be glad you did.

The Importance of Being Earnest continues at The University of Michigan-Flint through April 2. For tickets and more information contact the box office at 810-237-6520 or online at www.umflint.edu/theatredance

 

 

 

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“BISCUIT!” THIS WEEKEND ONLY!

 

This Weekend Only!

Biscuit

Friday, March 24 – 7pm •  Saturday, March 252pm
All tickets only $10 each
A frolicking little puppy named Biscuit loves exploring, making new friends, and even stirring up some mischief. Along the way, Biscuit learns about the joys of having a family.
An ArtsPower Production based on the book series by Alyssa Satin Capucilli
Recommended for ages 3 and up
theFYT.org  •  810.237.1530
First Stage is sponsored by Wang Family Charitable Fund
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New McCree Theatre to Present “Needle in a Haystack” – A Musical Tribute to the Velvelettes

The Board of Directors and Friends of tneedle_in_thehaystack360x267he New McCree Theatre are presenting a Gala Reception and World Premiere Performance of the original musical, A Needle in a Haystack: the Story of the Velvelettes, a tribute to Motown’s longest lasting girl group that still performs with all of its original members today.  The event will take place at the New McCree Theatre, 2040 W. Carpenter Road, Flint, on Saturday, April 29, 2017.  A red carpet reception, with refreshments, will begin at 5:30 p.m. while curtain for the premiere performance of the musical is at 7:00 p.m.  Organizers are requesting a $50.00 donation from each patron.  Funds will be utilized to enable the New McCree Theatre to carry on its plethora of performing arts activities on behalf of the underserved residents of north Flint for the remainder of the program year.  Tickets can be purchased by telephone or online at www.thenewmccreetheatre.com.
The odyssey of the Velvelettes began in 1962 when two cousins from Flint—Bertha Barbee and Norma Barbee— joined with two sisters and a friend from Kalamazoo—Mildred Gill, Caldin Ann Gill, and Betty Kelley—to form the singing group.  After winning a talent contest at Western Michigan University, the girls were encouraged to go to Detroit to audition for Motown records.  The audition was successful. Two years later the group recorded its first hit record, Needle in a Haystack.  It was followed by He Was Really Saying Something, which also charted in the Top 100 pop hits in the country in 1965. 
Although the girls were on the verge of becoming mega stars at Motown like the Marvelettes, the Vandellas, and the Supremes, three of them left the group to concentrate on raising their families.  Cal, the lead singer carried on for another two years with fill-in Velvelettes, but the group eventually disbanded.  Fifteen years later, now divorced, the girls reunited and picked up where they left off, without missing a beat.
Needle in a Haystack will continue to run at the New McCree Theatre following the premiere performance, from May 4 – 27, on Thursday and Friday at 7:00 p.m. and Saturday at 2:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.  Call the theatre at (810) 787-2200 for ticket information, or visit the theatre’s website.
Contact Charles Winfrey at (810) 787-2200 if additional information is desired.
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FYT “Cat in the Hat” Audition Opportunity for Grades 7 – 12

Cat

AUDITION OPPORTUNITY

Students in grades 7 through 12 are invited to audition for
Dr. Suess’ The Cat In The Hat
“We looked! Then we saw him step in on the mat! We looked!
And we saw him! The Cat in the Hat!”Dr. Seuss’ classic story is brought to vibrant life in this delightful new adaptation.
 Auditions
Tuesday, March 21, 2017 – 6:00-9:30pm
Auditions will include reading from the script. Students do not need to prepare anything to audition.
Callbacks (if needed) will take place on Wednesday, March 22, 2017 – 6:00-9:30pm

Rehearsals:
Monday – Fridays, Beginning April 17, 2017 – 6:00-9:30pm


Performances

 Daytime school performance May 9-12
Public performances Friday, May 12 – 7pm & Saturday, May 13 – 2pm
Adapted by Katie Mitchell & Directed by Kay Kelly
theFYT.org  •  810.237.1530
Cat In The Hat is sponsored by Wang Family Charitable Fund
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CCC’s “The Kings of Unionville” Brings Comedy Home

Reviewed by Kathleen Kirby

Stories akings-of-unionville-2-2-w280h205bout Michigan are always intriguing just because they’re close to home. And, if the story is funny, slightly wacky, and also heartwarming then all the better. Actually that’s a pretty good description of Michigan playwright James R. Kuhl’s The Kings of Unionville, which opened Friday at Clio Cast & Crew.

Remember the tale about those ditsy deer hunters in Escanaba in the Moonlight that we all loved? Well, after seeing Kings, you may start to believe there’s something in the Michigan air that encourages that certain wackiness to emerge when guys get together. This is a very funny show populated by six terrific actors.

It all takes place in a slightly dated, wood paneled basement where five members of a generations-old fraternal society – the Kings – meet to drink beer, play six-handed euchre, trade corny jokes and generally just be guys. The monkey wrench in the current works is the recent death of one member. His passing leaves a hole in the card game and an opening for a new member.

The comedy begins with the opening song sung by the five to launch the meeting. Let’s just say it isn’t a typically fervent pledge of loyalty and fraternity, but led by Hoagie (Dave Turner) it is impressive. Leroy (Duane Dunckel) makes sure everyone has a beer and the hijinks begin. He and his brother Guvy (Bill Fagerstrom) are a comic duo that had Friday night’s audience laughing early and long.

The basement belongs to Ed (Pat Blondin), and it is where much of the important 150-year history of the Kings is kept in a bound scrapbook. After paying tribute to their lost brother, the issue of the missing euchre player takes center stage.

Just then, Ed’s son Will (Shane Wachowicz) walks in and is asked to play the sixth hand. Soon the idea to invite him to join the group as a bone-fide member has everyone agreeing except Ed who demands that Will be subject to a long abandoned initiation ceremony.

Not sure of what this entails since none of them ever went through one, it falls to the eldest member, Lloyd (Jim Waner), to transport the dusty trunk full of rituals and robes to the meeting room where even more hysterical interaction then ensues.

Although there is a ripe amount, the script isn’t all slapstick and silliness. There is also conflict here between father and son, and it isn’t just their difference in age and technological expertise. (Will is a computer geek and constantly on his phone). Playwright Kuhl has woven an interesting web of generational confusion as this issue reaches back all the way to Will’s great grandfather and ahead to his own newborn son. Not to worry – the outcome is heartwarming.

Finally, kudos line up for director Dawn Sabourin. She has assembled a strong ensemble that plays well with no real weak links. Even their corniest jokes sparked laughter Friday. The set is detailed and typically appointed. It will look familiar to you – it did to me.

We’d encourage anyone in need of a good laugh, or several, to head to Clio for this endearingly comical show about tradition, friendship and loyalty.

The Kings of Unionville continues at Theatre 57, 2220 W Vienna Rd, Clio, MI, March 4, 10 & 11 at 7:30 pm and March 5 & 12 at 2:30 pm. For tickets contact the box office at 810-687-2588 or online at www.cliocastandcrew.com

 

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