“The Curious Savage” is Comical Fare

Reviewed by Karla Froehlich

Stirred in with a greedy family, John Patrick’s The Curious Savage, is an insightful comedy about mental health and who among us might be considered for an institution. Kudos to the set construction crew and set decorators for giving us a homey peek at institutional life with just enough to look at as well as enough fodder for the cast to use to enhance the eccentricities of the characters. Proper hats are flying off to the costumers, Dennis Swedorski and Ramona Russell, in this gorgeous production! Directors William Kircher and Mary Swedorski assembled a rainbow of talented actors to display these beautiful irregularities.

Susanne Helfrich, as Florence, glows with motherly affection and tender firmness. Ted Valley is delightfully entertaining as Hannibal, a self-proclaimed concert violinist with a flare for dance. Kaiser Henning’s, Jeffrey, is played earnestly, with care and understanding. Katie Davis manifests the joyful flitting about needed to play the character of Fairy May with glee. Rounding out those incarcerated is Mrs. Paddy, a woman who speaks in verse, exhibited with skill by Pat Walker.

The story is driven by the committal to the institution of Mrs. Ethel Savage, at the hands of her three stepchildren. We find evidence of Mrs. Savage’s sanity, as well as her possible insanity, delicately sprinkled throughout the show with stalwartness by Johanna Kurnik. This privileged family is dysfunctional on every level as evidenced with proper indifference by Paul Wallace as Titus, John Dunning as Samuel, and Paula Price, who especially commands the stage with her sweeping entrances and exits as Lily Belle.

Completing the ensemble the caregivers are exemplified proficiently by Karen Fenech as Miss Wilhelmina and Larry Stecco as Dr. Emmett. These two do their best to keep order as well as the patients and family happy. They’re up to the task!

This production is rife with subtle sight gags, with a little something happening all the time. Everyone does well to stay in character and not steal focus during the many scenes in which most all the characters are gathered.

Get out this weekend or next and enjoy this fun, live performance. Masks optional. Laughs required.

The Curious Savage continues at Clio Cast & Crew through November 14. For more information and curtain times contact the Box Office at 810-687-2588 or online at www.cliocastandcrew.com

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“It Came From Mars” Opens FCP Season

Reviewed by Sherrema Bower

It is October 30, 1938, and the members of Farlowe’s Mystery Theatre Hour are rehearsing at radio station WHQN in New York City, when they learn that Martians have landed in neighboring New Jersey. The ensuing panic and hysterics bring out hidden personal truths of dreams diverted, secret pseudonyms, and mad romance. Although, situated in humor, the actors captured the emotional shock and horror that swept America that fateful night as millions of listeners tuned in at 8:00pm to, what they mistakenly believed, was an invasion by Martians. Because many people switched their radio dial from another show on a different network, they tuned in slightly late and most did not hear the announcement beforehand, stating that this was a simulated news broadcast and adaptation of H.G. Wells’ novel The War of the Worlds. Written and narrated by Orson Welles, the show’s historicity and reverberations of that fateful night have been well documented – spurred on by mass fear, panic, and later, anger when people learned the truth and felt “duped.” Orson Welles redefined radio and became an overnight legend. He is, in fact, a spectral image in the play.

This production by the Flint Community Players featured an experienced and well-suited cast with excellent chemistry and passion for their roles. The moral strengths and weaknesses of each character appear in nuances of conversation and movement, both subtle and confronting by turns. Receptionist Maude Myrtles (Lauren Kondrat) is the show’s unflappable voice of reason with her wit and dry humor. She handles the angry directives of her boss Quentin Farlowe (Christopher Dinnan), the sexist overtures of radio actor George Loomis (Brian Scott Powers), and the neuroses of radio show sound technician Werner Kreilig (Brett Beach) with admirable aplomb. She never loses her cool – until she does. Via Kondrat’s magnificent show of hysterics, the audience is treated to Maude’s secret, fantastic dreams, and very real fear that her life will end this night without ever being realized. Delores Breckinridge (Dominique Hinde) is not who she appears at first to be. Seemingly silly, her lackluster conversational tidbits trail away under Maude’s withering gaze. Yet, Hinde plays her character with understated strength, as seen in her graceful profile and proud carriage while facing down Farlowe’s wrath, and uncharacteristic, surprising knowledge as she explains the physics surrounding the Martian spaceship’s entrance to Planet Earth. Julia Crane (Jessi Eldredge) also displays a subtle sense of strength. Appearing, at first, as a high maintenance diva, she is impervious to George’s tirades during rehearsal, and shows surprising depth in her compassionate, vulnerable response to Farlowe, bringing the audience to understand the hidden truths surrounding their 15-year marriage and subsequent divorce. Brought in as a last resort to save Farlowe’s Mystery Theatre Hour, Julia, like Maude to WHQN, is Farlowe’s backbone and, by the end, his redemption.

The male actors also played their characters with nuances of strength. Leading-man Dinnan plays Farlowe to the hilt in all his bad-tempered, crotchety, and cynical glory. Faced with a funding shortage and the possible cancellation of his radio show, he vacillates between dreams deferred, and roaring his disapproval at others for their work performances. George, superbly played by Powers, is haunted by memories as a soldier during the Great War, about which he is reminded daily by a leg injury received in the trenches. He is seemingly nonplussed at working beside women and his sexist remonstrations are met with long suffering humor by Maude, simpering impatience by Delores, and completely ignored by Julia. George’s loyalty to Farlowe, however, gives the audience a glimpse into the soldier he once was. Later, panic reveals him to be a conspiracy theorist and xenophobe mired in his memories of the Front and inability to cope in a rapidly changing world. Beach’s Werner Kreilig is enigmatic and neurotic. Werner is German and his neuroses seem, at first, overplayed. Living in his mother’s basement, Werner keeps to himself and enjoys reading science fiction. As the radio show’s sound technician, he is enamored with making thunder and does so often, much to Farlowe’s chagrin. In the adrenaline rush following the initial sense of panic, he and Delores realize their love for each other, and a sense of calm seems to overtake Werner once he recognizes who she is to him. His over-the-top expressions provide a useful counterpoint when he is, at last, peaceful and intuitive in the face of death.  

The show’s lighting (Lisa Bilaski) was done well, and sound (Vic Tatum) was artfully used via the radio when listening to the newscast, and off stage, especially when magnified by the characters’ fear that the aliens had found them and it was only one of their own come to set them free from their barricaded room. Period costumes (Kelli Gibbons) were subtle on the men, who wore suits, and especially seen on the women. Eldredge and Kondrat wore their hair and costumes well, while Hinde’s dress seemed somewhat too contemporary, although a subtle hairstyle change could fix that. Props (Sarah Briggs) were kept sparse, perhaps in keeping with a Depression-era office, although this audience member wondered why a radio station would need such a small, faulty radio by which the characters were fixated on receiving news. It also causes one to wonder why Julia and Farlowe did not recognize the narrator’s voice as belonging to Orson Welles, entwined as he was in both of their lives.

All in all, opening night of FCP’s production It Came from Mars was a success and a rollicking good time. Director Zachery Wood’s characters were deeply nuanced and developed, their chemistry strong, and the set fitting. This play is a must-see and highly enjoyable.

For more information contact the box office at 810-235-6963 or online at www.flintcommunityplayers.com

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POSTING A CORRECTION

The dates for the REP production of Happy Days was incorrectly published. Please refer to the correct dates below.

Happy Days will continue through October 17. Contact the box office at 810-237-7333 or online at flintrep.org/tickets.

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Flint Repertory Theatre Opens With Samuel Beckett’s “Happy Days”

Reviewed by Kathleen Kirby

            After a long pandemic-induced hiatus, it seemed appropriate for Flint Repertory Theatre (REP) to return to the Elgood Theatre Friday night with Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days. A story of isolation and the struggle to maintain some semblance of enjoyable normalcy, it may strike a familiar chord as our own last year or so will attest.

            Only two characters make up the cast here and one is rarely seen. Most intriguing is the setting – a large coal or slag heap which could be a remnant of a burned out neighborhood – with a woman embedded to her waist in this ground. Winnie (Janet Haley) cannot move or extricate herself but does have a large bag from which she draws various props.

            Rarely seen, but nonetheless important to Winnie, her companion Willie (Rico Bruce Wade) seems to reside under the heap as he is often heard backing or burrowing into the hillside.

            Haley is incredible in this role, lonely and stranded, but determined to make each day a “happy day”. The role allows for no movement from the earth that holds her, and no one but herself with whom to interact.  

            Occasionally Willie pokes his head up above the ground level slag to hand things to Winnie and speak to her if briefly. This whole routine can impact the viewer as frustrating as it obviously impacts Winnie’s attempts at maintaining optimism which she must view as survival overall.

            Most of the empathic response to Winnie’s plight was finally relieved at intermission as we had come to understand her plight and even think she may somehow escape.

            Act Two was shorter, and less optimistic. More rubble and empty bottles fall as if dumped from above onto the heap that appears itself to be sinking.  Willie finally emerges to try to assist Winnie, although both of them may perhaps be unable to overcome their plight.

            Director Kathryn Walsh is to be applauded for her amazing insight and handling of this show with all its dark challenge and yet strategic determination.  Scott Penner’s scenic design is one to remember. We were found drawn to examining it more than once last evening.

Overall, it was lovely to finally be back inside a theatre again. The REP has some rules in place to protect audiences – face masks throughout, proof of vaccination card or negative COVID test result ready, and checks at the door for temperature and ID.

Happy Days only performs today and Sunday, so hurry on down this weekend! Contact the box office at 810-237-7333 or online at flintrep.org/tickets.

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Wonders of Motown Adorn “New” McCree Theatre Stage

Reviewed by Karla Froehlich

Those Dazzling Divas of Motown, written by Charles H. Winfrey, directed and choreographed by Cathye Johnson, and performed by a splendidly varied and talented ensemble, delighted an appreciative and welcoming group of devotees and those newly introduced to the wonders of Motown at The “New” McCree Theatre. This is a must-see Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 7pm and Saturday at 2pm thru October 9 in their new facility at 4601 Clio Rd, just south of Pierson.

There is a wonderful blend of expositional skits, narrative, and music put together to entertain, amuse, and educate. It’s fun to take a peek behind the curtain to understand the drive of the performers and performances. I’m ready for Motown trivia!!

There are challenges for the theatre, in general, in converting a church to a theatre space. The seats are amazing and comfortable. Being the girl who always likes to sit near the back, and given the dynamic opening, I thought for sure folks would spend the show on their feet. I did!

Divas who left a definite design on my brain last night were Whitney Frierson easing her pain singing “Every Little Bit Hurts”, and I absolutely believed Kimberly Harris’ declaration of “Neither One of Us (wants to be the first to say ‘goodbye’)”. It was the perfect song leading to intermission. None of us wanted to say “goodbye” to this night just yet.

The second act brought a new flavor to the evening and a bit more humor with a fabulous impersonation by DaChelle “Lady D” McDonald. No spoilers. She is delectable. I was wowed by her performance of “Abraham, Martin, and John” which she sang with conviction and purpose.

More noteworthy performances include a heartfelt plea from Emma Dunlap to “Reach Out and Touch” to which several in the audience were moved to lift their voices. It was special. And we all “Heard it Through the Grapevine” when Yonna Mittz rocked out that gossip with amazing clarity. Stand and deliver.

Completing this composition is “Dude Diva” Fredrick Fife. Fred ensures the knowledge and wonder of the most popular duets of Motown and Marvin Gaye, are known and remembered with reverence.

Choreography was fun and had additional assistance from Brenda Glasschild and Fredrick Fife. While it was not a constant companion, dances enhanced performances in many group numbers. Costumes were also inventive and effective, brought together by Pat Hill and Fredrick Fife, accessorized by Cheryl Wright, and the crowning glory of cosmetologist Sharon Butler. These elements tied the talent together in a neat Motown package.

Kudos to the crew and all the unseen wizards. Plus, where would we be without the upstage center swing cats backing every dynamic performance?? Music director and keyboardist, Phillip Young, assembled a skillful and gifted group.

Head on out and enjoy a wonderful evening down memory lane. Thru October 9 at The “New” McCree Theatre—now, on Clio Rd. It’s not a “Needle in a Haystack”…it’s right on Clio Rd between Stewart and Pierson.

For more information contact online at http://www.thenewmccreetheatre.com/ or call 810-787-2200.

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Fenton Village Players Present Comedy in the Dark Ages

Reviewed by Karla Froehlich

Fenton Village Players kicked off their new season Thursday night with Michael Hollinger’s farce about the tenuous nature of faith in the face of survival, Incorruptible, A Dark Comedy About the Dark Ages.

From the very start of this completely corrupted farce, I found myself humming back and forth between “dem Bones gonna rise again” and “What do you do with a drunken sailor?” Suggestions to the former are as varied as the ideas had by the monks of how to save their dying monastery.

As with any farce, there is an element of mystery involved and mistaken or hidden identity, and therefore, all information is important. So pay attention.

I, along with a couple dozen other revelers, enjoyed watching these monks weave themselves in and out of trouble, as they struggle with the daily rigors of life in 1250 A.D., a time period also difficult to nail down. (I found a wiki page that says it’s between the “Medieval Warm Period”    and the “Little Ice Age.”) This cast nails down all the loose ends in due time and before their quest for miracles is exhausted by a lack of true faith.

The role of “Martin” is delivered with a cutting edge, and always on point, by Steven Shelton. Scenes between Shelton and Trevor Allen in the role of “Felix” brought joy and mirth. Matt Osterberg is always fun to watch and last night was no exception in the role of “Olf” which means “son of blonde one” …this rang true and provided many of the evenings giggles!

The entire show is rife with miracles if our characters would acknowledge them as such. But where’s the fun in that? Lovely moments happen between “Jack” and “Marie” played with sincerity by Nick Brazeal and Allison Pethick, respectively. “Marie” is subject to sight gags and Allison handles them like a pro.

Rounding out the ensemble are Erica Suszek as the uncouth “Peasant Woman” and Lorrie McCarty as the honorable “Agatha”. Both actresses brought renewed excitement with each entrance.

There are small and wonderful details in costumes and set as the monastery and its inhabitants go through their changes. Great job with these attentions goes to costumer Shannon Emmons with mention of Steven Shelton, and set crew consisting of Daniel Ragan, Nick Brazeal, and Patti Lee.

Congratulations to director, Daniel Ragan and the entire cast and crew.

 Incorruptible, A Dark Comedy About the Dark Ages continues at the Fenton Village Playhouse, 14197 Torrey Road, Fenton, October 1, 2 & 3 and October 8, 9 & 10. For more information and tickets – 810-750-7700 or online at http://fentontheatre.org

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Wishing Well Theatre Brings Shakespeare to Fenton

Reviewed by Kathleen Kirby

It was a perfectly beautiful evening Saturday as Wishing Well Theatre, Inc. launched their inaugural production of William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. Staged in Rackham Park in Fenton with a generous crowd assembled, folks gathered in lawn chairs to watch this romantic comedy unfold.

As is often true of Shakespearean shows outdoors, this one has been tweaked to occur in a vineyard in the 1950s.  Now if that sounds like fun, it is! The action is centered on a platform with a grape arbor on one side and a stack of wine kegs on the other. Even as the sun went down, lights strung about created a lovely mood.

The owner of the vineyard is Leonato (Anthony Guest) who welcomes to his home a group of soldiers passing through. One, Claudio (Jalen Wilson-Nelem) has been attracted in the past to Leonato’s daughter Hero (Destiny Dunn) and feels that now might be the time to ask for her hand in marriage.

Claudio’s commanding officer, Don Pedro (Doran Berger) offers to help Claudio overcome his shyness by doing the matchmaking for him. It works well at first, but much is set to go awry.

Meanwhile, Claudio’s fellow soldier (and confirmed bachelor) Benedick (Ricky Phillipi) renews his touchy relationship with Leonato’s niece Beatrice (Rebecca Phillipi). These two offer lots of the title’s “ado” as they argue and perhaps connect.

But there is conflict afoot as Don Pedro’s brother, Don John (Dryden Zurawski), with the help of two companions, Borachio (Merek Alam) and Conrade (Edmund Alyn Jones), contrives to spoil the match between Claudio and Hero by spreading “alternative facts” about Hero’s virginity.

Although things do go horribly wrong, they are put to right when a well-meaning group of comic town officials spring to the rescue, uncover the plot and save the day!

We must mention a few other standouts in this show including Margaret, (Mary Paige Rieffel) companion to Beatrice and Hero, and the locals, Constable Dogberry (Karen Sheridan), her assistant Verges (Robert McGowan) as well as the two bumbling but effective Watchmen, John Coggins and Brian Haggard.

Director Carolyn Gillespie has gathered a talented and locally recognizable troupe to mount this clever and most enjoyable production. We congratulate everyone involved in bringing the Shakespeare Festival to Fenton and to launching Wishing Well Theatre Inc.

Much Ado About Nothing continues September 12, 18 and 19.  Open at 6 pm and the play begins at 7:30 pm. Lawn seating, bring a blanket and/or a lawn chair.  Visit online at Eventbrite.com and Facebook.com/wishingwelltheatreinc

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“You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown, the Musical” Opens to an Outdoor Venue and an Enthusiastic Crowd

Reviewed by Karla Froehlich

The new kids on the boards have good trouble – too much talent! Broadway Bound and Brewer’s School for Performing Arts unveiled their debut production of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, the Musical to an intimate and appreciative crowd at the Clio Amphitheater Thursday evening. I was moved to tears by being in a theater setting after so long and by the marvelous, open faces greeting me from the stage.

What does one do when there are a plethora of potentials for a given part? Double cast, of course! While not every role has doubles, many do, and it compels me to see another run at this material. Every actor exuded the commitment to the material and each little light shone brightly.

 From the start of the opening number, hitting every nuance, and blending their harmonies with an air of performing beyond their years, I knew these kids would not disappoint. Strong and true singing voices, committed actions, and working together with fresh challenges, these young people told incredibly entertaining stories. I have had the pleasure of working with several of these young performers and to witness their progress and growth was joyous. They did their jobs well and suspended my disbelief. Congratulations to the entire production team principally Don Brewer – Artistic Director, Rafael McDaniel – Music Director and Rebecca Brewer – Choreographer!

The set is simple, with blue sky and friendly, fluffy clouds up center, which is flanked by hard leg flats painted with squares – each one representing the color or pattern of the main characters’ costumes. Sight gags are some of my favorite devices, and set designer, Peter Cross, did not fail to provide giggles, “Edith Ann” style.

Every performer put their all into their stage time and convinced us that they were five and six years old. What a fun age to explore! Thank you, Mr. Charles M. Schultz.

You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown continues at the Clio Amphitheater through this weekend with five more performances starting tonight at 6 pm followed by two performances both Saturday and Sunday at 2 and 6 pm.  Tickets are available at the door. For more information contact the box office at 810-379-8980.

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Dark Room Production Opens in Flint

Reviewed by Kathleen Kirby

Flint has long been home to an impressive number of live theatre groups over the years, so it is no surprise to see another one seek to join the ranks. However, the fact that this one came all the way from San Francisco, California to set up shop here may surely evoke curiosity in many.

Operating in the mission district for the past 14 years, Dark Room Productions has become well known for their parodies. They begin here in Flint with two Twilight Zone stories lampooned here with a hint of whimsy and grins, but with the original tales mostly intact.

First we saw the story of “Four Characters (in search of an exit)”. A MAJOR (Jordan Climie) wakes up to find himself alone in a seemingly empty room. Oddly, he is quickly joined by a fairly full-blown CLOWN (Gil Hall) who wants to have an answer for the Major’s questions, but turns a terrific cartwheel whenever he can’t find one!

Two more characters join the duo to lend their own confusion to where they came from and where they’re going. The BALLERINA (Samantha Tadajewski) is sweetly unsure while the COWGIRL (Rachel Nagy) seems just as “in the dark” as the rest! So, where are they?

Of course Rod Serling (Chase Gifford) knits these tales together in his inimitable and measured way.  He also allows for breaks in the action for satirized commercials. 

The second tale is titled “The Lonely” and mostly stars Steve Reddy as CORRY, a convict marooned on an asteroid for a crime he denies committing.  Two astronauts played by Joy Bishop as CAPTAIN ALLENBY and Rose Adams as ADAMS  visit a few times a year to bring him sustenance and stuff including a robot to keep him busy. Although we only see ALICIA though the apron clad robot suit, Robb Anthony still manages to bring this odd machine to life.  

            The relationship that develops between CORRY and ALICIA is weirdly convincing and even believable! In comparing the two versions there is a bit of liberty taken with the original, but that’s the idea, right?!

Produced by Erin Ohanneson and directed by Jim Fourniadis, these two are delighted to find so many interested theatre folks who appreciate their ability to gently spoof near classic shows.There is only one more night of this opening production, so scurry down tonight to the Flint Local 432, 124 W. First St., Flint, MI 48502.  If your sense of humor is quirky and you enjoy stories with a twist, it all starts at 7:30 pm. Be there!

           

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FENTON VILLAGE PLAYERS LAY OUT A RED CARPET TO THE RENAISSANCE

Reviewed by Kathleen Kirby182902714_4154135984616962_3783494174734306470_n-1

If you are a musical theatre buff, you will love this one! Written by Karey Kirkpatrick and John O’Farrell with music and lyrics by Wayne Kirkpatrick and Karey Kirkpatrick, Something Rotten! opened Thursday to a lively crowd of folks enjoying this 16th century send up of all things musical theatre. Filled with comic references and a host of energetic dance numbers, including tap, it is easy to see how it was up for so many awards when it opened on Broadway in 2015.

The story centers around the brothers Nick and Nigel Bottom (Daniel Ragan & Joe Hostnik), both theatre hopefuls who, alas, must compete with the hit of the century, Will Shakespeare (Perry Quarker, Jr.) who proves to be a somewhat less than honest opponent. Ragan portrays the older of the two with a bit of older brother style pomp and pushiness while the younger, Nigel, displays an amazing knack for writing the iambic poetry of the day even though he isn’t aware of his talent.

These three are central to this show both in song and dance as well as portrayals that offer a range of personalities. Indeed, we get to know them so well, it is a polished surprise when Shakespeare appears to steal the day. Quarker brings a flamboyance and bravado that works for him most of the time.

Finally, Nick consults a soothsayer (Donovan Leary) begging him to predict what Shakespeare’s next hit will be. A bit on the kooky side, Leary’s character looks into the future and predicts the Tragedy of Omelette. He also sees Cats and even singing nuns.  Often bringing a slight but comical off-centeredness to his predictions, he is always a treat whenever he appears to assist as the fellows work to triumph over the Bard.

Given this information, Nick and Nigel set out to put a bit of a quirky show – the world’s first musical, The Omelette. Of course, there is love interest afoot here with Nick’s wife, Bea Bottom (Laura Strong) and the strong connection that is growing between Nigel and Portia (Alexandra Cross). While a hearty song and dance chorus supports this show, these two gals are unique and talented on their own. Both Strong and Cross bring a sense of feminine determination to their roles that probably wasn’t there in 1499!

We must give credit to Frank Pitts for a terrific job directing both the stage and the music production here. The show moves well with set changes done smoothly. Although song and dance numbers are set to recorded accompaniment, they are perhaps the most well integrated we’ve heard in a long while.

Overall, Something Rotten is a unique, fun, comical and clever show that will surely entertain audiences. Opening night’s viewers loved it, laughed continually and applauded heartily often and loud!

Something Rotten continues at Fenton Village Players Playhouse, 14197 Torrey Rd, Fenton, MI 48430 – July 16th, 17th, 23rd 24th, 30nth and 31st at 7:00 PM and July 18th, 23rd, and August 1st at 2:00 PM. For more information contact www.fentontheatre.org

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