“12 Angry Jurors” Delivers Timeless Message

Reviewed by Shelly L. Hoffman

Reginald Rose’s 12 Angry Men was first presented in 1954 as a teleplay, and was then adapted for the stage by Sherman L. Sergel. Today, it is often staged with women as part of the jury and retitled 12 Angry Jurors. It is this version that is currently running, under the direction of Connor Klee, at Clio Cast & Crew’s Theatre 57.

It’s a familiar story to many. A jury is locked in deliberations around a homicide case. A young man is on trial for the murder of his abusive father and the jury must decide if the 16-year-old boy is to live or die. It appears to be an open and shut case, but Juror 8 (Jane McMillan) doesn’t quite see it that way. She finds holes in the prosecution’s case that lead her to have reasonable doubt. She pleads with her fellow jurors to at least spend an hour talking about the case. The boy’s life, after all, is worth an hour of their time. The jurors begrudgingly acquiesce.

Juror 10 (Pat Blondin) refers to the accused as “one of those people.” He remarks that they get drunk and think nothing of killing one another and that they are animals. He’s concerned about their “breeding” habits and worries that “we” will soon be outnumbered by “them.” While it is never explicitly stated who those people are, it can be inferred that they are a marginalized group, perhaps the poor, or recent immigrants, or people of color (or all three). Whatever the case, it is clear that this juror approaches his task with a great deal of prejudice and hate. The verdict appears to be a forgone conclusion only because the accused is representative of a certain type of person, not because the case has been soundly made that he is a murderer.

There are many dated cultural references, but the story itself is timeless and could be set in almost any age. It seems especially apropos of some of the tensions we are currently experiencing in this country, and Clio Cast and Crew should be applauded for staging this show and shedding light upon our ongoing struggle with institutional racism. It’s actually quite startling to realize that this script, from six decades ago, is so relevant today.

The heavy-lifting in this show is done by Juror 8. While McMillan starts out slowly, she does find her groove in a couple impassioned speeches and she manages to keep the show moving. It’s a difficult piece, though, that depends on rapid-fire dialogue and strong characterizations, and this production simply falls flat. Actors, for the most part, do not connect with their characters in an authentic and meaningful way. They appear to stand up, sit down, and move from point A to point B without embracing any sort of motivation and only because they were directed to do so. The cast also struggled with cue pick-ups and lines, many of which were delivered without any conviction or nuance. Lengthy pauses for line recall marred the night.

The dialogue presents some clues as to the time period in which it is set, but the costuming and hair create confusion. Some of the women’s costumes are suggestive of the 1950s. Most of their hairstyles, on the other hand, are not. Furthering the confusion are the men’s suits which are very definitely contemporary.

There are some bright spots. Jessicia Smith, as the meek and mild adjudicator, Juror 2, bucks the trend and delivers a character who is at once lively, textured, and endearing. Director, Klee, makes good use of the stage and moves his actors around well, creating many finely structured tableaux. Additionally, the set, with its institutional walls and wood trim, helps to alleviate some of the uncertainty around the time-period; it is functional and virtually anachronism-free.

While this particular production is weak, the central message, conveyed by Juror 8, that “no matter where you run into it, prejudice obscures the truth,” is a powerful one that is well worth spending two hours exploring.

Audiences can explore the themes of 12 Angry Jurors as it continues at Clio Cast & Crew’s Theatre 57 (2220 W. Vienna Rd.) on Sunday May 10 at 2:00 pm and next weekend, Friday, May 15 and Saturday, May 16 at 7:30 pm and Sunday, May 17 at 2:00 pm. Tickets are $14 and can be purchased by calling the box office at (810) 687-2588 or online at cliocastandcrew.com

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“Once Upon a Mattress” Provides Comical Windup to Flint Community Players Season

Reviewed by Kathleen Kirby

Flint Community Players wraps up their season this weekend and next with a comical and totally entertaining show about a royal family and their ongoing dilemmas.

Once Upon a Mattress is a campy little 1960s musical that makes grand fun of the familiar fairy tale about the princess forced to prove herself royally delicate enough to marry a prince when a small pea placed under a mattress disturbed her slumber. Be forewarned, however – this is no ordinary princess. For that matter, this is no ordinary royal court either.

As the Minstrel (Rafeal D. McDaniel) sings, the story is set “Many Moons Ago” in a land where Queen Aggravain (Rose Adams) rules the royal roost. Adams brings hilarity to this overbearing monarch as she connives and cheats to keep her only son, Dauntless (Alexander Rossiter) from marrying anyone.

Rossiter is taken with every candidate and really wants to marry someone, but every time a princess seems perfect, she fails the Queen’s skewed test. His boyish charm is perfect for this role and becomes even more endearing later.

As for the King, Patrick Munley is a hoot in this role. Sextimus The Silent has been under a curse for years and cannot speak. His pantomime and charades are terrific but still not enough to overpower Aggravain. They are, however, perfect as he explains the birds and bees to Dauntless in the comical “Man to Man Talk”.

Dauntless is not alone in pining for a princess as the law of the land states no one will marry until the prince does. It’s beginning to look bleak for Lady Larken (Kristen Seeley) and Sir Harry (Alexander Willett). These two share a couple lovely ballads beginning with “In A Little While”. Seeley is the stronger vocalist of the two and carries both this song and “Yesterday I Loved You”.

Everything is turned topsy-turvy in the court when Princess Winnifred swims the moat and crawls over the wall! Farrell Tatum is wonderful as this swamp-bred gal with unending talents, strengths and sensitivity! Her signature song “I’ve Always Been Shy” set the show on a whole new track Friday, and her energy was infectious.

Horrified, Aggravain conjures up the mattress and the pea test, but decides on 20 mattresses to ensure “Fred” fails the test. We already know how THAT turns out!

We must mention two others who narrate and appear everywhere in this show. Gil Hall is the Jester, a comical sidekick of the King and the Minstrel and sometime errand boy for the Queen. His “Very Soft Shoes” was a sweet vaudeville-style number.

As the Wizard, Jonathan Smith serves at the Queen’s discretion. But he had Friday night’s audience in stitches when dressed up as the Nightingale of Samarkand on a perch, he attempted to sing Winnifred to sleep with the hysterical “Lullaby”.

Frank E. Pitts returns as director doing double duty in handling both the stage and musical aspects. Once again he employs recorded music rather than a live group. It works well most of the time (there were occasional minor missteps), but the full orchestra sound is very nice.

Although the music isn’t widely familiar, this Mary Rodgers-Marshall Barer score is memorable and delightful. We were sorry to see the list of musical numbers not listed in the program, but it could have been an oversight.

Overall, this show is a laugh-filled and toe-tapping evening’s entertainment. Once Upon a Mattress continues at The Tom & Bea Nobles Performance Hall, 2462 S. Ballenger Hwy. Flint 48507, tonight and May 15 & 16 at 8:00 pm. Matinees are May 10 & 17 at 2:30 pm. Call the box office – 810-441-9302 or check online at www.flintcommunityplayers.com

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FYT’s “The Diary of Anne Frank” is Moving and Heartfelt

Reviewed by Kathleen Kirby

It happened again. No matter how many times we’ve heard the story of Anne Frank or pondered the evil that swept Europe in World War II, the simple writings of a young girl retain the power to engage, involve and move us even now, an incredible seventy years later.

It happened Friday evening as Flint Youth Theatre’s The Diary of Anne Frank opened to a packed house in the Elgood Theatre. Performing in a space that must have closely mimicked the actual hiding space, the stage was filled with six levels to depict the two story “Secret Annex” above Mr. Frank’s store. Usually this playing area is open and only suggestive of location, but this cramped and busy set perfectly projected the confinement and lack of privacy that was endured.

Director Jeremy Winchester’s troupe does a spectacular job of communicating the myriad emotions the group must have experienced during the two years they were in hiding. This tightly knit ensemble projects the constant fear, the angst, the joy, the anger, the jealousy, and the impossible desire to maintain a sense of normalcy in the face of their unthinkable situation with remarkable precision.

Not a stranger to the FYT stage, Sam Carter’s portrayal of Anne is heartfelt. She is about the same age as Anne was and clearly relates to her struggles and frustration as the character endures a range of emotion from mischievous to terrified, from exasperated to in love.

Brian Haggard anchors this production with his steadfast and sturdy characterization of Anne’s father, Otto Frank. His calm belief in the family’s ability to survive this horror is always evident even as he realizes the tremendous risks better than the others do. His rendering of this man as peacemaker, parent, husband, friend, and authority figure to the seven others for whom he is ultimately responsible is pristine.

There isn’t a weak link in this ensemble, so a cameo of each is in order, beginning with Mr. VanDaan, a business associate of Otto Frank, and his wife and son who joined them in the annex hideout. Mark Gmazel brings VanDaan’s weaknesses to the fore while allowing us to pity but understand his straits. As his wife, Kristina Lakey exudes both the fear and the independent spirit that surely warred inside her. She is insufferable, attractive, and yet we completely empathize with her.

Peter VanDaan (George Lieber) is terrific as the young son plopped into confinement with a strange family and a brassy young girl he’s watched from afar. Lieber brings this character through a palpable and confident maturation process over the two-year incarceration.

There is a rift between Anne and her mother. Lindsay Duso plays Edith Frank with an air of incredible concern and maternal anguish. She was not ready for this sudden leap into hiding and Anne’s moments of teenage exuberance distress her. She is stressed and tense throughout, and eventually she erupts.

Anne’s older sister Margot’s sudden conscription to a work camp prompted the escape. Another FYT young veteran, Layla Meillier exudes Margot’s confusion and terror at what she just escaped, plus her sibling strife where Anne is concerned. Quiet, withdrawn, then finally relaxed and hopeful, Meillier brings Margot to the brink.

Finally, Gary Jones is Mr. Dussel, a dentist who joins the group a bit later. He is a stuffy fellow, likeable but self-focused, who must share a room with Anne. His presence brings a sense of balance.

Bary Lehr and Mary Paige Rieffel play Mr. Kraler and Miep Gies, conduits to the outside world. They bring food and supplies and keep the group afloat as best they can.

We all know how the story ends, but this Wendy Kesselman adaptation of the original by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett crafts an emotional climax. With the Franks sure of liberations after the D-Day landings, and the youngsters planning their futures … well, we won’t spoil it for you.

This is a moving and often startling production. It’s been 70 years since Anne Frank died, but her legacy endures and continues to impact young and old alike. It is so very worth seeing.

The Diary of Anne Frank continues at Flint Youth Theatre through May 10. For tickets and more information please contact the box office at 810-237-1530 or online at www.FlintYouthTheatre.org

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Flint Youth Theatre will hold auditions for Equity and Non-Equity Actors on
Wednesday, April 29 for adult roles in the 2015-2016 SummerStage and CenterStage season.

Auditions are by appointment only and may be made by calling 810.237.1530. Those auditioning are asked to prepare a monologue and may also perform 16 bars of a song. Those performing a song must provide their own accompaniment. Playback sound equipment will be provided. Flint Youth Theatre practices multi-cultural casting and encourages actors of color to audition. Resumes may be presented at the time of the audition, may be emailed to info@flintyouththeatre.org or submitted via postal mail to:

Flint Youth Theatre
1220 E. Kearsley St.
Flint, MI 48503

Flint Youth Theatre is an award-winning theatre casting Equity and Non-Equity, paid adult roles for the following productions in the 2015-2016 Season:

The Cat in the Hat
August 13-22
Rehearsals begin July 6

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

August 14-23
Rehearsals begin July 6

Little Women
October 10-25
Rehearsals begin September 7

The Wizard of Oz
December 5-20
Rehearsals begin November 2

Huck Finn
February 20-March 6
Rehearsals begin January 25

The Most (Blank) City in America
April 16-May 1
Rehearsals begin March 14

About Flint Youth Theatre
Through public performances, school matinees and acting classes, Flint Youth Theatre’s resident professional company serves students age two through college, and audiences of children and families, teens and adults.  Imaginative, daring and insightful, the main-stage SummerStage and CenterStage series of plays for all audiences are drawn from literature, folklore, fantasy, history and social issues.

For more information about Flint Youth Theatre auditions call 810.237.1530 or visit FlintYouthTheatre.org.

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Flint Youth Theatre To Present “The Diary of Anne Frank”

The Diary of Anne Frank will be brought to life at the Flint Youth Theatre (FYT) stage April 24 through May 10, 2015, under the direction Jeremy Winchester.

Anne Frank wrote, “In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.” Seventy years after these words were written by a young girl with every reason to give up, her example of willfulness continues to serve as a reminder of the incredible power of hope.

The Diary of Anne Frank takes place in the Nazi-occupied Netherlands during World War II. Anne, a young Jewish girl, receives a diary for her thirteenth birthday in 1942, a blank slate for her to record her thoughts, hopes and dreams. Not long after, she and her family are forced to go into hiding to escape imprisonment in Nazi work camps. Anne captures the details of daily life for the family, and others who join them in hiding, along with the growing pains that come with being a teenager. From the constant fear of detection, to grasping at small moments of joy, to finding an unbreakable will to survive, this remarkable stage adaptation is not to be missed.

Friday, April 24 at 7:30pm
Saturday, April 25 at 7:30pm
Sunday, April 26 at 2:30pm*
Friday, May 1 at 7:30pm*
Saturday, May 2 at 7:30pm
Sunday, May 3 at 2:30pm
Friday, May 8 at 7:30pm
Saturday, May 9 at 2:30pm*
Saturday, May 9 at 7:30pm
Sunday, May 10 at 2:30pm

*A conversation with the creative team will follow this performance.

Advance tickets for The Diary of Anne Frank, which is best suited for ages 10 and up, are $12 for children, $14 for teens, senior citizens and military veterans, and $16 for adults. Tickets are available at Flint Youth Theatre by calling 810-237-1530 or online at FlintYouthTheatre.org. Day-of-performance tickets are $14 for children, $16 for teens, senior citizens and veterans, and $18 for adults. An ASL interpreter will be provided for the performance on Saturday, May 9 at 2:30pm.

The Diary of Anne Frank is a play by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, based on the Dutch language diary kept by Anne Frank. The Flint Youth Theatre will be perfoming a new adaptation by Wendy Kesselman.

Sponsored by the Nartel Foundation. Flint Youth Theatre’s 2014-2015 Signature Series is sponsored by Health Alliance Plan. FYT’s Building Bridges Community Partner for The Diary of Anne Frank is the Flint Jewish Federation. The Building Bridges Community Partner Program is made possible in part by the Ruth Mott Foundation.

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Hearty “Laughter” Can be Found in the University of Michigan-Flint’s Latest Offering

Reviewed by Shelly L. Hoffman

Neil Simon, America’s seemingly most prolific and successful playwright, introduced Laughter on the 23rd Floor in 1993 as an homage to the time he spent as a writer (along with the likes of Mel Brooks, Larry Gelbart, and Woody Allen) on Sid Caesar’s Your Show of Shows forty years prior. The University of Michigan-Flint’s theatre program opened its stellar production of Laughter Friday night and walking into the theatre was like taking a step back in time, to the golden age of television, when comedy was king.

Theatre-goers are immediately treated to Scenic Designer Lisa Borton’s startling realistic rendering of a 1950s television writing room. The box set fills the vast expanse of the stage and is replete with a windowed reception area where ditzy secretary Helen (Dominique Hinde) is perched and where some great comedic bits happen. Fluorescent lights, cracked and water-stained walls, and radiators complete the scene.

Max Prince (Paul Doctor), the titular center of the weekly comedy show, The Max Prince Show, is under siege. NBC is expanding its programming to more and more homes in the Midwest and Prince’s comedy, from the minds of his writing team, is deemed too highbrow for this growing audience. The network wants Prince to dumb it down and his accountant wants him to make some cutbacks. All this is happening in the shadow of Senator Joe McCarthy’s Communist witch-hunt.

One by one, we meet each of the members of the writing team. We see them through the eyes of Lucas Brickman (Britton Paige), the newest writer, who serves as narrator to the play. Paige brings a pink-cheeked innocence and plausible dialect to the role as he embodies this character meant to be Simon himself.

Matt Coggins portrays the eccentric Milt Fields who sports berets, a cape, and a white suit and spends much of his time hiding behind a potted fern. Coggins is certainly energetic, if not a little overly physical, in his performance.

Lucas Moquin’s entrance as the bombastic Russian émigré, Val Slotsky, adds much energy to the opening scene. Moquin, too, brings a solid dialect. His laugh is infectious and the tension between he and Coggins is robust as their characters spar over the pronunciation of a certain colorful word.

Brian Doyle (Connor Klee) is the writing room’s token gentile who smokes too much and is certain he will sell a screenplay to Hollywood. Brian undergoes a slight transformation and Klee, with some assistance from costuming, handles this with aplomb. Kenny Franks (Joshua Cornea), the “boy genius” and Carol Wyman (Shelby L. Coleman), who brings a woman’s perspective to the writing room, round out this mostly sane grouping of writers. Coleman practically channels Rose Marie in the Dick Van Dyke Show.

Finally, the perpetually late and no-holds-barred hypochondriac, Ira Stone (Chazz Irwin), shows up to aggravate his colleagues. Irwin is a hoot, yet manages to also engender compassion for Stone.

As unique and interesting each of these characters in this strong ensemble cast is, upon the entrance of Paul Doctor as Max Prince they simply become planets orbiting Doctor’s immense gravitational pull. This is a tour d’ force for him. Doctor is at once loud and frenetic as well as somber and morose, capturing every angle of Prince with exceptional comic timing.

The young cast shows a certain level of maturity and control in their handling of not only the piece but some very slight flubs and malfunctions. Their reactions to these miscues were not the least bit gratuitous nor did they distract or detract from the great work being done and served only to heighten the comedy.

Director William Irwin notes in an online interview that “[t]he ability to make someone laugh is truly a noble skill . . . . Getting an audience to laugh means that you’ve united a group of strangers and provided a tonic for their troubles.” Professor Irwin and his student-actors fully possess this noble skill and, indeed, provide a delicious tonic.

Laughter on the 23rd Floor continues its run Saturday, March 28th, 7:30 pm and Sunday, March 29th, 2:00 pm and the following weekend, Friday, April 3rd, and Saturday, April 4th at 7:30 pm. Tickets are $10 and $8 and can be reserved online at http://boxoffice.printtixusa.com/universitymichigan/eventcalendar or by phone at 810-237-6520 or 810-237-6522. It should be noted the production contains a plethora of expletives that may not be suitable for more delicate ears.


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FYT Presents Staged Reading Sunday, March 29

Sunday, March 29 • 6pm

Join us for this Sunday’s Off The Press staged reading of David Ives’ “Venus In Fur” at 6pm. The Village Voice said this erotic drama, “invites both carnal and cerebral excitement.”

A beleaguered playwright/director is desperate to find the female lead for his adaptation of the classic tale “Venus in Fur.” Into his empty audition room walks a vulgar and equally desperate actress. Through the audition they blur the line between play and reality, entering into a serious game of submission and domination.

Tickets are $7. and available at flintyouththeatre.org.

Sponsored by Dr. Daniel and Donna Anbe In Memory of Almeda Hunter
The Off the Press Series is sponsored by Fandangles’

Advisory: Off the Press readings are recommended for adults and older teens. These readings often include explicit language and graphic discriptions of a sexual or violent nature and could be offensive to some viewers.

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