Reviewed by Kathleen Kirby
Punk rock? Not my thing. At least until Friday night I surely didn’t think it was my “thing”. Then The Local happened. University of Michigan-Flint’s Department of Theatre and Dance opened the second half of its fall repertory offering with The Local, a chronicle of an incredible youth music scene that’s been at times both surviving and thriving in downtown Flint for nearly thirty years. Suddenly, I’m a fan!
Director Andrew Morton credits students in his collaborative playwriting class with producing this script after searching for a positive story about the city. They discovered the amazing story of Flint Local 432, which Morton describes as “an all-ages, substance free music venue that has lived in a variety of buildings in downtown Flint since the mid 1980s”. They set out to interview and talk to Flint Local insiders and found the hundreds of stories that, woven together, make up this vignette-style production.
Beginning in 2002, the story centers on one group of young musicians who serendipitously come together as a band even though they are individual performers with little experience in collaboration. Rick (Jordan Kinney) and Matt (Mark Vukelich) team up with Portugal (Carl Mizell) to hold auditions to complete the band. Although Gene (Connor Klee) and Jude (Shekinah Shazaam) are the only two who show up, they are recruited sound unheard. This is a ragtag but totally intriguing group, each with their own story of angst and trial, but united in a common desire to both make music and find acceptance.
Ten years separate Acts I and II, which allows the story to come full circle from its erratic beginnings. It follows the “band” through their individual problems as teens and revisits them again when the years have passed.
Vukelich maintains a somber attitude as teen Matt fights with his mother (Elisa Taylor) who fears for his safety in Flint, but then, as an adult, finds her a worthy confidant. Klee brings a desperate anxiousness to his dealings with his uncle Felix (Chazz Irwin) who thinks running the auto repair shop should trump Gene’s time spent with his beloved guitar, Amanda. His adult relationship with the real Amanda (Madaline Harkema) finds him fairly unchanged.
There’s Kinney who brings a sense of solidity to the rest followed by a disconnected adulthood that seems destined to bring him back to Flint. He’s the opposite of Mizell’s fitful, disturbed leader of the group, who only appears at ease with sometime girlfriend Kelly, played with spunk and charm by Elizabeth Taylor.
Accepted without condition will be Shazaam’s faultless portrayal of the gutsy lesbian drummer possessed of professional talent and her perfectly matched partner Riley (Annadelle Kimber).
Flint has always had its share of characters and the street corner protester Leonard (M. Ryan Szukhent) fits the bill perfectly. He offers comic relief of the first order.
With thirteen different locations making up the sets for Act I, and another eleven for Act II, this is a very mobile set. Watching these spaces fall into place is fascinating as is the onstage band, HAWK & SON, who play throughout the show between scenes. Kudos to this group: Chris Adams, Scott Grantham, John Guynn, and Mitch Socia.
So, if you’ve never heard of Flint Local 432, this show will educate and enthrall. It may even find you setting a course downtown to First Street one of these nights to see for yourself. The Local continues in repertory with performances on November 10, 16, 22, 23, & 24. For more information and tickets contact the box office at 810-237-6520 or online at http://www.umflint.edu/theatredance.