REVIEW (Pulp): Theatre Nova’s ‘The How and the Why’ explores unconventional evolutionary theories and families

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Diane Hill and Sayre Fox in Theatre Nova’s production of Sarah Treem’s “The How and the Why.” (Photo by Golden Record Media Company)

It’s a beautiful thing when a play not only passes the Bechdel test with flying colors but offers an intellectually satisfying evening of theater, too.

For Theatre Nova’s production of Sarah Treem’s The How and the Why focuses entirely on the charged conversations between two women: tenured evolutionary biologist Zelda Kahn (Diane Hill) and the daughter she gave up for adoption, post-doc student Rachel Hardemann (Sayre Fox).

As they meet for the first time, Zelda’s department is preparing to host an important conference. When Rachel reveals the radical theory she’s developed concerning the “why” of human female menstruation — that it acts as a kind of physiological defense mechanism — Zelda offers her the chance to present her ideas at the conference. When things don’t go well, Rachel’s left to wonder: Did Zelda set her up to fail out of professional jealousy? Or did Zelda just naively give Rachel an opportunity that she and her theory weren’t quite ready for? READ THE REST HERE

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REVIEW (Pulp): Purple Rose Theatre’s ‘Never Not Once’ takes past trauma by the jugular

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Michelle Mountain (Allison), Caitlin Cavannaugh (Eleanor), Jeremy Kucharek (Rob), and Casaundra Freeman (Nadine) star in Carey Crim’s grab-you-by-the-lapels drama Never Not Once. (Photos by Sean Carter Photography.)

We often hear that people shouldn’t be permanently defined by their worst decision or act. But on the other end of that equation, all too often, are men and women who are irrevocably shaped by the violence committed against them.

Carey Crim’s latest world premiere play at Chelsea’s Purple Rose Theatre, Never Not Once, directed by Guy Sanville, treads rather boldly across this ethical minefield.

When Rutgers student Eleanor (Caitlin Cavannaugh) comes home unannounced, with boyfriend Rob (Jeremy Kucharek) in tow, and announces to her two moms that she aims to track down her biological father, her birth mother, Allison (Michelle Mountain), balks, insisting that the one night stand that left her pregnant in college was so inconsequential that she never even learned the man’s name. But when Eleanor’s other mom, Nadine (Casaundra Freeman), secretly supplies Eleanor with a possible clue regarding her father’s identity, the search narrows, and Allison is forced to revisit a trauma from her past.

Perhaps it goes without saying, but Never Not Once is an intense 90 minutes of live theater, despite some moments of levity in the early going. It tackles some tough stuff, and for the most part, it doesn’t pull its punches. But then, it can’t afford to. If you’re going to “go there,” as Crim has chosen to do, you’ve got to have the guts to go all in. So don’t go to the Rose expecting to passively sit back and be entertained by Never. It’s more a grab-you-by-the-lapels kind of show. READ THE REST HERE

My latest WEMU-FM 89.1 Art & Soul segment with Lisa Barry, and artists from Encore Theatre’s ‘Next to Normal’

Screen Shot 2019-02-05 at 3.35.04 PM.pngThis week, “Art and Soul” is about the local performing arts scene. 89.1 WEMU’s Lisa Barry is joined by writer and reviewer Jenn McKee and guests from the Encore Musical Theatre Company to talk about their latest show, “Next to Normal,” and look ahead to many other local performance arts events. LISTEN TO THE 8 MINUTE SEGMENT HERE

REVIEW: The Clubhouse Theatre’s ‘Topdog/Underdog’ explores highly charged sibling rivalry

Screen Shot 2018-12-19 at 12.12.55 AM.pngSibling relationships are often fraught and complicated.

And in case the holidays aren’t doing quite enough to remind you of this fact, you could also see The Clubhouse Theatre’s gripping production of Suzan-Lori Parks’ Pulitzer Prize-winning play,“Topdog/Underdog.”

The two-hander focuses on two brothers, pointedly named Booth (Nigel Tutt) and Lincoln (Brian Marable, also the show’s director). Their father reportedly cooked up these names as a joke, but Link, at the play’s start, holds a (surreal) job that requires him to impersonate his Presidential namesake, wearing whiteface, an artificial beard, and a stovepipe hat as arcade patrons shoot blanks at him. Booth, meanwhile, shoplifts everything he can get his hands on; pursues a local hottie named Grace; lets Link temporarily move in after his marriage falls apart; and longs to become the Three Card Monte master Link had once been, before his “right hand man” was killed and he left the con behind.

Link refuses to share his card secrets with Booth, though, and when Link loses his job, the two end up in a tense, winner-takes-all game that will forever alter their lives. Continue reading

My WDET segment w/ Jerome Vaughn: Farmington Residents Seek Sense of Community

Screen Shot 2018-12-04 at 1.59.40 PM.pngFrom WDET’s website: Farmington residents now have the opportunity to get more localized news.  Metromode is reporting on the city as part of its “On The Ground” project.  The website focuses on suburban communities around Metro Detroit.

Jenn McKee is the editor of the Farmington project.  She says the idea is to give more people insight into the community.

It’s an attempt to focus locally on the town itself,” says McKee, “to give not only the people who live there a stronger sense of the town’s identity.”

It’s kind of an eclectic, kind of interesting, quirky, little downtown.”

McKee both lives and works in Farmington.  That’s one of the reasons she decided to take the opportunity to write about her city. (CLICK ON THE LINK BELOW TO GO TO WDET’S PAGE AND HEAR THE FULL, 6 MINUTE SEGMENT.)

Farmington Residents Seek Sense of Community

My Metromode On the Ground story about 6 places to find holiday gifts in downtown Farmington

Screen Shot 2018-12-04 at 1.44.21 PM’Tis the season for finding unique gifts, and downtown Farmington happens to be chock full of places to find them – whether the folks on your list are young skater types, budding (or practicing) musicians, foodies, cosmopolitans, or, well, “flower people.”

So if you’re scrambling to find last-minute Hanukkah gifts, or wrapping up your Christmas shopping, consider parking your car at the Downtown Farmington Center and exploring these fun options on foot. READ THE REST HERE

My Metromode On the Ground story about Fixtures of Farmington’s downtown

Screen Shot 2018-12-04 at 1.44.21 PMBusinesses come and go, but in downtown Farmington, a handful of merchants have weathered decades of economic and technological shifts, thus establishing themselves as tried-and-true anchors of this vibrant, small-town community.

To celebrate these beloved local institutions, Metromode’s On the Ground Farmington project is launching a two-part Fixtures of Farmington series, whereby we shine a spotlight on these businesses’ owners; chronicle each venture’s origin story; and gather insights on how and why these businesses, after so many years, continue to thrive. READ THE REST HERE

My Concentrate story about Food Gatherers’ 30th anniversary

Screen Shot 2018-10-19 at 4.11.02 PMFood rescue and food bank nonprofit Food Gatherers (FG) has made remarkable contributions to the fight against hunger in Washtenaw County. But as FG celebrates its 30th anniversary this month, the primary goal it was founded on remains frustratingly out of reach.

“The only thing we didn’t achieve was ending hunger in the county,” says FG founder Paul Saginaw. “That’s the unfortunate part.”

Saginaw, also a cofounder of Zingerman’s, hatched the idea for FG while reading a food magazine in his office in 1988. He came upon a story about a New York City-based group of volunteers who collected perfectly good items from food photo shoots and delivered them to the Salvation Army.

“I thought, ‘What a brilliant idea,'” Saginaw says. “Every day, there’s food that’s wholesome and safe that can’t be sold to the public, for a number of reasons.”

Saginaw had already been pondering how Zingerman’s could give back to its community after the nationally-known deli found itself fielding an increasing number of food donation requests. Because it’s a food-based business, Saginaw says “it just made sense that our focus should be hunger relief.” READ THE REST HERE

My Metromode On the Ground story about the spirit of Farmington

Screen Shot 2018-12-04 at 1.44.21 PM.pngVisitors to downtown Farmington often seek the same things that have inspired others to make the small town their permanent home: warmth, energy, and connection.

“People who live here want to know their neighbors and be around others,” says Farmington Mayor (and architect) Steven Schneemann.

“They’ve moved here because they wanted to have that sense of community. And as a place-maker, as an architect, I can tell you that that’s not just about the character of the people. The physical, built environment of a place can encourage and celebrate and enrich and build on that community spirit. That’s been my passion since I got involved with the city planning commission.” READ THE REST HERE

My Between the Lines preview for Matrix Theatre’s ‘Well-Intentioned White People’


Screen Shot 2018-11-09 at 5.10.07 PM.pngRegulars at the Matrix Theatre might not be surprised to learn that Rachel Lynett’s darkly comic play, “Well-Intentioned White People,” initially caught the attention of Matrix Theatre’s artistic director, Megan Buckley-Ball, by way of its in-your-face title.
“We found it on the New Play Exchange,” said Buckley-Ball, referring to an online service provided by the National New Play Network.

“Since Matrix has a specific mission to foster social justice, the Exchange has been a fantastic resource for us to find work by playwrights who are responding to what’s happening right now within their communities. … (Lynett’s play’s) title was incredibly intriguing to me, and the people who are calling for tickets seem to agree.”

“Well-Intentioned White People” focuses on a black lesbian professor, Cass, who one day finds the N-word keyed onto her car. Cass simply wants to get her car fixed and put the ugly incident behind her, but several white, well-intentioned allies – her roommate/ex-girlfriend; a dean; a student activist; and a transgender colleague – push her to talk about it publicly, and instead use the incident as a political rallying cry.

“Rachel Lynett obviously does not shy away from being blunt and keeping it real,” said Buckley-Ball. “There is a true victim in this show, and we get to see how people of color, and members of LGBTQ-plus communities, have to normalize the attacks they go through every single day just to get through each day. As far as this show is concerned, there’s no room for tiptoeing. These are real things that are happening. … The characters’ emotions are raw and real, and they speak their truth.” READ THE REST HERE