My Pulp review of A2SF’s ‘L’Homme Cirque’


David Dimitri performing the finale of his one-man-show, “L’Homme Cirque,” on Saturday, August 27. (Photo by Jenn McKee)

On Saturday evening, I sat inside a white tent in Burns Park and watched veteran performer David Dimitri’s one-man-show, “L’Homme Cirque” (presented by Ann Arbor Summer Festival), under what might be ideal circumstances – which is to say, I had a five-year-old on my lap.

This wasn’t “ideal” because of comfort – five-year-olds rarely stop wiggling, and the weather was post-storm muggy besides – but rather because, as Dimitri performed his wordless, hour-long circus show for a capacity crowd (220), my daughter repeatedly voiced questions like, “How’s he going to get down?” “What’s he going to do with that?” “What’s he going to do next?”

Neve’s stream-of-consciousness curiosity underscored Dimitri’s playfulness and demonstrated to me how the show is ultimately built on a kind of repeating pattern: stoke anticipation, tease the audience, and finish with a moment or two of joyous wonder.  READ THE REST HERE


My most anticipated local theater shows list for the 2016-17 season

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Brooklyn-based company The TEAM’s “RoosevElvis” promises to be a trippy, imaginative night of theater, courtesy of UMS.

September isn’t just back-to-school season; it’s also the moment when most theater companies (and universities’ performing arts departments) launch into a brand new year of programming.

It’s enough to make a dramaphile downright giddy.

But because we’re blessed with a perennially rich, vibrant arts scene here in Ann Arbor, it can be challenging to keep track of all the good stuff on the horizon – so I’ve compiled a list of theater offerings that I’m most excited about for the coming year. The list is organized by date, so mark your calendars!  READ THE REST HERE

My preview of A2SF’s ‘L’Homme Cirque’

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We’ve all heard the phrase “one-man band,” but “one-man circus” is a far more unfamiliar concept, to say the least.

That will likely change when David Dimitri drives his truck to Ann Arbor’s Burns Park and starts setting up his specially designed L’Homme Cirque tent for performances from August 24-28, as Ann Arbor Summer Festival’s (A2SF) final offering for 2016.

Dimitri, a veteran of Cirque du Soleil and Big Apple Circus, created his acclaimed one-man show in 2001. Patrons can expect to see high wire flips, physical comedy, and a human cannon launch, as well as a finale that involves Dimitri exiting the tent on a tightrope that appears to lead him out into the sky (with the crowd leaving the tent to watch).  READ THE REST HERE

My review of ‘What Am I Doing Here?’ at the Yellow Barn

Screen Shot 2016-08-15 at 2.26.55 PMJudi Schram’s What Am I Doing Here? now being staged at Ann Arbor’s Yellow Barn in a joint production of Theatre Nova and Papa Weez, starts with four mature, dressed-in-black women entering the stage holding full wine glasses, plus a bottle for refills during the show.

And just like that, as each actress took a seat in an armchair, I felt cozy and comfortable in the company of ladies I already liked.

Drawn from material published on Schram’s blog, “What Am I Doing Here?” is a reader’s theater show – with the actresses reading from scripts – that takes various aspects of aging as its subject.

Broken up into chapters like “Memory,” “Doctors,” “Technology,” and more, the 75 minute show is built on Schram’s lighthearted poems, written in the style and spirit of Shel Silverstein’s work (as she openly acknowledges early on). Dieting, Spanx, not recognizing yourself in the mirror, absent-mindedness, hot flashes, mammograms, taking care of children and aging parents simultaneously, HGTV binge-watching, and prescriptions are among the topics tackled, and projected illustrations from Schram’s book “Lights Out in the Attic” (another nod to Silverstein) provide the show’s visual backdrop.

A problem inevitably arises, though, when the poems, which share a common structure and tone, start to feel redundant. Yes, they address different subjects, but as each builds toward a kind of punchline, you can’t help but yearn for more variety and bite.  READ THE REST HERE

My latest WEMU Art & Soul segment with Lisa Barry (and special guest A2SF Director Amy Nesbitt)

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Lisa and I talked about local upcoming performing arts events during August, and welcomed Ann Arbor Summer Festival director Amy Nesbitt into the WEMU studio to talk about A2SF’s final event of the year: a one-man circus, called L’homme Cirque, that’s coming to town August 24-28. Check out what Amy has to say about this amazing-looking, super-special event (which I’ll be reviewing for Pulp)!

My We Love Dexter review of The Encore Theatre’s ‘My Fair Lady’


Daniel Gerroll and Jessica Grove in The Encore Theatre’s “My Fair Lady.” (Michele Anliker Photography)

Lerner and Loewe’s “My Fair Lady” is an American stage classic that’s an all-time favorite among musical theater fans; yet strangely, there seem to be precious few opportunities to see a live production.

All the more reason to get to the Encore Theatre – presuming you can still purchase tickets (2 performances were recently added to accommodate high demand) – as soon as you can.

For although, from a tech standpoint, Encore’s “loverly,” three hour production embodies the modesty of its blackbox theater – as director Tony Walton notes in the show’s program, Encore’s lack of wings or overhead space for a fly system limits the ways that production teams can flesh out a show’s scenic changes – the talent both on-stage and behind-the-scenes is anything but. READ THE REST HERE

My We Love Dexter preview for Encore Theatre’s ‘My Fair Lady’


Jessica Grove and Daniel Gerroll in The Encore Theatre’s “My Fair Lady.” (Michele Anliker Photography)

To say that Broadway veteran actress Jessica Grove – who’s married to Encore Theatre co-founder Dan Cooney, and who’s starring in Encore’s new production of the Lerner and Loewe classic, “My Fair Lady” – has been having a busy year would be a gross understatement.

“I was pregnant at callbacks (for ‘My Fair Lady’). I read with a few people, and I kept saying, ‘Just ignore this,’” Grove said, circling one hand over her midsection. (Her baby daughter, the couple’s second child, is now four months old.) “I didn’t know how it would work out, exactly. I honestly feel like my voice is just coming back through the rehearsal process, so that’s getting better. And throw a move on top of it – we’re moving (from New York) to Chicago. So right when I thought I’d get a head start on my lines, instead, I was packing. And we didn’t know we were moving until April, after Lolly was born. And then we had to find a place to live in Chicago.”

But through it all, Grove’s commitment to playing Eliza Doolittle, a dream role, never wavered, and two highly accomplished colleagues signed on to be part of the show, too. READ THE REST HERE

My Pulp review of Michigan Shakespeare Festival’s ‘Richard II’


Robert Kauzlaric stars in Michigan Shakespeare Festival’s “Richard II.”

Sometimes, when you see a Shakespeare play that’s rarely produced, you walk out thinking, “I’m pretty sure I know why.” But then, at other times, like an unexpected gift, you walk out of a production thinking, “Where have you been all my life?”

The latter describes my experience with Michigan Shakespeare Festival’s three-hour production of Richard II, now playing at Canton’s Village Theater.

The history play focuses on King Richard (Robert Kauzlaric), who’d been crowned at age 9, after his grandfather Edward III ruled England for 50 years, and his father, the natural heir, died.

Richard II takes place when Richard has reached adulthood, after wrangling with his father’s brothers for years to retain power. When one of Richard’s cousins, Henry Bolingbroke (Robert McLean), gets into a feud with a noble named Thomas Mowbray (Matt Daniels), who’s accused of being involved in the murder of one of Richard’s uncles, Richard banishes them both, thereby angering Bolingbroke’s father, John of Gaunt (Alan Ball). The rift sets events in motion, as Gaunt confronts Richard and later dies; Richard leaves England to reclaim power in Ireland; and Bolingbroke returns to England to not just claim his father’s title and land, but also Richard’s crown.

Many factors play into our response to a show, of course: design elements, the language, performers, pacing, the director’s choices, prominent themes, and even what personal experiences we’re bringing with us into the theater.

For me, this seldom-produced history play opened up near its end, when Richard has been usurped and imprisoned and says: “Alack the heavy day/ That I have worn so many winters out/ And know not now what name to call myself./ … But whate’er I be/ Nor I nor any man that but man is/ With nothing shall be pleased till he be eased/ with being nothing.” In this monologue, Shakespeare reflects not only on the experience of a person’s previously firm sense of identity in freefall, but also our shifting sense of our place in the world as we age – which is to say, the inevitable realization that each of us might not, after all, be super-special snowflakes. READ THE REST HERE