REVIEW (Pulp): Druid’s ‘The Beauty Queen of Leenane,’ presented by UMS

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Maureen (Aisling O’Sullivan) lets her manipulative mum Mag (Marie Mullen) have it in Druid Theatre Company’s “The Beauty Queen of Leenane,” presented by UMS. (Photo by Stephen Cumminskey)

When two ordinary, scribbled-on pieces of paper in an envelope magically morph into a miserable woman’s key to happiness — and your heart pounds as you hawkishly, breathlessly watch the precarious letter being set down, picked up, walked around the stage, and handed off — that’s the power of live theater.

But it takes pros to achieve that level of emotionally tense stage magic, and when it comes to interpreting Martin McDonagh’s work, there may be none on Earth that can match Ireland’s renowned Druid Theatre Company, which performed The Beauty Queen of Leenane March 9-11 at the Power Center, courtesy of University Musical Society.

In the play, 40-year-old Maureen (Aisling O’Sullivan) lives alone with her demanding, manipulative 70-year-old mother Mag (Marie Mullen). When handsome former neighbor Pato Dooley (Marty Rea) briefly returns from London, where he works in construction, Maureen gets what seems like her last chance at love and a different life.

McDonagh’s script feels both Shakespearean, with its misunderstandings and intercepted messages, and like Williams’ The Glass Menagerie turned inside out: instead of a mother pushing a reluctant daughter out into the world, a mother repeatedly sabotages a frustrated daughter’s attempts to leave. But one thing is constant between Glass and Beauty Queen: both daughters are pushed to embody their mothers’ self-image. And as we learn more about Maureen’s past struggles, and how she ended up living with Mag, the push-pull bond between them seems all the more toxic but inescapable. READ THE REST HERE

My latest Art & Soul segment with Lisa Barry on WEMU-FM 89.1 (for March)

Screen Shot 2016-08-12 at 10.07.57 AMThis month, WEMU’s All Things Considered host Lisa Barry and I spent a few minutes talking with Ann Arbor Film Festival executive director Leslie Raymond. Plus, we chatted about a few additional upcoming cultural events happening in March. Check out the eight minute segment here.

My March local event highlights list for the Ann Arbor Area Convention and Visitors Bureau

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Acclaimed Irish theater company Druid returns to Ann Arbor, courtesy of UMS, with a production of “The Beauty Queen of Leeann.” (Photo by Matthew Thompson)

Check out my list of local event highlights for the month of March, featured on AAACVB’s blog!

Among upcoming events of note are Druid’s production of “The Beauty Queen of Leenane,” presented by UMS; Shamrocks & Shenanigans 5K, a Mott fundraiser with family-oriented activities following the run/walk events; the 55th annual Ann Arbor Film Festival; and Authors in Chelsea, which will feature young adult novelists.

Check out all the details here.

The Ann Arbor Summer Festival announces it’s 2017 ‘Movies By Moonlight’ free, outdoor cinema series

TOPmovies2.jpgPRESS RELEASE: The Ann Arbor Summer Festival is pleased to announce this season’s Movies By Moonlight. These free screenings on the lawn and seated patio are enjoyed by hundreds of people each night. Vendors offering popcorn, beverages and other treats add to the unique environment where friends and families gather under the stars each night at Top of the Park. The films run June 11-July 2nd at Top of the Park, 915 E. Washington St. in Ann Arbor.

10 pm Sunday, June 11 – Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

10 pm Tuesday, June 13 – Groundhog Day
10 pm Wednesday, June 14 – Doctor Strange
10 pm Thursday, June 15 – Ghostbusters: Answer The Call

10 pm Sunday, June 18 – Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory
10 pm Tuesday, June 20 – Hidden Figures
10 pm Wednesday, June 21 – Good Morning Vietnam (30th Anniversary)
10 pm Thursday, June 22 – Say Anything

10 pm Sunday, June 25 – Secret Life of Pets
10 pm Tuesday, June 27 – Men In Black (20th Anniversary)
10 pm Wednesday, June 28 – Star Wars: The Force Awakens
10 pm Thursday, June 29 – Beetlejuice
10 pm Sunday, July 2 – La La Land 

The remainder of the festival’s 2017 Mainstage ticketed line-up will be announced in early April and the other 140+ admission-free events will be announced through May 1st.

For the most up-to-date information, please visit the festival’s website at:

The Ann Arbor Summer Festival is an exhilarating celebration of performing arts, outdoor entertainment, and community spirit. An annual international arts gathering in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the three-week festival offers two concurrent programs, one indoor and one outdoor, at various venues and spaces across the University of Michigan campus and in downtown Ann Arbor. Each season features a progressive mix of over 175 events showcasing local, national, and international artists and attracting a diverse audience of more than 80,000 people.

The indoor Mainstage series includes ticketed performances of world-class music, contemporary circus, dance, family entertainment, public radio shows, and comedy. The outdoor program, Top of the Park, is held along a beautiful campus green and offers admission-free concerts, movies by moonlight, open-air street spectacles, culinary treats, and unique family attractions.

The festival’s 34th Mainstage series will begin with Diana Krall’s performance on Tuesday, June 6th and the admission free series Top of the Park runs six nights each week from June 9th through July 2nd, 2017.

For more information on all festival events, please visit the festival website: