REVIEW: Slipstream’s ‘A Night of Stars, with Tennessee Williams,’ now at Theatre Nova, is a small wonder

Screen Shot 2018-08-14 at 11.54.53 AM.pngA go-to hypothetical question, especially among the word-nerd set, is: “What three writers, alive or dead, would you invite to a dinner party?”

The play “A Night of Stars with Tennessee Williams,” by U-M student Maxim Vinogradov – produced by Ferndale’s Slipstream Theatre Initiative, but now on stage (as a guest production) at Ann Arbor’s Theatre Nova – makes a pretty solid case for including the troubled playwright of “The Glass Menagerie” and “A Streetcar Named Desire” at the table.

Why? Because between the stream of not-yet-A-list stars (Paul Newman, Marlon Brando) and super-famous actresses (Elizabeth Taylor, Bette Davis, Katherine Hepburn) that flocked to Williams, hoping to be cast in his plays and films, and the more established artists (Truman Capote, Andy Warhol, Greta Garbo) that composed his entourage, Williams became a sun at the center of a glitzy galaxy of his own making. Continue reading

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REVIEW: Ferndale’s Slipstream Theatre Initiative gets absurd via ‘Lost in 3 Pines’

Screen Shot 2018-08-02 at 11.24.18 PM.pngThe title of Slipstream Theatre Initiative’s latest world premiere production, “Lost in Three Pines,” by Hopwood Award-winning U-M student Maxim Vinogradov, is drawn from a Russian idiom that means: to lose one’s way in broad daylight.

So it’s no surprise that the play will leave you feeling foggy and disoriented. This is, in fact, Vinogradov’s aim.

“Pines” – directed by Bailey Boudreau – begins with a handful of characters who stand in isolated rectangles of light on a darkened stage, facing the audience even when they’re speaking to each other. (Ryan Ernst is the show’s technical director.) Lyuba (Tiaja Sabrie) is the wife of advertising exec Misha (Brenton Herwat), and she must field calls from Misha’s confused, aging mother (Linda Rabin Hammell) while also preparing to host a dinner for Misha’s arrogant boss Volkov (Ryan Ernst) and his cheerful wife Mourka (Mandy Logsdon).

This part of “Pines” has the feel of an absurdist feminist play, since bright-eyed student Zhenka’s (David Wilson) simple, typical-small-talk question to Lubya, “What do you do?”, thrusts Lubya into an existential quagmire. She questions if she, or anyone around her, is real, and contemplates the purpose and meaning of her stultifying, domestically bland existence – which sends her (and us) ever further down the rabbit hole. Continue reading

My Pulp preview of Brass Tacks Ensemble’s production of Eugene O’Neill’s ‘The Hairy Ape’

Screen Shot 2018-08-02 at 1.29.27 PM.pngWhen someone “gets down to brass tacks,” they’re focusing on the essentials — and this is precisely what an Ann Arbor-based theater troupe, The Brass Tacks Ensemble, aims to do.

The company’s sets, props, and costumes are usually spare and simple in hopes of putting the spotlight on a play’s story and inviting audience members to fill in blanks with their imagination.

BTE’s latest offering, Eugene O’Neill’s The Hairy Ape (playing August 2-4 at Kerrytown Concert House), will be in keeping with the company’s vision.

“Right now, we have five theater blocks on stage, serving various functions, and some pretty basic black and white costumes,” said director Isaac Ellis. READ THE REST HERE