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

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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

My WEMU-FM 89.1 Art & Soul segment for November, with Lisa Barry and Theatre Nova’s Diane Hill

TheStoneWitchPress2.jpg

Ethan Kankula as Peter Chandler and Dennis Kleinsmith as Simon Grindberg in “The Stone Witch” by Shem Bitterman at Theatre NOVA. Photography by Golden Record Media Company.

This month, we talk to one of Theatre Nova’s artistic directors, Diane Hill, about the Ann Arbor company’s newest offering, “The Stone Witch.”

Plus, Lisa and I highlight upcoming performing arts events, like Audra MacDonald’s upcoming show in Ann Arbor, “Modern Family” star Adam Devine’s stand up show at the Michigan Theater, and more! Listen to the eight minute segment here.

My Pulp preview of A2CT’s ‘Arsenic & Old Lace’

Screen Shot 2018-11-05 at 12.09.35 PM.pngArsenic and Old Lace, Joseph Kesselring’s classic dark comedy now being staged by Ann Arbor Civic Theatre, provided director Alexandra Duncan with her first-ever stage role in high school — though it wasn’t a particularly lively or demanding part.

“I was Adam Hoskins, the dead man in the window seat,” Duncan said.

Sound bizarre?

Welcome to the Brewster family home in Brooklyn, where writer Mortimer Brewster wants to marry the girl next door. Problem is, he’s just learned that his sweet old spinster aunts have been murdering lonely old men with poison-laced elderberry wine; plus, his delusional uncle, who believes he’s Theodore Roosevelt, has been providing graves by digging locks for the Panama Canal in the house’s cellar. READ THE REST HERE

REVIEW (EncoreMichigan.com): Detroit Public Theatre’s ‘Pipeline’

Screen Shot 2018-10-25 at 12.34.07 PM.pngHere’s a trade secret: most writers hate coming up with titles for their work.

In some cases, however, the act of naming allows the author to posit an idea that might not otherwise be mentioned within the piece itself, thus pointing the audience in a thematic direction before the lights even go down.

Such is the case with Dominique Morisseau’s Pipeline, now being staged by Detroit Public Theatre. Though outwardly about a black student (Omari, played by Yakeem Tatum) at a mostly white private school who’s filmed pushing a teacher against a whiteboard – and the ensuing fallout conversations that occur between his public school teacher mother Nya (Lisa Strum) and his estranged, emotionally distant attorney father Xavier (Brian Marable) – the title clues us in to a bigger picture; one that looks beyond the scope of Morisseau’s narrative and hints at how a young man’s entire future could be shaped by his actions on a few of the hardest days of his adolescence. READ THE REST HERE