2013 Rogue's Gallery, Part 1
September 3, 2013
The Rogue in Rogue's Gallery

Sound Design

Burr Huntington, A Thousand Circlets, Detroit Repertory Theatre
•Dyan Bailey, Mommie Queerest, Ringwald Theatre
•Samuel G. Byers, Detroit, Hilberry Theatre
•Carla Milarch, Good People, Performance Network Theatre
•Jason Painter Price, End Days, Williamston Theatre/Jewish Ensemble Theatre

Combining organic neighborhood sounds and impeccable music selections, Byers evoked a real slice of Detroit even as it slyly challenged the veracity of stories about the city. Bailey’s histrionic use of score (often in concert with her video design) gave the needed support to push a campy homage over the top into something beyond raw imitation. Rowdy and intrusive, Milarch’s ambient noise pollution put the abstract notion of no solace or privacy firmly into crowded context. Price called on the constancy of time in original compositions, electronic selections whose metronomic overtones counted down interminably to a maddeningly uncertain end point. But the award goes to Huntington for an intentionally jarring design that successfully unnerved and disoriented the viewer, personifying the encroaching dementia that informed the production’s fragmented narrative.

Choreography (Dance)

Barbara F. Cullen, The Fantasticks, The Encore Musical Theatre Co.
•Barbara F. Cullen, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, The Encore Musical Theatre Co.
•Angie Kane Ferrante, 35MM, The AKT Theatre Project
•Tyrick Wiltez Jones, Life Could Be a Dream, Meadow Brook Theatre
•Tyrick Wiltez Jones, 70, Girls, 70, Meadow Brook Theatre

In a Joseph nearly bursting at the seams, Cullen’s slick work effectively masked crowd control as spectacle. To stave off the inauthenticity of perfectly executed “rehearsals,” Jones wove imperfections and coaching vignettes into the numbers of Life Could Be a Dream. Echoing the production’s theme of storytelling through still photographs, Ferrante’s strong suit was in orchestrating precision stage pictures. Jones skewed Vaudevillian for 70, Girls, 70, wielding vigorous crowd-pleasing flourishes. Ultimately, however, it’s Cullen and The Fantasticks whose targeted repetition and touching thematic arcs come out on top.

Choreography (Movement or Fight)

Brian Carbine and Kevin Young,* The Pillowman, Threefold Productions
•Wayne David Parker, I Hate Hamlet, Tipping Point Theatre
•Rhiannon Ragland, The Meaning of Almost Everything, Purple Rose Theatre Co.
•David Sterritt, Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet), Hilberry Theatre
•Nate Mitchell, Superior Donuts, Purple Rose Theatre Co.

*Movement by Carbine, fight choreography by Young

Ragland wowed with heavily stylized movement that invigorated a heavily cerebral journey at every turn. In a fantasy world, combat can be fun, and Sterritt’s work accordingly retained the levity of the proceedings. Parker’s exacting close-up swordplay, albeit a thrilling display, never interfered with the important verbal parries of a critical scene. Mitchell looked to his surroundings for inspiration, which apparently can turn an unassuming neighborhood donut shop into a deep-fried world of hurt. Yet the intertwining brutalities of Carbine’s lyrical horror-story pantomime and Young’s torturous physical reality made for an unparalleled pairing.

Scenic Design (Proscenium Seating)

Daniel C. Walker, Brill, Performance Network Theatre
•Jeremy Barnett, Next to Normal, Meadow Brook Theatre
•Kristen Gribbin, The Haunting of Hill House, Meadow Brook Theatre
•Pegi Marshall-Amundsen, Detroit, Hilberry Theatre
•Katie Orwig, Hamtown Races, Planet Ant Theatre

Barnett’s skyward scaffolding and surfaces all akimbo thrust the playing space up, out, and around — a dimensional marvel. Marshall-Amundsen played slyly against the tropes of a collapsing Motor City, before barreling straight into them by bringing the wreckage home. Everyone knows that haunted houses are not to be trusted, but Gribbin nevertheless maintained her capacity to shock and reveal the walls’ untold secrets. From floors to furnishings to fixtures, Orwig fondly recreated the details and even the atmosphere of a family-run Hamtramck restaurant with stunning veracity. But insisting on the negative space of a little-used receding hallway was the winning gamble of Walker’s positively entrancing interior-office design.

Scenic Design (Surround Seating)

Janine Woods Thoma, boom, Williamston Theatre
•Bartley H. Bauer, Superior Donuts, Purple Rose Theatre Co.
•Bartley H. Bauer, 10:53, Williamston Theatre
•Adam Crinson, Phoenix, Matrix Theatre
•Eric W. Maher, The Weir, The Abreact

Maher sunk an iconic Irish bar — and all the snug warmth it entails — so deeply and seamlessly into the Abreact stage that viewers were readily enticed to belly up to it. It’s understandable that a character would take an elevator for granted within the scene, but onstage in 10:53, Bauer’s sublime apparatus was not to be overlooked. Crinson’s task was to pull an alternative space together while sufficing as multiple geographic locations, and it was handily achieved through abstract art in a single statement monolith. In Superior Donuts, Bauer executed impossible blackout-quick changes to instantly mar and gradually repair the titular shop weathering a neighborhood sea change. And then there’s the multitudes of the Thoma bunker: the cordoned-off enclosure, the controlled-mayhem special effects, the tuft of ceiling plaster dust that whispered of an entire civilization crashing down.

Article originally appeared on The Rogue Critic (http://www.roguecritic.com/).
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