Meet the Rogue

Live theater. Unsolicited commentary.
From Detroit to Lansing.

Carolyn Hayes is the Rogue Critic, est. late 2009.

In 2011, the Rogue attended 155 plays, readings, and festivals (about 3 per week) and penned 115 reviews (about 2.2 per week).

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Theaters and Companies

The Abreact (Detroit)
website | reviews | 2011 SIR

The AKT Theatre Project (Wyandotte)
website | reviews

Blackbird Theatre (Ann Arbor)
website | reviews | 2010 SIR

Detroit Repertory Theatre (Detroit)
website | reviews

The Encore Musical Theatre Co. (Dexter)
website | reviews

Go Comedy! (Ferndale)
website | reviews

Hilberry Theatre (Detroit)
website | reviews | 2010 SIR

Jewish Ensemble Theatre (West Bloomfield)
website | reviews

Magenta Giraffe Theatre Co. (Detroit)
website | reviews | 2010 SIR

Matrix Theatre (Detroit)
website | reviews | 2010 SIR

Meadow Brook Theatre (Rochester)
website | reviews

Performance Network Theatre (Ann Arbor)
website | reviews

Planet Ant Theatre (Hamtramck)
website | reviews

Plowshares Theatre (Detroit)
website | reviews

Purple Rose Theatre Co. (Chelsea)
website | reviews

The Ringwald Theatre (Ferndale)
website | reviews

Tipping Point Theatre (Northville)
website | reviews | 2010 SIR

Threefold Productions (Ypsilanti)
website | reviews

Two Muses Theatre (West Bloomfield Township)
website | reviews

Williamston Theatre (Williamston)
website | reviews







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A Behanding in Spokane

Breathe Art Theatre Project begins its season with playwright Martin McDonagh’s deceptively shady A Behanding in Spokane. At first a simple tale of a man who rightfully wants what was taken from him, the play spins into a comically depraved direction as it examines our highly personal and often ridiculous grip on the desire for retribution, however symbolic. Directed by Andrew Huff, this production does justice to its assorted characters and the wrongs they’ve suffered, but comes up short in terms of overall cohesion.

The implicit violence of a gunshot sets the tone of this story: the mysterious, one-handed Carmichael (Dan Jaroslaw) fires off a round in his hotel room before calmly phoning his mother. The blast appears to summon other questionable elements to the fore, first reception desk jockey Mervyn (Joel Mitchell), then skittish Marilyn (Katie Galazka), who flings a package Carmichael’s way. What’s inside is supposed to be the man’s long-severed hand (part of something from the sick-puppy school of properties design); its unveiling triggers both a hailstorm of exposition and a spate of obscenities just about unmatched in the English language. The last piece of the puzzle is Toby (Sean Rodriguez), Marilyn’s partner in life and in crime; the pair is well-matched only in that they are equally bad at both pursuits. The premise thus dispatched, the remainder of the play’s eighty minutes concerns itself with avoiding the inevitable and settling scores — more than one, as it turns out.

Mirth lurks at the edges of this black comedy, but at best it’s a watery mix of humor and darkness; Huff and the cast struggle to keep both in view simultaneously. As Carmichael, Jaroslaw is a menacing presence, believably capable of tortuous malice in service of his only objective, but amusingly betrayed by his links to the outside world. Galazka and Rodriguez downplay their obvious disconnect, somewhat muddling the high stakes of their crucial mixed signals; the capable performances are individually entertaining — Marilyn’s opaquely faked sexuality, Toby’s comely belief that he can simply agree his way out of anything — but the teamwork is less slick. With manic flair and targeted energy, Mitchell best inhabits the hilariously ludicrous and deadly dangerous opposites of the text, providing moments of excruciating tension as Mervyn forsakes all reason to enact the pettiest and most mismatched of personal vendettas. Unfortunately, these four skilled performances don’t quite exist on the same warped plane; although the disparate approaches contribute to the production’s disjointing feel, it comes at the expense of the single, specifically stylized tone of the script.

Visually, the show is intriguing in its starkness: Sergio Forest’s lighting design does fine work highlighting the antiseptic whitewash of Huff’s aggressively nondescript hotel room. When center stage is this highly conceptualized, the few locations adjacent to the main action can’t help but feel tacked on, but the work-arounds are serviceable enough and may be chalked up to the limitations of the Furniture Factory black-box space. Ultimately, this is forgiven by the effectiveness of the blank primary locale, which provides an exceptional canvas on which this story of justice and repossession is sadistically played out.

Solid individual performances and startling design work to counter the somewhat rickety whole of A Behanding in Spokane. The company frequently approaches the weird-beyond-measure heights of McDonagh’s script, but the parallel vengeances large and small don’t quite converge into a single skewed perspective. Regardless, the show is a strong collection of components whose ample dark-black absurdity should roundly satisfy even the most morbid of viewers.

A Behanding in Spokane is no longer playing.
For the latest from Breathe Art Theatre Project, click here.