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 Body of Water

The new Threefold Productions, a partner company in Ypsilanti’s recent Mix Studio development, makes a fractionated first offering in Lee Blessing’s A Body of Water. With artistic director Sarah Lucas at the helm, this inscrutable work stretches into a marathon of beguiling flux, as long on story transformation as it is enigmatically short on answers.

A man and a woman (Lee Stille and Brenda Lane) wake up together and find pertinent details missing from their memories: who are you, who am I, do we know each other, where are we, and how did we get here pretty neatly sums it up. Although this sounds like a potential setup for numerous horror films, there is no such foreboding in the handsome, well-stocked, but empty house on the water, which in the modest Mix space is represented by designer Dustin Miller’s symmetrically pleasing frosted-lit windows and modular furniture. Beginning at square one, or even farther back if that’s possible, he and she make generally polite inroads toward returning to themselves, their exchanges ranging from childlike musing to frustrated fear that something that should be known is unaccounted for. As a pair, Stille and Lane are careful to be amiably elusive, cultivating a rapport that could easily be the nagging patter of an old married couple or, just as believably, the guarded terseness of strangers.

The dynamic changes abruptly with the entrance of take-charge Wren (Luna Alexander), who knows both of these individuals and breezily catches them in a weak pretense of knowing her. At first intent on helping them remember for themselves, Wren reluctantly, then wearily, begins to fill in the blanks. As the exercise grows tiresome, her demeanor becomes cagey and more clinical; she crassly explains the shocking reason for this bizarre amnesia and the importance of regaining their memories. The wretched story is almost too much to believe, and it changes like a kaleidoscope as each detail is layered on. To divulge much more would spoil the rabbit hole of discoveries that follow; suffice it to say that Alexander’s vitriolic performance morphs incessantly as each new disclosure provides new justifications.

As an initial production, this is an unquestionable challenge for several reasons. First, the two-hour uninterrupted running time ensures a long trajectory for the characters, who are all three onstage for multiple long zero-to-sixty emotional beats. Lucas and company handle the shifting frustrations well, setting up the audience to feel the same helplessness as circumstances change; even Emily Clarkson’s lighting design finds abrupt and unnatural transitions, until it feels like nothing can be trusted. For the viewer’s part, trying to connect with characters with the recall of a goldfish threatens to offer diminishing returns — although the exhausting flexibility of Wren's character seeks to be development enough for all three. The insistence on a world in which no statement or appearance is certain is a double-edged sword, meeting the promise of constant surprise with the growing suspicion that the definitive reality will forever be elusive.

There is a David Lynch-ian subversion in the storytelling of A Body of Water that Lucas targets and exploits, resulting in a production that is bravely uninterested in providing a conclusive explanation for how things really are, or why. For viewers content to stay adrift and draw their own conclusions, this is a presentation packed full of clues that should deepen and change on return visits to this tantalizingly blank, lyrical, grasping void.

A Body of Water is no longer playing.
For the latest from Threefold Productions, click here.