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







« Laughter on the 23rd Floor | Main | The Fantasticks »


Sometimes planets align, sometimes worlds collide. Fate and probability conspire to set countless events into motion, which precisely interact to generate a one-in-a-million phenomenon. I’m referring, of course, to the compelling singularity that is Williamston Theatre’s exceptional boom. With unwavering direction by Tony Caselli and top-shelf talent in all corners, this apocalyptic comedy by playwright Peter Sinn Nachtrieb is a delight of inexplicable proportions.

The play begins just like every other “girl meets boy in underground bomb shelter turned laboratory for no-strings Internet tryst” story. Journalism student Jo (Alissa Nordmoe) charges into the realm of marine biology grad student Jules (Aral Gribble) with a thirst for liquor and a hunger for contact, but there are ulterior motives at play on both sides. The incessantly chronicling Jo’s expectations arise from a class assignment that has her stumped, whereas Jules, the last scion in a long line of profoundly unlucky individuals, appears to finally be ahead of the eight ball — he’s predicted a meteor strike sufficient to wipe out nearly all life on Earth. And it’s happening tonight.

If this explanatory outline raises questions, it should; moreover, this only scratches the surface of the play’s clearly unknowable and cheerily suspect intentions. The crack design team doubles down on the intrigue with tantalizingly peculiar surroundings. Why the lab setting is hewn in by railings or overlooked by what appears to be a control panel is for designer Janine Woods Thoma to know and you to find out (likely in jaw-dropped appreciation, and not merely for its stunning aquarium feature). Properties by Bruce Bennett, largely confined to peeks and punchline reveals, are nothing if not disturbingly thorough. The weird, overly art-directed feel of the proceedings is lent further credence by Daniel C. Walker’s primary, secondary, and contingency lighting design, and sound by Alex Gay blends catastrophic menace with Barbara’s portentous impromptu score.

Oh, I’m sorry, did I forget to mention Barbara? That’s right: as if all of the above wasn’t enough, there is Barbara (Sarab Kamoo), the lever-pulling expert who presides over this bizarro experiment from mission control, clad in a smart blazer and name badge (fine generic work by costume designer Amber Marisa Cook). The added layer places questions in the main action into the context of larger questions, heaping mystery upon mystery. Obviously agitated, Kamoo’s passionate teacher/simulator/tour guide (?!) enlivens the enigmatic role, flavoring the events below by facial expressions alone and, over time, raising cray to the power of cray.

Throughout the ninety zippy minutes of this single-act show, circumstances teeter at the edge of feeling like a runaway train, but the production’s command is evident in its precision. As Jules and Jo descend into a depraved state of captivity, Nordmoe’s forthright callousness evolves into some kind of combination preservation instinct/death wish. It’s enough to sour even Jules, and Gribble is delightful in tirades of optimism turned on its head. For her part, Kamoo plays Barbara’s weaknesses beautifully, pointing the viewer toward transcendent catharsis. Yet even as more questions cloud the landscape, Caselli and cast smoothly navigate the ever-compounding WTF factor, rewarding with fascinating choices concerning who’s ultimately in control of this scenario. How fully realized these characters really are is a happy, late, and sudden realization, as edifying as the plot resolution itself.

This boom is a jumble of fragments that assemble and reassemble with the misleading intrigue of a jigsaw puzzle, snapping abruptly into place by play’s end. If that sounds confusing, it isn’t; if it seems unclear, that’s for the best. This play’s greatest strength is that nobody can make heads or tails of it while it’s happening; viewers with a curious streak will laugh, marvel, and have all the more fun for not knowing how it all ends.

boom is no longer playing.
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