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







« Plaid Tidings | Main | Laughter on the 23rd Floor »

Flowers Up Her Attic

Take a pulpy young-adult novel made famous for its taboo subject matter, and turn up the dial on the salacious stuff until it breaks. That’s the simple, winning recipe used by Marke Sobolewski and Joe Bailey to cook up Flowers Up Her Attic, a wickedly comic distillation of the similarly titled 1979 V.C. Andrews book. Now in its world premiere under Bailey’s direction, the Ringwald Theatre rocks with storybook scandal even as it keeps viewers rolling in the aisles.

In Flowers in the Attic, both the book and the 1987 movie adaptation, a group of siblings frantically languishes in the top room of their grandparents’ house, indefinitely trapped and neglected for unknown reasons, with inappropriately racy results. This show follows in the same melodramatic mold, from Traci Jo Rizzo’s forgotten storage-room set to Joe Plambeck’s Amityville-style devil lights and thriller score. Costumes by Vince Kelley double down on the horror show of circa-1980s fashions with a horror show of fakey-fake blond wigs as far as the eye can see. It’s just the right tone for the kind of campy homage that reveres its source material with feats of soaring irreverence.

Sobolewski and Bailey’s script doesn’t waste time getting to the good stuff; the story tromps gaily through the critical plot points with little ancillary padding. It’s certainly an inelegant approach, but it’s worthwhile for the end result of all jokes, no waiting — frankly, nuance would be unwelcome in as soapy a story as this. The playwrights hold nothing sacred and waste no opportunity for a punchline, straying from the source material to sprinkle in references at will, even marveling at their own incongruity. Furthermore, the production doubles down on the messy fun, as the performers are given free reign to engage in game play and ad libbing to heighten the humor of every extravagant interaction. Put simply, it’s entirely fitting for this story that “screwing with each other” applies to the show on every level.

Bailey makes several dour appearances as the strict and imposing matriarch, delightfully named The Grandmother. As the children’s mother, Lisa Melinn amusingly spins false dotage, but is twice as good again when she lays her twisted motives bare. Meanwhile, up in the attic, twin toddlers Cory (Matthew Arrington) and Carrie (Suzan M. Jacokes) are polar opposites, pitting Arrington’s coy pants-wetting galoot against Jacokes’s fastidiously ignored voice of reason. But the real draw of the show lies in elder siblings — and (gag) lovahs — Christopher and Cathy, and Vince Kelley and Julie Spittle do not disappoint. Together, they manage to elevate adolescent panting and pawing to a hilarious art form, offset by an imbecilic precociousness that serves the self-absorbed material well. As much as the story focuses on Cathy, Spittle is a particular joy to watch, always slow on the uptake and easily bowled over, but without the flat stupidity that can so easily befall the ingénue type.

At a scant and screeching hour, this Flowers gets in, gets out, and gets results, with no need for intermission. The script lays out a certain kind of loving mockery, and the performances follow suit, in effective symbiosis sure to delight viewers who loved — or loved to hate — the original. Yet even for the uninitiated, if laughter is infectious, rest assured the manic energy and free-wheeling comic spirit these performers bring to the stage is a highly contagious strain.

Flowers Up Her Attic is no longer playing.
For the latest from the Ringwald Theatre, click here.