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







« Southern Baptist Sissies | Main | The Light in the Piazza »

Oh, Hell!

With an inspired double bill, the Abreact pals around with the old serpent in the theater’s season opener, collectively titled Oh, Hell! The common denominator of the play’s two acts by famous American writers is the devil, in form and fable. With both halves directed by Charles Reynolds, the other throughline is a wry wit that bursts with hilarity and bumps up the intrigue.

The first act is David Mamet’s bonus feature of sorts for one of his best-known characters: Bobby Gould in Hell. Relatively dissolute from the earthbound reality of Speed-the-Plow, the genesis of Bobby Gould, here Adam Barnowski’s morally unbound powerful man butts heads with the horned Interrogator (Joel Mitchell), debating the good-person-or-bad-person judgment that will determine his fate. The action takes place in some netherworld’s waiting room/courtroom/trophy room, which set designer Eric Maher and lighting designer Kevin Barron flesh out with charming surprises. Mitchell takes a pointedly chatty, inconsequential approach to what are actually rapid-fire tactical offenses, as his character employs every method in the book to entrap his prey. He even summons witness Glenna (Katie Galazka), who — true to the conniving Mamet woman — runs away with the interrogation with her maddening, impenetrable woman-logic.

It is substantially curious that in a play written as a vehicle for the Bobby character, he is by comparison the least engaging of this crew: Galazka’s Glenna has a winning magnetism that makes her dominion quite enjoyable, and Mitchell has fun with his bombastic interjections. Yet even among these big and bigger characters (for goodness’ sake, Alex Bleu plays something called “The Bear”), the high point of the act is the maligned Assistant, a used-up cinder of a demon played to wretched perfection by Dax Anderson. Patient, imaginative timing is a huge contributor to the many huge laughs in this low-context entertainment, and the story’s resolution is icing on the cake.

The second act finds Peter Prouty in the guise of a janitor, performing Shel Silverstein’s The Devil and Billy Markham as he picks up after someone else’s merriment. In this epic poem, Prouty’s voice work is only part of the equation, as his gravelly storyteller spins the hero’s journey of Nashville musician Billy Markham, who bets and loses, bets and loses against the devil, coming closer to outwitting him every time. Naturally moving staging and the character’s barely masked joy of storytelling make this descriptive forty-minute performance lovely to watch and hear. A little ribald, with selectively deployed language that rivals Mamet’s notoriously foul mouth, this play is nevertheless as noteworthy for its inventive writing as for its pleasantly confidential, after-hours recitation.

Not even this Rogue would call an evening with the devil “light entertainment” to his face, but the fact is that Oh, Hell! delivers on its skillfully written promise with mirth to spare. With raw materials that seem tailor-made for the Abreact’s distinctive offbeat-modern-classic oeuvre, Reynolds and cast elevate the already strong material to even greater heights of humor. Critical to the production’s success is its evident precision and thorough character work, but these take a back seat to its incredible sense of fun; above all, this monumentally entertaining show is darkness done light.

Oh, Hell! is no longer playing.
For the latest from the Abreact, click here.