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







« Ruined | Main | If You Start a Fire [Be Prepared to Burn] »


After a well-received run in 2010, playwright Margaret Edwartowski returns Snowbound to the Planet Ant stage, now expanded to span two full acts. A story of plight, persistence, and regret buried in an unforgiving Colorado winter, the latest version retains all the sting of its snappy viciousness while tacking on intrigue and dimension of changing characters in changing circumstances. Director Kate Peckham takes the action to the brink, brutalizing protagonists and audience alike with sky-high stakes and unrelenting outcomes.

What little remains of the Adler family fits into a meager mountain cabin, situated a treacherous crossing away from the paltry descriptor “remote.” Of the four survivors, siblings John (Stephen Blackwell) and Sara (Jaclyn Strez) are the only two capable of toil, forced to provide enough for themselves as well as their mentally and physically debilitated grandmother, Evaline (Nancy Arnfield), and the infant whose arrival rendered John a widower. With a dearth of able bodies and fewer provisions than ever, the impending winter of 1873 promises to be the end of them. Yet muleheaded John is icy with grief and grim determination; Blackwell’s gruffly inscrutable character suggests that he either doesn’t believe the so-called Adler curse (the death and disaster that has followed Evaline since she left her refined Boston family to marry a common pioneer), or he’s hell-bent on seeing it through — possibly both. One last appeal to reason comes in the form of family friend Wil (Jon Ager), a gentle and unassuming farmer who has a personal stake in their survival. Sara and Wil secretly agree that they must leave the cabin in order to escape certain death; it’s not all they agree on, as their fondest hopes intersect in a perfectly enchanting stolen scene. Arnfield’s endlessly rambling, sometimes ranting Evaline provides comic decompression, but also drives a critical wedge between the escapist needs of a hopelessly isolated seventeen-year-old woman and the crippling accountability weighing down a man who feels he’s already lost everything.

Without giving too much away, it’s safe to say the first act concerns the decision to leave the Adler claim, and the circumstances of the escape. The second moves to another locale, this one safer and more civilized, but the wretched costs of salvation are always teeming. Resigned to a life she wanted, inconsolable Sara looks to her lineage for comfort, ignoring mounting pressures in favor of sending unrequited communiqués to distant relations she knows only from stories. Even as the plot pushes forward in unprecedented measures, the action continually circles around what happened in the cabin, always in fear of the avenging knock at the door. Here, Ager does fine work changing Wil in accordance with his partner’s altered perception of him, keeping consistent motivations even as his tactics grow ugly.

Solitude and subsistence flow through the atmosphere, exemplified by sound designer Christie Nichole’s lonely, tuneful solo voices and single guitars. Tommy LeRoy again proves himself the go-to designer for resourceful conversion of a space, in a bare-bones setting made over by secret reveals and strategic deployment of Sara Lucas’s efficient properties. The makeover looks equally good under Kevin Barron’s alternately feeble and comfortable lighting effects. Suggestions of times past and the hardships therein are effectually driven home by costume designer Cal Schwartz’s shabby layers, offset by some opulent indulgences. That lives are at stake is prompted by the pounding insistence of Peckham’s direction, whose shrill intensity pays dividends, but at a substantial emotional toll.

The original Snowbound was amazing in the density and swiftness of its compact storytelling; the new production broadens and advances this world with perspective that seasons the pat fable still well preserved within the larger entity. Above all, the added material cements this as Sara’s story: a product of her patriarchal times, in which no opportunity is presented without a man attached, Strez rises to the challenge with a radiantly tragic turn, presenting a lamentable woman for whom life represents an endless string of consequences. Viewers ready to be swept up in a tale of fortitude and devastation will be rewarded with the discovery that here, survival is a punishment all its own.

Snowbound is no longer playing.
For the latest from Planet Ant Theatre, click here.