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).

Contact: Email | Facebook
RSS: All | Reviews only | Rogue's Gallery

Search R|C
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







« The American Crowbar Case | Main | The Dead Guy »

Something Wicked This Way Comes

In its Michigan premiere, Something Wicked This Way Comes is well suited for a Meadow Brook Theatre Halloween. Adapted for the stage by author Ray Bradbury from his novel of the same title, the story of two young men who encounter an otherworldly carnival has just enough surprise and intrigue to give the viewer an eerie jolt. However, as directed by Travis W. Walter, the spectacle is a mere catalyst for a recognizable coming-of-age story that is given capable depth by its pair of young leads.

The boys are Will Halloway (Ryan Lynch) and Jim Nightshade (Jacob Zeinski), next-door neighbors and polar-opposite best friends — whereas Will is most comfortable on the straight and narrow, Jim has a daredevil streak and yearns to be older so his life will start in earnest. On the October approaching their fourteenth birthdays, a strange carnival is erected in town overnight and captures the fascination of the children, as well as the adults reminded of the carousing of their youth. A few nights of sneaking out, as boys are wont to do, unearth a dark underbelly of the carnival and its proprietor, Mr. Dark (Aaron H. Alpern), in particular a carousel that may have command over time itself. As creepy as the attraction is, what’s more troubling is Mr. Dark’s recruitment tactics; when he sets his sights on collaring the boys who have seen too much, they enlist Will’s sweetly doddering old father (Marty Smith) to aid them in their inevitable showdown.

The carnival’s curious tricks and dastardly magic come alive with the combined efforts of performance and design. Kristen Gribbin’s town square set conceals and reveals, accompanied by Reid G. Johnson’s slides between everyday and gloomy lighting, keeping the viewer off-kilter with unseen flourishes and disoriented characters half-hidden from sight. From townspeople to circus freaks to the carousel menagerie, costumes by Liz Moore not only repulse and fascinate, but clearly connect the dots in a few unbelievable switcheroos. Alarming ambient midway sounds and tingling vocal effects are the arena of sound designer Mike Duncan. The literal interpretation of the carnival’s many curiosities has strengths and weaknesses: using manpower and theatrical flourish to bring these spectacles to life is intriguing to watch, yet putting a face on the effects may not be as effective as the harrowing power of inference coupled with imagination.

Most of the cast of seventeen cycles through supporting players and creating the carnival’s supernatural effects. The bulk of the character work falls to Lynch, Zeinski, and Smith; together, they effectively turn the story’s attention from the evil that must be vanquished to the questions within themselves. Zeinski’s Jim stands out as a sympathetic ne’er-do-well, an excellent counterpoint to the comparatively meek and angelic Will. Yet Lynch, together with Smith, creates one of the most enriching scenes of the play, a simple father-son talk in the wee hours about the qualities of goodness. Smith is a triumph of an aging man with nagging regrets, and bears a knowing wryness that comes out as pure comedy. Other standouts from the cast include Alpern’s commanding ringleader, Nancy-Elizabeth Kammer as a schoolteacher of childlike innocence, and Lisa Lauren Smith’s dangerous Dust Witch, whose exaggerated body work gives her sightless prescience a petrifying aura.

As a play, Something Wicked This Way Comes prefers to show instead of suggest, although the production still bears some marks of its page-to-stage transition. In the absence of descriptive passages, the story development and resolution are arrived at somewhat hastily, and Bradbury’s clipped dialogue has a universally unnatural feel as it’s spoken here. Even so, the production promises an abundance of wonder, especially for younger viewers; potentially frightening elements are dampered by a calculated pace that gives the show an all-ages inclusivity. This production’s intention is not to terrify, but instead to point within and thus conquer fears and weaknesses, both mundane and fantastical.

Something Wicked This Way Comes is no longer playing.
For the latest from Meadow Brook Theatre, click here.