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







Entries in Hilberry Theatre (13)


Of Mice and Men

Venerated author John Steinbeck had a magical knack for writing the Saddest Thing Ever, and his Of Mice and Men is no exception. The Hilberry Theatre tackles the stage adaptation of the classic novel, handling the Great Depression–era subject matter with gravity but not dramatics. Directed by Anthony B. Schmitt, this tale of loyalty, partnership, self-preservation, and meager hope comes alive in a production that’s as glorious as it is unbearable.

Before a word is uttered, set designer Peter Schmidt captures the void of abundance in his dustbowl-evoking soaring burlap horizon, with saturated sunset courtesy of Thomas H. Schraeder’s primary-colored lighting. The flat expanse of stage adapts to portray an unremarkable patch of California nothing by a river, which the protagonists pass on their way to a job at a ranch, and the crowded bunk house where they take up residence. The narrative follows traveling companions George (Peter Prouty) and Lennie (Erman Jones), migrant workers with a goal of scraping together enough money to buy their own place and work for themselves, at a time when they and most of their kind alternated between scraping by and starving. That they are able to dream at all is at once a sign of hope in a vicious world and cruelly utopic.

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Hay Fever

The Hilberry season begins with Hay Fever, playwright Noël Coward's over-the-top story of an eccentric family whose only delight bigger than deriding each other seems to be deriding each other's friends and acquaintances. Director David J. Magidson presents most of this production at face value, focusing on character and relationship rather than fine-tuning comic bits; the result is a well-crafted comedy that swells with potential to really let the laughs fly.

The entire play takes place in the country home of the Bliss family: novelist and father David (Alan Ball), retired stage diva and mother Judith (Samantha Rosentrater), lackadaisical fop Simon (Andrew Papa), and snitty princess Sorel (Sarah Hymes). The children are awful because their parents are awful — the entire family thinks itself somehow evolved beyond the kind of horrible politeness other people put themselves through. And yet each of the four has quietly invited someone to the house for the weekend; unsurprisingly, they soon lose interest in their respective guests and then tire of the prospect of hosting altogether. It's proof positive that a comedy of manners can still bring the former in the total absence of the latter.

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Season In Review — Hilberry Theatre

Populated entirely by the students of Wayne State University's graduate repertory program in theater, the names and faces of the Hilberry Theatre become especially familiar over the course of a season. This was true even though I missed two of this season's early offerings, Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream and Chekhov's The Seagull. In the absence of these ultimate classic's classics, the remaining four productions offered a variety of styles and moods, from an accessible and well-loved musical to a lesser-known nonlinear think piece that challenged audiences both intellectually and morally.

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Palmer Park

One part history lesson, one part local-hero narrative, and one part victory lap, Joanna McClelland Glass's Palmer Park hits home because it is home. Any success story in Detroit, even a relatively short-lived one from four decades ago, remains cause for celebration. Now, economic turmoil and vanishing industry contributes to the city's bottomed-out property values and high crime rate; back in 1968, it was civil unrest, when "integration" generally signaled not diversity, but white flight.

The Palmer Park neighborhood of Detroit was one shining exception, a middle-class neighborhood fiercely united in its dedication to maintain the integrated balance of 35% black, 65% white. (Any more residents of color, the logic went, and "white eyes" would be scared away.) In its professional US premiere at the Jewish Ensemble Theatre, directed by Yolanda Fleischer, the play documents the political and human implications of a concept that succeeded until it failed.

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The Beaux' Stratagem

The program notes for The Beaux' Stratagem at the Hilberry describe the show as "a naughty farce that titillates without being vulgar," and this is true enough. As a late entry into the period of Restoration comedy, the more ribald and consequence-free plots of its predecessors give way to undercurrents of morality and honor. Put another way, as plays concerning hidden identities and highway robbery go, this one is awfully nice.

Originally written by George Farquhar, the version staged here is an adaptation begun by Thornton Wilder and later completed by Ken Ludwig, but the story remains essentially the same. The beaux in question are Aimwell (Christopher R. Ellis) and Archer (Jordan Whalen), who have a plan to supplement their dwindling funds: One of them will guile a rich woman into marrying him, and they will share the reward. Alternating who plays the gentleman and who plays the servant in their travels through England, they arrive in the country town of Lichfield. There, they both fall immediately in love and also attempt to thwart the town's criminal element; by the end, the bad guys are punished, everyone else is paired off happily, and fortunes are secured.

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