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 Ringwald Theatre (33)


Silent Night of the Lambs

With a never-ending preponderance of comfort and joy this time of year, there’s always an underrepresented legion of the overwhelmed and over it. It’s to this population that Who Wants Cake? reaches out this holiday season with its hybrid Christmas suspense tale, Silent Night of the Lambs (by Ryan Landry). In essence a powerhouse thriller relocated to the North Pole, this Joe Plambeck–directed comedy delivers both greedily anticipated and unexpected notes of campy ho-ho-horror.

The story of The Silence of the Lambs is well preserved in this adaptation. In this world, the North Pole is policed by a fierce reindeer CIA, in which legacy Clarice Starling (Melissa Beckwith) is a green but promising up and comer. When a series of horrific murders breaks out, pushy Lt. Blitzen (Anne Faba) recruits Clarice to interview a disgraced and incarcerated Santa Claus (Dave Davies), in an effort to work every angle of the case. Concurrent stories push the action forward: even as vulnerable Clarice and demented Santa’s dangerously fruitful partnership points the good guys closer to the culprit, the monstrous, transformational killer has acquired the daughter of a hugely famous and influential name in holiday shopping, and the young woman’s life hangs in the balance.

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Hedwig and the Angry Inch

Viewers familiar with Who Wants Cake? at the Ringwald will hear “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” (book by John Cameron Mitchell, music and lyrics by Stephen Trask) and reflexively think “Yes, absolutely.” An ingenious fit for the boundary-pushing company and make-do space, this provocative and thrilling imagined rock set by an also-ran East German transgender singer-songwriter and her band doubles as a fictitious autobiography of oppression, sacrifice, disfigurement, playing gigs at the Sizzler, and other unspeakable indignities we weather for the sake of love. Here, cemented by Vince Kelley’s stellar turn in the title role, director Joe Plambeck’s subversive and infectious musical delivers both melodiously and dramatically.

The Angry Inch is Hedwig’s band, made up of four players on instruments as well as selectively spoken roadie/backup/husband Yitzhak (Sonja Marquis). In the world of the play, the group is following rock god Tommy Gnosis on his national tour, in a misguided attempt to vengefully tarnish his reputation and/or get his attention — Hedwig claims to have written or co-written all the songs that made him famous, only to be thrown over and ignored. Led by music director Eric Gutman, the numbers rattle the storefront Ringwald space, inspired by glam rock with a little edge of furious punk for good measure. Kelley is gamely supported vocally by Marquis and sometimes Gutman, but the lyrics are clearly plucked straight out of Hedwig’s soul, a connection aided by the unhinged electricity of live performance that is alive and well throughout this ninety-minute play.

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Returning production — Evil Dead: The Musical

As part of the Rogue Critic's evolving efforts to cover as much theater as possible within a large geographical area teeming with culture, this season will see the end of re-reviews. Co-productions among theaters will receive a single review, and revivals of past productions will also escape the sting of the critic's lash.

The very fact that a theater elects to revive a recent production for another run suggests a measure of commercial and critical success — in essence, such shows generally have something excellent to offer. In keeping with this logic, I will be disappointed not to take my seat at the twice-returning Evil Dead: The Musical, mounted by Who Wants Cake? and Olympia Entertainment at the City Theatre in Detroit. This site's archives already boast not one, but two reviews of Who Wants Cake?'s delectably messy slapstick-horror efforts: one from the 2010 production, also at the City Theatre, and another from the initial 2009 production at the Ringwald.

Readers should keep in mind that these are past reviews; some of the players have changed, and the show has a new director in Michelle LeRoy, who has previously designed lights and effects. (Also notable among the differences from last year's show is the price point: all tickets are general admission at a flat $22, so everything — including the heralded splatter zone — is first-come, first-serve.) But with the same venue and much of the same creative team, these reviews should give any potential viewer a sense of what can be expected in this year's production.

Evil Dead: The Musical is no longer playing.
For the latest from the Ringwald Theatre (formerly Who Wants Cake?), click here.
For the latest from City Theatre, click here.


Southern Baptist Sissies

This isn’t the first go-round of Del Shores’s deeply personal Southern Baptist Sissies at the Ringwald; the now five-year-old company Who Wants Cake? had its first ever hit with the coming-of-age play a handful of seasons ago. Telling pieces of numerous stories simultaneously, director Joe Bailey works this complex text into a darling and woeful take on the struggle for self-acceptance in the face of religious shame, specifically with respect to the supposed sin of homosexuality. Readers should note that this reviewer did not see the original production and has no basis for comparison; on the other side of the coin, I can say with certainty that this revival undoubtedly stands alone as a fine piece of theater.

With four main characters, the play’s structure swims between and among a number of parallel narratives, past and present. The audience is first introduced to the preteen versions of Mark (Matthew Turner Shelton), TJ (Michael Lopetrone), Benny (Vince Kelley), and Andrew (Joe Plambeck) singing in their church choir, but this is in the context of a longer view; although each character will leap without hesitation into a past scene as his twelve-year-old self, the narrative voices are those of older gay men in reflection. Just as each young man approaches his faith and indoctrinating baptism at different times and with different motives, so has each grown into a different kind of adult. One felt a compulsory fervor to be saved, whereas another composed poetry about his abiding skepticism; one now performs in a gay bar in drag as various country divas, but another marries a woman and viciously cuts ties with all his childhood “sissy” friends. The level of de- and reconstruction in the script is incredible; that the flow works breezily in performance, with the help of a clearly delineated lighting scheme also by Bailey, is a credit to the production. The boys’ individual developments are further supported — or, more accurately, undermined — by the violent condemnation of Preacher (Barry Cutler) as well as the sissy-phobic hand wringing of their mothers (Connie Cowper, in three distinct but thematically similar roles).

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Thank You for Being a Friend

Cheesecake on the lanai is child's play. The unofficial parody Thank You for Being a Friend (written by Nick Brennan) isn’t your granny’s Golden Girls; this is a jaw-dropping degenerate spin on the beloved 1980s sitcom, less worshipful homage than irreverent sideshow. That the show’s four women are all portrayed by men barely registers as a surprise compared with the script’s indulgently filthy plot points and rampant vulgarity. At the Ringwald Theatre, this Joe Bailey–directed Who Wants Cake? production is fearless in seeking the lowest of lowbrow humor, turning in a hot mess of a play that wants nothing more than to have some raucous fun.

The names have been changed to protect the copyright, so here we find “Blanchet” (Richard Payton), “Dorthea” (Jamie Richards), “Roz” (Joe Plambeck), and “Sophie” (Jeff Weiner) dealing with the latest upheaval at the Miami-area Shady Oaks retirement community. After a superbly corny take on the opening credits, the show dives right into the main conflict: the ladies’ new neighbor, former member of the boy band 'N Sync and famous gay Lance Bass (Billy Dixon), throws all-night bacchanals that are loud enough to keep the fearsome foursome awake. When confronted, sassy Bass refuses to suppress the noise; instead, the two parties up the ante by making a wager regarding the conveniently scheduled Shady Oaks talent show. The rest of the story concerns preparing for the show, dealing with diva personalities, making and changing alliances, and a decent helping of shenanigans. Within the premise, there are hallmark moments and scenes that would be right at home in the TV show, but a crass discussion of genitals or a comically brandished piece of sex paraphernalia is rarely far behind. Beyond Dixon’s feisty and conniving Lance, actor Rich Wilson portrays the few other characters that pop up, primarily toying with expectations as Lance’s servile plaything, Cubby. Interspersed among the bawdy humor and Golden Girls in-jokes are other major touchstones of camp that are splendid on their own merits.

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