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







« Xanadu | Main | The Understudy »

The Do-Over

Dramatic writers are rewarded for making their characters dabble in subterfuge or rash decision-making, to the tune of pages upon pages of discoveries and repercussions. Infinitely more challenging to write effectively — let alone stage — is a rational dialogue undertaken by parties with transparent motives. In the latest entry in its late-night series, Planet Ant Theatre presents the world premiere of playwright Margaret Edwartowski’s The Do-Over, a sensible look at a pair of old friends faced with an opportunity to rediscover their former closeness and the warring temptation to rekindle something deeper. This production marks the professional directorial debut of BoxFest Detroit 2011 honoree Kelly Komlen-Amadei, who tackles this heady setup by reaching for the affection and tension hibernating inside of bloodless deliberation.

If friendships have life spans, then Facebook is their respirator, artificially reinstating and preserving intimate connectedness among people long separated by time, distance, life events, and philosophies. Here, social media has instigated the real-life reunion of college friends and paramours Bernadette (Karen Kron) and Ben (Jon Ager). She’s the mayor of a small Arizona border town, he’s an architect in New York City, but when a weekend mayoral conference brings her right to his neighborhood, they arrange to meet up — absent spouses and kids — and hang out at her hotel. Collectively, the production design hits just the right notes of hotel-suite anonymity: set designer Seth Amadei’s glut of pillows and legally mandated exit route map speak a familiar language, and Patrick O’Reilly’s ever-generous mini bar becomes a playground for college-hearkening revelry. In concert with scenic transitions scored by Komlen-Amadei, stage manager Alexandre Bleau’s lighting design abruptly hits on that disturbing acclimation to an unfamiliar setting at first light. Indeed, the reunion spans the entire weekend, equal parts sincere and tenuous, as it grows into a treatise on navigating that killer supposition: What if…?

Beginning with the awkward dance of people whose unfiltered access to each other is broken but not forgotten, Komlen-Amadei guides a carefully plotted chain of events in which easy reminiscence levels out far less comfortable speculation, gentle equivocation, and slow reveals. What Ben and Bernadette expect from their time together is not entirely clear to the audience, nor to the other or even themselves, and how they fit into each others’ lives outside this weekend is even less so. Feeling like puzzle pieces with their details obscured, Kron and Ager together navigate that difficult plane of easy affinity and guarded doubt that comes with resurgent familiarity, laughing through their shared memories and tough-talking through their current issues with calculated progress.

To the production’s credit, the pair’s individual problems and how they inform the central relationship feel entirely vital in the moment. What’s more, such severity opens the door for these internal complexities to be reduced to trivialities when viewed through an outsider’s perspective. In this case, Ben gets no shortage of broken-English wisdom from hotel maid Tolia, played by Edwartowski. Few devices feel as shopworn as a low-status person telling it like it is, but that’s of little consequence in the face of a performance as satisfying and hilarious as this one. Given the least to say, Edwartowski makes the most of her every line and leading pause, fitting a thousand-watt comedy spotlight into an incandescent socket.

The Do-Over sets up a fruitful character exercise in its interesting premise, capitalizing on the playwright’s evident narrative grace. Regardless, a trace of cognitive dissonance rumbles in this production that prevents it from realizing the story’s raw emotional potential. Try as they might, Ager and Kron can’t vault Edwartowski’s safe enclosure of forethought and ramifications; even at their most heated, these are two people who keep their wits entirely about them, something no amount of forceful expression can change. Komlen-Amadei and company endeavor to inject passion into a largely contemplative comedy, and their fertile efforts generate traction — if not momentum — in the vehement rationality that characterizes this scenario. For viewers weary of dramatic shortcuts, an hour’s company with this deftly steered, pensive tale of introspection presents a fascinating counterpoint.

The Do-Over is no longer playing.
For the latest from Planet Ant Theatre, click here.