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







« Raven's Seed | Main | Menllenium Saves the World »

The Rise and Fall of Little Voice

Planet Ant Theatre closes out its mainstage season with a seriocomic inferno, playwright Jim Cartwright’s dually hysterical and tender The Rise and Fall of Little Voice. Director Annette Madias guides a cast at the top of its game through a stiflingly real world full of tangible promises and disappointments, the kind so wretched they’re almost a little funny. The resulting production bubbles with laughter even as it nestles into emotional recesses, balancing amusing quirks with real stakes throughout.

Portrayed by Inga R. Wilson, the titular Little Voice aches to be left alone, or, better yet, left behind in the past. Stubbornly averse to the outside world, she prefers to hole up in her bedroom and listen to the stacks of records accumulated by her late father. In stark contrast to such nostalgia, mother Mari (Linda Ramsay) seeks relevance in newness; in the play’s 1980s northern England setting, the trends she grasps range from Madonna-inspired fashion to installing her very first home phone line. The women’s shared living situation and opposing needs breed mutual consternation and ritual annoyance — even a power outage divides them, dampening Mari’s merriment with suitor of the moment Ray Say (Joel Mitchell), while simultaneously emboldening LV to raise her voice and finish her classic ballad in progress. Ray, a marginally successful music promoter, is dumbstruck at the accuracy of the imitation, and soon convinced that his discovery cannot fail to reap mutually beneficial fortune and fame. What follows is the foretold rise and fall, an examination of what we want from each other and at what price, of hurting others and being hurt in return.

Yet the play’s gravity and sorrow are largely undertones, found merely in the breathing room provided by outlandish, often desperate comedy. With the main characters, the humor takes the form of sour reactions, farce-like staging, and acerbic barbs; the supporting characters are another story. As Mari’s best friend and neighbor, the dowdy and possibly demented Sadie, Amy Probst spins but two letters into laugh upon laugh, rewarding the viewer’s attention with a physically and expressively splendid character based on almost no information at all. Similarly, the disaffected accompanist and club proprietor Mr. Boo (Mikey Brown) is so delightfully inert, he shines in bonus stage time performing irreproachably underwhelming musical introductions to the first and second acts (effortlessly support by a leering Dave Davies).

As written, the scripted music segments threaten to be troublesome, depending as they do on a phenomenal vocal talent to back up every last character’s unprecedented awe. In this respect, Wilson’s LV is certainly a keen mimic, more so than an out-and-out songbird, but the marvelous character she shepherds through conscripted performances and fragile protestations is certain to have audiences eating out of her hand. Ramsay and Mitchell add dimension by acting in self-interest without resorting to pure villainy, instead making it easy to see the goodness in their intentions, however misguided. As a counterpoint to her many trying interactions, LV sweetly blossoms in promise-drenched conversations with Billy (Sean McGettigan), whose limpid-eyed sincerity makes him a fellow endearing underdog; the two make a heartening pair in this otherwise callous world.

Deceptively modest but thorough design is a perfect fit for this production’s sharp work cloaked in crassness and humility. The realism of the play’s gray areas and frustration is well reflected in Tommy LeRoy’s dually expansive and cluttered set, which boasts many painstakingly lifelike features — some of which prove unexpectedly exhilarating. Together with constant shifts in ambient and localized lighting (the capable realm of Michelle LeRoy), the household feeling finds a truthful knell. Kate Peckham’s sound design dabbles in dichotomy, offering a playlist dissonance that finds 80s hits and older sounds clamoring for center stage, as does Kirstin L. Bianchi’s costume design, where gaudy trends find comic paydirt.

This Little Voice has a big reach — spanning physical clowning and emotional wreckage, examining living with others and having to live with yourself, always reaching forward and looking back. Its one story holds a delicate weave of tales and characters that are as humorous as they are sad, as empathetic as they are flawed. Madias and company have somehow assembled such an eclectic collection of incongruous pieces that it evens out into something wonderfully evocative and improbably real.

The Rise and Fall of Little Voice is no longer playing.
For the latest from Planet Ant Theatre, click here.