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







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The Tempest

Water Works Theatre Company isn’t the first of Michigan’s companies to honor The Tempest on its quadricentennial anniversary, but an organization whose hallmark is a single Shakespeare-in-the-park production every year can hardly be blamed for seizing the opportunity. For what it’s worth, the outdoor production in Royal Oak’s Starr Jaycee Park is thus far unique in its creative and high-tech focus on the magical and superhuman elements of William Shakespeare’s final play. As was abundantly evident to this reviewer even at the production’s first preview performance, Water Works Artistic Director Jeff Thomakos helms the current production with a flair for the theatrical, using fantasy and spectacle to perform sorcery in plain sight.

Front and center in this telling are the design and technical elements that highlight the inexplicable capabilities of the desert island under rule of the banished Prospero (Paul Hopper). In particular, Nina Barlow’s exhaustive mask work is executed with purpose, serving as a physical talisman of a creature touched by magic. Notably, Prospero’s servant Caliban (Rusty Mewha) dons a single mask, a source of vile fascination to which the actor layers on incredible simian physicality. In contrast, the changeling spirit Ariel (Sara Catheryn Wolf) wears a half-dozen faces to suit the text, each variably informing a solid performance founded on curious approximations of human interaction and animal-like loyalty. The action also extends into vertical space, in the form of visible rigging that suspends characters several feet above the stage. The effect is best implemented with a hovering trio of spirits (Jaclyn Strez, Samantha White, and Katie Terpstra), a constant and mysterious reminder of the magic influences of the island in addition to one of many gorgeous stage pictures.

Under the wooded and cabled canopy lies Shannon Thomas Kennedy’s cobbled-together water’s-edge setting, one man’s trash here made isolated treasure. Similarly, Gwen Lindsey’s properties are at their best in Prospero’s painstakingly ornate staff, with the look of something lovingly compiled by a man with nothing but time and imagination. Megan Johnson’s costumes blur ageless lines with contemporary influences; overall, the production boasts a coherent look while still feeling delightfully absent of an identifiable setting. Composer Dan Bilich uses the large cast to excellent effect by infusing the scenes with music, pleasant sounds that magically emerge from a junkyard assembly of makeshift instruments just beyond the stage. Kennedy’s lighting design grows increasingly prominent as daylight fades, peaking at a cacophonous out-of-control scene in the second act that has serious potential to frighten and amaze.

In such an atmosphere, it’s easy to forget that an emotional human story of loss, revenge, and forgiveness is the reason for all the enchantment. Still, Hopper’s effortlessly imposing Prospero wears his protagonist mantle well, remaining just outside the action to effectively demonstrate his role as instigator. As his naive teenage daughter, Julia Garlotte provides an amazing study of tenderness in a vacuum, reacting to the proceedings with amazement and fervor in the absence of life experience of her own — poor manipulated Ferdinand (Zach Hendrickson) never had a chance against this Miranda. Elsewhere on the island, an interesting quartet is found in scheming Antonio (Clifford Katskee) and Sabastian (Erika Hoveland), whose treachery unearths a lusty element between characters that are classically played male, and opposites Alonso (Kirk Haas) and Gonzalo (Dennis Kleinsmith), the one’s debilitating woe ably countered by the other’s vigorously sunny search for the silver lining. Finally, paying service to this play’s technical classification as a comedy are Sean Paraventi and Stephen Blackwell, whose Stefano and Trinculo are a wreck of inebriation and a wellspring of patient, precisely dispatched hilarity.

Overall, this Tempest feels less like a play than like a production, with abundant effects vibrantly supplementing its four-hundred-year-old text. Admittedly, at times the distinction is to the play’s detriment — for example, when dangling is given preference over pacing. Moreover, Water Works once again turns to wireless microphones for elective amplification, and the choice is as welcome for the tonal variety it affords as it is detestable for its constant losing battle with the elements. Yet above all, this is a show impressive in its display of skills that are not often found on the stage, and equally satisfying in the pure wonderment that here abounds.

The Tempest is no longer playing.
For the latest from Water Works Theatre Co., click here.