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).

Contact: Email | Facebook
RSS: All | Reviews only | Rogue's Gallery

Search R|C
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







« Soul Mates | Main | Looking »

White's Lies

When it comes to comedy, one school of thought holds that playing it straight ushers in the biggest laughs. Another makes no apologies for ladling up serving after serving of ham. In an unusual turn, Meadow Brook Theatre’s production of White’s Lies, by Ben Andron, endeavors to split the difference. This duplicitous Michigan premiere finds director Travis W. Walter leveling a steady gaze at the central story of a titillating familial farce, then tumbling outward into increasingly outrageous flights of fancy at the margins.

Attorney Joe White (Ron Williams) has been at the one-night-stand game for so long, his autobiography would be called Love ‘Em and Leave ‘Em. Amid his wake of broken hearts, though, the most egregious is that of his mother (Henrietta Hermelin), who makes no bones about wishing Joe had given her grandchildren. When a revelation about Mrs. White’s health ramps up the guilt factor, an opportune reunion with a contemptuous college flame (Sarab Kamoo) and her willful post-collegiate progeny (Katie Hardy) seems like the perfect recipe for a long-lost daughter hoax. What’s one little white lie if it grants a dying woman’s dying wish? It’s not as though sweet old Mrs. White’s health will miraculously resurge and the fib will be cited as her single prevailing reason for…oh. Or that Joe will meanwhile fall for his pretend daughter while they try to keep up the ruse over the protestations of her forbidding mother, who will go to any lengths to stop…well.

Yet even as this screwy story is played necessarily broad, its madcap ways take a back seat to the rowdiness of the orbiting influences. Sure, the scenes in Joe’s office stay mostly on the level; best friend and pliant foil Tobin Hissong only nurses a few intensely specific quirks, and minion Peter C. Prouty’s succulent cattiness never escalates to unsustainable peaks. But the switch flips at the nearby watering hole, where the main characters date and mate and Prouty doubles as a proprietor/barkeep struggling to find his niche. Designer Brian Kessler’s night-and-day set enables full commitment to a revolving door of genres, each reveal more splashy than the last. The rotating visages and people are facilitated by malleable music cues by designer Mike Duncan, by Corey Globke’s whimsical costumes, and by vigorous character work on the part of Emily Rose (singlehandedly portraying the multitudes of Joe’s prior conquests) as well as silent bar patrons James Busam and Claire Kaiser. The latter pair is unexpectedly highlighted thanks in part to Reid G. Johnson’s tremendous lighting design — the way in which performers slide into and out of Johnson’s bright overhead pools during transitions is a perfect marriage of form and function, making even the most incidental moments look like poetry in motion.

Walter’s direction strikes a brassy tone as characters spin diversions into retaliations, and the second act in particular dissolves into a rushing cascade of contingencies, each more outrageous than the last. Fortunately, the insanity is grounded by the comic chops of a gifted cast. Williams and Hardy’s work together is most notable for tiptoeing around the gross-out factor of being attracted to someone young enough to be/pretending to be/in other circumstances might have been one’s own offspring. Harried control monger Kamoo cartwheels up and down the fury spectrum, doing her best work suppressing revulsion in sham moments of affection. But the hands-down scene-stealer in this group is Hermelin, who spins mere words into screaming punchlines, leveling each indelible dig with incredible finesse. In their hands, what could have been a headache of histrionic excess simmers to a rollicking race of plot twists and outlandish — but conceivable — behavior.

In all, this White’s Lies makes its wacky story the star, buoyed by a team of performers who should be commended for just staying upright throughout a breathless two hours. Its comparatively muted lead performances anchor a world of merciless absurdity, simultaneously justifying and enabling an unrelenting string of wildly improbable developments and revelations. From a comic standpoint, this deviously two-faced production seems to have its ham and eat it, too.

White's Lies is no longer playing.
For the latest from Meadow Brook Theatre, click here.