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By D. A. Blackburn
Planet Ant Theatre’s latest venture is not theater intended for mass consumption. “Simone (An Evening in Chapter Titles),” adapted for the stage by Lyndsay Michalik and Anna Prushinskaya, is the most unique thing to grace a Detroit-area stage in recent memory – a heady single-act, non-linear play. For those who like to step off the beaten theatrical path, the production offers an interesting blend of poetry, music and movement, but the reality is that it probably pushes the envelope a little too far out of the mainstream for most patrons.
“Simone” focuses on the interconnectedness of all things, and as such, it rolls out with a scatter-brained, frantic feel. Michalik describes its format as “a series of less-linear vignettes,” but it feels, more accurately, like a poem personified and brought to life – surely the result of Prushinskaya’s poetry, which is incorporated throughout. That is to say its structure is less vignette, and more verse.
Though the production has a cast of five, it is really a showcase for just two people: actor Lee Stille and Michalik, who also earns credit as the show’s director. Stille gives a solid performance, transforming into an Uzbekistani immigrant with true poise. But it’s Michalik whose hand is most evident in the work. She’s given it an extensive pantomime and a thoughtful sound design to accentuate the work’s poetic text. In essence, she serves as much as choreographer as she does stage director.
But while the work abounds with creativity, it falls short in dramatic movement and plot. “Simone” is the type of production that leaves one wondering what they just saw, and what it meant. For the more existential thinkers among us, and those who enjoy performance as an art form unto itself, the work may be a gem. But most patrons, who view theater as an exercise in storytelling, will be utterly baffled by its lack of convention.
‘Simone (An Evening in Chapter Titles)’
Planet Ant Theatre, 2357 Caniff St., Hamtramck. Friday through Sunday June 5 – 20. $15. 313-365-4948. http://www.planetant.com