Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addressed the State of Michigan after a plan to kidnap her and other Michigan government officials was thwarted by state and federal law enforcement agencies. She started by saying thank you to law enforcement and FBI agents who participated in stopping this [...]
By John Quinn
The enviable career of screen writer Alan Ball has garnered him an Academy Award (“American Beauty”) and two Emmy awards (for “Six Feet Under” and “True Blood”). Directors Barton Bund and Travis Lynch have teamed once again to present an evening of Ball’s one-act plays with the Detroit Ensemble Theatre.
There are plays that one goes to the theater, not so much to see, but to hear. Ball’s one acts fall in this category – his dialog sparkles. The Detroit Ensemble Theatre’s clean, bare-boned, black box setting is an appropriate venue to enjoy witty repartee without distraction.
The characters and plots of these five plays are a too unconventional for film or television, but are just right for the stage. Each act is a little different, but there is a common element: These are terribly self-absorbed characters. They include three “deadbeat, lowlife scum” (Phil Hughes, Richie Rollins and Michael Gillespie), trapped in a recurring pattern of meaningless existence in “Bachelor’s Holiday.” It’s a little sad, a little raunchy; it gives the trio a chance to play with some well-defined characters, and they do play them well. Since it is the first act of the night, though, it is the first to exhibit a recurring problem – rushing lines and speaking too softly. One finds himself just one step behind in comprehension.
Ball’s wry sense of the absurd is omnipresent, but never more so than in the final offering of the night, “Power Lunch.” Jason May and Joanna Bronson spar for dominance, using the sexually confused staff of a restaurant (Kyle Aleyas and Jaclynn Cherry) as victims and source of comfort. It is a difficult scene to pull off; all involved accomplish it with style.
Because the Detroit Ensemble Theatre is the performance arm of a state licensed trade school, the Michigan Actors Studio, there are chances of seeing seasoned actors working with new talent. Here the pairing of Kez Settle as a psychologist and Ryan Hill as her clothes horse of a client is especially fresh in the suggestive “My Mother’s Butt.” A more unconventional match is veteran stage manager Jaclynn Cherry taking to the boards opposite student Kyle Aleyas in the short but odd “Made for a Woman.”
But we also find experienced actors sharing the stage, and the presence of Tricia Turek in an MAS scene study class leads to her role opposite Richie Rollins in the sharpest comedy of the evening, “The M Word,” in which two Type A executives, with clinical efficiency, propose marriage as if it were a merger contract. The company seems to have the knack of attracting talent.
When all is said and done, it would appear that Alan Ball is a triple-threat writer, and his play writing is as satisfying as his screen writing. “Slower and louder” will make it much better.
‘Five One Acts by Alan Ball’
Detroit Ensemble Theatre at Michigan Actors Studio Theatre, 648 E. Nine Mile Road, Ferndale. Friday-Sunday through Dec. 2. 2 hours. $18. 877-636-3320. http://www.DetroitEnsembleTheatre.org