By John Quinn
The world premiere of "So Long Until Tomorrow" continues through Aug. 9. Photo: The AKT Theatre Project
They say the theater is dead, but not in metro Detroit. Our theaters may be struggling financially, but are rich artistically. The past year has been marked by some fine original works; the latest is “So Long Until Tomorrow,” getting its premiere courtesy of The AKT Theatre in Wyandotte.
“So Long Until Tomorrow” is adapted for the stage by Bradley Michael, from a screenplay by the same name, written with Josh Samson. That origin is significant; the script shares some of the elements of a TV situation comedy. It could be “Friends” for the 21st century, without resorting to tired stereotypes. The characters’ originality is a highlight of this play.
Situation comedy frequently involves an intertwining of two plot lines, sometimes referred to as the “A line” and “B line.” “So Long Until Tomorrow” deftly explores multiple plots, some closely connected, others not. The complexity means a richer source for comedy.
While the half dozen 20-somethings of “Friends” had left home for the Big Apple, our six protagonists never left home at all. In fact, they’ve know each other since high school. Jude (Jacob Moscynski) and Miles (Stebert Davenport) are roommates; Miles works at a radio station, and Jude is launching a singing career. Everybody is just getting by, but Cynthia’s (Julia Garlotte) world falls apart when she’s diagnosed with cancer. A stubborn sort, she rebuffs her friends’ attempts at support.
The boys are not daunted; as improbable fate would have it, they fall into the “oldest profession” in an effort to help Cynthia with her bills. Think “American Gigolo” with torn jeans and Superman boxers. The situation gets pretty profitable for Miles with the appearance of a mysterious older woman. This “Ms. Robinson” (Krista Shafer Ewbank) is definitely trying to seduce him.
Miles and Jude’s efforts to help Cynthia are aided by Jude’s on-again, off-again girlfriend, Stacy (Lisa Youngs), and the food-obsessed Tiffany (Mandy Logsdon). They are hampered by the antics of Melanie (Hope Morawa), Jude’s bat-guano-crazy biggest fan and stalker. She keeps finding ways into the guys’ apartment, where she steals mementos. Rounding out the cast are Jack Hundley as all the other men, and Sara Oravitz as various women, including the elusive “girl in pink.”
Performances are strong all around, particularly Julia Garlotte as Cynthia. So much of the plot depends on her character, and Garlotte finds the balance between strong-willed independence and fragile vulnerability. And certainly Hope Morawa is in her element as zany Melanie, a bit of comic relief in an already funny comedy.
The problem is architecture. AKT performs in a full-sized, 103-year-old ballroom. While the space is wonderfully flexible – the production of “Spring Awakening” was a veritable panorama – its cubic volume is a challenge for actors. One can speak softly and slowly or loud and fast; soft and fast is not so effective.
What is effective is Jon Pigott’s multi-leveled, mish-mash set. It’s complete enough that only minimal re-setting is needed between scenes, and it provides numerous bolt holes used by the cast in fine comic effect. Also impressive is Harley Miah’s lighting. As a free-lancer, Miah does night-club lighting and has the experience when it came to working in this unique venue.
Bradley Michael and show director Angie Kane Ferrante took an interesting approach in launching “So Long Until Tomorrow.” The play is a work in progress; the duo staged live readings, taking note of the attendees’ feedback. They even hosted a rehearsal with an audience. This may have added to the very natural flow to the script.
The picky critic in me thinks that flow slows after Cynthia’s pivotal decision. There’s a lot of wrapping up of various and sundry plots. But all-in-all, “So Long Until Tomorrow” is an ambitious, entertaining project.
‘So Long Until Tomorrow’
The AKT Theatre Project
James R. DeSana Center for Arts and Culture
81 Chestnut, Wyandotte
7 p.m. Aug. 2, 4, 8, 9
2 p.m. Aug. 3
1 hour, 55 minutes