Curtain Calls

Review: 'Margaritaville'
It's the Righteous Right's worst nightmare: Same-sex marriage becomes reality in new comedy

Can two lovely lesbians in love turn the world around with their smiles?
Probably not, but in Barton Bund's new comedy, "Margaritaville," they certainly do a pretty quick job of convincing the owner of a Key West bar, her only customer and a bride's father that love between two women isn't so society-shattering after all!
Bund's script, now receiving its world premiere production at Ann Arbor's Blackbird Theatre, couldn't be timelier.
Voters in Florida have done the unthinkable: Same-sex couples have been granted the right to marry in the Sunshine State. At least, that is, until the Supreme Court has its say on the matter. So Deb Gormanski returns home to Key West with her longtime partner, Karen Lee, to have the wedding they've always wanted.
Hurricane Sidney (or is that Sydney?) has other plans for the couple, however.
With time quickly running out, the brides-to-be and their best man, Martin, meet at a bar – reputed to be the inspiration of Jimmy Buffett's famous song, and the kind of bar "queers used to get beat up in" – to plan their strategy.
But before the "I Dos" are said, in sweeps Deb's long-estranged father, his trophy wife and the androgynously named hurricane.
The tiny bar on the water's edge has survived many a tempest throughout its colorful past. Can the couple's relationship do the same?
Much of Bund's script is funny, indeed – although some of the wit, such as a throwaway line about Lesbians for Bush, seemed to fly over the heads of the predominately straight audience last Friday night.
It is also a story with a strong point of view.
In particular, it is quite easy to guess on which side of the same-sex marriage debate Bund stands. But it is to his credit that differing viewpoints are even-handedly expressed through several of his characters: Alice Green, referred to as the last married woman in Florida; Pug Wilson, a four-and-a-half-times married seadog who shudders at the thought of two men together, but lights up when it is two women; and Deb's not-very-happy dad, Levi Gormanski.
Bund – a straight guy – is most successful with the crafting of his show's lesbian characters. They defy every stereotype thrust upon the lesbian community. Instead, he tells the story of two very real women in love – and who simply want their loving relationship recognized by society-at-large.
Slightly less successful is Bund's basic story structure. Too many of his characters have "issues" that he tries to neatly resolve at show's end. This only serves to obfuscate the show's core point – and drives it to a somewhat awkward and anticlimactic conclusion. Some judicious editing would noticeably improve this otherwise entertaining script.
And the all-too-quick philosophical flip-flop a few of his characters experience is neither realistic nor very convincing.
Also potentially problematic for some is the character of Martin, a pouty, snappy, middle-aged queen who hits on straight men, obsesses about his fading looks and "hangs onto his issues for dear life." And like too many comedies that contain gay supporting characters, he also gets many of the play's funniest lines. It is a role that borders on stereotype, but a tempered, skillful and joyous performance by Dan Morrison keeps the character from being offensive.
Alana Dauter and Annie Palmer are totally believable as Deb and Karen; Palmer's understated and sweet portrayal is a fine contrast to Dauter's "Bridezilla."
Russ Hedberg (Terry), Wendy Wright (Alice) and Marty Smith (Pug) seemed to struggle with their characters and lines at the opening of the show this past Friday, but that eventually passed. Eric Maurer (Levi) needs to project, as the very realistic sound effects occasionally drown out his lines.
The most vivid character of all, however, is Joshua Parker's wonderfully tacky set. There is no doubt you're in Margaritaville once you step into the Blackbird Theatre!
"Margaritaville" Staged Thursday through Saturday by BlackBag Productions at the Blackbird Theatre, 1600 Pauline Blvd., Ann Arbor, through June 26. Tickets: $5 (Thurs) & $17. 734-332-3848.
The Bottom Line: A genuinely funny show about a serious subject that could use some judicious editing to make it even better!

Review: 'Yard Sale'
Campos and Huff sell their wares in laugh-filled comedy

Need a good laugh? Then make your way to Detroit's Hastings Street Ballroom where two local thespians are currently conducting a master's level class on comedy acting, timing and character development called "Yard Sale."
It's an unpretentious two-act play – it has no complicated plot or grand plan to convert anyone to any particular ideology. Rather, its purpose is simply to make audiences laugh – and that you will, from start to finish.
Its concept is deceptively simple: Longtime best friends Chris and Scott decide to hold a yard sale on the eve of Scott's wedding to help pay for the nuptials. That alone was a bad idea, but to make matters worse, it is scheduled for the morning after Scott's rather rambunctious bachelor party!
So not only must the duo assist finicky customers and wacky neighbors while still suffering from the previous night's festivities, but a parade of unexpected disasters – wedding related and otherwise – nearly dooms what should be the happiest day in Scott's life.
It's a day he won't soon forget!
What makes "Yard Sale" work is not so much the imaginative script by Timothy Campos, but the amazing performances of Campos and Andrew Huff. Each is called upon to play a dozen or more characters, a daunting task for even the most seasoned actor.
But Campos (who often channels Rick Moranis and Tim Conway) and Huff (who had notable roles this past season at the Hilberry Theatre) are not only up to the challenge, they revel in it!
Each character they create is totally unique and fully realized. With oftentimes only a minor change of costume, male and female characters alike are vividly brought to life with hilarious results.
What's more, the well-planned changes happen at breakneck speed! (Their timing is almost impeccable – only once last Saturday night did the transition seem to last longer that it probably should have.)
The result, then, is an entertaining evening of whirlwind theater filled with laughs large and small. And not always politically correct, I might add!
In what other comedy will you find Satan trolling for souls at a yard sale? Or a transvestite neighbor who calls herself Swalloweena? Or Katie, the ugliest "hot chick" you'll ever see – courtesy of a very hairy – and "unbuff" – Huff!
If there's a message to this play, it's this: Even two straight guys can share a close relationship with each other. But then again, maybe there's more to Chris's bachelor party confession than meets the eyeÉ
"Yard Sale" Staged Friday through Sunday by Five Cents Short Productions at Hastings Street Ballroom, 715 E. Milwaukee, Detroit, through June 26. Tickets: $15. 313-873-2955.
The Bottom Line: If laughter is the best medicine, then "Yard Sale" will surely kill whatever ails you!


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