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Curtain Calls

By |2004-11-18T09:00:00-05:00November 18th, 2004|Uncategorized|
Review: ‘Coming to Life’
‘Throwaways’ come back to life in DRT season opener

Five old ladies sitting around sharing their feelings in a weekly discussion group sounds as exciting as, well, watching wet paint dry.
Populate the group with five feisty women with colorful pasts and the evening doesn’t seem quite so bleak.
But more importantly, have the fivesome portrayed by some of the area’s best character actresses, and now you have a recipe for one heck of an evening.
That’s what theatergoers have in store for them at the Detroit Repertory Theatre where “Coming to Life” by June August is playing now through Dec. 26. At least that’s the case through the first act and part of the second, that is.
The five women are all residents of the Harvest Moon Retirement House. Life is what these women experienced in the past; today, their lives are dull and routine. No one cares what they think or what they need. And they dislike the fact that everyone treats them like “little old ladies.”
That changes when a young psychologist working on a dissertation starts a weekly discussion group at the home. At first the women don’t take the group seriously. But as the meetings continue, each comes to life.
And before you know it, long-held secrets come tumbling forth.
As a writer, August’s strong point is creating unique characters – and then bringing them to life with sparkling dialogue and colorful personalities. There’s never a dull moment in the first act as August slowly unveils her tapestry; she impressively reveals her characters through words, not actions.
“Coming to Life” takes a sharp turn in the second act, however, where much of the goodwill she creates is destroyed by contrived plot twists. It’s bad enough that each of the five women are hiding major secrets, but the reason for the psychologist’s interest in the group – and the multiple coincidences therein – are just too unbelievable to be credible.
Luckily, though, veteran director Bruce Millan knows how to work magic; his snappy pacing and insightful staging keep the show briskly moving along despite its clunks and clutter.
It’s rare to discover a play that has much to offer older actresses, but in that regard, “Coming to Life” is a true gem. Each of August’s frisky females is vividly brought to life by a veteran of Detroit’s theater community – and each performance is also a jewel!
It’s because of veterans Mary Bremer, Sandra Aldridge, Charlotte Leisinger, Jennifer Jones and the always delightful Henrietta Hermelin that “Coming to Life” engages its audience – despite its structural flaws. They’re wonderful performances, and well worth seeing!
“Coming to Life” Presented Thursday through Sunday by the Detroit Repertory Theatre, 13103 Woodrow Wilson, Detroit, through Dec. 26. Tickets: $17. 313-868-1347. www.detroitreptheatre.com.
The Bottom Line: Five feisty actresses kick old age into high gear despite a script that tanks near the end.

Tidbits: News from Around Town
A Rocky ‘Diversion’; Youtheatre Conservatory; Motoprism at Matrix

ITEM: A “horror-ific” evening is coming to Diversions in Grand Rapids Nov. 28, as Frank, Rocky, Brad and Janet from the Actors’ Theatre’s production of “The Rocky Horror Show” will be in the house from 8 to 10 p.m.
The appearance at Diversions is an attempt to reach a young audience with a production most might never have heard of before, Fred Sebulske – the resident guru behind Actors’ Theatre – told Curtain Calls last week. It’s also a production that should be quite appealing to those who dance the night away at the bar.
A $10 cover will be charged that night ($5 for students with ID), most of which will go towards paying for the munchies that will be provided. The rest will help subsidize the cost of the production.
Diversions is located at 10 Fountain NW in Grand Rapids. For more information on the preview or for ticket information to “The Rocky Horror Show, call Sebulske at 616-234-3947.
ITEM: If you attended elementary school anywhere in Metro Detroit over the past 40 years, you’re more than likely familiar with Youtheatre. We “seasoned” veterans of our educational system probably experienced at least one Youtheatre production at the Detroit Institute of Arts, whereas today, Youtheatre holds its shows at Southfield’s Millennium Centre.
Recently, however, the nationally recognized children’s theater started yet another innovative program for kids called the Youtheatre Conservatory Program. Youngsters between the ages of five and 12 now have the opportunity to experience live theater on the inside – that is, to learn such arts as acting, singing, stage movement, improvisation, mime, clowning and more from Master Instructor Ron Seykell who has extensive Broadway and regional credits.
The classes are designed as ongoing, multi-level workshops serving young people at all skill levels. The curriculum is individually tailored to the class participants. Students are divided into twp age groups: Broadway Beginners (ages 5 – 8) and Broadway Bound (ages 9 – 12).
A new semester of classes begins Jan. 3 and runs six weeks. Classes meet each Monday at the Millennium Centre for approximately an hour. Tuition is $180.
To enroll your child in the Youtheatre Conservatory Program, call 248-557-7529.
ITEM: Take a look at this week’s Theater Events listings, and what’s the first thing that pops into your mind. Was it something like, “Damn, there’s a lot of theater in this town”?
Well, there IS, but hold onto your hats, folks: There’s yet ANOTHER group of improvisers bursting onto the scene! THIS one, however, promises to be different!
“The Reality Buffet” is a new form of reality show that hits the stage every Sunday at 8 p.m. at Detroit’s Matrix Theatre. Presented by a troupe of actors and improvisers known collectively as Motoprism, “The Reality Buffet” serves up a series of very short plays based on the lives and experiences of the show’s cast.
(Okay, I know what you’re thinking: “Whose life is SO interesting that it deserves to be shared with an audience every Sunday night!” But remember, these are experienced improvisers we’re talking about, so you can expect a certain “flair” to the outlandish comedies and serious moments they’ll present each week. And if they live dull lives, I suspect they’ll have no problems making stuff up! This IS theater, after all – not a group therapy session!)
Motoprism was founded by Director Mark Mikula and features the talents of Lauren Bickers, Elana Elyce, Pete and Pj Jacokes, Mike McGettigan, Scott Myers, Mark Sobolewski and Cara Trautman.
Tickets are $10.
Matrix Theatre is located at 2370 Bagley in Southwest Detroit.
For ticket information, call 313-967-0999.

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