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By John Quinn
: Review: ‘The Moonlight Room’
A small slice of the ‘real world’ provides for sobering drama
A terrible realism highlights The Theatre Company’s opening play of its 34th season. Terrible, because “The Moonlight Room” explores a parent’s greatest fears. Terrible, because it so graphically addresses the tragic loss of young potential. But this gritty realism is, in the end, fascinating and satisfying, because it allows an audience to experience viscerally a moment in the characters’ lives.
Playwright Tristine Skylar’s first work, “The Moonlight Room,” is a tight drama, set in the emergency room waiting area of a Manhattan hospital. In the early morning hours, 16-year-old Josh and his friend Sal have brought an unconscious friend for treatment after a drug overdose. In the ensuing 24 hours, friendships and relationships are twisted and tested; an overprotective mother, a shocked father and the two teens face the pain of adversity. Some come to terms and triumph, others aren’t so lucky. The audience gets swept up in the tragedy.
The secret of “you are there” drama is to never let the audience catch you acting. Marlon Brando’s style has been described as “É seeming to be some guy who just walked on stage off the street.” The artist must walk a fine line between over emoting and underplaying so far that the content is lost. Director Yolanda Fleischer and her fine cast “keep it real,” but on occasion, the content and emotional importance don’t make the jump across the (metaphorical) footlights.
Part of the problem is structural: Skyler fills her first act with the inconsequential chatter that tense people substitute for frank discussion. While it gives depth to the realism, it’s not the makings of compelling drama.
Veteran actor Uriah Hogan, as the grieving father, seems to have the best of it. The character’s inner turmoil allows him legitimate outbursts, and the playwright has given him long passages full of meaning that are just catnip for the discerning actor. But, all in all, this is an educational experience for cast and audience alike.
“The Moonlight Room” Staged Thursday through Sunday by The Theatre Company, a mix of student and professional actors, at the Marygrove College Theatre, 8425 W. McNichols Rd, Detroit, through Oct. 24. Tickets: $14. 313-993-3270. http://theatre.udmercy.edu.
The Bottom Line: This ambitious exploration of new material provides a raw emotional bite.
Review: ‘Laura’s Bush’
Political (and sex) satire sets sight on Bush Administration
By Donald V. Calamia
It’s a juicy story that’s just TOO far-fetched to be trueÉor is it?
A mousey librarian and a kind-hearted hooker team up to save America’s First Lady. From what, they initially haven’t a clue. But as their plan proceeds, they stumble upon something shocking and sinister: They discover the deep, dark secrets of the Bush Administration!
While that might SOUND scary, “Laura’s Bush” – the recently extended political satire that closes this weekend with late-night performances at 1515 Broadway in downtown Detroit – is anything but. Rather, it’s a well-executed comedy that had its audience roaring with laughter its opening Friday night (Well, except for a few folks, that is: They were probably Republicans!)
Dody Dotson makes a startling discovery while watching the First Lady on television: Laura Bush is using Morse Code to send a message to the world. “Help me,” she repeatedly blinks, so the librarian from Kansas concocts a daring plan to liberate the First Lady when she arrives at her library for a visit.
To reveal too much of the story would ruin the fun. But as this is a political satire, be forewarned that Martin skewers pretty much every sacred cow of the Republican administration – and a few darlings of the Democrats, as well. And as it’s also a lesbian sex-farce, let’s just say that the script takes a few unexpected turns that even the National Enquirer never envisioned!
The brainchild of the mysterious Pulitzer Prize-nominated playwright Jane Martin, “Laura’s Bush” is unlikely to sway anyone’s position regarding the upcoming presidential election. But like in the days of yore, theater is at its best when likeminded artists come together to promote a common cause.
Director Darren Locke makes excellent use of the theater’s intimate space. Never does he paint his production with too wide a satirical brush.
Standouts in the cast include Morgan Chard as Laura; MaryJo Cuppone as the hooker, Desiree; and Linda Rabin Hammell as Dody. And Leah Smith? Well, you’ll just have to see it to believe it!
“Laura’s Bush” Presented Thursday through Saturday by NoSuch Group at 1515 Broadway, Detroit, through Oct. 16. 10:30 p.m. curtain. Tickets: $15. 313-965-1515. www.nosuchgroup.org. The evening will also feature a staged reading of a work in progress by Tony Kushner; multi-instrumentalist and composer Frank Pahl will perform 10/14 & 10/15 only. Exciting entertainment included 10/16. Check Web site for details.
The Bottom Line: If you like your politics a little edgy and your theater satirical – and your leanings are more to the left than to the right – you’ll probably LOVE “Laura’s Bush”!