By JENN MCKEE
"Biting satire" doesn't even begin
to describe Jeff Daniels' new play,
"Thy Kingdom's Coming." Intense
Roxanne Kring washed that man right outta her hair as Nellie in "South Pacific" last weekend.
'Pacific' on rocky water, docks strongly
By J. DAVID BERRY
Let me begin by saying that I am the biggest community
theater fan around, and that I will consistently defend its
virtues. It plays an indispensable role in the community,
A portunities that
P i are normally re-
South PacifiC served for career
Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre Performers.How-
October 28.1994 ever, Ann Arbor
Civic Theatre is
as professional a community theater as they come, and
therefore, I expected more from their recent production of
Rodgers and Hammerstein's "South Pacific."
There was a lot of talent on the stage and this created
tome very good moments. The highlight of the cast was
easily Emile de Becque (Joe Deiderich). Diederich handled
the singing wonderfully and there was a lot of acting ability
apparent as well. He even pulled off the French accent
without sounding like a bad cooking show host. His love for
and devotion to Nellie (Roxanne Kring) was played with a
sincerity that made some very cheesy scenes and musical
numbers more bearable. His, final number, "This Nearly
Was Mine" was the dramatic climax of the evening and
Diederich managed to fight off some bouts with overacting
nd make it work.
Nellie is a different story. Kring acted and sang the role
very well, though her voice seemed too lyric for "I'm Gonna
Wash That Man ..." What seemed to be missing from the
performance was the charisma necessary to make this "Cock-
eyed Optimist" believable. As soon as Nellie walks on the
stage, our eyes should be riveted to her until her exit. She
needs to have so much energy and southern charm that we
can'thelp to love her ourselves. While Kring's portrayal was
very sweet, this lacking quality created quite a hole that no
one else in the cast seemed to be able to plug.
Joe Cable (Kevin Binkley) had similar problems. While
his voice was fantastic, and perfect for the part, his acting
was rather one-dimensional in the first act. He came around
for the second act and the job he did on "You've Got To Be
Carefully Taught" was very intense and moving. Due to the
The acting ability of the leads and
the strength of the musical
numbers carried it through.
lack of emotion in the first act however, it seemed almost
overdone coming from the once stiff and rigid Cable.
The saviors of the evening were Luther Billis (Steve
Rosoff) and Bloody Mary (Cathy Simpson). They attacked
their comedic roles with all of the energy and heart they
could muster, and it worked very well. When either of them
were on stage, they created excitement and the chorus was
enlivened, if just for a moment.
Unfortunately, the chorus during the other numbers were
not up to par. While from their bios they appeared to have
much experience, most of their work was dull and lifeless
with very little acting going on. Rather than enhancing
scenes, their lack of energy pulled many of the leads down
with them. I don't believe, however, that this was entirely
their fault. Much the blame must fall on Jim Posante,
director and choreographer.
Posante's choreography was uninspired at best, ending
each big chorus number in a straight line across the stage.
The movements that brought them into that line were very
clich6 and seemed disjointed from the actual song. While a
lot of the steps were typical Broadway-esque choreography,
without the energy from the chorus to fuse it all together, it
couldn't stand on its own. Even in some of the solos and
duets, there seemed to be a desire on the actor's part to break
away and go with the moment; however, they were trapped
in the choreography and it ended up stifling the acting
moment they were attempting to create.
Despite these problems, the acting ability of the leads
and the strength of the musical numbers carried it through.
The terrific sets and lighting from Leo Babcock and Dan
Walker (respectively) didn't hurt any either. Friday night's
packed audience seemed to love every minute of it, and that
is as it should be. Support of community theater is very
important and, even if they don't turn out outstanding shows
every time, Ann Arbor Civic Theater is an indispensable
asset to this city.
Purple Rose Theatre
October 28, 1994
hostility and anger lies beneath the
surface of almost every line, but these
emotions are cleverly veiled in the
form of comedy. This convention only
acts to bring the points home more
effectively and forcefully.
And it's terribly funny, by the way.
Jeff Daniels, a Broadway and film
star who grew up in Michigan, wrote
this play to target three things he obvi-
ously despises: censorship, Hollywood
and the religious right.
The play is set in the home of action
film star Derek Johansen (Wayne
David Parker). Crash (Guy Sanville),
a former stuntman from his earlier
films, comes by, pleading for a chance
to be Derek's personal assistant. He
can't find work, partly because of his
injuries, but mostly because he came
out of the closet by taking out a full
page ad in Variety proclaiming him-
self the best gay stuntman in Holly-
wood. He essentially signed his own
career's death certificate, buthecomes
to Derek claiming that he is "crossing
over" - that he's now heterosexual,
and he has a certificate from acoalition
for decency to prove it.
Derek resists, always looking out
for himself and his image, but Crash
finally just assumes the position and
impresses Derek enough to make him
take a chance.
Derek has it in his head to make a
film where he portrays Jesus. For an
action film star who doesn't like to
have more than four lines, this is a
ludicrous notion. But as his producer
and screenwritier try to convince him
that playing such a character takes
tremendous acting skills that he sim-
ply doesn't possess, the omnipresent
Crash suggests that since Derek is an
action film star, they should make an
action movie about Jesus.
This requires some embellishment,
ofcourse. In order to stay within bounds
and be accepted by the religious right
-strictly in the interest ofprofit rather
than conscience-Crash suggests that
they call Pat Robertson and set up a
meeting. As they develop an action
film storyline, they become more skep-
tical of it being approved by leadersx
like Robertson and Rush Limbaugh.
That is, until Crash suggests that
they stone a number of homosexuals in
the film for each embellishment they j
use, the number pending on the degree
and severity of blasphemy.a
The play is an engaging, fast-paced,
that showcases The play is a
not only a terrific
script, but a co engaging, fa
fident and con- busy product
vincing cast. h
There are only showcases
four characters terrific script
carryingtheentire confident an
work, but the ac-
torspullitoffwith convincing c
ease and charm.
Each performance was dead-on, from +
the pony-tailed, cellular phone addicted,1
tit-loving producer Gordon (Phillip
Locker) to the young, liberal-minded
entrepreneur screenwriter Gerald (An-+
Theplay also isrendered morepow-
erful by the positioning of the set; it is
literally submerged in the audience.,
The audience composes three walls in
the Derek's home, and since the theater
is fairly small, the actors are often
inches away. This gives the play an
aura of being performed in-the-round,.
ences and everyday life, making us
laugh out loud while also making us
say, "That's so true!" We can't ask for
much more from a play than to be
entertained while simultaneously be-
ing given food for thought.
THY KINGDOM'SC INGplays
through December 23 at the Purple
Rose Theatre (137 Park Street,
Chelsea). Performances are
Wednesday through Saturday at 8
p.m. and Sunday at 2p.m. and 7p.m.
Tickets are $15 and $20. Call (313)
giving the actors more freedom and
naturalness in terms of movement.
There are hilariously crafted mo-
ments, such as the perpetually self-
flagellating Crash snapping himself
with a rubber band on his wrist, repeat-
ing "bad faggot" overand over again to
punish himself. It showed us just how
not only a
bt, ut a
would be if we all
lived in the realm
of the religious
The beauty of
this play is that it
works on the same
level as truly great
ones that discuss
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