Live theater, unsolicited commentary. From Detroit to Lansing.


The operative word for this twice-extended production at the Performance Network is stun. The careful unfolding of the plot often left me stunned. Even more so, Suzi Regan, the sole performer, is stunning. In The Blonde, the Brunette and the Vengeful Redhead, the actress plays not three but seven characters, male and female, in a staggering range of ages. The title refers to an incident involving a jilted wife, her neighbor, and the blonde that the neighbor "catches" out with her husband at the mall. One misguided act of vengeance sets off a chain of events that takes the remainder of the play to unravel, and forever alters the lives of three families in the process.

At the forefront are Regan's brilliant characterizations, some as terrifically funny as others are devastating. To her great credit, the actress so embodies each of these characters, and makes them so physically and vocally distinct, that the play feels more like a collection of monologues than a one-woman show. However, what sets this apart from many other monologue collections is the details these stories have in common. Robert Hewett's 2004 script absolutely rewards the audience for paying attention, as one character's aside becomes another's catalyst. Regan and director David Wolber are careful to highlight these details without spelling it out for the audience, and the result is a tauntingly incomplete picture created by these several voices.


The audience at the final showing of One Flea Spare was one of the largest I had seen at the Planet Ant for a while, which brightens my spirits before any performance. Having arrived extremely early, I scrutinized every word of the program, including the short primer on the play's setting and history. Although the specific mention and definition of a few terms did aid my understanding, I later wondered why these could not have been made clear in context rather than by glossary. It turned out to be only my first concern with playwright Naomi Wallace's script.

The plot of One Flea Spare moves in fits and starts, beginning with a heap of exposition. A wealthy couple is quarantined in their home after several servants die of the plague, but just before their confinement ends, an AWOL sailor and the daughter of a neighbor separately infiltrate the house, and the quarantine begins again. This is all explained at the beginning; what the audience sees is the subsequent, "They wait."

It was near the end of "Try to Remember," right at the first of several repetitions of "follow-follow-follow-follow-follow-follow-follow-follow-follow," that I was able to remember how much I hate The Fantasticks. This is not the Hilberry production's fault.

In The Fantasticks, the first act is intended to be a Technicolor fantasy — the love we see between Luisa and Matt cannot be true until they have been beaten down in some way by life. However, despite the fact that a fantasy is supposed to be enjoyable, these characters are painted in the broadest strokes, smiles plastered on their faces, fairly shouting about how special they are. This inevitably gives me the impression of the lovers that (a) they're insipid, (b) they deserve each other, and (c) could they please do their awful courting offstage somewhere. Even after hoping for most of the play that the kids get smacked, when it happens to Matt in the second act, I don't enjoy it because of that horrid "Round and Round" song and the nonsense with the mask. Needless to say, I don't get it — are we supposed to root for these kids?


The evening I spent watching A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Blackbird in Ann Arbor had me lamenting the numerous shows I've missed seeing there in recent years. Director Bart Bund has an ease with Shakespeare to which other directors should aspire — he's comfortable experimenting with the source material without crossing over into irreverence.

I read in a review that having five actors play all the roles was well executed, but it is a particular marvel that not only were the characters' identities crystal clear, this was also the most accessible Shakespeare I have ever seen. Even in very good stagings of Shakespeare plays that I've read or seen before, I can momentarily lose the thread of narrative or have trouble distinguishing similar-looking actors. Here, the characters were thoughtfully crafted and the language enlivened with a sense of play that never fell into recitation.