Live theater, unsolicited commentary. From Detroit to Lansing.


The most obvious characteristic that makes Breathe Art Theatre Project unique is its status as one of the only "cross-border" companies on the continent. Each production this season enjoyed a three-weekend run in downtown Detroit's Furniture Factory, then packed up for a final weekend at Windsor's Mackenzie Hall. The company scaled back somewhat with only three productions this season: one story of a man whose whole world fits in four walls, one of a young girl living exclusively in her imagination, and one of a decimated city whose residents' ruination seems far from over.

I saw but did not review Lonely Planet by Steven Dietz, the first show of the season. The play concerns two longtime friends, both gay men, at the height of the initial AIDS panic: Jody (Joel Mitchell), the possibly agoraphobic proprietor of Jody's Maps, and Carl (Stephen Blackwell), who delivers chair after chair to the store without any explanation. Directed by Aaron T. Moore, the actors manifest their terror in different ways as their friends and acquaintances die around them, getting across the characters' understated frustration and affection while leaving much of their overt fears unspoken. The suspended maps of the set design increased the sense of the stage's depth, making a mostly empty setting appear dynamic and alternately infinite and confining.

Early 2010 brought the unhinged perspective of Noah Haidle's Mr. Marmalade, with Mitchell again in the title role and Christa Coulter as his creator, precocious four-year-old Lucy. This stylized exploration of the loneliness and depravity of which a child is capable was well-served by its engaging cast, in particular Coulter, simultaneously naive and carrying the emotional depth of a damaged adult. Director Kevin T. Young opened up endless possibility for Lucy's imaginary world, with sound and light cues firing and props littering the expressionless stage, but the anything-goes approach at times called out for order, a more coherent sense of how she controlled and directed her surroundings.

Finally, the season closed with a bang (among a rumble and a slam and a sob and...) with Love Bombing After the Earthquake, a new play written and directed by Demetri Vacratsis. In the year following an inconceivably devastating earthquake, people's lives veered in directions they could never have anticipated. Nerve-rattling light and sound design by Young, Valerie Bonasso, and Sergio Forest constantly recreated the panic of an emergency situation, when one doesn't know what to do, let alone when (or whether) the danger will pass. With the still-aching wounds of lost loved ones and a prevailing sense of chaos, the four characters mirrored this unease in a story of grief, rebellion, and self-preservation. Andy Huff's masterful characterization of the mysteriously motivated, aloof but brutal interrogator was especially compelling, driving the play's conclusion to near pandemonium.

Breathe Art nourishes, and is nourished by, its core group of artistic partners, namely Courtney Burkett, Michael Carnow, Katie Galazka, and Jane MacArthur in addition to Bonasso, Forest, Mitchell, Moore, Vacratsis, and Young. In accordance with its dedication to "perpetuating an ethic of mutual respect," both internationally and within the artistic community, the organization occasionally (and very informally) promotes other area productions in which its artistic partners participate, generating word of mouth for both itself and the community at large. As for Breathe Art's own season, the three productions this year distorted the human condition through varied and fresh lenses, generating challenges to excite audiences and artists alike.


Post a Comment