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Wednesday, June 3,2009

I love you, man

‘Flyover’ storytelling at its best

by Tom Helma

Men: You can’t live with them, but you can’t live without them.” No, wait, that’s what hostile men sometimes say about women. So what is it people say about men? Before Williamston Theatre embarked on its yearlong research project to follow up on its Pulsar-winning production “Maidens, Mothers and Crones,” not much.


When a female friend heard the latest in the theater’s “Voices of the Midwest” series was about the men of the region, she sarcastically quipped, “What — is it called ‘Assholes?’”


No, it’s called “Flyover USA,” and there are no such morons in this show.


Conceived by Tony Caselli, artistic director at Williamston, and written by Dennis E. North and Joseph Zettelmaier, “Flyover” is a rich array of thoughtful, colorful stories about fathers and their sons, grandfathers and their garages and men and their tools, cars and campfires of years past. Nearly 40 men contributed stories with their names, and a whole host of others contributed stories anonymously.

There is something uniquely meat-andpotatoes about the flavor of these stories, suffused with the blue-collar ethic of the beleaguered autoworker. Most import, there is also a tender vulnerability, evoking held-back tears and a sense of what many boys give up to support families and become men.


Nowhere is this more apparent in the play than when three men sitting in a Michigan Works Unemployment office start talking about what they imagined their work life would be like way back when they were 14. For a brief moment, boyhood re-emerges, and the innocent hopes and dreams of days gone by are revealed.


John Lepard, Tobin Hissong and Scott Norman make up the play’s threeman ensemble. The actors create a wide array of characters in ordinary circumstances, dealing with the still waters of turbulent emotions that rarely surface in the stoic lives of men. It can be easy to overlook the deep and abiding feelings of love men have for their wives and children. Why? As one characters says it, “[Men] do not talk. We do not work hard for someone’s approval. We just work hard. Period.”

“Flyover USA” is peppered with pithy aphorisms passed down from father to son, and then again from father to son. A new generation of “Indian Guide” fathers reflects on the differences between them and a previous generation of dads. A son reveals he was raised by a single mom who taught him how to shoot ducks and bait a fishing line.


This is sequential story telling at its best, performed by three actors at the peak of their craft. There are many laughs, and more 2 Born than Yesterday a few choked-back Oct 22 & tears. 29 (Men, as we know, do not cry.)



‘Flyover USA’


Through
June 14 8 p.m. Thursday & Friday 3 p.m. & 8 p.m. Saturday 2
p.m. Sunday Williamston Theatre, 122 S. Putnam St., Williamston $18-$24
(517) 655-SHOW www.williamstontheatre.com


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