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Wednesday, October 13,2010

A smart start

Stormfield Theatre scores with ’Friends’

by Mary C. Cusack

Stormfield Theatre’s “Among Friends,” the inaugural production of Lansing’s newest theater company, isn’t groundbreaking, but it is an interesting story about interpersonal relationships.


Dan (John Lepard), an award-winning humanitarian of the year, is caught cheating at a poker game by his brother-in-law, Will (Bill Bannon). Soon Will is seeing vice in everything Dan does, and he tries to poison affable buddy Matt (Aral Gribble) against Dan.


Suffice to say that a relatively simple conflict becomes a much deeper study of basic human emotions and needs. Will’s slash and burn campaign for love and respect erupts in an explosion of suspicion and jealousy that creates collateral damage, forcing Dan to confront a past mistake.


Lepard can always be counted on to deliver solid performances, and his role here is no exception. His performance evokes memories of his role in Williamston Theatre’s production of
“Art,” which is somewhat unavoidable as the scripts have similar
character dynamics.


Thatcher brought in a ringer with Chicago actor Bannon. When tempers flare between Dan and Will, the tension that Bannon and Lepard create is electric. Even more captivating are the moments of silence as the men size each other up. The room is so still, the viewer’s attention so focused on the two that one feels as if there is no one else in the room.


Stormfield founder and artistic director Kristine Thatcher made a wise choice selecting “Friends,” her original work, as the first show. The small cast, minimal set changes and the intimate storyline are appropriately sized for the venue, which deserves some mention itself.


In its past lives, the location has served as a car wash, a retail space and a martial arts studio. Stormfield staff and volunteers transformed the space very quickly into a serviceable space for a black-box theatre. The acoustics are perfect for small productions, and the open ceiling allows for versatility with lighting design. If the theater gets to stay longer, all that’s needed to complete the space are some aesthetic touches.


‘Among Friends’


Stormfield
Theatre 201 Morgan Lane in the Frandor Shopping Center 7 p.m.
Thursdays; 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays through Oct. 31
$25 adults; $15 students (517) 372-0945 www.stormfieldtheatre.org




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