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Home Arts and Culture  Looking Back & Looking Ahead: Theater
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Wednesday, January 5,2011

Looking Back & Looking Ahead: Theater

Several local actors are worth spotlighting

by Paul Wozniak
Courtesy Photo/Joe Quick played a proselytizing pop star in Peppermint Creek Theatre's


The Lansing theater scene is blessed to have so many gifted actors appearing on professional, collegiate and community stages. From breakout to breakthrough performances, these actors provided some of the finest examples of what good community and professional performances should be like.


Riverwalk Theatre directors tend to cast leads from a reliable pool of actors. However, newcomer Paige Lucas marked a remarkable exception to the trend playing one of the central characters in “A Light in the Piazza.” Lucas’ performance as a twentysomething woman in a teenage girl’s mental state was a definitive highlight of the production. Her subtle yet deliberate mannerisms, in addition to her well-trained voice, helped the entire production resonate emotionally, a good vibration that is certainly welcome back anytime.


The role of dim-witted mailman Bo Bob Jasper in “Cheatin’” is not a star-making part, yet Paul Levandowski’s sincere performance imbued with “Andy Griffith Show” simplicity helped ground this Lansing Civic Players production in genuine laughs. Not one to exploit his elastic features for comic effect, Levandowski is a smart actor who is finally on the local theater radar.


Joe Quick has become a familiar face to community theater audiences, often playing the George McFly of every show. With his youthful features and tender tenor voice, Quick was usually cast as the spineless, whiny type who could never ask for the girl’s hand because he could not “take that kind of rejection.” The year witnessed Quick’s transformation into the muscled Marky Mark type with a propensity for “exhaustion” in Peppermint Creek’s “Altar Boyz”
and the powerfully tragic mark of a teenage con man in “Dark Play, or
Stories for Boys.” With these types of standout performances, 2011
hopefully will see continued Quick assertiveness.


Having
worked her way through the Michigan State University Department of
Theatre program, Jennifer Shafer appeared in all three of this year’s
Summer Circle productions, starring in two. While marvelous in every
role, Shafer arguably stole the most scenes in “Blithe Spirit” in the
potentially throwaway role of Edith, the housemaid. Shafer hit every
comic mark with militaristic precision and deadpan perfection, providing
the production with a much-needed jolt.


Hazen
Cuyler has come a long way from supporting roles at Michigan State
University, acting alongside the likes of John Lepard in “Home: Voices
From Families of the Midwest” at Williamston Theatre and starring in
“Dark Play, or Stories for Boys,” the shocking Peppermint Creek show
presented during the Renegade Theatre Festival. Cuyler delivered
compelling performances in both productions, proving that he has more dramatic potential yet to be tapped and seen.


A
dedicated and imposing actor, Leslie Hull lent her maternal gravitas
this summer to Lansing Community College’s production “Smoke on the
Mountain.” Hull’s performance, which utilized her soaring soprano voice
and brilliant comic timing, helped the outdoor audience escape into the
folky musical landscape. These traits only hint at Hull’s remarkable and
extremely diverse talent.


Since his return to Lansing theater in the Ledges Playhouse production of “The Foreigner,”
Michael Hays has been one of the community’s most tireless actors,
appearing in heady dramas like “The Late Henry Moss” to the
crowdpleasing holiday production “Tuna Christmas.”


“Moss,”
the swan song of Icarus Falling, gave Hays the chance to play against
type in a powerhouse performance as an abusive, alcoholic father, while
Starlight Dinner Theatre’s “Tuna” played to his strengths as an actor
who can transform into a multitude of eccentric characters, regardless
of gender or age.


If Aral Gribble has perfected a type, it is the downtrodden yet
lovable schmo with the puppy-dog eyes. However, Gribble is one of
Lansing’s most versatile actors, giving a new shade and color to his
type repeatedly. Having starred in productions at Boarshead, Stormfield
and Williamston, Gribble brought several memorable Tuna, Texas townies
to life in Williamston’s “Greater Tuna” and served as the central pivot
in Stormfield’s “Among Friends.”


Given
his incredible dexterity as both a comedic and dramatic actor, Gribble
is sure to remain a Lansing treasure for years to come.

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