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Wednesday, June 29,2011

Change of life

A macho man finds a softer side in Purple Rose’s amusing ’Oyster’

by Tom Helma

Think it is entirely implausible that the Detroit Lions
could be in the Super Bowl, and with two minutes to play at the end of
the fourth quarter, might kick a 67-yard field goal to win the game?


“Consider the Oyster” now playing at the Purple Rose
Theatre in Chelsea begins with just such a far-fetched set-up. Writer
David Mac Gregor then uses that implausibility as an opportunity to
write a tender play as to how love conquers all. 


Michael Brian Ogden is Gene, a man’s man, all jock and
beer, in love with the beautiful effervescent Marisa, played by Stacie
Hadgikosti. As he celebrates the triumph of the Detroit Lions winning
the Super Bowl, he falls and breaks his leg.


Surgeons repairing the break add ground-up oyster shells
to the amalgam that binds his bones back together. Unbeknownst to Gene,
the doctors and the audience, oyster DNA gets mixed with Gene’s DNA, and
a biological phenomenon that happens in oysters — male oysters in
maturity transforming into female oysters — begin transforming Gene into
Jean.


Is this as implausible as the Lions winning the Super Bowl? What are the odds? 


What makes this play work throughout is the combination of the writer’s craft and director Guy Sanville’s staging.


MacGregor uses humor to illustrate the challenges of a man learning how to be a woman. In Act Two, Gene reemerges as  Jean,
played now by Rhiannon Ragland. Both Ogden and Ragland give superior
performances sharing this role, Ogden doing a most entertaining
break-a-leg pratfall in Act One, and Ragland stealing the stage in the
second half with a hugely comic rendition of what it is like for a
man-turned-woman to learn how to walk in three-inch spike heels. 


Gene/Jean’s gay roommate and best friend, Eliot (Matthew
David), is a secret weapon in this play, a supporting character with
such great comic timing that virtually every line he utters gets a
laugh. MacGregor has created the characters of Marisa and her mother,
Kay, as polar opposites, the bubbly Marisa contrasting with a
bitch-lawyer mother from hell, played archly by Sarab Kamoo.


 The title
obviously has multiple meanings. This is a play that allows us to
imagine what our country would be like if we were all more accepting of
the diversity of sexual orientations present in humanity. Marisa and
Gene/Jean discover that love is a whole more than the sum of one’s
sexual parts.


’Consider the Oyster’
Purple Rose Theatre
137 Park St., Chelsea
Through Sept. 3
3 p.m. and 8 p.m. Wednesdays and Saturdays; 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays; 2 p.m. Sundays
$25 Wednesdays and Thursdays; $35 Fridays and Saturday and Sunday matinees; $40 Saturday evenings
(734) 433-7673
www.purplerosetheatre.org

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