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Wednesday, May 30,2012

Home sweet (summer) home

Over the Ledge Theatre Co. moves to Ledges Playhouse with 'Apartment 3A'

by James Sanford
Warning: If you don’t mail that contribution to PBS, Big Bird will die — and so will Bert, Ernie, Cookie Monster, Mr. Snuffleupagus and even Oscar the Grouch.

That’s the poisonous promise of Annie (Abby Murphy), a development director at a cash-strapped TV station. Annie’s not an assassin, though: She’s simply a woman who’s been knocked a bit off-balance by seismic shake-ups in her personal life (including a cheating husband, an abrupt move to a new home and a brush with a peculiar neighbor) that have turned a hectic pledge week into an over-the-edge week.

Written by Jeff Daniels, “Apartment 3A” is a romance with a bit of edginess, said director Joseph Dickson. The men in Annie’s often trying life are played by Blake Bowen (Peppermint Creek Theatre Co.’s “God of Carnage”), Mike Stewart (Lansing Civic Players’ “The Divine Sister”), Chris Goeckel and Steve Ledyard (both of whom appeared in Riverwalk Theatre’s “Conspiracy”).

“I’ve always had a soft spot for love stories,” Dickson said. “The pursuit of love is always something I like on stage, partially because it’s so hard in real life.”

According to Dickson, “Apartment” demonstrates Daniels is “a more well-rounded writer” than his slapsticky “Escanaba” trilogy might suggest. “It’s a story of questioning faith. That’s something that connects very deeply with me because I’ve never had much in the way of religious conviction and I always wished I was one who could believe.”

The comedy is the second production from Dickson’s Over the Ledge Theatre Co., and the company’s first in the Ledges Playhouse, located in Grand Ledge’s Fitzgerald Park. The theater has hosted several troupes since it opened in 1956, most recently Capital TheatreWorks, which vacated the Ledges after the summer of 2010.

“One of the reasons I started this company is that the Ledges one of my favorite places to work as performer,” Dickson said. “I love that stage and I couldn’t stand thought of it sitting there, with no one doing theater.”

That won’t be a problem this summer. In the next three months, the playhouse will host three more Over the Ledge shows (“The 39 Steps,” “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” and, yes, “Escanaba in da Moonlight”), two Happendance concerts and a performance by Attitude Dance Co.

Launching his own outfit has “definitely been a learning experience,” Dickson said, with a chuckle. “But the city of Grand Ledge has been absolutely wonderful in terms of support, and I’m excited to be working with them. As with any new venture, there have been bumps along the way, such as trying to figure out if the hot water heater works — you know, that kind of thing — and trying to build a support network of volunteers. But we’re taking it one step at a time.”

Dickson noted the astonishing track record of the Slout Players, which occupied the Ledges from 1956 to 1961. “In their second season, they did 13 full staged productions that summer,” Dickson said.

Alas, not a single one of them was written by Jeff Daniels.


‘Apartment 3A’

May 31-June 10

Over the Ledge Theatre Co.

Ledges Playhouse

137 Fitzgerald Park Dr., Grand Ledge

8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays

$10 adults; $8 seniors; $6 students

(517) 318-0579

overtheledge.org

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