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Wednesday, November 14,2012

Curtain Call

by City Pulse Staff

‘Good’ is great
By PAUL WOZNIAK

If not for the accents and references to South Boston, the economic and cultural situations explored in David Lindsay-Abaire’s “Good People” could have been set in Michigan — or anywhere, really. The story of a low-income, middle-aged single mother struggling to find a job and pay her rent describes our current national situation. While the characters in “Good People” are familiar, they’re not used at tropes to hammer in a heavy message about injustice. Instead, Lindsay-Abaire’s script offers abundant richness through ambiguity, which director Blake Bowen seizes upon in this superb Peppermint Creek production.

Shannon Rafferty plays Margie, the coarse but kind “mouthie from Southie” whose lack of formal education beyond high school limits her to near minimum wage employment. The play begins with Margie, due to her perpetual lateness, being fired — a fate she cannot escape despite tactical bargaining and pleading. When she discovers her former high school boyfriend Mike (Brad Rutledge) is a successful local doctor, she seeks out his help to find a job. But their reunion soon  turns into a culture clash fueled by opposing perspectives of their shared past.

The entire cast shines in their respective roles — from Deborah Tomlinson and Samantha Seybert as Margie’s bantering bingo buddies to Teri Brown as Mike’s sophisticated wife — giving colorful life to the sparse set. For their part, Rutledge and Rafferty each ground their characters in natural emotions and share authentic chemistry that allows the audience to empathize with all sides.

Director Bowen incredibly keeps the play flowing, even with characters seated for entire scenes. The results provoke piercing questions regarding work ethic versus fate that challenges every assumption people have about the working poor. It’s also one of the best community theater productions this season.

“Good People”
Peppermint Creek Theatre Co.
Nov. 8-17  8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday
Miller Performing Arts Center, 6025 Curry Lane, Lansing
$15 adults/$10 students and seniors
(517) 927-3016
peppermintcreek.org

Mixed ‘Measure’
By DANA CASADEI

“Measure for Measure” is a Shakespeare play that’s rarely performed, and after seeing Friday’s production, it’s easy to see why. Not that the MSU Theatre Department’s show was bad. On the contrary, it has its moments — it’s just confused.

It seems to constantly struggle between being a comedy and a drama; it is after all one of Shakespeare’s “problem plays,” leaving some of the more intense moments overshadowed by the comedy. It often goes for the over-easy laugh, such as a few too many obvious winks.

There are many stories that intertwine, so if you have difficulty following Shakespeare, a quick Wikipedia search is recommended. Many of the actors do a good job with the language, though, especially Angelo (Mack Hamilton), whose voice makes Shakespeare sound smooth.  Julia Hays’ Isabella really knocks it out of the park, especially during a vital scene in Act I. Her character’s raw emotion is heart wrenching to watch. Her brother Claudio (Adam Sutherland) is also one to watch for.

There are many comedic moments in this show, but Mary Dilworth and Zachera Wollenberg as Mistress Overdone and Pompey, respectively, are the most fun to watch, earning most of the laughs throughout the evening.

The set is impressive. Scenic designer Renee Surprenant took the space she was given, which is long but not very high, and made it so actors would be able to easily come and go, and transform quickly into other places, such as a jail or office.

The costumes go between Shakespearian and Wall Street. Something also slightly strange was how many of the characters carried around Apple products, such as an iPad, a product that Shakespeare never would have dreamed of.

Christina Traister writes in her director notes that this isn’t a show that is tied up in a neat bow, which says more than if everything had been tied up nicely. It questions the way we, as humans, act and the shades of gray that that often contains.

“Measure for Measure”
MSU Department of Theatre
Through Sunday 8 p.m.
Fridays, 2 p.m. & 8 p.m. Saturday
2 p.m. Sundays, 7:30 p.m. Tuesday- Thursday
$15/$10 students
C203 Wonders Hall, MSU campus, East Lansing
(800) WHARTON
theatre.msu.edu

Scrooge part II
By DANA CASADEI

“A Christmas Carol” has been told in a variety of forms, including a version with Donald Duck. But what happened to Ebenezer Scrooge after his visit from his lovely friends? This holiday season, Williamston Theatre will give audiences an answer to that question in the world premiere of “Ebenezer,” written by Joseph Zettelmaier.

“It’s the first sequel to ‘A Christmas Carol,’” said director John Lepard. “(You get to) see what happens to Scrooge after he becomes a good guy.”

Scrooge may be a good guy in this production, but the story starts out much like its predecessor, on a cold Christmas Eve in London. This time, though, Scrooge is sitting in a hospital room, waiting and hoping for his ghost friends to show up. The story also brings along a few new characters, including Miss Poole, the nurse assigned to Scrooge’s care, and Timothy Cratchit, who has recently returned from the war. The plot may sound like the beginning of a depressing drama, but Lepard says that isn’t the case, thanks to Zettelmaier’s writing style.

“The way Joe writes, there’s a lot of good comedy, lots of humor in it,” he said.  There’s also a lot of heart and a holiday feel as well; it is, after all, a sequel to a timeless story. Add the fact that it’s a world premiere and some actors and directors may have fallen to its mercy, but not this group.

“I try not to think of the pressure of it, that would turn you into a deer in the headlights,” Lepard said. It helps that Zettelmaier was on hand to answer any questions for Lepard, and Scrooge himself, Arthur Beer, has directed over 200 shows.

“As a director its a dream job,” he said.

“Ebenezer”
Williamston Theatre
Nov. 15-Dec. 23
8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 3 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m.
Sunday $20 Thursdays/$25 Friday-Saturday evenings/$22 matinees/$10 students/seniors $2 discount
122 S. Putnam St.
Williamston
(517) 655-7469
williamstontheatre.com

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