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Wednesday, October 19,2011

Pure poison

‘Arsenic and Old Lace’ proves comedy doesn’t always improve with age

by Tom Helma
Playwright Joseph Kesserling puts theater critic Mortimer Brewster at the heart of “Arsenic,” an island of rationality in an ocean of insanity. Adam Bright plays him with a consistently effective calmness, while most of the other characters are exaggerated nutcases.
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Wednesday, October 5,2011

Puerile Michigan

Purple Rose Theatre revisits ‘Escanaba,’ where good taste is always out of place

by Tom Helma
elaborately staged Rube Goldberg set up of an extended fart sequence, complete with slow-motion strobe light and explosive sound effects? Or is it the scene in which a particularly potent potpourri of Potawatami porcupine piss gets poured over Ranger Tom?.
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Wednesday, September 28,2011

Actors soar in 'Blackbird'

Drama poses provocative questions about passion

by Tom Helma
director Chad Badgero promises that “no situation is simply black or white,” and in “Blackbird," Doak Bloss and Angela Mishler confirm this in a production that leaves the audience emotionally bruised and battered, spiritually black and blue. This is not a play for the faint of heart, yet it is a play that stirs the soul.
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Wednesday, September 21,2011

Musical Memoir: A New Jersey State of Mind

by Tom Helma
What is there about this small East Coast state that captivates the country? What makes people yearn for the seriously mean streets of this urban-industrial corridor that parallels the Hudson River? Is it that view from the city of West New York, N.J.
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Wednesday, September 14,2011

Riverwalk delivers a winning 'Annie'

by Tom Helma
One expects children in these roles to be cute and emotionally endearing, but director Jeff Croff (ably assisted by choreographer Elizabeth Todd) has additionally conjured up a high level of professionalism. Not to mention impressive stage Review presence on the part of two separate children’s ensembles.
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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
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.
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Wednesday, June 8,2011

Die laughing

A cast of crazed kooks energizes Riverwalk’s loony ’Musical Comedy Murders of 1940’

by Tom Helma
Riverwalk veteran Joe Dickson, as down-on-his luck stand-up comedian Eddie McCuen, ultimately wins the contest for most intensely agitated actor on stage, but Bob Murrell and Sarah Sonnenberg, as musical writers Roger Hopewell and BernIce Roth, run a close second and third.
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Wednesday, May 18,2011

These 'Guys' don’t pay off

Spotty musical comedy won't rock anyone's boat

by Tom Helma
It’s always just a little odd when people writing for Broadway transform gritty, venial life stories into happy-go-lucky, salt-of-the-earth, charmingas-all-get-out-musicals.
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Wednesday, May 18,2011

'Zoo' times two

Riverwalk’s excellent Albee double feature is splendidly played

by Tom Helma
A Here’s a challenging and convoluted notion: Write a one-act play, and then 45 years later write a prequel that helps explain the motivation of one of the central characters.
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Wednesday, April 27,2011

Great expectations

Purple Rose’s ’Some Couples May...’ takes on a touchy topic with sensitivity, humor and convincing performances

by Tom Helma
Now playing at the Purple Rose Theater, “Couples” takes the audience through the early moments of high expectations that couples have when first embracing the idea of pregnancy and parenthood, then through the heartbreak of hopelessness that ensues when nothing whatsoever happens.
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