To access streaming and ticket info, visit williamstontheatre.org
MONDAY, April 6 — See the play wearing a bathrobe and a tall, feathery hat. View it while holding a bong and a garlicky slice of pizza. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, Williamston Theatre’s “These Mortal Hosts” is only available for home viewing. That means any stringent theater decorum policies no longer apply.
All you need to stream the play is a computer with a good broadband connection and a paid-for password. It’s a convenient way to see a captivating show while supporting Greater Lansing theater as it finds itself in a desperate time.
“These Mortal Hosts” quickly grabs any viewer’s attention. Wearing a blood-smeared apron and carrying a cleaver, Mark Colson marvelously plays a small-town butcher named Earl. Throughout the mysterious play, Colson convincingly exposes intimate facets of Earl’s character. Colson’s realistic emotions provide added depth to his character’s two-dimensional image on the screen.
Emily Sutton-Smith plays a confident Phyllis like she truly understands and knows the character. What could be divine intervention for Phyllis is harder to understand. Although the bank manager seems reserved at times, Sutton-Smith’s acting never is.
Anna Ryzenga is Meaghan, a talkative high school senior that seems to possess a higher calling. “These Mortal Hosts” features rotating monologues divided between the trio, and Ryzenga acts as equal support for this three-leg table.
Eric Coble’s script starts lighthearted. It then smolders, simmers and, finally, ignites. The Mid-Michigan premiere is about small-town communities, Christian concepts, undeserved cruelty and, ultimately, faith. “These Mortal Hosts” is an adult-only play that requires the audience to think, and pushes it to decipher where Coble’s miraculous story is headed.
Paige Conway’s subtle direction is full of nuance. Characters who reveal themselves autonomously begin to gradually interact. Their individual stories intersect more and more until they finally connect — creating an unexpected, shocking and shared climax.
Bartley H. Bauer’s crafty woodwork creates a church-themed set that’s more symbolic than elaborate. Ever shifting lighting by Dustin D. Miller and “stained glass” projections by Rachel Tuba add to the mood. Julia Garlotte helps provide a clear sound with two boom microphones and three clip-ons.
Taping took place March 21 — three days before Michigan’s stay at home order. Director of photography Andy Kirshner spent a week editing three camera shots and audio from two run-throughs to make an impressive final cut.
“We could not have done it without him,” Executive director John Lepard said.
Coble and his agent easily gave permission to stream the show. Negotiating a new contract with the Actors’ Equity Association was “a little harder,” Lepard said. Figuring out how to sell tickets, developing a code and finding a suitable streaming service was what he called “the hardest part.”
Instead of having the expected runtime of just over an hour and a half, my satellite service kept pausing to buffer the video, so my downloading and viewing time took several hours. Others without high-speed service have voiced similar issues. I figure my delays were because I live where there is only one bar in town and only one bar on my phone.
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