jump to navigation

“Corktown” (review) – Purple Rose, Chelsea MI January 30, 2011

Posted by ronannarbor in Ann Arbor, Entertainment, Theatre.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
comments closed

Your enjoyment of “Corktown” at Purple Rose Theater will be directly related to your enjoyment of a) sharp, thoughtful dialogue, b) gangster stories with lots of blood, and c) suspension of belief in the “reality” of this storyline.

Michael Brian Ogden has written dialogue that snaps, crackles, pops, and sometimes just lets things sit still for a moment of contemplation. Things aren’t all what they seem, and there are enough twists and turns to keep you off-kilter throughout the second act.

There are some plausibility problems — a woman who is next-to-dead suddenly wakes and is talking and cracking jokes moments later…some of the Detroit references work well, others not so much (there is a lovely piece of dialogue from Tom Whalen extolling the virtues of the abandoned Detroit train station that has a haunting charm). The entire play feels like it belongs in New Jersey, not Detroit, although the recent tv-series Detroit 1-8-7 also takes these liberties with its scripts. The production feels overly long, and I might have removed the intermission and just allowed the piece to play out to its twisty conclusion.

Without giving away too much (except to say that I vacillated between both liking and not-liking this play throughout the afternoon) the story concerns a hitman (“but nobody calls them that anymore”) who falls in love with one of his not-quite-dead victims. This sets into motion the meyhem of the (very bloody) second act. Now, before you are scared away by the (let me say it again, very bloody) second act, it’s partly serious, it’s partly funny, and it’s always entertaining. Don’t let it turn you off. Unless you are extraordinarily squeamish, there isn’t much to worry about here.

Overall, it’s a very fine production with terrific direction by Guy Sanville, a great set by Bartley Bauer, and otherwise very solid production design across the board.

The cast is uniformly fine. Michael Brian Ogden (Laurence) has a dual-role as both the shows author as well as playing one of its characters. It’s the type of thing that he did before with Bleeding Red at Purple Rose a few seasons ago. Here he plays second banana to main protagonist Matthew David (Joey). Into this mix add PR regulars Stacie Hadgikosti (Jenny), Tom Whalen (Cobb) and trainees Jonathan Hunt Sell (Brian) and Nicholas LaGrassa (Christy). The set and props really become the seventh character in the show, so I must mention the horrendous task of cleaning it all up afterwards each night that befalls Stage Manager Stephanie Buck and her crew. Yuck.

There are some very funny touches throughout here — although at it’s core, it’s a off-kilter love story and drama. Ogden’s dialogue is particularly good when he involves friendly banter between Laurence and Joey. It’s those moments that the script comes to life more than others. Their dialogue sizzles alone, together, in overlaps, and in the unspoken moments. Bravo.

I left the theater feeling better about the piece than I did halfway through the first act, so stick this one out. And DO NOT give away the ending to your friends. But if you are the type who prefers light romantic comedy, you better sit this one out.

To Michael Brian Ogden: bring on more. Keep writing. I can’t wait to see your next piece. Invite me to your next new script reading!. You are a tremendous local talent that we are all be proud of.

(Photo courtesy Purple Rose Theater from Program cover)

“Bleeding Red”, Michael Brian Ogden’s immensely entertaining comedy at The Purple Rose Theatre May 4, 2009

Posted by ronannarbor in Theatre.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
comments closed

If you haven’t yet seen it, you have a few more weeks to see”Bleeding Red”, Michael Brian Ogden’s immensely entertaining comedy at The Purple Rose Theatre in Chelsea, MI.

3180_1013314348236_1686368926_14552_1722547_n(photo copyright Purple Rose Theatre, 2009; Michael Brian Ogden, Matthew Gwynn, Matthew David in Bleeding Red)

Anyone who has spent any time at all overseas will know that soccer fans are far more devoted to their teams than any American equivalent. That devotion is displayed in a love of the beautiful game that goes beyond merely following your team and includes long established pre-game and gametime rituals and routines. You get a small sampling at UM Hockey games, but at a much lower intensity level. That devotion sets the scene for this hilarious production, and what happens when the recent breakup of one of a group of friends threatens to upset their rituals on the eve of the most important game Liverpool played in 2005. There’s a love story in there, and some commentary on family, rootedness, growing up,and the ever present English class system….but it’s essence is the friendship of three buddies and their devotion to the game.

The small 5-member ensemble cast is superb, and Michael Brian’s writing funny, insightful, and surprisingly good for a first work. Guy Sanville’s direction as usual shows terrific comic timing, and captures the nuances of friends who have become so comfortable with each other and their routines that they routinely pile-up on one another, and dance around emotion as if they have done so for years. Great work here.

Oh — by the way, Liverpool and Milan really did play that game in 2005 — and the team’s theme song really is “You’ll Never Walk Alone”…Rodgers and Hammerstein have been turning over in their graves for years…and the rituals and songs played out in the show really ARE that insane — from someone who suffered through a season of European soccer, imagine 40,000 fans doing these rituals in the stadium while another million idiots do so on the streets of London throughout the day of the game — and you have a little sense of what happens the world over on gameday, and why American sports will never come close to that intensity of fan devotion.

Great job, Purple Rose! Great job Michael Brian Ogden. Go see the show.