HFCC opens ‘Drinking in America’ August 23 for a two-weekend run

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Photo courtesy of Henry Ford Community College Theatre Division
Henry Ford Community College has moved the original opening date for “Drinking in America” back one week, with the show running at 8 p.m. Aug. 23, 24, 29, 30 and 31, and 2 p.m. Aug. 25. The show, written by Eric Begosian and directed by Mary Bremer, is a satirically funny series of monologues and scenes of people who are intoxicated with the hedonism of the American Dream. The show contains adult content, with no one under 18 admitted without an adult. Call Gerry Dzuiblinski at 313-845-9817 for more information.

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By SUE SUCHYTA
Eric Bogosian’s “Drinking in America,” which features monologues from characters who rely on drinking or drugs to convince themselves that their fantasy is their reality, opens Friday for a two-weekend run, one weekend later than originally scheduled.

The characters range from a wino on the street to a cocaine-snorting Hollywood talent agent.

Performances are at 8 p.m. on Aug. 23, 24, 29, 30 and 31, and 2 p.m. Aug. 25. The show, directed by Mary Bremer-Beer of Warren, highlights a series of character scenes delivered by people intoxicated with the hedonism of the American Dream.

David Alexander of Redford Township is the pianist and music director, with Gerry Dzuiblinski of Dearborn as technical director.

The show contains adult content, and minors may only attend with a parent or adult guardian.

Call Dzuiblinski at 313-845-9817 for more information.

Bremer-Beer said she wanted to direct “Drinking in America” not only because she likes the show but because it portrays life without sanitizing or censoring it.

“It’s out there to show grit and all,” Bremer-Beer said. “It shows life as it is, and theater imitates life, so these things happen, and it says something about our society today.”

Bremer-Beer added that she also wanted to direct the show because she ran a study abroad program in Greece for 22 years, directing many Greek comedies and tragedies, and she sees Bogosian as a modernistic Greek dramatist.

“The Greeks had everything from incest to human sacrifices, and really looked at what was happening in their society,” Bremer-Beer said. “And that’s what Bogosian does. And this happens to be what’s happening in the bars – what’s going down in life with people who drink and the drug problems that we have. So there’s a correlation, at least in my mind, with the Greeks.”

She added that while many of the monologues are very sad, many of them also are very funny, and that the irony and deeper truths of the script appealed to her as well.

She said some of the male monologues are generic enough to allow women in the cast to perform them, and they have framed the monologues around musical interludes.

The monologue format of the play gives her a great opportunity to work with actors one on one, she said.

“I’ve really enjoyed teaching here,” Bremer-Beer said. “A lot of these students come here and they’re really hungry. They are anxious and eager to learn, and they haven’t had a lot of opportunity. They’ve mostly seen films and TV and they have the same feeling I had as a kid – ‘I want to do that – I want to act.’ And they have big dreams, big aspirations, and they work very hard.”

She said the show’s material might offend some people.

“Theater imitates life, and that’s the thing – and don’t come if you’ve never heard swear words,” Bremer-Beer said.

She added that the show is not appropriate for minors, but that those who attend will see some fine young actors portraying life as it can be in the present day.

Richard Summersett Jr. of Detroit, who portrays a homeless man in “American Dreamer,” said monologues pose a unique challenge for actors since the audience focuses on them exclusively.

“You have the crowd’s attention and everything you do they see,” Summersett said. “And it’s just very nerve-wracking. I have never had that happen before, and it’s an awesome experience but it’s nerve-wracking at the same time.”

Matt Mayes of Trenton said he has had experience with memorizing and performing monologues before when he played the lead, Argan, a hypochondriac, in Moliere’s “The Imaginary Invalid” in high school.

Mayes, who plays a transvestite and phone sex operator in “Candy,” said he is not inviting most of his family to see this show, and he is not sure how his parents would react to seeing him in drag.

He said he has never played a woman on stage before, especially an overtly sexual character in front of a live audience, which he said presents a challenge.

“It’s definitely a stretch,” Mayes said. “Playing this is probably one of the craziest roles I’ve played yet.”

As the musical director, Alexander plays the piano on stage as if performing in the bar, which is the set. In addition to playing songs that share a common theme with the monologues before and after them, he improvises transitional musical interludes as well.

“The better the actors are, the better my ideas are,” Alexander said. “It’s really interesting. When they are really ‘on,’ I get better ideas for interludes and stuff. I always found that fascinating.”

Zach Ross of Dearborn plays two very intense roles. The first is a mobster who is still high from his previous night’s activities with his friends in “Our Gang” in the opening monologue in the first act. He then plays a brooding, opinionated, narcissistic and racist southern preacher in “The Law” in the second act. He said both are the most challenging roles he has ever played.

“It’s very interesting and they are both really, really fun pieces to play,” Ross said.

Act I begins with Ross in “Our Gang,” followed by Judo Manko of Dearborn in “Fever.”

Ahmad Sammas of Dearborn performs in “Melting Pot,” followed by Jamie Pappas of Wyandotte in “No Problems.”

“Candy” features Mayes, followed by Joshua Neilson of Inkster in “Blow.”

The first act concludes with Pappas singing “Let’s Misbehave” and Mayes and Pappas performing “Sunny Side of the Street.”

Act II opens with Alexander and Judy Fletcher of Birmingham performing “Frankie and Johnny,” followed by Summerset in “American Dreamer.”

Alexander performs “Nobody Knows You,” followed by “Godhead” performed by Stefanie Mullen of Dearborn.

Fletcher next performs “Smile,” followed by Ross in “The Law” and Mariah Johnson of Warren with “Blues in the Night.”

Manko performs in “Dirt,” with Alexander following with “Mercy, Mercy Me.”

Maurice Phillips of Detroit performs in “Grace of God,” followed by the closing number, “Lean on Me,” sung by the cast.

Assistant director Natalie Pares, stage manager Zaina Berri of Dearborn and box office manager Tanisha Simmons of Detroit also perform supporting ensemble roles.

Angie Lai of Dearborn Heights and Anas Pasha of Dearborn serve as tech crew, with Scott Ross of Dearborn on lights.

‘JERRY’S GIRLS’ SERVES UP SHOW TUNES AS DAG FUNDRAISER
“Jerry’s Girls,” a musical review of the music of Jerry Herman, will serve up show tunes as a fundraiser for the Downriver Actors Guild building fund at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 20, 21, 27 and 28, and 3 p.m. Sept. 29 at Out of the Box Theatre, 1165 Ford Ave. in Wyandotte.

Tickets are $15 and feature the vocal talents of Deborah and Amanda Aue of Taylor, Michele Devins and Lara Keathley of Southgate and Jami Mullins of Trenton. The women perform in cabaret style with piano and percussion accompaniment.

Herman wrote songs for many Broadway musicals, including “Hello, Dolly!,” “Mack and Mabel,” “Mame,” “A Day in Hollywood/A Night in the Ukraine,” “Milk and Honey” and “La Cage aux Folles.”

Featured hits in “Jerry’s Girls” include the title songs, “Hello Dolly” and “Mame” and “I Am What I Am” from “La Cage aux Folles.”

For more information, go to www.downriveractorsguild.net.

SIGN UP SATURDAY FOR CHILD CAST OF ‘CIRCUS, CIRCUS’
“Circus! Circus!” signups for children ages 3 to 8 who wish to perform in the 25-minute musical begin at 10 a.m. Friday at Out of the Box Theatre, 1165 Ford Ave. in Wyandotte. The cast will be limited to 35 enrollees.

When the circus ringmaster loses his voice, the clowns, jugglers, dancing bears, lions and other performers must find a way to save the day and make a very sad clown smile again.

Enrollment cost is $35 for the first child in a family and $25 for each sibling, plus a $25 adult Downriver Actors Guild membership, which includes two adult show tickets to any performance.

“Circus! Circus!” includes rhyming dialogue and five catchy tunes written for young actors. Rehearsals are on Saturday mornings from 10 a.m. to noon, with Oct. 11 to 13 performances.

For more information, go to www.downriveractorsguild.net.

DATA PRESENTS ‘RANDOM ACTS OF THEATRE’
The Dearborn Area Association presents “Random Acts of Theatre” at 8 p.m. Sept. 6 and 7 at the Ford Community & Performing Arts Center, 15801 Michigan Ave. in Dearborn.

The collection of one act plays and music spotlights local talent from the Dearborn and Dearborn Heights area.

Tickets are $15 for adults and $12 for students and seniors. Call the box office at 313-943-2354 for more information.

The show begins with “Ringmasters/Master of Ceremony” directed by Joan Arrick and featuring Phil Walling, followed by a song from “Kismet.”

It is followed by “The Arrangement,” directed by Cynthia Frabutt, featuring Kori Bielaniec as Maya and Matt Miazgowicz as Jeremy.

“Other Desert Cities,” directed by Karen J. Pritchard, features Jerry Kondraciuk as the narrator, Mary Melonio as Silda, Mark Pritchard as Lyman Wythe, Therese Terns as Polly Wythe, Paul Morgan as Trip and Elisa Noeske as Brooke.

“The Case of the Crushed Petunias,” directed by Nina Young, features Sara Howard as Dorothy Simple and Kyle Lepore as the young man.

“Reader’s Theatre: The Poetic Muse, Patterns, and The Cremation of Sam McGee” is directed by Dianne Bernick and narrated by R. Darrow Bernick.

“The Ballad of 423 and 424,” as directed by Karen J. Pritchard, features Jillian Drapala as Ellen and Cory Chambless as Roderick.

Music from “Chess” is next, followed by “Annie Speaks,” directed by Collette Cullen, with Janet A. Vogel playing Annie Sullivan.

Scene 4 from “Soul Mates,” entitled “Over There,” is directed by Frabutt, and features Amanda Balaka as Kat and Morgan as Jack.

“Caught in the Act,” as directed by Marc Walentowicz, showcase Emily Gedert as Annie and Barret Kaltz as Don.

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