Fall theater season launches with compelling dramas

Photo by Megan Buckley-Ball. Krystle Futrell (left) from Santa Clarita, Calif., as Judy, and Kaitlyn Valor-Bourque of Dearborn as Alex perform in “A Kid Like Jake” through Oct. 11 at the Matrix Theatre, 2730 Bagley in Detroit. For tickets or more information, call 313-967-0999 or go to matrixtheatre.org.

Photo by Megan Buckley-Ball. Krystle Futrell (left) from Santa Clarita, Calif., as Judy, and Kaitlyn Valor-Bourque of Dearborn as Alex perform in “A Kid Like Jake” through Oct. 11 at the Matrix Theatre, 2730 Bagley in Detroit. For tickets or more information, call 313-967-0999 or go to matrixtheatre.org.

By SUE SUCHYTA

Whether set in a historical context or ripped from the headlines, stories brought to the stage provide a chance to reflect on their message and process the dramatic context more fully than is possible from the 30-second sound bites heard on the news. The fall theater season launches with compelling stories that entertain and provoke thoughtful discussion.

PGD PRESENTS MOVING ‘MIRACLE WORKER’

William Gibson’s 1960 Tony Award-winner for Best Play, “The Miracle Worker,” opens the Players Guild of Dearborn’s 88th season with a heart-warming, family friendly show audiences will enjoy.

Directed by Kirk Haas of Inkster, the drama tells the story of teacher Anne Sullivan, who rescued blind, deaf and mute Helen Keller from her inner prison.

The pace picks up quickly after the first act, and the story is engrossing, entertaining, and appropriate for all ages.

Madeline Baker, 12, of Wyandotte, as Helen Keller, Meg Kisch of Dearborn as Anne Sullivan, and Kristen Campbell of Canton Township as Kate Keller anchor the cast with their strong, believable performances.

James Mayne of Farmington Hills showcases his clever wit as Helen’s older brother James Keller, and Tom Varitek of Dexter is entertaining and endearing as Captain Keller, the frustrated father used to giving orders in the military, now chaffing at his lack of control over his own household.
The lighting left some spots in the dark as actors moved downstage left opening weekend, due to burned out Fresnel lights.

The sound left something to be desired as well: the echo-effect in Anne’s flashback scenes made it challenging to understand all of the dialogue; the crying baby sounded tinny and mechanical, and the horse-drawn carriage sound should have gone from faint to loud, and not over-powered a conversation between Anne and James.

Fortunately, PGD recently received a grant from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs that will let it purchase new state-of-the-art sound equipment for use later in the season.

The talented cast also includes Tom Sparrow of Allen Park as Anagnos; Dearborn residents Connie Harrison as Aunt Ev, Diane Cliff as Viney, and Peter Moore, 14, as Percy; and Kate Varitek, 9, of Dexter as Martha.

Playing blind girls are Christina Bertucci, 11, and Alia Elhajj of Dearborn, and Jamie Paschke, 11, of Canton Township.

Also in the ensemble are Jeff Bartos, Richard Moore, and David Wood of Dearborn; Leah Scarpace of Dearborn Heights; Cole Haas of Inkster, and Tim Carney of Livonia.

O’Reilly Ebaugh of Dearborn, a golden retriever, is a welcome and well-behaved addition to the cast. At the opening night after-glow, he greeted guests with his leash in his mouth, trying to find a walking partner.

Remaining shows are at 8 p.m. Oct. 2 and 3, and 2:30 p.m. Oct. 4 at the theater, 21730 Madison in Dearborn.

For tickets and more information, call 313-561-TKTS or go to playersguildofdearborn.org.

PGD ANNOUNCES ‘WHITE CHRISTMAS’ CAST

Director Brian Townsend of Dearborn announced the Players Guild of Dearborn cast for Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas” last week.
The musical runs four weekends, Nov. 13 to Dec. 6, at the playhouse, 21730 Madison in Dearborn.

For tickets or more information, call 313-561-TKTS or go to playersguildofdearborn.org.

Dearborn residents Lindel Salow and Greg Viscomi will play Bob Wallace and Phil Davis, respectively, with Kathleen Duffy of Royal Oak as Betty Haynes and Carissa Madley of Redford Township as Judy Haynes.

Dave Wood of Dearborn is General Waverly, with Denise Kowalewski-Tucker of Livonia as Martha Watson, and Jamie Paschke, 11, of Canton Township as Susan Waverly.

Paul Bruce of Dearborn is Ralph Sheldrake, with Juliette Abbott of Livonia as Rita and Meg Kisch of Dearborn as Rhoda.

The ensemble includes Alexis Mosley and Tom Sparrow of Allen Park; Trevor Berry, Diane Cliff, Allison Crawford, Melissa Foster, Katie Garber, Katelyn Harrison, Casey Irwin, Maddie Kaplan, Adam Lynch and Ashley Youngheim of Dearborn; Amanda Chatila of Dearborn Heights; Anneka Hernandez of Melvindale; and Tim Carney and Jeff Lokken of Livonia.

OBTC’S ‘SHADOW BOX’ IS STRONG START TO SECOND SEASON

The Open Book Theatre Company kicked off its second season with Michael Cristofer’s Pulitzer Prize- and Tony Award-winning play, “The Shadow Box.”

The story provokes both laughter and tears, as the talented cast give a glimpse of the lives of three terminally ill patients and their families for a brief period of time in a hospice facility as they confront their mortality in both touching and irreverent ways.

The group’s well-performed shows deserve larger houses than the dozen people who watched opening Saturday. The language and subject matter are not appropriate for young children.

Directed by Topher Alan Payne of Royal Oak, the talented, strong cast includes Ethan Kankula of Wyandotte as Steve, Wendy Katz Hiller of Ann Arbor as Felicity, Lisa Melinn of Berkley as Beverly, Bailey Boudreau of Ferndale as Mark, Krista Schaefer Ewbank of Grosse Ile Township as Maggie, Dennis Kleinsmith of Lathrup Village as Brian, Jaclynn Cherry of Madison Heights as Agnes, Jan Cartwright of Novi as the interviewer, and Sean Paraventi of Redford Township as Joe.

Remaining show are at 8 p.m. Oct. 1 and 2, and 2 p.m. Oct. 3 at Penelope’s Venue, 12219 Dix Toledo Road in Southgate.

Tickets are $20 for adults, and $15 for students and seniors. To order, call 734-288-7753 or go to theshadowbox.bpt.me. For more information about the theater, go to openbooktheatrecompany.net.

‘A KID LIKE JAKE’ LAUNCHES 25TH SEASON AT THE MATRIX

In a story mirroring recent headlines, The Matrix Theatre Company launches its 25th season with “A Kid Like Jake,” a thought-provoking reality check of what it is like to parent a child who may identify with a gender different than the body they were born in.

When two young parents try to get their 4-year-old son into an exclusive Manhattan kindergarten, Jake’s fondness for Cinderella and dressup are called into question, and his parents are forced to consider what is “normal” in a complex world of gender, privilege and class issues.

Directed by David Wolber of Harper Woods, the cast includes Patrick Hanley of Livonia as Greg, Jake’s father; Kaitlyn Valor-Bourque of Dearborn as Alex, Jake’s mother; Krystle Futrell of Santa Clarita, Calif., as Judy, Jake’s pre-school teacher; and Allison Megroet of Berkley as a nurse.

The 1 hour, 50 minute show runs without an intermission. It is a well-performed, compelling story in an intimate setting, riveting audiences with its quick pace and emotional intensity.

Valor-Bourque and Futrell are standouts in the strong cast.

Amy Schneider’s lighting threw too much color onto Valor-Borque’s light colored hair, making it seem bluish gray at times.

The older building, which has a dirt basement, has a moldy odor, which may be an issue with sensitive individuals.

Remaining shows are at 8 p.m. Oct. 2, 3, 9 and 10, and at 2 p.m. Oct. 4 and 11 at the Matrix Theatre, 2730 Bagley in Detroit.

Tickets are $15 to $20. To order, call 313-967-0599 or go to matrixtheatre.org.