Saturday, November 21, 2015

Playing catch-up: Two posts for the price of one!

With other long-delayed projects not related to theater or journalism now underway, I've gotten a bit behind in my blogging. So with a few minutes to spare, I guess it's time for a little catching up - on two recent shows I've seen!

I'll never look at my local Subway quite the same again...

Last weekend I was finally able to catch "American Hero," the debut production of the Detroit Public Theatre, and if the sold-out house is any indication, founders Courtney Burkett and Sarah Winkler have launched an endeavor that will certainly help increase the city's reputation as a destination-spot for arts and culture - especially along the busy Woodward Avenue strip that ties Midtown to Downtown. Housed in the Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Music Center, home of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, parking is nearby and plentiful, with numerous dining and refreshment options throughout the area both before and after a performance.

In short, it's the perfect place to launch a new theater!

For its inaugural effort, the co-founders chose a rather unusual script - one that has no name recognition, as few people outside the industry have ever heard of it. While that might seem counter-intuitive, their decision is actually a smart move, as it signals their intention to be "fresh and fearless" in their choices - in other words, different from what one might expect from a company that's partnered with a world-renowned institution whose patrons are often unfairly stereotyped as old, white and rich. (The DSO audience on the night I was in the building was anything but, thanks to successful outreach efforts by the orchestra's excellent marketing team. It had one of the most diverse crowds I've seen at any cultural event in recent months.) And isn't it a standard belief that this type of crowd tends to prefer the tried-and-true rather than programs that push boundaries?

But I digress.

"America Hero," then, is the story of a Subway-like sandwich shop whose owner abandons it after its grand opening, leaving its three employees high and dry with no one to lead them. (Or pay them!) Bess Wohl's script, then, is a study of human nature - and in particular, when faced with lemons, do the three lost employees step up, take charge and make lemonade? Or are they squeezed dry by their predicament and fold along with the business?

That's for me to know and you to find out. (But you'd better hurry, as "American Hero" closes Nov. 22.)

What I will say, though, is this: After a long (but very smart) birthing process, Detroit Public Theatre should be proud of its first outing. What was once a rehearsal hall has been transformed into a gem of a black box theater, with perfect sight lines and great acoustics. (One complaint I heard multiple times throughout the performance, though, should be fixed by the next show on the schedule, I've been told: The stadium-style seating isn't raked enough; most people beyond the first level had problems seeing action that took place whenever the actors weren't standing. And with this show, that happened quite a lot!)

The stage for this production is well served by set designer Monika Essen - one of Detroit's crown jewels - whose work is so real that it could almost be moved directly to an available downtown storefront and used to serve hungry customers. And its complimented quite nicely by Neil Koivu's lights.

Burkett's direction kept the show moving, and each of her actors - Milan Malisic, Maggie Meyer, Lisa Michaels and Lynch R. Travis (in multiple roles) - created unique and engaging characters. And while I laughed - a lot - throughout the show, I had trouble hearing one of the actresses, who talked very softly at various times. And I suspect this might have been a slightly "off" night, as it appeared actors were arriving on stage a little behind schedule at times (one actor, for example, was still changing costumes when he entered following a scene change - and the lights had already come up), and there were a few times when the flow of the dialogue didn't seem to gel as it should.

All told, however, I'd give "American Hero" a very solid "B" - a notable grade for a first effort. And the rest of the season - three shows beginning in January with Eric Gutman's "From Broadway to Obscurity" and ending in May with the much-anticipated "Detroit '67" - promises to live up to the founders' goal of offering theatergoers a great variety of programming.

The Detroit Public Theatre has the potential to grow and mature into one of Detroit's leading arts organizations. And I can't wait to be along for the ride!

CLICK HERE for complete show information!

No fear here: Only masters at work

Although the show has been closed for a few weeks - I attended its final performance - I wanted to acknowledge the superb work of Sandra Birch and John Seibert in the best-I've-ever-seen production of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" at Performance Network Theatre.

This is a script that's not for the easily intimidated, as author Edward Albee's play is a roller coaster ride of emotions for actors to travel - and one false step can bring down an entire production. But director Suzi Regan had two aces up her sleeve - namely the multiple award-winning chops of Birch and Seibert - and each proved why they sit among the upper echelon of Michigan-based talent.

At first I felt bad for the other two actors in the play - Nick Yocum and Victoria Walters Gilbert - who, initially, must have been intimidated by the two powerhouses. But they, too, were along for the ride, and guess what? Rise to the challenge they did!

Together, then, the four served audiences with one of the finest nights of theater I've experienced in a while. (Jennifer Maiseloff's fine set deserves accolades, as well!)

Whether or not the production will become a catalyst for audiences to return to the financially ailing Network in greater numbers than in recent times isn't yet known. But if quality matters, it should - and I'm keeping my fingers, toes and eyes crossed that the Network will be here for years to come!

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Fore! A sweet spot in Tipping Point's season

After three weeks away from all things theater - retirement makes it quite easy to slip away and do other things, I've discovered - I found myself with a change of plans for last night. Although there were several shows running that I wanted to see - and I had already turned down tickets for one of them when I thought I had other arrangements for the evening - one stood out above the others: "The Foursome" at Tipping Point Theatre.

Why that was is easy to explain:

  1. It's directed by Dave Davies, who in my opinion is one of the finest comedic actors and funniest improvisers working in the industry today (and one of the nicest, too);
  2. It features Patrick O'Connor Cronin, whose work I've been a fan of since his college days (and who's also one heck of a nice guy);
  3. And since Tipping Point is among the handful of theaters in the market that consistently produces work of the highest quality, I knew I'd be in for an enjoyable night at the theater.
And it certainly was!

Jenn McKee's review for pretty much says it all; there's little I could quibble about (except I found playwright Norm Foster's ending more satisfying than she did). So you can read it here for all the details.

Here's what I'll add, though:

What impressed me most about the production was how finely tuned and in-sync the actors were from start to finish; Brandon Grantz, Patrick Loos, Andrew Papa and the aforementioned Cronin were thoroughly believable as college buddies who get together the day after their 15-year reunion to play 18 holes of golf. Each took his character as written by Foster and crafted a unique personality that never wavered. Especially notable were the facial expressions - some of which were almost imperceptible, but were still very revealing - and each man's body language spoke volumes about what each was thinking.

And the well-thought-out bits of business director Davies gave them added much to Foster's words.

In short, because the actors were having so much fun playing off one another, we in the audience were also having fun - and the vocal response from the sold-out crowd proved it.

(As an aside, I was a bit concerned that the last open seat I was given placed me in the front row, where my shiny pate would draw attention to the fact that I was in the house. I've been told numerous times over the years that my presence makes actors nervous, even on those occasions when I'm not there on official critic business - and I've seen it play out onstage over the years with noticeable results. So I generally prefer to sit back a row or two. Yesterday's visit didn't seem to phase them at all!) 

As Jenn points out, all of the technical elements are quite strong. But Monika Essen's set - with video projections that move us from hole to hole - is one of the most original concepts I've seen in ages.

Unfortunately, there are only two performances left. So if you'd like to see this highly entertaining "male tale" (the opposite of a "chick flick," you see) - and if there are tickets still available - click here for details!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Your help is needed

As most readers of my blog already know, Ann Arbor's Performance Network has had financial struggles for quite some time - culminating in May 2014 with the dismissal of its staff once the board learned just how deep the debts really were. (Initially, the debt was thought to be approximately $250,000; the amount turned out to be substantially higher, I've since been told.)

New management was brought in, shows were produced under tight budget constraints, and programming was expanded to include different genres in order to attract a broader and more diverse audience.

Unfortunately, many regular patrons felt burned by the board and previous management - tickets and season subscriptions were bought and paid for, for example, for a show that was canceled midstream and a season that wouldn't be produced - and so many stayed away from the newly re-opened theater. And worse, donations - the lifeblood of every theater - dropped dangerously low.

But as management proved its sincerity and produced quality work, seats began to fill up. But donations have not returned to levels that are required to sustain the theater.

And so Performance Network is in danger of closing. Again.

Personally, I hate that there's a chance we could lose one of our state's most honored theaters. Its loss would be a major blow to Metro Detroit's arts and culture scene and a significant loss to the employees and artists who work there.

I've said this both publicly and privately many times this past year: that if anyone can return Performance Network to financial and artistic health, its the management team of John Manfredi and Suzi Regan. Not only do they have the necessary skills to accomplish the near-impossible, their efforts have been assisted by numerous friends and theater lovers who believe in them and their mission.

As a result, countless hours (and sleepless nights) have been spent tirelessly trying to save this important institution - and now it's time for others to step up and help.

Here's the plea I received today from John and Suzi. Please read it - and then consider helping with whatever donation you can afford. The arts have the power to help change the world - and my readers now have the power to help make that happen in the tiny corner we share of it.

I thank you in advance for your consideration - and I'm sure John and Suzi do as well...


UPDATE: For a complete look at this situation, read JENN MCKEE's story in today's Ann Arbor News

* * * * * * * * *

Friends and supporters of the Performance Network: we need your help. Due to immediate cash flow constraints, we are sadly in danger of closing. On the heels of a truly tremendous start to our 2015-2016 season, earning public and critically acclaimed artistic success, this is not a flag we want to wave. Yet, wave it we must.
We need the community's affirmation, support and financial help. Like all nonprofits, Performance
Network needs donations to thrive. Absent your generous donation today, it might be curtains for the Network.

Under a new executive and creative leadership team, the new Network has offered 250+ performance days, partnerships with the Ann Arbor Film Festival, University of Michigan Penny Stamps School of Art and Design, a Youth Summer Camp recently featured on PBS, nominations for Industry Awards in the State of Michigan, and generated over $250,000, farm to table, right here in our local economy.

As a revered cultural icon, we hope that the Network means as much to this community as Ann Arbor means to us. Countless supporters have attended shows and given to recent campaigns for donations.  Even so, our challenge is that donations at the Network are down 2/3 this year. The Network needs donations to survive. Cultural institutions rarely, if ever, exist on ticket revenue alone.

We hope to continue to offer you the professional, high-quality theater that closely rivals any Broadway production right here in your backyard. We will endeavor to ensure the Network’s vitality by continuing to offer readings of new works, musical events, film festivals, and holiday shows in addition to a full theatre season. Our 2015-2016 season opened to rave reviews with Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.

Will you join us? Performance Network needs to generate $50,000 in the next 45 days.  If having a local company continue to produce and create jobs in Michigan is important to you, act now. There is no better time to help. Please go to to make a donation today or call us at 734.663.0681.

Yours in the Arts,

John Manfredi, Executive Director
Suzi Regan, Artistic Director

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Food for thought at Matrix

It's not often that I react so negatively towards a character in a play, but Kaitlyn Valor-Bourque's performance in "A Kid Like Jake" at Detroit's Matrix Theatre had that serious of an impact on me. And not because it was an awful performance this past Saturday night; in fact, it was just the opposite.

In Daniel Pearle's drama, Valor-Bourque plays Alex, the mother of a highly intelligent 4-year-old boy who'd rather dress up as Snow White for Halloween and obsess over Cinderella than toss a ball or play with other boys. And while Alex is fine with that in the confines of her home, she's faced with making a tough decision: Should she or should she not mention her son's uniqueness in the applications she's preparing to get her son into one of Manhattan's uber-competitive kindergarten programs?

She should, says Jake's pre-school teacher, Judy (played by Krystle Futrell) - a friend and veteran of the admissions process - as his "gender-variant play" would give him an extra point in the diversity column. But Alex is unconvinced; why put a target on her son's back before he's even admitted into one of the schools? And lurking beneath the surface is Alex's hope that Jake's behavior might be nothing more than a "phase" he's going through; that over time, he might change into what society expects of little boys.

Jake's dad, however, is more concerned about his wife's increasing fixation on the admissions process than he is about his boy's behavior. A therapist, Greg (Patrick Hanley) seems to accept the fact that his son could turn out to be gay (or not) or transgender (or not). It doesn't matter; he'd love him anyway. "He's not exactly Johnny Basketball," he acknowledges about his son.

For that matter, neither is Greg, which - in the heat of an argument - Alex nastily points out. And as the friction between the two rapidly escalates - and Alex challenges Judy's sincerity in obtaining the best placement possible for Jake - reports begin to trickle in: Jake is increasingly acting out, and it's looking very unlikely that the tonier schools will accept him.

And the thought that Jake may have to attend - ick! - public school is something Alex won't accept!

Pearle's script smashes together a number of hot-topic issues, not all of which generate much sympathy from the audience. (In my day, kids just showed up at the kindergarten nearest their house; there were no hoops to jump through, no snooty people making judgments about you. And the average middle-class theatergoer will likely find amusing the dog-eat-dog ferocity at which the upper classes will fight to keep their spoiled kids from mingling with our kids in kindergarten.)

But class isn't the only issue at stake here. How does one parent a child like Jake, Pearle asks. What's best for him? Is it better to let him "be himself" (and maybe outgrow his girl-like tendencies)? Or should he be seen by a specialist who works with children like Jake?

It's a tough call, to be sure. And in this case, Alex is dead set against sending Jake to see a specialist. (In her mind, it's acknowledging there is a problem that needs fixing instead of helping Jake and the family explore the range of full possibilities.) So instead, she becomes a Mama Bear on steroids, not seeing that the protection she's trying to provide her cub is instead causing more problems - potentially destroying not only her friendship with Judy and her marriage to Greg, but Jake's health and well-being, as well.

So why did Valor-Bourque's performance dig so deeply into my psyche, you might be wondering? Because I - like a lot of little boys - was Jake in my early years. At school, I was the perpetually skinny, uncoordinated and sensitive kid that was always the last to be picked for anything athletic, was one of the few kids not involved in little league, and was far more artistically inclined than anything else - and, oh, guess what? I turned out to be gay.

What separates my story from Jake's, however, is my mother. Yes, she tried to protect me. (She even duked it out with a fifth-grade teacher who seemed to delight in harassing me and several other kids; he was ultimately fired.) But she also understood that pretty much every kid gets teased and bullied at some point - that's human nature, which many people won't admit - and so she gave me the tools and skills to deal with it. And she made sure I knew I was loved.

As such, we never had the Sturm und Drang that Jake was living with, and so I was free to be me (and happily so) - and I think I turned out just fine.

Jake, however, may not. (There's no resolution to the play, so we don't know for sure.) With a mother hell-bent to go to war and destroy everything in her path, what signal is sent to her son who instinctively knows he's different? Will he believe he's a disappointment to his mother and behave accordingly? Will he loathe who he thinks he is? Will he find solace in negative behavior as he grows older?

As the script shows, actions have consequences - and Valor-Bourque's rigid and powerful portrayal helps prove that even the best of intentions often have unintended (and negative) results. (One also has to ask: Was Alex more concerned about what people would think of her than what they'd think of Jake?)

And so that's why I reacted so strongly against Alex (and not Valor-Bourque, who took the written words and breathed a fiery life into them). My sympathies were with Jake, who was simply being himself and facing a rocky road ahead of him - and as such, I wanted to shake some sense into her because of the damage she was inflicting upon her son, her family and her friends. (Luckily, the fine folks at Matrix didn't have to restrain me.)

The bottom line is this: It's rare for a show to have that much of an impact on me - and for all the right reasons. With powerful acting, insightful direction by David Wolber, and a thought-provoking script, "A Kid Like Jake" is a fine opening to Matrix Theatre's 25th anniversary season. If I have a quibble, though, it's with the scene changes during which I wasn't always sure what was going on. (Although I like thematic scene changes, these may have been too artsy for me.) So check it out and let me know what you think...

For performance dates and times, CLICK HERE!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

A special night with Vicki Lawrence, Mama and a special fan named Elyse

As a kid in grade school way back in the dark ages (also known as the 1960s), I was allowed to stay up late only one school night a week - and that was to watch "The Carol Burnett Show." Every Monday night at 10, my mother and I would grab some munchies and something cold to drink, take our respective corners on the couch, and let our daily troubles fade away as Carol and her gang kept us entertained.

I loved the show and faithfully watched it throughout its 11 years of merriment. What didn't end then, however, was my fascination with the career of Vicki Lawrence, who inspired many theater kids to dream that one day we too might find ourselves discovered by a famous star and be given an opportunity of a lifetime. (Vicki is only a handful of years older than me; she was a high school senior when she started on the show in 1967, and I was a seventh grader.) That didn't happen to the vast majority of us, of course, but as a big fan of Vicki's work, watching her grow and mature as a performer was a treat - and the "Mama's Family" spin-off and her daytime talk show were part of my TV viewing habits for several years to come.

So when I learned the Macomb Center was opening its 2015-16 season with "Vicki Lawrence & Mama: A Two-Woman Show," I knew I had to get tickets. And so I did.

Then, a few days ago, I received a call from Sandy Hazelton-Pianko of the Macomb Center for the Performing Arts, who invited me to attend a private meeting between Vicki and a special fan that was to take place a short while before the night's sold-out performance. And, of course, I said yes - I'd love to be there!

The fan was 28-year-old Elyse Zebra, who has Downs Syndrome. She's been a major fan of Vicki's for more than 15 years, ever since the first time she laid eyes on Thelma Harper, the role Vicki played on "Mama's Family." And so Elyse's family - who bought tickets for the show - contacted the Macomb Center to see if it was possible to arrange the meeting. It was - but Elyse didn't know her dream to meet Vicki would come true until she walked through the door of the Macomb Center's intimate black-box theater and discovered her favorite star was standing there waiting to greet her.

It was a wonderful and memorable moment - one that impressed me for several reasons. For starters, it was great that the Macomb Center staff was agreeable to arrange such a life-changing experience for this young woman. But more importantly, in an era that's saturated with the antics and bad behavior of its "stars," it's moments like this that make you appreciate the many positive things stars do in secret or when the public isn't watching. Vicki didn't have to meet this young woman, but she did - and then she warmly spent plenty of time with Elyse to truly make it a memorable event for her.

If that's not a class act, then I don't know what is.

* * * * * * * * * *

So how was "Vicki Lawrence & Mama: A Two-Woman Show," you might be wondering? As my guest said immediately after the performance, "That was one of the funniest things I've seen in a long time!" (And that's from someone who wasn't very familiar with Vicki or Mama!) I agreed 100% with her, as I laughed through both halves: the first with Vicki and the second with Mama.

* * * * * * * * * *

Here are two videos from yesterday's meeting: The first is Elyse's arrival, and then her conversation with Vicki.

And for a bonus, since many people aren't aware this exists, the third video is a complete CBS special from 1982 that takes a more serious look at Mama and her family - which helps explain the dynamics that shaped their lives...

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Always a critic

It's no secret that my theater-going has slowed down from 75-100 shows a season to barely a couple dozen these past two years, thanks mostly to health issues and a heavy workload in 2013 and 2014. But as I looked through the list of shows I did see in recent years, I discovered I've been to Two Muses in West Bloomfield more than any other. Why that's so is easy to explain: They do consistently good work, and Diane Hill regularly invites me to their performances.

So as I gear up to resume the role of cranky critic and all-around theater gadfly - both for and elsewhere - it came as no surprise that I found myself last weekend back at Two Muses to check out "Always A Bridesmaid," a comedy it co-produced with The Dio, where it recently ran as a dinner theater show. From what I heard through the grapevine (and on Facebook, of course), its run in Pinckney was quite popular, with many sold-out performances - and I can see why: Frothy comedies usually do well at dinner theaters, as people want to be entertained rather than emotionally challenged between the main course and dessert. And "Always a Bridesmaid" certainly fits that description.

The question I had, then, was how would the show translate to an audience that's become used to comedies and dramas with more of a bite to them? (Two Muses' previous two productions were "Clybourne Park" and "God of Carnage.")

Well, I'm happy to report the audience seated around me laughed at all the right places and - thanks to my eavesdropping - everyone seemed to enjoy the production quite a bit.

And for good reason: "Always a Bridesmaid" is an entertaining show! And if there's a standout performer, it's Sonja Marquis.

The story of four high-school girlfriends who take an oath on the night of their senior prom to always stand-up in each others' weddings, Marquis is simply delicious as the out-going, but self-centered Monette who tests everyone's patience and loyalty through multiple marriages - many of which were her own. But as husbands come and go, the girls learn one important lesson: Close friends truly are forever - even if they drive you crazy!

Despite it fulfilling Two Muses' mission of providing opportunities for women theater artists - it's a six-person, all-female cast - "Always a Bridesmaid" is not a typical Two Muses production; rather, it's the theatrical equivalent of a "chick flick," which I don't associate with the theater. (Not that there's anything wrong with "chick flicks" - they have their place in the entertainment pantheon. But Two Muses aims higher than that.)

All six women handle their material quite well, however, and Steve DeBruyne's direction mines every laugh possible from the script. I did, through, find myself momentarily distracted by his casting choices. (Not to offend anyone, but I didn't believe for a second that the four best friends were high-school seniors together.)

And unless I missed a major plot point, I'm not sure why authors Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope and Jamie Wooten placed their comedy in the South; nothing about the production seems to require specific geographic placement. (The story wouldn't be harmed one bit if the women were located in Seattle, Los Angeles, Newark or Detroit; if it was, the actresses wouldn't have to bother with those pesky Southern accents.)

The set by Bill Mandt is charming - my grandmother had similar wallpaper in her flat - and Norma Polk's costumes help define each character.

So what's my bottom line? I've never been disappointed with a show at Two Muses, and that trend continues with "Always a Bridesmaid." And I can't wait to see what Diane and company do with "The Light in the Piazza" that opens Nov. 6. (I'm also hoping to catch The Dio's current show, "The Drowsy Chaperone," which runs through Oct. 18. I've heard nothing but great things about it!)

For more information about "Always a Bridesmaid," CLICK HERE.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Young actors are totally convincing as best friends

I have to hand it to the young actors who are currently starring in "BFs!" - the impressive two-hander at Slipstream Theatre Initiative in Hazel Park. For almost two hours, the story unfolds in a bedroom that's in a performance space barely the same size as the living room inside my typical 1950s suburban ranch (yes, that small!), where Maxim Vinogradov (left, as Brad) and Jackson Abohasira (right, as Jack) must age their characters four years while struggling to come to terms at their own speeds with their sexuality - all while performing mere inches away from the 28 or so voyeurs sitting quietly around them.

Even the most seasoned veterans of the stage would find such a scenario a bit intimidating. But these two teenage performers - one a senior in high school and the other a college freshman, I was told last night - understood the need to "keep it real" - that is, to not play to the back to the house, but to act as naturally as one possibly can in a setting that demands total intimacy of its performers.

The result, then, were performances that seemed so real and so authentic that it was easy to forget one was watching a play - but instead were peeking in on private conversations between best friends since seventh grade.

Although I was not there in an official capacity, I nonetheless found myself looking at the play through the eyes of a critic. In particular, I kept close watch on the reactions of each actor when he wasn't the one speaking. Did noises and movement in the room distract him? Was he totally "into the moment" and truly listening to the other actor? Were his eyes connecting with those of his fellow actor?  Because the slightest deviation could ruin the moment in such an intimate performance space, how successful were these boys - these young men - in sustaining their characters throughout a two-hour span of time, I wondered?

Only once did an actor break - albeit for a second, and so did many in the audience - thanks to a door that unexpectedly slammed shut in the back of the house. (Did someone leave the room, I wondered?) For the rest of the time, these actors performed a miracle: They transformed themselves into Jack and Brad, alone in Jack's bedroom, sharing their experiences, their hopes, their dreams and their fears as only best friends can.

Because I'm familiar with the source material - the play is based on the book autobiographical "Band Fags" written by Frank Anthony Polito, whose name began gracing reviews on in recent months - I entered the theater curious how Polito took a book with a plethora of interesting characters and whittled it down to only two people. Would anything important get lost in the translation? Would it get boring hearing about these other folks rather than watching them tell their own parts of the story directly to us?

Not at all. In fact, the story unfolded quite well, with the boys filling in whatever information was needed for us to understand who everyone was and how they related to the plot. If there was anything important missing, I sure didn't detect it - nor did I hear anyone asking plot-related questions as they left the theater. (You can often gauge the potential success of a show or lack thereof by eavesdropping on audience comments after a performance, and in this case, everything was positive. However it should be noted that many at Saturday night's performance were friends and neighbors of Polito's, which might skew their reactions. Heck, I even discovered that one of his neighbors is an old friend I hadn't seen in over a decade, which made the night even more special!)

For a show that was a last-minute addition to the Slipstream schedule, Polito should be quite pleased with the results. (It was the Michigan premiere - but not for the lack of trying: He had shopped the script around for quite awhile, but with no bites.) And director Bailey Boudreau should be equally proud of his production. His insightful eye kept the emotions real, and his use of the limited space kept his audience engaged in the production at all times.

(In all honesty, it probably kept some of us TOO engaged - especially me, who was evicted from my original choice of seats when I got up to say hello to my long-lost friend, only to ultimately end up in a musical-chairs-like scenario in which I was left with one of the few seats still available when the show began. So where was that? Right next to Jack's desk and wall calendar, where I found myself pretty much rubbing shoulders with him at the start of many scenes, and where at one point Brad was at my feet with a lit candle holding a seance. Luckily for me, my ancient stage training kicked in, and I stayed deathly still whenever the action was close by so that I wouldn't steal the focus. It was tempting, though, to blow out that candle...)

"BFs!" continues through Sept. 27. For complete show details, CLICK HERE.