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Published: Friday, 4/22/2005

A plethora of productions

BY NANCIANN CHERRY
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Maeve O Reilly (Jamie Muzillo) blows her top when things don t go as planned during
The O Reilly Family Reunion, which opens tonight in Adrian.
Maeve O Reilly (Jamie Muzillo) blows her top when things don t go as planned during The O Reilly Family Reunion, which opens tonight in Adrian.
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The O'Reillys are having a family reunion, and everyone is invited.

In reality, the Croswell Opera House is presenting The O'Reilly Family Reunion as the finale for its 2004-2005 theater season.

"A lot of it was written by Don Wilson, the man who wrote Sleepy Hollow for us earlier this season," said Cindy Farnham, who co-directs with Emily Newsome. The production is co-sponsored by the Lenawee County Fair and Event Grounds.

The Croswell play committee knew it wanted to do a piece of interactive theater but could find only Tony & Tina's Wedding or slightly altered versions of it, she said.

So the idea was conceived to have a family reunion, which is an event that encompasses all ages. The audience will be part of the extended family or close family friends.

Farnham refused to say too much about the plot, because there are quite a few surprises in store. Basically, however, Maeve O'Reilly (Jamie Muzillo) has planned a family reunion in honor of the wedding anniversary of her parents, Joseph and Martha. A control freak, Maeve has planned things down to the tiniest detail.

Unfortunately, fate and her family conspire against Maeve. One of many things that go wrong is that the caterer mixes up the order, and instead of providing the Irish foods that the O'Reillys love, the meal is an Italian feast, consisting of lasagna, stuffed salmon, salad, and dessert (all of which are included in the price of the $40 ticket).

Among the family members adding to the confusion are Colm, the eldest son who left home at 16 and now, many years later, has returned with claims of being a circus clown; Neil, who is married with five children, and Rory, who left college and entered into a relationship with his psychology prof. Also showing up are twins who share a driver's license; an exotic dancer, an evil genius, and an FBI investigator.

The large cast represents the southeast Michigan towns of Adrian, Blissfield, Brooklyn, Clinton, Riga, Somerset, and Tecumseh.

The reunion will be held at the Lenawee County Fair and Event Grounds, in the Ag Building, which is often used for wedding receptions and family reunions. Catering is by the Lenawee Intermediate School District, Farnam said, adding that it's delicious.

Just as in real reunions, all ages are welcome.

The Croswell Opera House presents "The O'Reilly Family Reunion" tonight through May 1 in the Ag Building of the Lenawee County Fair and Event Grounds, 602 North Dean St., Adrian. Performances are 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $40 and include a full meal. Information: 517-264-7469.

This isn't the Muppets, said Bradford Clark, associate professor of theater at Bowling Green State University.

He was referring to A New Puppet Order: Rise of the Uber-Marionettes, which is scheduled Thursday and April 29 at BGSU.

"The production came out of a puppetry and performance course that I teach," he said. His students narrowed down a lot of ideas until they came up with the show, which ranges from surreal to full-out goofy to sweet.

"We are workshopping one piece, Chalk Remains by Michael Malkin of California. The rest of the works are student-inspired and created."

Puppetry has a long and rich history in Europe and Asia, but it has never gotten that sort of recognition or respect in the United States, where the word conjures up thoughts of Jim Hensen's Muppets or Punch and Judy shows.

"Think Avenue Q (last year's Tony Award-winning musical) and The Lion King (1998's Tony-winning musical)," he said. "That's what puppetry means to this generation."

Among the various techniques that will be demonstrated will be shadow puppetry, tabletop puppetry, and glass puppets, which started out as hand-blown glass marionettes but evolved into rod puppets in order to give their operators more control.

The show is short, about 45 minutes, although a few improv pieces may make it a bit longer. It is geared toward college students, but all ages are welcome. There's nothing inappropriate, Clark said, but some of the scenes are long and quiet and may not hold the interest of young audience members.

"A New Puppet Order: Rise of the Uber-Marionettes" is scheduled at 8 p.m. Thursday and April 29 in BGSU's Joe E. Brown Theatre in University Hall. Tickets are $7. Information: 419-372-2719.

What happens when "they lived happily ever after"?

That's the premise of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's Into the Woods, which opens Wednesday at Ohio Northern University.

Favorite fairy tale characters such as Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack of bean-stalk fame, Rapunzel, and two Princes Charming are brought to life in the musical that opened on Broadway in 1987, won multiple Tony Awards, and became one of Sondheim's longest-running shows.

With songs such as "Children Will Listen," "Giants in the Sky," and "Agony," the show has become a favorite of ambitious community theater troupes.

Ohio Northern's production includes a cast of 20 students, more than 30 constructing scenery and working behind the scenes, and a 15-piece orchestra.

"Into the Woods" opens Wednesday in Biggs Theatre of Ohio Northern University's Freed Center for the Performing Arts in Ada. Performances are 8 p.m. Wednesday through April 30 and 2 p.m. May 1. Tickets are $15 for adults, $12 for seniors and students, and $9 for children 12 and younger. Information: 419-772-1900.

If it's April, it's time for baseball. And if it's time for baseball, Damn Yankees can't be far behind.

The Fort Findlay Playhouse is presenting the musical by George Abbott, Douglass Wallop, Richard Alder, and Jerry Ross. It's about a fan of the hapless baseball cellar-dwellers, the Washington Senators, who sells his soul to the devil in order to beat the New York Yankees and get his team to first place.

Starring in the production are John Pace as Joe Boyd, Jeff Opperman as Joe Hardy, Dawn Rose as Lola, and Ron Boose as Mr. Applegate, the devil. Notable songs include "Whatever Lola Wants, Lola Gets," "A Little Brains, A Little Talent," and "Shoeless Joe from Hannibal, Mo."

"Damn Yankees" opens Thursday and runs through May 14 in the Fort Findlay Playhouse, 300 West Sandusky St., Findlay. Performances are 8 p.m. April 28-30, May 5-7, and May 11-14. Matinees are May 1 and 8. Tickets are $15. Information: 419-422-4624.

Contact Nanciann Cherry at: ncherry@theblade.com or 419-724-6130.



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