Easter weekend is generally a slow time for stage productions, but Ann Arbor is fighting that trend. Three shows open there in the coming week.
At the University of Michigan, the department of theater and drama closes its season with Trafford Tanzi, a comedy about the battle of the sexes - literally.
Claire Luckham sets her play in 1970s England. The action takes place in a wrestling ring, where Tanzi has challenged her husband, Dean, to a match, with the loser being required to do the housework.
Luckham wrote the play in 1978 for Liverpool's Everyman Theatre. "I'm interested in women's powerlessness and how by taking responsibility for their own lives they can challenge it," she has been quoted as saying.
Tanzi's parents tried to rear her to be feminine and embrace the roles of a wife and mother. Tanzi, however, had other ideas. She grew up as a tomboy, married a professional wrestler, and eventually became a champion in the sport as well. Trafford Tanzi - Trafford refers to a working-class neighborhood of Manchester, England - follows Tanzi's journey from young girl to a woman who spurns traditional roles.
The play is divided into 10 rounds, each of which ends with a wrestling bell. The audience is encouraged to cheer and boo, just as if they were at a real match.
Directed by Malcolm Tulip, an assistant professor of theater and drama, the cast includes Arielle Goldman of Potomac, Md., as Tanzi; Louis Marino of Winstead, Conn., as Dean Rebel, and Torrey Wigfield of Painesville, Ohio, as the referee.
Also performing will be Erin Cousins of Muskegon, Mich., Kelsey Lappa of Alameda, Calif., Nicholas Strauss-Matathia of Weston, Conn., Aime Garcia of Cumming, Ga., and Charlotte Raines of New York City.
"Trafford Tanzi" is scheduled at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 2 p.m. Sundays through April 11 in Arthur Miller Theatre of the Walgreen Drama Center, 1226 Murfin Ave., Ann Arbor. Tickets are $24 for general admission and $9 for UM students with ID. Information: 734-764-2538.
Performance Network Theatre, Ann Arbor's only resident professional troupe, begins previews of Little Shop of Horrors tonight.
Based on the 1960 film about a florist's assistant who discovers an unusual - and very hungry - plant, the show features a book and lyrics by Howard Ashman and music by Alan Menken.
Jason Richards plays Seymour Krelborn, an orphan who works for Mr. Mushnik (B.J. Love) at his skid-row flower shop. It is there that Seymour falls for Audrey (Courtney Myers), another assistant who is in an abusive relationship with the dentist (Aaron Moore). Also in the cast is Broadway veteran Naz Edwards (Souvenir). The show is directed by Carla Milarch, Performance Network executive director, with musical direction by R. MacKenzie Lewis.
"Little Shop of Horrors" begins at 8 tonight in Performance Network Theatre, 120 East Huron St., Ann Arbor. Tonight's show is pay-what-you-can, with a suggested price of $10. Additional previews are at 8 p.m. tomorrow, Saturday, and April 8 and 2 p.m. Sunday. Preview ticket prices range from $25 to $35. Regular performances will be April 9-May 9, with tickets ranging from $28 to $44. Discounts are available for seniors and students. Information: 734-663-0681 or performancenetwork.org.
The Broadway tour of Avenue Q comes to the Michigan Theater for one performance on Monday.
A musical about the search for love, a stable job, and a purpose in life is told from the point of view of people and puppets who share tenements on one rundown street in an outer borough of New York.
With music and lyrics by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx and book by Jeff Whitty, the show won three Tony Awards in 2004, including best musical and best original score. The plot and songs contain adult themes such as sex and sexuality, and the characters, both puppet and human, use profanity in their dialogue. The producers consider Avenue Q appropriate for adults and mature teens.
"Avenue Q" is scheduled at 7:30 p.m. Monday in the Michigan Theater, 603 East Liberty St., Ann Arbor. Tickets range from $25 to $65 from Ticketmaster outlets, ticketmaster.com, or 800-745-3000. Information: 734-668-8463.
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