I love having friends that work in theatre, whether they are actors, directors, stage managers, or whatnot. I dabbled in drama club and community theatre in high school and always enjoyed it, although, as with singing, I have about zero talent. However, I love going to see plays and musicals. I like big, grand Broadway-style productions, but I also enjoy small local productions – when done well.
In New London (CT), Flock Theatre kept us townies entertained with various productions, mainly Shakespeare and classics, performed in a variety of interesting or historic settings (“Macbeth” in a creepy old church, “Pride and Prejudice” at the Shaw Mansion.) Back here in Ann Arbor, I was lucky to meet my friend Patricia Wheeler while working at our holiday job. Patti – recently returned to Michigan from LA – is the director of Ann Arbor’s Blackbird Theatre’s current production, “If Only in My Dreams.” With Noe working nights (and not being the biggest theatre fan in the world), I decided to take the opportunity last night to check out the show.
Blackbird’s current home is the SH\aut\ Cabaret and Gallery space on Braun Court (directly across from the aut bar). I wasn’t sure what a “cabaret” space was until I entered the building. It’s a tiny space with only a few rows of seats, and there were several cocktail tables, clothed in purple and lit with candles, in the front rows. The whole space is the size of my living room. In other words, it is extremely intimate.
The intimacy works for a show that is comprised entirely of monologues. Two actors – Barton Bund and Will Myers – perform six works (three apiece), all by different authors (Groucho Marx, Henry Miller, Roch Carrier, Dylan Thomas, Leigh Hunt, Truman capote). Using only a small table and a chair as a set, and only a decanter and a glass of “whisky” (the bartender at the aut bar told us it was actually cold hot tea), the two men – along with Gayle Martin, who sang snippets of Christmas songs while arranging the set between pieces – created a cozy little world for each character.
All the monologues were holiday-themed, but that does not necessarily mean warm and fuzzy. This is not to say that the show is totally depressing, either – there are some good laughs (the Roch Carrier piece, “The Hockey Sweater,” is a humor piece, Thomas’s “A Child’s Christmas in Wales” is peppered with nostalgic humor, and Capote likes to bring you up before he brings you back down), but the show does have a bit of a sad undertone. The Capote monologue in particular is effective (in large part due to Will Myers’ portrayal), and following it up with an acoustic guitar and the three actors singing “So This is Christmas” achieved Patti’s intentions of leaving the whole theatre wiping their eyes (at least it did on the night I went).
I’m hardly a theatre reviewer so I don’t have a lot of constructive or technical commentary to add – but I can tell you that the source materials and the performances in “If Only in my Dreams” are wonderful, the space is charming, and I think Patti did a great job. I felt much more Christmas-y after seeing it (although that feeling could have been enhanced by several aut bar Manhattans – something about Capote just seems to beg for a classic cocktail – and the campfire outside) – you should go see it, too!