Plays about death take many forms: Murder mysteries entertain, while shows ripped from the headlines bring the realities of hate crimes front and center. Even Disney isn’t immune, with dark power struggles underscored by deadly machinations.
The Players Guild of Dearborn launches its 91st season with the grand dame of death, Agatha Christie as it presents “Go Back for Murder.” Opening the same weekend is the Ringwald’s “The Laramie Project,” 20 years following the hate crime murder of Matthew Shepard, who was gay. Rounding out the murderous triptych is the nefarious leonine machinations in Southgate Community Players youth production of Disney’s “The Lion King Jr.”
PGD OPENS WITH “GO BACK FOR MURDER”
When a letter from beyond the grave seems to exonerate a woman who died in prison for a murder she may not have committed, can the people who were there help solve the crime in true Agatha Christie fashion? The Players Guild of Dearborn’s “Look Back For Murder” opens its 91st season with a tale influenced by time and perception that hide dark, deadly secrets.
The show runs 8 p.m. Sept. 14, 15, 21, 22, 28 and 29, and 2:30 p.m. Sept. 16, 23 and 30 at the theater, 21730 Madison in Dearborn.
Directed by Jeff Bartos of Dearborn, the cast includes Jeff Flannery of Dearborn as Justin Fogg, Michael Micheletti of Dearborn Heights as Turnball, Kori Bielaniec of Westland as Carla Le Marchant/Caroline Crale, Kyle Tillman of Dearborn as Jeff Rodgers/Amyas Crale, Marc Walentowicz of Garden City as Philip Blake, Brian Trippel of Romulus as Meredith Blake, Julie Ballantyne Brown of Dearborn as Lady Elsa (Greer) Melksham, Sue Delosier of Lincoln Park as Miss Williams, and Amy Jones of Dearborn as Angela Warren.
Bartos said the show’s hook is the novelty of going back in time.
“‘Go Back for Murder’ is relatively unknown,” Bartos said. “Playing dual roles or the same character 16 years apart is no small feat.”
Brown said Agatha Christie fans won’t want to miss this show.
“It’s a tightly-written whodunnit, a mystery that will keep the audience guessing,” she said. “Her fans will definitely want to see it.”
Brown says her character is manipulative and self-seeking.
“She doesn’t really care who she hurts as long as she gets what she wants,” she said. “She’s not anyone to look up to, but she’s so much fun to play.”
Bielaniec said audiences should come to find out “whodunnit.”
“I think we make a great case for everyone to be a suspect,” she said.
Bartos says the cast brings humor to the dark murder drama.
“When one thinks of Agatha Christie, one rarely thinks of humor,” he said. “Death, especially murder or suicide, is hardly funny. However, the actors have found some small part in their portrayals that is humorous.”
Walentowicz said the show is must see.
“Murder mysteries are always a blast to come see because they always keep you guessing until that last minute,” he said. “It’s fun to develop different theories during the show that you can discuss at intermission, and then be completely wrong by the show’s end.”
DeLosier said her character is fiercely loyal to those she cares about.
“She has flashes of anger that make you wonder how far she would go to protect the people she cares about,” she said. “I have never played someone who might be a calculating cold blooded killer before. It will have the audience guessing.”
Tickets are $18, and are available by calling 313-561-TKTS or online at playersguildofdearborn.org.
SCP PRESENTS DISNEY’S ‘THE LION KING JR.’
With the villainous Scar willing to eliminate whoever stands in his way to the throne, death stalks the savanna – balanced with a healthy does of upbeat music and Disney optimism as the Southgate Community Players present Disney’s “The Lion King Jr.”
The show runs 7 p.m. Sept. 14, 15, 21 and 22, and 2 p.m. Sept. 15, 16, 22 and 23 at the Corner Playhouse, 12671 Dix-Toledo Road in Southgate.
The show is directed and choreographed by Phil Rauch of Southgate, with vocal direction by Rebecca Engelhard of Berkley.
The cast includes Adriana James of Romulus as Rafiki, Connor Moran of Woodhaven as Mufasa, Nina Lomas of Trenton as Sarabi, Courtney Pertulla of Allen Park as Zazu, Noah Clark of Allen Park as Scar, Gavin Leslie of Riverview as young Simba, and Caroline Jakubiec of Taylor as Young Nala.
Matthew Jakubiec of Taylor plays Simba, with Reece Culverhouse of South Rockwood as Nala, Madeline Baker of Wyandotte as Sarafina, Helen Jakubiec of Taylor as Banzai, Kylie Jennings of Newport as Shenzi, Jeffrey Prueitt of Romulus as Ed, Tyler Zolynsky of Riverview as Timon, and Sergio Krzesowiak of Southgate as Pumba.
The older ensemble includes Isaac Clark, and Abby and Ben DeLozier of Allen Park, Esther Crock and Jackson Strozeski of South Rockwood, Nathan Guerra of Taylor, Julianna Harris, Moorea Leslie and Caleb Litten of Riverview, Sasha Murphy of Southgate, and Olivia Harrison and Carter Stover of Trenton.
The younger ensemble includes Hannah Berger of Brownstown Township, Ella Price of Gibraltar, Ian Arnold of Lincoln Park, Ciana Litten of Riverview, Emma Perez of Southgate, and Ben Harrison of Trenton.
Tickets are $10, and may be purchased by calling 734-282-4727. To learn more about the upcoming season go to scponstage.com.
RINGWALD RUNS ONE WEEKEND WITH ‘THE LARAMIE PROJECT’
Hailed as a landmark play, “The Laramie Project,” presented by the Ringwald Theater, marks 20 years since the hate-crime incited murder of Matthew Shepard, who was gay.
The show runs 8 p.m. Sept. 14, 15 and 17, and 5 p.m. Sept. 16 at the Ringwald Theater, 22742 Woodward in Ferndale.
The show, which was developed by Moises Kaufman and the members of the Tectonics Theater Project, is based on more than 200 interviews conducted with people in the town in the aftermath of the brutal murder of Matthew Shepard on Oct. 6, 1998 in Laramie, Wyo., and following the trial of the two men accused in his death.
Director and Ringwald co-founder Brandy Joe Plambeck said “The Laramie Project” is a vital and necessary work in the present political climate.
“As a gay man who is also a Wyoming native, ‘The Laramie Project’ holds a significant place in my heart,” he said. “Not only does it feature ‘characters’ of real-life friends of mine, but it also explores the cultural views of my home state. I find it heartbreaking, heartwarming, and incredibly impactful.”
The ensemble, who play multiple roles, include Joe Bailey of Ferndale, Greg Eldridge of Oak Park, Taylor Johnson of Warren, Kelly Komlen of Dearborn Heights, Sydney Lepora of Sterling Heights, Joel Mitchell of Berkley, Gretchen Schock of Grosse Pointe Woods, and Mike Suchyta of Dearborn.
A talk-back session with the cast and director will follow the Sept. 15 performance, and Plambeck will talk about growing up in Wyoming and his personal relationships with several of the play’s characters.
Tickets are $20, and may be purchased at the door, or online at TheRingwald.com. Call 248-545-5545 for additional information.