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Posted on Wed, Jan 9, 2013 : 7:02 a.m.

'Brill' at Performance Network, 'The Meaning of Almost Everything' at The Purple Rose

By Carla Milarch

Everything old is new again, and this New Year brings not one but two brand new plays at Washtenaw’s professional theaters, from not one but two Michigan playwrights: Michigan’s most famous living playwright, Jeff Daniels, and the newest comer to the Michigan playwriting scene, David Wells.

While new-play aficionados will swoon, what about those who are reluctant to commit an entire evening out, not to mention a decent amount of cash for tickets, on an untested commodity? To be perfectly honest, there are no guarantees. World premieres, by their very nature, are a gamble. When they miss they can be painful. When they hit they can be a uniquely thrilling and satisfying experience.

The good news is that Performance Network and The Purple Rose are two of the most experienced new play developers in Michigan, if not the country. Both members of the National New Play Network, a group dedicated to the development of new plays and playwrights nationwide, they each have a long track record of critical acclaim and national awards and recognition when it comes to the plays they premiere. If you’re going to see new work, these are the theaters in which to do so.

So: hit or miss? At this point no one can say for sure. Insider reports from both theaters suggest that hilarity is quite likely, great acting is probable, and for all intents and purposes, a fun night out is virtually guaranteed.

Show: “Fiddler On the Roof,” book by Joseph Stein, lyrics by Sheldon Harnick, music by Jerry Bock, through Jan. 13
Company: Young People's Theater
Type of Company: Children’s Community Theater
Venue/Location: Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre, 911 N. University, Ann Arbor
Recommended Ages: All
Description: Rich in historical detail, “Fiddler on the Roof” has touched audiences around the world with its humor, warmth and honesty. The universal theme of tradition cuts across barriers of race, class, nationality and religion, leaving audiences crying tears of laughter, joy and sadness. Its celebrated score features songs loved the world over including "Tradition," "Sunrise, Sunset," "If I Were A Rich Man," and "Matchmaker.”
Fun Fact: YPT's production features 78 young people, kindergarten through high school, from the Ann Arbor area.
For tickets and information:, 734-763-TKTS,

Show: “The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart,” through Jan. 13
Company: National Theatre of Scotland, presented by UMS.
Type of Company: Tour
Venue/location: 720 Norris St., Ypsilanti
Recommended ages: All
Description: Described as an evening of “anarchic theater, live music, and strange goings-on,” and inspired by Scottish border ballads, Robert Burns, and the poems of Robert Service, the show follows the title character, a buttoned-up academic, as she sets off to attend a conference in the region of Scotland that borders England. As the snow falls, she finds herself trapped in a secluded bar with strangers, only to be swept away on an enchanting, dream-like journey, during which she unleashes the devil and revels in her own “undoing.”
Preview from
Fun fact: The show is inspired by Scottish Border Ballads, which like all traditional ballads, were traditionally sung unaccompanied. There may be a repeating motif, but there is no "chorus" as in most pop songs. The supernatural is a common theme in Border ballads, as are recountings of raids and battles.
For tickets and information:, 734-764-2538

Show: “Brill” by David Wells, with songs by Frank Allison, through Feb. 10
Company: Performance Network Theatre
Type of Company: Professional Equity SPT
Venue/location: Performance Network Theatre, 120 E. Huron, Ann Arbor
Recommended ages: 12+
Description: Located at Broadway and 49th Street in Manhattan, the famous Brill Building was once the epicenter of the pop music universe, where a musician could find a publisher, cut a demo, promote the record, and make a deal with radio promoters - all within one building. In this “lyrical” comedy set in 1959, a washed up Big Band songwriter faces the inevitability of rock and roll when a young woman shows up at his office with her guitar, her aspirations, and more than a few secrets. Can this odd couple make beautiful music together - or will their culture clash land one of them out on the streets?
Preview from
Fun Fact: 1619 Broadway, also known as the Brill Building, was built in 1931. It was originally intended to house a clothing store, with finance companies on the upper floors, but because of the great depression went vacant, opening up 12 stories of offices for musicians and music studios. The rest, as they say, is history.
For tickets and information:, 734-663-0681.

Show: “The Meaning of Almost Everything” by Jeff Daniels, through March 9
Company: The Purple Rose Theatre Company
Type of Company: Professional Equity SPT
Venue/location: The Purple Rose Theatre, 137 Park Street, Chelsea, MI 48118
Recommended ages: 17+
Description: Step right up and grab a seat for the hilarious and sometimes painful circus that is life! Two men will astound you with their feats of daring and sometimes cowardice as they pratfall their way to the big answers in "The Meaning of Almost of Everything." This world premiere comedy questions the nature of our world and the absurdity of it all.
Fun fact: This is the 15th play written by PRTC founder Jeff Daniels
For tickets and information: 734-433-7673 or
Special ticket offers you may be running for this weekend: Preview ticket prices range from $22-$32.