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Posted on Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 7 a.m.

'The Play's the Thing' at Ann Arbor Civic, opening night fireworks at Performance Network and The Purple Rose

By Carla Milarch

The New York Times called “Becky Shaw,” opening this weekend at Performance Network Theatre, “As engrossing as it is ferociously funny, like a big box of fireworks fizzing and crackling across the stage.” How appropriate for the weekend before the Fourth of July!

Its not just “Becky Shaw” that’s crackling to life on Washtenaw stages this week. The Purple Rose’s “Miles and Ellie” will enjoy its world premiere this weekend, along with several new plays at the Ann Arbor Civic's "The Play's the Thing" Festival. Meanwhile “Cymbeline” continues at West Park’s Band Shell.

Rain or shine, there’s fireworks to be had this weekend, on stage and off.

Show: “The Play's the Thing” New Play Festival by various playwrights, through June 29
Company: Ann Arbor Civic Theatre
Type of Company: Community Theater
Venue/location: A2CT Studio Theater, 322 West Ann St., Ann Arbor
Recommended ages: Friday performance, 16+; Saturday matinee, 13+; Saturday evening, 10+
Description: “The Play’s the Thing” is a unique collaboration between playwrights and audience members. Playwrights hear their works read and the audience gives feedback to facilitate new play development. Friday evening’s performance, directed by Lillian Bishop, features short plays: "Stuck" by Brian Cox, "Friendly Fire" by Catherine Zudak; "Allright," by Jack Tiernan, "Image of Love" by Patrice Carter, and "By Any Other Name" by Richard Leinaweaver. The Saturday matinee, directed by Angie Lai, features two one-act plays: "Double Entendre" by Joe York, and "Jobbed" by Kathy Holland. The Saturday evening performance features the full-length play "Lemonade Lagoon," by K. Biadaszkiewicz, directed by Lori Reece.
Fun fact: Featured playwrights from as far away as Oregon are traveling to Ann Arbor for the festival.
For tickets and information: All performances are free., 734-971-2228.

Show: "Cymbeline," by William Shakespeare. June 28-29 at 7 p.m.
Company: The Blackbird Theatre
Type of Company: Professional non-Equity company employing Equity actors under guest contract
Venue/location: West Park Band Shell, 300 N. Seventh St., Ann Arbor.
Recommended ages: 13+
Description provided by the company: "Shakespeare's brutal, dark, and wildly funny epic comes to Ann Arbor's West Park Band Shell. A cast of six brings the madness to life in Michigan's most beautiful outdoor venue. The story: Chaos breaks out across Europe when King Cymbeline (Lynch Travis, Member of Actors Equity Association) learns that his daughter Imogen (Jamie Weeder) has married poor courtier Posthumus (Alastar Dimitrie). She flees the wicked Queen (Qamara Black) and her depraved son (also Alastar Dimitrie) for the wild countryside. Imogen's conniving page Pisanio (Jesse Arehart-Jacobs) has unwittingly poisoned her, while the exiled Posthumus falls under the spell of a corrupt and dangerous Italian (Dan Johnson). In the days leading up to the Roman invasion of Britain, secrets and lies will lead everyone down a path of self-destruction. Heads will roll as the disasters unfold." Directed by Barton Bund. Set design by Joshua Parker. Costume and special effects makeup by Jeannie Arquette. Patrons are encouraged to bring chairs, blankets, picnics.
Preview from
Facebook event page
Tickets: $15-$20. All tickets available at the gate.

Show: “Becky Shaw” by Gina Gionfriddo, through July 28
Company: Performance Network Theatre
Type of Company: Professional Equity SPT
Venue/location: Performance Network Theatre, 120 E. Huron, Ann Arbor
Recommended ages: 16+ (contains adult language and content)
Description: The New York Times called it “a tangled tale of love, sex and ethics…as engrossing as it is ferociously funny, like a big box of fireworks fizzing and crackling across the stage.” Step-siblings Suzanna and Max couldn’t be more different. When the shy sister fixes the cocky brother up with her husband’s sexy and sweet co-worker, the blind date takes a dark turn and crisis and comedy ensue. Mixing sharp wit and humor with the taut suspense of a psychological thriller, this comedy of romantic errors keeps audiences on the edge of their seats.
Preview from
Fun fact: Inspiration for the play’s titular character comes from Becky Sharp, the anti-heroine of Thackeray's satirical novel Vanity Fair. A social climber who uses her charms to fascinate and seduce upper-class men, Sharp befriends the novel’s heroine Amelia at an expensive girls school where she uses her as a stepping-stone to gain social position.
For tickets and information: 734-663-0681,


Rhiannon Ragland and Rusty Mewha in "Miles & Ellie."

photo by Sean Carter Photography

Show: “Miles & Ellie” by Don Zolidis, through August 31
Company: The Purple Rose Theatre Company
Type of Company: Professional Equity SPT
Venue/location: The Purple Rose Theatre Company, 137 Park Street, Chelsea
Recommended ages: 17+ (contains adult language and content)
Description: Miles and Ellie are two teenagers in love when a youthful misunderstanding breaks them apart. Flash forward 20 years and a disenchanted Ellie has come home for what she expects to be a typical dysfunctional family Thanksgiving. Not long into the family shenanigans, however, Ellie learns that Miles is still in town and carrying a torch for her. Is it possible to get a second chance at your first love? This charming romantic comedy will make you wonder “what if?”
Preview from
Fun fact: Playwright Don Zolidis is a former high school and middle school theater teacher and is currently a professor of creative writing at Ursinus College.
For tickets and information:, 734-433-7673