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Posted on Wed, Feb 22, 2012 : 5:22 a.m.

'The Shadow Box' at Basement Arts, 'What Corbin Knew' in the Mosh Pit

By Carla Milarch

In some circles, live theater has a reputation for expensive ticket prices and an appeal to the hoity-toity crowd. However, this week’s headliners affirm that theater can be accessible to everyone, and include theater in a Basement (well, it’s not really a basement) and theater in a Mosh Pit (okay, it’s not really a Mosh Pit either). So what’s the story behind these interestingly named venues?

Basement Arts, while now produced in the Walgreen Drama Center’s Studio 1, got its name 20 years ago when it began in the Frieze Building’s Arena Theatre. It was located (you guessed it) in the basement of the now-demolished building and was known for its jam-packed schedule of student-produced performances. Today, Basement Arts upholds its legacy, still dedicated to offering adventurous, student-produced theater that is always free.

The Mosh Pit is, in fact, Performance Network’s rehearsal hall, periodically converted to a tiny (25 seat) black box when not in use for rehearsal, which the professional theater lends it out to students, apprentices, new companies, and those in need of a space. The term “Mosh Pit” typically refers to the area directly in front of the stage at a punk or heavy metal concert that is reserved for “moshing”—a type of dance where participants slam into each other. Anyone who’s seen a show in the low-tech venue can attest to the appropriateness of the name, and with $10 ticket prices, you might want to slam on into the crowd as well (don’t worry, no one actually slam dances here, but you might get cozy with your neighbor.)

Theater offerings for the week

Show: “God of Carnage” by Yasmina Reza, translated by Christopher Hampton, extended through Feb. 26
Company: Performance Network Theatre
Type of Company: Professional Equity
Venue/location: Performance Network Theatre, 120 East Huron, Ann Arbor
Recommended ages: 16+, Contains adult themes and language.
Description: Boys will be boys, but adults will be worse! In this 2009 Tony winner for Best Play, two couples meet at one of their homes to discuss a playground altercation between their young children. Hostility rumbles just under the surface, as their civilized battle of wits and words devolves into a hilariously chaotic evening, where nothing is safe, not even the furniture. This comedy of (bad) manners will change the way you look at polite conversation. Contains adult themes.
Article from Encore Michigan
Fun fact: “God of Carnage” star Suzi Regan, while widely acclaimed for her work as an actress, is also a versatile theater director and sound designer. Her directing work can be seen in the upcoming PNT production of “In the Next Room or the vibrator play.”
For tickets and information: 734-663-0681,

Show: “The Shadow Box” by Michael Cristofer, Feb. 23-25, 11 p.m.
Company: Basement Arts
Type of Company: Higher Education<
Venue/location: Studio 1 of the Walgreen Drama Center, 1226 Murfin Dr., Ann Arbor
Recommended ages: 16+

Description: In this compelling dramatic triptych, three terminal cancer patients dwell in separate cottages on a hospital grounds. The three are attended and visited by family and close friends: Agnes and her mother Felicity, estranged further by the latter’s dementia; Brian and Beverly whose martial complications are exacerbated by Brian’s new lover, Mark; and Joe and Maggie, unready for the strain of Joe’s impending death and it’s effect on their teenage son.
Fun fact: In its Broadway debut in 1977, members of the original cast included Mandy Patinkin, Geraldine Fitzgerald, and Vincent Spano.
For tickets and information:

Show: “Smokey Joe’s Cafe” by Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller, through Feb. 26
Company: The Encore Musical Theatre Company
Type of Company: Equity Special Appearance Contract
Venue/location: 3126 Broad Street, Dexter
Recommended ages: 8+
Description: Leiber and Stoller, as much as anyone, virtually invented rock ‘n’ roll, and now their songs provide the basis for an entertainment that illuminates a golden age of American culture. In an idealized 1950s setting, the classic themes of love won, lost and imagined, blend with hilarious set pieces and slice-of-life emotions in this rocking musical revue.
Review from
Fun fact: In addition to being nominated for several Tony Awards in 1995, “Smokey Joe’s Café” also won a Grammy in 1996, for Best Musical Show album.
For tickets and information:, 734-268-6200

Show: “If You Start a Fire [Be Prepared to Burn], an Internet sex comedy for the Recession Generation,” by Kevin Kautzman, through March 4
Company: The New Theatre Project
Type of Company: Professional Non-Equity
Venue/location: Mix Performance Space, 130 W. Michigan Ave., Ypsilanti
Recommended ages: 16+
Description: Lucy and Chris are typical American twenty-somethings struggling to survive the Great Recession with their dignity intact. They hate their jobs like most everybody else, but they need the insurance, and at least they have each other. Right? When Chris loses his job, he convinces Lucy they should launch a boutique sex website and sell the idea of her as an all-American girl next door, somehow both pure and hedonistic at the same time.
Preview from
Fun fact: While looking for a fun fact for this article, I Googled “Boutique sex website.” My search resulted in 28,500,000 results.
For tickets and information: Call or text 734-645-9776,


Photo by Sean Carter

Show: “A Stone Carver” by William Mastrosimone, through March 10
Company: Purple Rose Theatre Company
Type of Company: Professional Equity
Venue/location: Purple Rose Theatre, 137 Park Street, Chelsea
Recommended ages: 13+
Description: “A Stone Carver” tells the story of a retired stonemason who clings to the past, and his son who refuses to look back. When Agostino, a seventh-generation stone carver is evicted from his home to make space for a highway, he barricades himself in his house, determined to outlast the bulldozers. In a last-ditch effort to save his father from jail, Agostino’s only son Raff, arrives at the house with his new fiancee. A battle of wills ensues, putting their already-rocky relationship to the test. Can Raff convince his father to move forward before it’s too late?
Review from the Rogue Critic blog
Fun fact: A Stone Carver marks Matthew David's 11th production at the PRTC. He first appeared on the Purple Rose stage in the 2008 production of "Growing Pretty" by Carey Crim.
For tickets and information: or 734-433-7673

Show: “What Corbin Knew” by Jeffrey Hatcher, through March 14
Company: The Penny Seats Theatre Company
Type of Company: Equity Special Appearance Contract
Venue/location: Performance Network's Mosh Pit Theatre, 120 East Huron, Ann Arbor
Recommended ages: Adult (language, some mature themes)
Description: Corbin, an architect and affable fellow, invites two very different couples to join him for a show. Things go from uncomfortable and snarky to frenzied and violent and, by the end of the first act, someone gets shot. But Act Two turns the same events around, showing that what Corbin—and the audience—thought they knew is only half the story.
Article from
Fun fact: This unique piece, much like "Noises Off," and a select few others of its kind, gives the audience the chance to see the same sequence of events from several points of view. The result is both enlightening and hysterical.
For tickets and information: 734-663-0681,, or
Special ticket offers: $10 per ticket for the entire run