Friday, March 6, 2009

A Great Review for Little Fish Theatre Company

I have known Mr. John Farrell for decades.

He usually reviews plays, orchestra concerts, restaurants, and other entertainment events that are more popular to classical music folks, comedies and tragic works, but rarely musicals.

John knows everything their is to know about Shakespeare and Sherlock Holmes.

John and a friend wrote an entire cookbook based on foods served during the time Sherlock Holmes was doing his investigating and crime solving.

It really doesn't matter that Sherlock was created in the mind of an addict and Mr. Holmes is more similar to Betty Crocker than to the late Marie Calender.

John's review of the newest production from the Little Fish Theatre Company is below.

I am very happy that John found the production so wonderful. It is great to see him reviewing entertainment that was not created over a hundred years ago and that he is willing to review comedies is that much more delightful.

Rumor control time: Look around the timeframe of May to learn about the productions that will be undertaken by The Relevant Stage Theatre Company.

I think if you loved "The Christmas Carol" and "I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change, you may not be disappointed to look at the 2010 season and all that is in store.

Both Little Fish and The Relevant Stage established 2009 as starting an unbelievable season with Little Fish's "Pick of the Vine" which has become a must see since it was first produced.

I don't need to remind you of the first musical of 2009 from The Relevant Stage.

So now, here is John's review of the newest production from Little Fish.

Escanaba in da Moonlight

What: Play by Jeff Daniels, presented by Little Fish Theatre, directed by Gia Jordahl

Where: Little Fish Theatre, 777 Centre St . , San Pedro

When: Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 8 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. through April 4, additional performances Sunday, March 29 at 7 p.m. and Thursday, April 2 at 8 p.m.

Tickets: $25, $22 students and seniors.

Information: (310) 512-6030,

Rating: Four Stars

By John Farrell

You could wait until a cold day in October, dress yourself in a goose down vest colored bright orange, and head for the woods in Michigan ’s Upper Peninsula and try your hand at deer hunting.

But how do you get that thirty-ought something rifle on the plane?

Better head down to the Little Fish Theatre in San Pedro, where actor/playwright Jeff Daniels’ hilarious tribute to his home-town “Escanaba in da Moonlight” will give you the real hunting experience, right down to the Leinenkugel beer in the sink and maybe even an encounter with aliens from somewhere farther away than Canada.

The story takes place in the Soady family hunting lodge, a room filled with ill-matched chairs, two sturdy bunk beds, a lounge chair, a sofa that has seen better days, and plenty of deer-hunting trophies, all assembled with loving detail by set designer Anthony Inferrera. Diana Mann has created costumes that are just about what you’d expect: vest and flannel shirts. One note: the hunting boots shouldn’t be quite so clean.

Albert Soady (Dan Adam) introduces the story and its location in a brightly funny monologue, and you’ll be glad for his guidance unless your knowledge of the geography of the Great Lakes is better than most. Escanaba is a real town on the U.P., the upper peninsula of the state of Michigan , a place isolated from the rest of the state, and the United States , by its geography. The folks there speak a dialect that is apparently influenced by their Finnish forefathers and the Canadians who live just across the border.

Albert Soady explains all that, and the family story he is about to tell, a story about hunting, tradition and maybe a little magic.

His oldest son Reuben (Rendon Ramsey) has never in his life killed a buck, a male deer, and the people in his town, and his family, are sure he is cursed. As hunting season begins, everyone knows that if he doesn’t get one he will be the oldest member of the family to fail, and he is haunted by the thought.

Reuben’s brother Remnar (Chris Monk) and family friend Jimmer Negamanee (John Charles Meyer) complete the hunting party, an event Reuben describes as “like Christmas with guns.” They drink copious quantities of beer and of homemade whiskey flavored with a little too much maple syrup.

Reuben has his own idea of how to break his curse. He has married a Native American woman and she has given him a powerful potion to drink: part milk, part maple syrup, but also including ground ants and a moose testicle. She has taught him a ritual and, at her instruction, he has bottled a lot of porcupine urine to splash on to scare away evil spirits.

There are bright, unexplained lights in the woods, and Jimmer, who was once abducted by Aliens (he returned speaking a very strange language) thinks they are back. Ranger Tom Treado (Victor J. Springer), a new recruit from downstate Detroit , arrives saying he saw God. Add to the mix Great Granpa (CQ) Alphonse (Kevin Wisney-Leonard) (he’s been dead for decades) and Reuben’s wife Wolf Moon Dance (Marie Arevalo), an evil spirit and a trance Reuben falls into, and you won’t need any homemade hooch too laugh yourself into your own trance.

A lot of the fun in “Escanaba” is in the language, and this cast, under director Gia Jordahl, has grasped the dialect. Adams has it down pat, as though he was a native “Yooper” himself.

Ramsey and Mock have the middle-aged sibling rivalry down pat, and Meyer is brilliant as Jimmer, who speaks fast and acts more than a little weird. (It is why the aliens returned him to Earth. Springer, as the down-peninsula ranger dazed by a vision of God, is straight man to the Soady family group, a city dweller lost in the boonies.

“Escanaba” began its life as a play, and later as a film. Playwright Daniels clearly loves the isolated, culturally unique place he grew up and depicts it with affection. But you don’t want to see “Escanaba in da Moonlight” to learn cultural details. You want to go because it is a heart-warming play filled with so many laughs you may emerge exhausted. Happy, but exhausted.

More of John Farrell’s reviews can be found at

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