"LET'S LIVE A LITTLE" MAKES US ALL ONE FAMILY
photo by Tim Fuller

Sam Scarborough (Jack Neubeck) tries to give his granddaughter Lily (Lucille Petty) a more positive outlook on life.

Although the plot and the relationships of some characters get a little blurry, the message of “Let's Live A Little” at Invisible Theatre is clear – this journey through life will depend on what you make of it.

Sure, we all sort of know that, but playwright Kathleen Clark has also written this folksy play to remind us it is never to late to have one more adventure.

Susan Claassen and IT have been helping Clark develop this homespun chronicle for about a year, watching as the production became a format with six parts presented without intermission by 12 actors in 90 minutes.

There isn't a main personality to follow around but a series of highlights from the lives of several friends and neighbors whose daily doings weave the lengthy fabric of Mine Hill, New Jersey, a community founded in 1715.

Claassen proudly says this is the largest cast ever in the 46 year history of IT. With so many people coming and going there are sure to be times when you think “I know someone just like that.”

“Let's Live A Little” chronicles any recent year from July 4 to July 4, going through all the seasons but postmarked by Jack Neubeck's touching performance as Sam Scarborough. He has been the town florist for half-a-century and loves fireworks. His descriptions of those blossoming flowers in the sky put the poetry into Mine Hill's annual celebration of the historic holiday.

Lucille Petty plays Sam's petulant granddaughter Lily, a college freshman who already feels like a failed writer with nothing more to say since she stopped keeping her daily diary in high school. She's ready to forget about college before she even gets started.

But most of the people we meet are older, their children grown and gone. Being a few steps beyond the tail end of middle age and finding oneself single again can feel a lot like accidentally stepping into the deep end of the swimming pool.

Sam and his wife Hadley (Roxanne Harley) have always had each other, but now she can't see very well and he can't hear very well. Both of them hobble around with one foot in a support boot, yet they refuse to hire a nurse to help clean their house, go get groceries, that sort of thing.

One of the play's closing scenes develops empathy and some laughs as their daughter Daisy (Susan Kovitz) insists the couple interview a trio of home care nurses.

In a completely different scene, Molly McKasson is delightful as the forgetful and somewhat eccentric neighbor Vivien. Getting new glasses and a new outfit inspire her to have a whole new personality.

What we in the audience receive is a warm feeling of looking through a photo album of family emotions, their worries and triumphs. We don't really know any of the family members but we do feel a connection with their special moments.

It's this shared striving that reminds us how we are always lots more alike than different. A shuffled deck of family experiences, able to stand alone but better off when we are in the game together.

“Let's Live A Little” runs through April 30 with performances at 7:30 p.m Wednesdays through Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays, at Invisible Theatre, 1400 N. First Ave. Tickets are $32, with discounts available. For details and reservations, 882-9721, or visit www.invisibletheatre.com


BRING YOUR OWN BRAIN TO "DOVE AND ALI"

photo by Whitney Woodcock

Tyler Gastelum and Isabelle Tinsley challenge each other in “Dov and Ali.”

Was playwright Anna Ziegler really saying “There will never be peace in Israel” when she wrote “Dov and Ali?” Does Something Something Theatre agree by staging this production directed by Joan O'Dwyer?

You can decide for yourself as this doughty young company presents “Dov and Ali” through April 23 at the compact Community Playhouse, 1881 N. Oracle Road.

Ziegler is more interested in developing philosophical points than creating complex theatrical characters, but there is some rewarding food for thought here.

Everything is framed in the fundamental differences between Muslim authoritarian attitudes and the Jewish insistence on talking about everything from all sides before making a decision.

But we also see that both religions demand an unbending loyalty to the structured societies and securities they provide.

Dov (Paul Hammack) is a Detroit high school English teacher who wears his yarmulke to class every day, but also has a girlfriend Sonya (Callie Hutchison) who isn't Jewish.

Ali (Tyler Gastelum) is a student in Dov's class, who has a younger sister Sameh (Isabelle Tinsley) he feels obligated to keep in line with Muslim family traditions.

“Dov and Ali” is presented in 90 minutes without intermission. Which is just about the right amount, as there is no singing or dancing a la “Fiddler on the Roof” to lighten the intensity while Dov and Ali question themselves and their faith.

Though the acting is as fundamental as the basic black stage set, the objective here is not so much to carry you away as to dramatize how far apart both religions are from each other.

The two women, of course, stand in for all women and how they are treated by these disparate cultures.

Not to oversimplify, but Ali is convinced the strength of his religion is its complete togetherness. The lines of authority are clear. There is no confusing discussion or debate. There is freedom through discipline.

Dov is devoted to freedom of thought. To him, this is the source of all inspiration. Ali believes that is a stupid concept.

Providing a little break with a splash of human emotion are a couple of side issues. Sonya loves Dov and is willing to convert to Judaism if he will just agree to marry her. Dov isn't so sure.

Meanwhile, Sameh has fallen in love with unseen Mo, kind of a rebel who isn't that interested in acting like a Muslim. Ali refuses to let his little sister pure of soul be contaminated by a boy with such disgusting ideas.

All the issues are kept swirling, love of one's faith, love of one's romantic heart, a future that isn't particularly inviting to any kind of insistence on rigidity.

Something Something Theatre also enjoys having audience talk-backs after each performance. Plan to stay, for sure, and get your biting questions ready. Don't just say the actors did a nice job.

“Dov and Ali” plays through April 23 with performances at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays, in the Community Playhouse, 1881 N. Oracle Road.

For details and reservations, (520) 468-6111.

Tickets are $22 with discounts, available online at www.somethingsomethingtheatre.com/dov-and-ali.html