Mason Street Warehouse, Saugatuck
July 26-28, 30-31, Aug. 1-4, 6-11; show times at 2, 7 and 8 p.m.
masonstreetwarehouse.org, (269) 857-4898
Just in time for the summer slump, Mason Street Warehouse introduces a cool breeze of originality to Michigan’s theatre scene. Set within the fictional filming of a "The Price is Right"/"Jeopardy" mash-up, Game Show invites audience members onstage to fight for prizes in an impromptu battle of wits. When commercial breaks arrive, a hilarious scripted storyline steals the scene, depicting the backstage antics of the TV show’s creators.
While Game Show features Broadway veterans and an improvisation expert, it also showcases the unprofessional talents of the audience. Selected contestants get to show off both their trivia savvy and their diverse, quirky personalities in a competition in which only the questions are scripted. Audience members therefore witness not only outrageous scenarios, but also experience the mesmerizing pull of rooting for one of their own.
“We will try to get an interesting mix,” Artistic Director Kurt Stamm said. “If someone seems like a good character, we will bring them up on stage. It’s like a reality show. Reality shows are so popular because they find ridiculous people and bring them up on stage.”
At another level, Game Show also appeals to the basic love of competition and play that is hardwired into American thinking.
“[Games] are a piece of our culture that people love — they engage the brain in a way that makes you pay attention, but you don’t have to stress. Game shows are one of America’s guilty pleasures. The game craze in our country has never calmed down,” Stamm said.
While the audience participation aspect is Game Show’s most immediately obvious draw, Stamm stresses that the scripted portion has much to offer audiences as well. Commercial break sections make up a substantial storyline bursting at the seams with over-the-top characters and clever surprises.
Although craziness runs rampant, scenes are marked by sophisticated intelligence as well.
“I’ve always been sensitive to the fact that I don’t want to trot out mindless dribble. I want [plays] to be smart,” Stamm said. “[Game Show] is not just some benign piece of fluff — it has a great message, it’s very funny, it’s well-written and the cast is great. What really impressed me about the play was that the writing portion was so smart. There’s an amazing plot twist that no one will see coming.”
Although Game Show is not yet well-known among audiences, Stamm hopes that its relative anonymity will be an even further incentive for audiences to give the play a shot.
“No one in the area has done it. It’s fresh, fun and exciting. I hope to push and train the audience to show that just because you don’t know a play doesn’t mean you shouldn’t see it. With a show, if you don’t know the title, that’s all the more reason to want to see it.”
Other Performing Arts Events
The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)
Spectrum Theater, Grand Rapids
July 11-13, 18-20, 8 p.m.
heritagetheatregr.org, (616) 234-3946
The Heritage Theatre Group condenses all 37 of the Bard’s plays into 97 minutes of hilarity. Goofy and fast-paced, the show features improvisation and audience participation for a dynamic and farcical celebration of the famous playwright. Shakespeare’s histories take the stage as a football game, while Othello is transformed into a rap song. Other highlights include Titus Andronicus as a cooking show and a 42-second reenactment of Hamlet performed backwards.
The Marvelous Wonderettes: Gaps & Gowns
Circle Theatre, Grand Rapids
July 11-13, 17-21, 24-27; show times at 5 and 7:30 p.m.
circletheatre.org, (616) 456-6656
It’s songleader squad The Wonderettes’ senior year in this upbeat sequel to the Off-Broadway hit. Beloved characters return, secret romances blossom and Missy and Mr. Lee’s much-anticipated wedding finally arrives. The future of each girl is finally revealed in the second act when the play jumps forward 10 years. A bubbly, optimistic celebration of friendship and girl power, the show features over two dozen '50s and '60s hits.
The Light in the Piazza
Hope Summer Repertory Theatre
DeWitt Theatre, Holland
July 19, 20, 24, 27, 29, Aug. 1, 6, 9; 8 p.m.
hope.edu/hsrt, (616) 395-7890
Winner of six Tony-Awards, The Light in the Piazza blends neoclassical music and opera for one of the most lavish and heavily orchestrated Broadway scores. Haunting melodies and unexpected harmonies unfold a breathtaking love story that borrows from Italian language and tradition. The story centers around the tumultuous romance between an unstable Southern belle and the young Italian she meets on holiday. When the girl’s aunt Margaret learns of the infatuation, secret guilt and hidden longings rise to the surface.