Jonathan Seltzer, Karen Miller and Emily Allshouse perform a scene in "The Family Digs" now playing through October 23rd at The Croswell in Adrian MI.
It’s a rather exciting opportunity, when you get to sit down and watch something new and fresh. This doesn’t happen very often, and for people that love theater, you should be keen to check out “The Family Digs” a new full length play from Adrian native, Terrence Hissong. A quirky family dramedy that is filled with sharp dialogue, witty one liners and a terrific set design. Even if the show lacks a hooking plot narrative, it’s hard to argue against the dynamic of Hissong’s smart style of writing and Doug Miller’s scenic design and direction.
It only makes sense The Croswell would choose an original piece to debut in their new space. A small black box style theater with roughly 75 seats on the second floor of the building. Walking in, you immediately feel like you’ve just been transported onto the set, with Miller’s spot-on attention to detail. There’s always a type of precedence when you hear “It’s a Doug Miller set” and he always seems to outdo himself. His actors also have to step up to the task of bringing to life these characters for the very first time.
For starters, the play takes place solely in the confines of Eve Edwards (Meg McNamee) apartment. Eve is an accountant for a local museum, and she’s been kind enough to allow her freeloading brother named Robbie, (Jonathan Stelzer), who prefers the name “Sunshine,” to shack up with her. He’s recently returned from Israel with a heaping of priceless artifacts, including an ossuary that may or may not contain the remains of Jesus Christ. Their father, Dr. Edwards (Pete Stewart - having a blast) is a renowned archaeologist, whose wife just kicked him out of the house, and is sunbathing nude on the beaches of California. He also needs a temporary place to stay and enlists his daughter for a spare bed. Except, after a dig in the ruins of a Mayan temple, Dr Edwards has PTSD about killer bees, and the slightest tick of buzzing sets him off in a frenzy.
These are the type of characters that I feel audience members will find easily relatable with their own family. Robbie, I’m sorry, “Sunshine” represents the most interesting character of the group. He spends most of his time, dousing in his own “mojo” and meditating frequently in an effort to keep the peace, while spouting out lines like “Dust is nature's way of protecting things.” Eve is the one “sane” member of this quartet, and McNamee has just the right amount of believable spunk to carry the show on her shoulders, and Stelzer is a blast to watch in all his mantra glory.
Aside from the family, there’s also the presence of Hannah (Karen Miller) and Sophia (Emily Allshouse) administrative assistants who work with Eve at the museum, that show up with their own get rich scheme and they too get wrapped up in the shenanigans of this dysfunctional family. The punchlines of which include references to the Kardashians and being in tune with your, ahem, “bitchability.” It’s all good solid stuff and the rat-tat-tat pacing gives this show life. And with Pete Stewart flaunting around getting “jiggy” with himself, this show never lags. It’s really fun.
“The Family Digs” might suffer from an unconventional ending, but it’s the nature of the beast. This is an original, never before done, production, and all you can ask for is the willingness to dive into the material and this cast and production team did just that. Some of that can be attributed to the space, and how lifelike the apartment looks on the stage. But also Hissong’s script that is filled with rich history, and well defined characters. The sold out crowd seemed to really enjoy the production as well, it was a bubbly atmosphere.
“The Family Digs” is a show that I feel will grow in the minds of those that see it, and sets up a good indication of where future incarnations of this play could go. And since the event of seeing new plays doesn’t pop up that often, I’d check it out now so you can say “I saw it when …” and not feel like you’re missing out on the conversation. In the time being, the show will likely sustain a good run at The Croswell, giving those in attendance solid entertainment and fun escapism.
IF YOU GO:
The Family Digs continues at Croswell Opera House through October 22nd. Limited tickets available and it is easiest to get them online at http://www.croswell.org