Love is Strange

Magenta Giraffe

Chilly Drama, Chilling Performances

By John Quinn

Local playwright Sean Paraventi’s new work shares its title with Bo Diddley’s 1956 R & B hit, “Love is Strange,” but its plot is better summed up by the second line of the song – “Lot of people take it for a game.” When the players are Carl and Megan – played by Joel Mitchell and Katie Terpstra – love is a deadly, depraved game. When birds of a feather flock together, sociopathy is as contagious as avian flu.

Since Magenta Giraffe Theatre Company is staging “Love is Strange” in the intimate Abreact Performance Space, an audience’s instinct is to pull away for fear of contamination. Yet the story is so disturbing we are drawn back in, seeking, if not resolution, at least some closure.

It’s been three years since Carl, a long-distance trucker, picked up a 13-year-old runaway named Megan at an Arkansas truck stop. At 16, Megan feels, in a pathetic innocence, that she’s a fully adult woman and worthy partner for Carl. Generally left trapped in Carl’s isolated home when he’s working, she is mistress of the house, mistress of the bedroom and willing participant in Carl’s gruesome fetish. Describing that in detail spoils the plot, but suffice it to say that Carl is one mean mother trucker.

“Love is Strange” runs only about an hour and a half, which means it’s a very lean script, without diversions. The audience’s perception of the characters is constantly challenged. What would appear a classic case of Stockholm syndrome, in which a captive begins to identify with the captor, becomes a more sinister balancing act. Director Frannie Shepherd-Bates keeps the plot rolling, even through the final revelation scene, which does seem to drag a tad. She is not afraid to give her cast free rein, so the graphic violence central to the story is chillingly visceral.

In the Playwright’s Notes, Paraventi comments that he “didn’t set out to be shocking or disturbing.” “Love is Strange” is less shocking than it is disturbing. But he goes on, noting the twisted world in which Carl and Megan live, “Sometimes those worlds are uncomfortable places.”

Theater has the ability to rip you out of your comfort zone, forcing you into a wider perception of reality. “Love is Strange” is a provocative piece. It’s not for the squeamish, only the adventuresome.


Love Not Only ‘Strange’ but Gruesome

By Robert Delaney

A truck driver and a teenage runaway have their sadistic way with young women they have kidnapped, in Sean Paraventi’s “Love is Strange,” now in its world premiere production by Magenta Giraffe Theatre Company at The Abreact Performance Space, just west of Downtown Detroit.

Those who enjoyed Michigan playwright Paraventi’s “The Current” in its recent production by the Two Muses Theatre (or the earlier production by Magenta Giraffe) will find this new play a much, much darker work than his previous play about a bachelorette party visit to a psychic.

Here, Paraventi is plumbing the depths of the perverse and violent in a play that is not for the squeamish. That such monstrous evil exists is sadly true, but having it presented on the stage – especially in such an intimate space as the Abreact – is nevertheless a jolt.

Although gruesome and disturbing, “Love is Strange” is gripping and suspenseful, showing Paraventi as a versatile and talented playwright. Magenta Giraffe has given his new play an excellent first production under the expert direction of Frannie Shepherd-Bates. And the casting is perfect. I simply cannot imagine a better choice for Carl, the truck driver, than Joel Mitchell, or a better choice for Megan, the runaway who has become his accomplice, than Katie Terpstra.

Mitchell is local theater’s past master at playing evil authority figures, and Terpstra is remarkably able to convincingly portray a 16-year-old girl.

The production also includes excellent performances by Chris Jakob as Gary, a teen-aged guy Megan meets on one of her few ventures out alone, and Allison Megroet as Patrice, one of young women Carl brings back to the house against her will.

The production also benefits considerably from Gwen Lindsay’s set design, Lauren Montgomery’s costuming, and Steve Zander Carson’s work as fight choreographer.

By this point it should almost go without saying that this play is not for everyone, and that playgoers should be prepared for shocking and offense language and situations. Having said that, however, let it also be said that this is production an artistic accomplishment of a high order.

Source: The New Monitor, April 10, 2014.

The Current

Two Muses Theatre, West Bloomfield, Mi

Visit to psychic proves revealing

By Robert Delaney

A bachelorette party visit to a psychic results in revelations about both the bride and her bridesmaids, in Sean Paraventi’s “The Current,” the latest production by Two Muses Theatre in West Bloomfield Township.

It is a play at times hilariously funny, while at other times filled with emotional drama.

When one of the bridesmaids arranges for a visit to a psychic before hitting the bar as part of a bachelorette party, the bride and other bridesmaids go along with the idea with varying degrees of enthusiasm, none of them taking the idea too seriously.

But rather than just a lark, the experience proves unsettling for a variety of reasons, and prompts each of the young women to find their way back to the psychic to work out some aspect of the mysteries suggested during that initial visit.

Director Nancy Kammer and a very talented cast have given us a very fine production of this play by local playwright Paraventi.

Diane Hill, a co-foundress of Two Muses and always a delight to see perform, is Madame Camille, the psychic – who doesn’t claim to “know all and see all,” but does have a gift that gives her special insights into others’ hopes and fears, and sometimes their futures.

Alysia Kolascz, who has been seen in a number of productions at Northville’s Tipping Point Theatre, is Mary, the bride.

Mary’s bridesmaids are Kristin Schultes as Darlene, the guileless and adorable friend who set up the visit to Madame Camille; Tara Tomcsik as the glamorous and cynical married friend, Angie; and Kelly Rose Voigt as the sensuous and sexually promiscuous Sharon.

Hill and Kolascz are already known to many theatergoers as two of the finest local actresses, but the other three cast members show themselves equally worthy to share the stage with them.

And they all have the good fortune to perform on yet another great set designed by Bill Mandt.

As an added feature, popular local psychics will be on hand to do readings after the Sunday matinee performances. And there is a display of donated bridal dresses, the proceeds from the sale of which will benefit the Bride’s Project, which raises funds for Cancer Support Community of Greater Ann Arbor.

Personally, I don’t put any stock in psychics, but that didn’t keep me from having a great time watching this very enjoyable production.

Source: The New Monitor, March 28, 2014.

‘The Current’ flows nicely at Two Muses

By Martin F. Kohn

EM_2213_CurrentRevSo where was Madame Camille when I was filling out my bracket?

Actually, Madame Camille, pivotal character in Sean Paraventi’s comedy “The Current,” may be a psychic, but she has her limits. She can’t predict things like winning lottery numbers, she explains to the young women who’ve come for a reading. What she can, and does, do in face-to-face encounters is pretty darned uncanny.

The visitors’ venture into the paranormal is a lark, highlight of a bachelorette party, and it’s the interplay among the characters that has given “The Current” life since its world premiere at Magenta Giraffe Theatre in 2010. I recall the first act of that production as hilarious and the second act as a bit of a letdown. The new staging, by Nancy Kammer at Two Muses Theatre, is the opposite. Act One never seems to find its footing; Act Two is a delight.

That’s the essence of live theater: One production of a play is never the same as another.

As far as I can tell, the script hasn’t changed, and certainly the plot remains intact. In the first act the four young women greet Madame Camille’s observations with everything from belief to skepticism. In the second act, at 2 in the morning, they come banging on Madame Camille’s door individually and as a duo to admit she may have been right about everything.

Besides Camille herself (Diane Hill), you’ve got bride-to-be Mary (Alysia Kolascz), worried that she’s marrying the wrong guy; tender-hearted Darlene (Kristin Schultes); married, career-obsessed Angie (Tara Tomcsik); and serial dater – “I’m a catch-and-release kind of girl” – Sharon (Kelly Rose Voigt).

Each of the four young women has a secret or two, while Madame Camille, the clairvoyant one, is open and down-to-earth. Her Ouija board may be a portal to the spirit world, but it came built in to a table from IKEA and she wishes she’d known how hard it was to put together.

Paraventi’s script is peppered with good lines like that, but, with the help of Kammer and her cast, he can be just as funny prescribing a moment of silence as when Mary mentions how beautiful the bridesmaids’ dresses are.

One reason the second act here is more appealing than the first is because Kammer has her actors standing up or flopping across a couch or moving around Bill Mandt’s set. In the first act, there’s a lot of sitting and watching as each woman has her reading with Madame Camille.

They’re an appealing group, all five of them, distinguishable from one another and sharply delineated. Who knows what the next production of “The Current” may bring? Meanwhile, there’s this one to enjoy.

SourceL Encore Michigan, March 22, 2014.

Two Muses Confirm Friendships in “The Current”

By Denise Mills Manzagol, Special to The Oakland Press

In “The Current” by local playwright Sean Paraventi, bride-to-be Mary (played by Alysia Kolascz of Ann Arbor) and her bridesmaids make startling discoveries about themselves and each other despite being best friends since high school when Mary’s bachelorette party detours from a bar to a visit to psychic.

The bridesmaids are the talkative Darlene, played by Kristin Schultes of Grosse Pointe, overachiever Angie, played by Tara Tomcsik of Northville, and serial dater Sharon, played by Kelly Rose Voigt of Farmington.

Bill Mandt’s set design is masterful and detailed setting the tone for this fun, contemporary comedy that is riddled with plenty of girl talk.

Psychic Madame Camille, as played Diane Hill, is an interesting character — a blend of psychic and psychotherapist. In the first act, she shares her observations and interpretations, dispelling any skepticism with a quick tongue. Saving the best for last, she uses a Ouija board for Mary’s — who’s second guessing her decision to marry — reading and readily admits the portal to the spirit world is built in to the table that was purchased from IKEA and if only she had known how hard it would be to assemble it. In the second act, she offers empathy to each as they return in the middle of the night to unburden their secrets as well as admit that Madame was right after all.

The conflict escalates and the pace quickens in the second act as Director Nancy Kammer moves the friends about the room rather than keeping them huddled around the table or standing nearby during Madame’s readings.

The cast interacts with compassion while confirming that friendships are made of encouragement, support, and forgiveness.

Source: The Oakland Press, March 28, 2014.


at Planet Ant Theatre, Hamtramck, MIplanet-ant

From Rogue Critic:

“A culturally charged, topical piece of whimsy, this one-act play is eager to condemn the sensationalist quality vacuum of reality TV, but does so in a way that gives equal — and unexpected — consideration to the rarely defended television landscape as we know it.”

Click here to read the rest of the review.

‘Endangered’ issues a timely warning

By John Quinn

In preparing the nominations for the Wilde Awards I was struck by the number of ‘dark comedies’ presented this season. One of the darkest – as in “bear’s-belly-at-midnight-in-the-dark-of-the-moon” dark – is “Endangered,” premiering at Planet Ant Theatre. It’s also a wicked piece of satire.

Click here to read the rest of the review.

Source: Pride Source:

The Current

magenta-giraffeat Magenta Giraffe Theatre, Detroit MI

From EncoreMichigan:

Play and playwright make a delightful debut

By Martin F. Kohn

“In the first act of his first produced play, a traditional but refreshing comedy called The Current, Sean Paraventi offers more genuine laughs than anything I’ve seen all year. If he doesn’t watch himself, Paraventi is in danger of becoming the next Neil Simon.”

Click here to read the rest of the review.

From Detroitnews 10/18/2010

By Lawrence B. Johnson

Redford playwright Sean Paraventi’s new feel-good, group-hug comedy “The Current” is frothy fun, even if it sort of drifts away at the finish. No, Paraventi’s curiously titled play isn’t about whitewater kayaking or an ocean cruise. It concerns three girlfriends taking a bride-to-be out on the  town for a bachelorette party. They begin the evening by visiting a fortune-teller, whose readings send the four pals into a spin of anxiety, dread and guilt.

But as each girl steps into the fortune’s spotlight, the illumination proves uncomfortable. Does Mary really want to marry this Man? What’s with the number seven that hovers over Angie? What might cause Sharon to settle for one guy from the, well, many? And how can Darlene even be a mother after that whole goldfish thing?

From these strands Paraventi extracts a whole plethora of funny lines as the girls go through phases of surprise, evasion, denial and alarm. Even as dark revelation clouds this romp, and friendship is tested, the laughs are only put on hold. Paraventi has a natural wit, and he can’t keep it under a barrel for long.

Source: The New Monitor, November 18, 2010

Visit to psychic triggers big changes

By Robert Delaney

Four friends visit a fortune-teller on the night of one’s bachelorette party, with unexpected and entertaining consequences, in Sean Paraventi’s The Current, the new production at 1515 Broadway in downtown Detroit by the Magenta Giraffe Theatre Company.

Darlene (Jaclyn Strez) thinks it would be a neat idea to include a visit to a psychic reader, Madame Camille (Frannie Shepherd-Bates) as part of the bachelorette party night for her friend Mary (Jaye Stellini). And she arranges for Madame Camille to also do readings for the other bridesmaids, Angie (Angie Kane Ferrante) and Sharon (Kirsten Knisely).

Angie and Sharon have little use for Madame Camille and her hocus-pocus, but the visit sets certain developments in motion for all four friends. The results may be soul-wrenching for the characters, but they prove to be pretty amusing for the audience.

In this, his first produced play, Paraventi has given us four pretty authentic female character types in the four friends, and director Molly McMahon and a talented local cast have brought them to life on the stage. I’m less sure about the authenticity of the Madame Camille character, but then I’ve never encountered her real-life counterpart. It seems Shepherd-Bates could play her as a bit more exotic than she does, but I understand that she had to step into the role rather late in the process.

But the four friends simply couldn’t be better. Strez is always a delight, and her ditzy Darlene is a memorable portrayal. Stellini’s Mary is likable from the start, and we warm to Ferrante and Knisely’s characters as the play progresses.

Gwen Lindsay’s set serves the production well.

Once again I find myself lamenting the lack of a clever live theater equivalent of the phrase “chic flick,” but while this is certainly a show that will primarily appeal to a female audience, it is one that husbands and boyfriends should be able to stay awake through and even enjoy.


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