The Purple Rose Theatre Company of Chelsea, MI will officially open their summer production of George F. Walker's Criminal Genius, on July 8, for a run through Aug. 22. Previews for dark comedy began July 1. The production will be the last one for The Purple Rose before closing down their theatre during the fall for renovations.
Criminal Genius tells the story of a father-and-son pair of crooks who continually botch their assignments. When their foul-mouthed female crony catches up to them in a seedy motel room, they devise a new scheme to save their necks.
Randall Godwin directs a cast including: Sandra Birch, Ryan Carlson, Leo McNamara, Jim Porterfield and Suzi Regan.
After Genius, Michigan theatregoers hungry for the world premieres and comedies that have been the staple there since actor-playwright Jeff Daniels founded the troupe in 1991, will have to wait until early 2000, when $1.4 million in construction renovations are hoped to be complete.
The debut of two Purple Rose commissions by playwrights Stephen Dietz and Lanford Wilson are expected in the new space in the next two years, but until 2000, Purple Rose won't have a presence in Michigan's small professional theatre community. Wilson's Book of Days, which won the American Theatre Critics Association 1999 New Play Award, premiered in 1998 at Purple Rose and is expected to be staged in St. Louis and Hartford, CT, in the coming season. Wilson's next commission for Purple Rose is called The Rain Dance.
Purple Rose managing director Alan Ribant told Playbill On-Line (May 27) no staff is being cut or laid off during the down time. He added that the company is mulling a revival of the Michigan themed hit comedy, Escanaba in da Moonlight, by Daniels, for a fall 1999 run at the Gem Theatre in Detroit, where Daniels' The Vast Difference had a commercial run several years ago. Details about a Gem run were yet to be ironed out, however.
The nonprofit Purple Rose, which is not bound by a subscription audience, will present a "half season" in spring 2000, Ribant said.
Before that, however, improvements to the 119-seat space will include:
* New roof and roof insulation to prevent the sound of rain.
* New back wall behind center section of three-quarter configured audience, and the addition of a stage manager's booth there.
* Adding about 40 new seats, taking capacity to 160-165.
* Expanding lobby and office areas.
* Improving air conditioning units.
Daniels has used the PRTC as a canvas for regional acting, directing and playwriting talent. Daniels emerged as a playwright there, seeing the stagings of Apartment 3A, The Tropical Pickle, Shoe Man, Boom Town and Thy Kingdom's Coming, which opened an Off-Broadway staging May 27, presented by the Barrow Group. Daniels directed his own work at PRTC but has not yet acted there.
The 80-year-old space, in Daniels' boyhood hometown (where he still lives), has served as a bus and truck repair shop, a pizza joint, a fruit and vegetable market, a car storage garage and a plumbing parts store. Semi-rural Chelsea, MI, home of Jiffy baking mixes, is 60 miles west of Detroit.
For tickets ($15-$30), or more information call (734) 475 7902.