By Daniel Skora
Another place, another theatre. For those who enjoy going north in the fall to take in the beautiful autumnal colors of Michigan, the Little Traverse Civic Theatre in Petoskey is a great place to stop by and take in a show. Community theatre is hardly ever without heart and dedication, and the LTCT is no exception. The Theatre has been around since 1945. Their first production was “You Can’t Take It With You”, the 1936 drama which won a Pulitzer Prize for playwrights George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart.
During those early years, the theatre performed in whatever spaces were available, putting on shows in schools, facilities in the Bay View area, and a converted movie theatre in Harbor Springs. In 1981, they became a tenant of the Crooked Tree Arts Center in Petoskey, where they continue to perform today.
Crooked Tree resides in what used to be a Methodist Church. The stained glass window that brightened the liturgical services of the congregation for so many years is still there but is covered over for evening performances. The blue waters and spectacular sunsets of Little Traverse Bay are just a short walk from the Arts Center. Ernest Hemingway, who vacationed in the area as a boy and a young man, once said that in the fall, with the surrounding trees in full color, the Little Traverse Bay was more beautiful than the fabled Bay of Naples.
The LTCT presents what can best be described as entertainment for general audiences. Four shows make up a full season, with plays being produced in August, October, December, and April. Seven performances of each show are put on over a two week period. The October shows favor productions that complement the season, like deer-hunting in “Escanaba in the Moonlight”, or plays dealing with the mysterious and the frightful, like Dracula, Sherlock Holmes, and the Devil himself. The rule of thumb for the Little Traverse Civic Theatre is this: If you’re going there expecting to be waiting for Godot, you’re gonna be waiting for an awful long time.
That’s not to say that they the shows they present are not funny, interesting, and entertaining. This year’s October offering was “The Brothers Grimm Spectaculathon”, playwright Don Zolidis’ attempt to squeeze into one madcap presentation as many of the folk tales that were collected by the German academics Willhelm and Jacob Grimm as he could. Zolidis is a playwright who wears many coats. He has written comedies and dramas, full length plays and one-acts, and plays for teenagers and professional companies alike. Two of Zolidis’ dramas, “White Buffalo’ and “Miles & Ellie”, have had successful runs at Chelsea’s Purple Rose Theatre.
The Spectaculathon plows much the same ground as Stephen Sondheim’s “Into the Woods”, but without the music and with much more hilarity. It consists of a series of sketches of stories found in the Grimm catalogue, some familiar, others not so much. The sketches are loosely held together by two narrators, nicely played by Jaimie Coucke and Jerry Christin. The narrators weave in and out of the sketches while occasional playing various roles within them. Along the way the audience is treated to some fractured fairy tales involving some familiar characters: Rapunzel (Hannah Watton), not exactly having a good time with all that hair; Rumplestiltskin (Matt Blythe), looking like a creature from a B-movie monster flick; Hanzel (Joel Watton), finding out that sometimes a bad witch is hard to keep down; Red Riding Hood (Amy Batice), appearing to be a card-holding member of the NRA; and Snow White (Kimberly Matthews), having to deal with some little people who buy their pants in the kiddy department.
The highlight of the second act is a physically exhausting quick-change rendition of the Cinderella story, with the bearded and appropriately named David “Hotdog” Losievsky playing the parts of Cinderella’s mother and her two sisters with such speed that a wig which defines one character barely touches his head when it has to be quickly removed for another.
Tracy Ulrich, having turned in impressive performances as Van Helsing in last year’s “Dracula” and as Sherlock Holmes two years ago, switches to directing for this production and deserves kudos for piloting this fast-paced excursion into the writings of the Brothers Grimm, crafting near-flawless entrances and exits without a single collision. You can check out the Little Traverse Civic Theatre online at www.ltct.org or by calling their business office at 231.348.1850. Their address at the Crooked Tree Arts Center is 461 E. Mitchell Street, Petoskey MI 49770.