Sweat Gripping, Funny, Sad, Frightening

Ripples/John Roche/November, 2019

The production, ably directed by George Popovich and finely performed by a strong ensemble of new and familiar faces, was gripping, touching, funny, sad, frightening, and hit very close to home, especially given the industrial nature of much of our mid-Michigan economy and the ongoing General Motors strike.

Standing out in the cast were Connor Kelly, as Jason, whose youthful energy and passion were doused by corporate reality and replaced by vengeful passion that erupted into the tragic event that drove the proceedings but that the audience didn’t experience until the penultimate scene.

Lekeathon Wilson, as Chris, Jason’s best friend and eventual co-defendant, was just as strong in a more subtly written role. Maureen Sawdon and Rose Jangmi Cooper, playing their respective mothers, each struggling under the pressures of single parenthood, full-time factory work, and fear of the future, also gave fine performances.

Julian Van Dyke (playing two very different characters), Scott Pohl, Madeline Nash, and, especially, Edward (Eddie) Heldt, lent strong support.

The scenic design and set painting by Emily Willemese was a drab, blue-collar hangout/bar, surrounded by a combination sidewalk, probation office, back-alley, living room, path to nowhere. It beautifully conveyed the remoteness, both of each individual character from each other, and of Reading, Pennsylvania, from the rest of the world, as described in Mr. Popovich’s personal and illuminating Director’s Note.

Standing ovation-worthy was the tremendous work of Fight Director, Matthew Kowalcyzk. This reviewer has never witnessed a live performance of such a challenging, lengthy, and powerful scene of violence. Kudos.

Other technical elements were also strong and provided by: Stage Manager and co-Properties Designer (with the director), Jenny Popovich; Lighting Designer, Chelsea Witgen; Sound Designer, Rita Deibler; Costume Designer, Rachel O. Kay; Light Board Operator, Tricia Rogers; Sound Board Operator, Lillian Nash; and Costume Assistants, Jenny Popovich, George Popovich, Ashley Hampton, Theresa Dunn, and Adriana Flores.

This production represented Mr. Popovich’s directorial debut with the Community Circle Players. His resumé, from before relocating to mid-Michigan, is impressive. One hopes to see more of his work in the future at Riverwalk.

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