April 13 2016 11:48 AM

‘The Decade Dance’ explores tumultuous 1970s

Since the early ‘70s, I’ve been waiting — and hoping — for a wild flashback. I have been afraid, however, one might occur during a funeral or when an officer asks me for my license and registration. Last Friday, I got my wish without any awkwardness. It happened inside the comfort of Williamston Theatre.

That’s where I witnessed its latest production, “The Decade Dance.” The play, by Michigan playwright Joseph Zettelmaier, is a 10-year chronicle of two American lovers during the tumultuous period between 1970 and the beginning of 1980. To call them star-crossed lovers seems insufficient. More like shooting-star-crisscrossed-and twisted-into-a pretzel lovers.

Tiffany Mitchenor is Nina, a black radical. Mitchell Koory is Roger, a less ambitious yet compassionate “white boy.” And when I say “is,” that’s because both actors become their characters. Mitchenor and Koory made me forget they were actors spouting rehearsed lines. Their actions and interactions felt authentic. I never got tired of their presence, nor did I long for other actors to appear.

The play’s script, centered around the hippie-ish couple, gives the pair of actors plenty of substance to nurture their onstage personalities. The writing is full of wit, emotion, passion, joy, nostalgia and anguish. Its sharp and quick humor often evokes belly laughs, but the play also has moments about as chipper as watching Grandma being fed into a wood chipper—up to her belly.

The language is explicit and sometimes sexual, and unabashed contact should be expected. Drug use and drinking are embraced. The often decadent “Decade Dance” is damn entertaining, but you may want to leave the kids at home.

Even the pauses between scenes were enjoyable, thanks to crewmembers Derek Ridge, Cherith Hague, and Madelayne Shammas. The trio, dressed in tie-dyed shirts, rearranged the retro set and re-positioned the sparse furniture while making over-the-top gestures and dance moves to period music. Some of the loudest crowd cheers were for the crew’s comical antics — Ridge’s in particular.

The intricately decorated proscenium — with carvings depicting highlights of the ‘70s such as Mohammed Ali, Star Wars, and peace signs — added some complexity to the bare stage.

Fashion and musical flashbacks were sprinkled throughout the swiftly moving play. Recordings of Richard Nixon speeches were eerie additions. For anyone who experienced the ‘70s, “The Decade Dance” will probably bring back memories of the racial, political and social unease of that decade. Younger or more conservative audiences may not have the same appreciation — or feel the same old-school hippie buzz — that I did watching it.

“The Decade Dance”

Williamston Theatre Through May 1 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday; 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday; 2 p.m. Sundays $23-28/$10 students/$2 discount for seniors and military 122 S. Putnam St., Williamston (517) 655- 7469, williamstontheatre.com

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