School of hard knocks
|By Tom Helma|
LCC Theatre’s ’Balm’ a so-so lesson in street lifeAs an exercise in teaching acting students about the desperate, gritty lives of New York street people, Lansing Community College Theatre Department’s “Balm in Gilead” is a huge success. One of Lanford Wilson’s earliest plays, “Balm” features more than 20 characters, including pimps, pushers, prostitutes, drunks, thieves and drug addicts.
The play also comes with a host of what were huge innovations for live theater at its 1965 premiere.
Set in a seedy, upper Broadway diner (brought to the stage by Bartley H. Bauer) the play opens with an off-key doo-wop number. The characters arrive from all directions, striking up overlapping conversations to create the kind of cacophony one might find walking into any diner anywhere, except these conversations are the stuff of street trade — hustlers and those being hustled.
Leading the charge is Jonathan Stewart, as Dopey, the wise old junkie who narrates the play and observes that cockroaches were here before humankind and will outlast us as well.
Dave Dunckel shines in his two small roles of Xavier the supplier and “the stranger,” a mysterious enforcer/hit man.
In the featured role of Ann, a former Minnesota teacher turned street prostitute, Courtney Rauch is particularly effective as a down-and-out, beehive-adorned hooker.
We can hope this on-stage experience will help prevent some of them from 2 becoming Macbeth starving March 25 artist & April street-people themselves.
‘Balm in Gilead’Through
April 4 8 p.m. Friday & Saturday LCC Theatre Department, Dart
Auditorium, 500 N. Capitol Ave., Lansing $10/$5 (517) 372-0945 www.lcc.edu/hpa/events