With another polar vortex probably on the way, take comfort in the knowledge that metro Detroit's theater lights are heating up. The 2015-16 theater season has a little of everything: sex-withholding feminists, a world premiere by Jeff Daniels, and that play about gentrification you've been waiting for.
Lysistrata by Drue Robinson (adapted from the comedy by Aristophanes)
Playwrights have adapted Lysistrata as a condemnation of war and patriarchy numerous times since its debut in 411 B.C. However, Drue Robinson's version is notably different: One, this version of Lysistrata is by a woman — not a 2,400-year-old man with opinions about women. Two, Robinson's Lysistrata is the only modern adaptation written entirely in rhyme.
Here's the gist: Lysistrata is an Athenian woman with the poise and command of Nicki Minaj. Fed up with the Peloponnesian War, she organizes the women of Greece into a sex strike. The message is simple: "No peace? No nooky!" Then, in a move reminiscent of Occupy Wall Street, the women seize the treasury and demand a farewell to arms. It's an irreverent and timely spin on feminism and pacifism — or as the kids say, perfect fodder for your next Tumblr post!
Runs Oct. 9-18 at Bonstelle Theatre; 3424 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313- 577-2972; bonstelle1.com; tickets $15 and up.
Casting Session by Jeff Daniels
Emmy-winning actor and fellow-Michiganian Jeff Daniels founded The Purple Rose Theatre 25 years ago. (That is to say, before Dumb and Dumber.) This season, Purple Rose is staging the world premiere of Daniels' new comedy, Casting Session. The comedy revolves around two middle-aged actors who have spent 30 years fighting over the same gigs around New York City. You'll laugh, you'll hear some profanity, and you'll see someone other than Kid Rock stage a world premiere in Detroit.
Runs Sept. 17-Dec.19. at The Purple Rose Theatre; 137 Park St., Chelsea; 734-433-7673; purplerosetheatre.org; tickets $25 and up.
American Hero by Bess Wohl
As the new troupe on the block, the Detroit Public Theatre has selected American Hero as their first curtain-opener. This bleak comedy's protagonists are three "sandwich artists": an awkward teen (we're looking at you, CCS students!), a failed banker (we're looking at you, Quicken Loans folks!), and a single mom (we're looking at you, Mom). As this trio of sad sacks grasp at the American dream, all they end up with is hands full of turkey slices. American Hero has been touted in New York as uproariously funny, dark, and existential — but who knows what direction Detroit's newest production company will take. Either way, doesn't working for a dream that doesn't exist ring true for everyone?
Runs Oct. 30-Nov. 22. at The Fisher Music Center; 3711 Woodward Ave.,
Detroit; 313-576-5111; detroitpublictheatre.org; tickets $30 and up.
A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry Clybourne Park by Bruce Norris
Ever since Midtown decided it needed twice as many boutique leather-goods stores as grocery stores (sorry, people looking for basic amenities), Detroit has proved it's prime real estate for gentrification. Fittingly, The Hilberry Theatre is staging a play about prime real estate and gentrification.
Clybourne Park is an unofficial sequel to Lorraine Hansberry's groundbreaking drama, A Raisin in the Sun. When Raisin debuted in 1959, Broadway had never seen a predominantly African-American cast. (Only one character is white.) Raisin follows the Youngers, an African-American family blocked from buying a house in a white neighborhood. Clybourne Park, the Pulitzer Prize-winning fan-fiction sequel, follows the Youngers, the white neighbors of the Youngers, and the neighborhood itself from 1959 to 2009.
Hansberry's play thoughtfully captures the struggle of African-Americans in the United States. And Norris' sequel does an incisive job of updating the discussion for our time. Seen side-by-side, it's apparent that racial tensions have improved since 1959 — but we still have a long, long way to go.
A Raisin in the Sun runs Feb. 12-21 at Bonstelle Theatre; 3424 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313- 577-2972; bonstelle1.com; tickets are $15 and up. Clybourne Park runs Feb. 26-April 21 at the Hilberry Theatre; 4743 Cass Ave., Detroit; 313-577-2972; hilberry1.com; tickets are $15 and up.
Improv Monday at Planet Ant
Detroit's improv comedy scene is alive and well and laughing in Hamtramck. Founded by Second City alumni over a decade ago, Improv Monday is Detroit's best-kept comedy secret. Shows kick off at 8 p.m. and run two hours. At 10 p.m., the stage becomes an open-mic show. So, if you're a heckler in the audience who thinks, "I can do better," then put the mic where your mouth is. We promise we'll laugh at you.
Every Monday at Planet Ant; 2357 Caniff Ave., Hamtramck; 313-365-4948
planetant.com; tickets $5 (door only).