From left, Stephanie Stoiko and Mike McDowell-Parker perform in the Purdon Studio Theatre’s production of “Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind.”

From left, Stephanie Stoiko and Mike McDowell-Parker perform in the Purdon Studio Theatre’s production of “Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind.”

Photo by Kevin Fitzhenry, provided by Grosse Pointe Theatre


Experimental show promises 30 short plays in 60 minutes

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published April 23, 2019

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GROSSE POINTE WOODS — Despite debuting on the stage in 1988 — almost 20 years before Twitter — “Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind” could be seen as a play for the Twitter age.

The show promises 30 plays in 60 minutes, which means none of the plays are more than two minutes long — and many are far shorter. Grosse Pointe Theatre’s Purdon Studio Theatre, which presents contemporary or more edgy fare, will produce this show April 26 to May 5 at Grosse Pointe Woods Presbyterian Church.

PST is GPT’s black box theater arm, and productions are intimate, with audiences of approximately 50 being seated close to the actors. That’s critical for “Too Much Light,” because the audience is part of the show. Audience members determine the order of the plays and which plays are performed in a given night by calling out numbers associated with each play. In some cases, audience members become characters themselves. “Too Much Light” was an experimental show written by a Chicago ensemble known as the Neo-Futurists.

“The whole concept of the Neo-Futurists is, what is art … (and) what is theater?” said Nick Marinello, of St. Clair Shores, who directs and appears in the show. “It plays with all of those (theatrical) conventions. … The fourth wall (that separates the audience from the production) doesn’t exist. We’ve got seven or eight walls.”

The actors have props but no set, costumes or makeup. They also use their own real names as their character names, when necessary. There are no leading roles.

“It’s an ensemble piece,” said Stephanie Stoiko, of Detroit, one of the cast members.

Some of the shows include theatrical references. One production is even an extremely brief version of “Macbeth.”

“Every single play is relatable,” said Joanna Delpaz, of Macomb Township, one of the actors.

The cast also includes Gerald A. Ashby Jr., of Detroit; Ron Bernas, of Grosse Pointe Woods; Leta Chrisman, of Harper Woods; Kevin Fitzhenry, of Warren; Erin Getzin, of Harrison Township; Mike McDowell-Parker, of Grosse Pointe Farms; and Sara Shook, of Grosse Pointe Woods.

Despite seeming random, there is order to the production.

“It doesn’t feel chaotic,” Ashby said. “Every play has a beginning, middle and end.”

All of the plays are scripted as well.

“It’s not improv,” Stoiko said.

But it’s not a typical night of theater.

“I think they can expect this experience to be different — not only from shows they’ve seen before, but even if they’ve seen this show before,” Marinello said. “They can expect for the show to be thought-provoking. They can expect to laugh.”

In some cases, Marinello said, the show might even make the audience feel uncomfortable. The cast and director hope the production engages audiences and sparks conversations afterward.

Each night will be a different production, because Marinello said the audience from the previous night will select a different set of plays to be staged.

If any of the productions sell out, the audience will be treated to free pizza, courtesy of the cast.

Grosse Pointe Woods Presbyterian Church is located at 19950 Mack Ave. Parking is free. Tickets cost $15. For tickets or more information, visit www.gpt.org or call (313) 881-4004.

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