Spinning Dot’s “Only A Day” touches the heart about life, love and parting
ANN ARBOR, Mich.–Spinning Dot Theatre is reminding us that theatre and story-telling that touches the heart and soul need not happen on a big stage, or even in an established black box theatre with a lobby and concessions and thousands and thousands of dollars worth of lights and screens.
It can happen under a blanket fort on a couch on a rainy day, on a patio or in a small, raw performance space that reminds me of the two-car garage in the house I grew up in. But for the somewhat heavy air inside owing to the heat outside for the 6 p.m. show I caught, I was happy to be there to take in Only A Day – seeing four energetic, colorful, animated, soulful actors bringing forth a story about loving life and accepting death to a young audience that had several members of the audience dabbing at their eyes by the end, and children asking questions as they were leaving the Carriage House Theatre.
The play, by German writer Martin Baltscheit is about a mayfly (Vicki Morgan), whose life only lasts a single day. The story centers on a Fox (Tyler Calhoun), a boar (Tae Hoon) and a grasshopper (Emily Slomovits) who can’t bring themselves to tell the mayfly that she is really a dayfly and only has the one day to live. They form friendships and love throughout the day, and even have time for some rogue behavior, like when the Fox claims he only has one day to live and eats a chicken (Slomovits in a double role).
Hearts soar with love for the mayfly, and there is a rivalry between the Fox and Boar. The cast of four have extraordinary chemistry and move like gears interlocking. It’s difficult to single out individual performances, though I will give extra props to Calhoun for donning a Russian grandmother persona at times that was spot on and made the kids laugh.
Directors Jenny Anne Koppera and Kelly Joyce Fielder did a terrific job of propping the story in the simple space. There was a small suitcase that opened into a diorama of the story that was about to unfold before us, a tree that was designed to be two or three different trees with a turn of the base and a hair-clip that represented the mayfly. It was all creatively and lovingly orchestrated.
The small space of The Carriage House is not a hindrance to the play. It is best that the kids, and the adults, are very close up. No face mics needed. Hoon plays guitar at the beginning, along with Slomovits on violin, as the quartet sings some songs to set the mood. Slomovits plays the violin on and off throughout the play to carry mood and even movement sometimes. I am pretty sure that these actors’ well-trained vocals could triumph over a decent size oscillating fan in the space—just my two-cents. But we all survived the one-hour performance just fine, and were plenty glad we saw a lovely story come to life so sweetly.
Only a Day runs ’til August 21.