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Byron Civic presents 'Escanaba in Love'

Byron Civic Theatre's 2014 production of 'Escanaba in Love'

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Last weekend, Byron Civic Theatre premiered its production of Escanaba in Love. The Escanaba series of plays have been performed by a few stateline theatre companies, and over the past few years they have become somewhat of a local cult hit. Escanaba in Love is the second in the series by playwright Jeff Daniels. The sequel exchanges fewer fart jokes for more heart than the original, Escanaba in da Moonlight, but is still funny throughout.

Portraying the yoopers in Byron's production are a number of BCT stalwarts. Paul VanderVennet plays the eldest (and gassiest) of the Soady family, Alphonse. His performance and character are well done as he shuffles around the stage and incessantly recounts his hunt for the legendary Soady Ridge Buck. Dan Danielowski plays his son, Albert, Sr. Danielowski brings humanity to the conflict of the character, and has quite a touching moment when he has an imaginary/spiritual conversation with his deceased wife. Christopher Palmer plays Salty Jim Negamanee, a character who is equal parts nautical and inebriated. One must commend Palmer for his dedication to the physicality of the character, no small feat to be sure. It would have been nice for him to take the character just a little further and play up the drunkeness a tad more beyond that physicality, but he is thoroughly entertaining all the same. Brian Wygant is Albert, Jr. He brings an effective earnestness to his role. Well done. Portraying the only female of the cast is Elizabeth Palmer as Big Betty Balou. She could have embraced the gusto and boisterousness of the character a little more, but gives a likeable, entertaining performance.

All in all, the actors and director David Zumdahl present the story well. There were a few times the flow and cadence seemed like it could use refining, but none can deny the performance was entertaining and quite funny.

The trappings of this production work well, and truly help present the spirit of the UP setting. Tammy Long's costumes are requisitely woodsy, and Danielowski's design and Long's decoration create an impressive set. The set stretches the entire length of the stage, making an expansive Soady lodge. It is decorated floor to ceiling with numerous pelts, mounted antlers, and the like, and definitely embraces and illustrates the setting. Add in the nice touch of some tree gobos on the backdrop that make use of what otherwise would have been empty space (a nice touch!), and the stage is set.

For an entertaining evening, you have two more chances to see Escanaba this weekend. Performances will continue at 7:30 on January 31 and February 1, and February 2 at 2:00. Tickets are $12 (with senior and student discounts available), and can be ordered by phone at 815-312-3000 or from the BCT website.

Did you see the show? What did you think of the performance? Let James know by e-mailing rockfordtheaterexaminer@gmail.com or use the comments section on this article!