REVIEW: ‘Trolls’ are Sure to Love Avon Players’ Production of ‘Escanaba in Da Moonlight’

Back in the early 2000s, Michigan’s own Jeff Daniels penned an homage to the Upper Peninsula (the Superior State) — the comedy Escanaba in Da Moonlight. First shown at The Purple Rose Theatre Company in Chelsea, MI, Avon Players brought the hilarity to its stage Friday night and had the full house roaring with laughter. And for those of you who didn’t know, ‘trolls’ are folks who live below the Mackinac Bridge.

As the play opens, we’re introduced to Albert Soady (Mark Palmer) patriarch of the Soady clan, who sets the stage for the sad saga: eldest son Reuben (Patrick Butcher) has never bagged a buck. Now the horror of this admission would probably be lost on those who have never hunted. But in Michigan, and especially the U.P., you’re expected not only to hunt, but to be a crack shot to boot. Joining Albert and Reuben at the sacred Soady deer camp for the start of hunting season is Remnar (Toby Booker) the other son, who has absolutely no trouble in the buck department and is in fact, a little ashamed his big brother tarnishes the family’s reputation. When it comes to deer season, it’s all about tradition for the Soady’s.

From left to right: Patrick Butcher of Rochester as “Reuben,” Mark Palmer of Shelby Twp. as “Albert” and Toby Booker of Warren as “Remnar.” Photo Credit: Bryan Clifford.

From the sweet sap whiskey Albert makes, to the pasties Reuben brings, and even the shirt Remnar has worn every year since he was nine. So when one-by-one things start taking a turn for the worse, everyone begins to think Reuben’s bad luck has jinxed the entire deer camp. In the midst of their despair they are joined by Jimmy “the Jimmer” Negamanee from Menominee, who once spent a weekend on a spaceship. Played masterfully by Chris Stepnitz, Jimmer provides some of the most side-splitting scenes in the show. If you’ve seen the remake of The Magnificent Seven, just picture Vincent D’Onofrio’s character Jack Horne, and you’ve got a pretty good glimpse of Jimmer. I’m not sure how he said his lines with a straight face, but he did a great job staying in character. Rounding out the cast is Ranger Tom (Steve Grady) who is with the DNR, or as Yoopers call it, the ‘Department of No Results.’ Together this group bans together to reverse the curse, make sense of various unexplainable phenomena, and of course… figure out how Rueben can finally bag a buck! The entire cast does all this with effortless comedic timing mixed with just a smidgen of sentiment.

Overall, the play has a good pace. By the time intermission rolled around, I was surprised that an hour had passed. And if you’re not fluent in Yooper, I suggest you pay close attention to the dialogue, which is hard at times because you’ll be too busy laughing. If you’re not fond of flatulence, any type of potty humor, or generally not a Jeff Daniels fan, this may not be the play for you. But if you’re a ‘Fudgie’ looking for a rousing good time and a chance to escape from the absurdity of the real world, then Escanaba in Da Moonlight is the place you want to be.

Tickets are $18 ($16 on Sundays for students and seniors). Call 248-608-9077 for tickets or order online at www.AvonPlayers.org. Group rates are available by calling the box office. Visa and MasterCard are accepted. All seats are reserved. Check out one of the remaining performances listed below.

Saturday, Jan 21 at 8 p.m.

Sunday, Jan 22 at 2 p.m.

Friday, Jan 27 at 8 p.m.

Saturday, Jan 28

Sunday, Jan 29 at 2 p.m.

Friday, Feb 3 at 8 p.m.

Saturday, Feb 4 at 8 p.m.

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About Sarah Hovis

Word manipulator, arts appreciator, sports spectator, and world traveler, Sarah charts her own course as the owner of saliho creative. She uses her creative mind and engaging dialogue to fearlessly bring the written word to life in print and online… all while keeping a watchful eye out for the next literary adventure. You can reach her at [email protected].

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