Joseph Zettelmaier’s latest drama officially opened this week at Performance Network Theatre, where he has premiered many of his popular plays. Zettelmaier is a Michigan based playwright and four-time nominee for the Steinberg/American Theatre Critics Association Award for best new play, first in 2006 for “All Childish Things,” then in 2007 for “Language Lessons,” in 2010 for “It Came From Mars” and in 2012 for “Dead Man’s Shoes.”
In the interest of full disclosure, let us state for the record that we’ve loved every Joseph Zettelmaier play we’ve seen and this production of “Salvage” has been eagerly awaited.
It doesn’t disappoint. The banter between its two characters – one minimalist and one prone to babble – is choice. Zettelmaier understands the human condition is at its most human (and therefore, the most engaging) when circumstances seem normal enough and then slowly slip the bonds of conventional gravity. He is a master at finding the sweet spot where one foot is firmly on the ground and the other is tentatively searching for that next solid step.
This play starts out normal enough. Jason, played by Patrick O’Connor Cronin, is the shy owner of a failing collectibles store in Detroit. His passion is finding film monster “object d’art” and listening to mid ‘60s-‘70s rock ‘n’ roll. (He has a framed print of Frank Zappa as Sheik Yerbouti on the wall.) But he also appreciates the value of general collectibles, from lunch boxes to baseball cards to pop-culture ephemera.
His insulated, nerd-driven life is knocked catawampus when the attractive Sarah, played by Katherine Banks, hands him an old postcard featuring a defunct Canadian hockey team. It’s valuable and rare. In fact, it’s so rare, it quickly raises Jason’s suspicion. A quick check confirms that the postcard is authentic.
After an awkward beginning, Jason and Sarah hit it off. He helps her find a buyer for the postcard, and she admits to discovering some other items of interest in an old box in her late father’s attic. She wants nothing to do with them – her memories of her father aren’t happy – and she wants to give the whole lot to Jason. When he sees what’s inside, Jason agrees to nothing less than an equal partnership in divesting the treasure.
Is his bad luck finally turning around? Or is this really too good to be true? “Salvage” will pull you into the story and keep you guessing until the final Fade to Black.
Directed by Joey Albright with co-producer Tom Wilson, “Salvage” give’s its audience a perfect night of theatre entertainment. The acting is superb – with characters who earn our laughter and empathy. We want to know more about them.
The Set Designer and Technical Director, Phill Harmer , working with Scenic Designer Jennifer Maiseloff, created a picture-perfect “Hidden Treasures” collectible shop, in which the entire play is staged. More than a few of us patrons were tempted to sneak on stage and browse the merchandise. Sound designer Eric Hohnke found a collection of rockin’ incidental music that will send more than a few people to search for that perfect Spotify list, and we could hear people humming along between scenes. Costume designer Amber Marisa Cook kept Jason in a fine selection of nerd-appropriate T-shirts, and Sarah’s wardrobe became increasingly flirty as the relationship progressed. The production crew also included the work of Lighting Designer, Daniel C. Walker; Stage Manager, Rochelle Clark and Assistant Stage Manager, Derek Ridge.
“Salvage” runs at Performance Network Theatre through May 24 with evening performances on Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays and Sundays at 8 p.m., and matinees on Saturdays at 3 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets range in price from $25 to $41 and are available online or by calling or visiting the PNT Box Office at 734.663.0681, located at 120 E. Huron St, in Ann Arbor. The Box Office is open Tuesday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
And be sure to check out the PNT website for more events happening around the Salvage schedule. As promised when PNT reopened, there is a steady stream of readings, children’s events, and other activities scheduled for this spring.