'Escanaba in da Moonlight' takes aim at hunting culture

By: Eileen Wilson, Telegraph Correspondent
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If you’ve never heard of Escanaba, you might not be alone. The small town, nestled in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, is a small place on the shores of Lake Michigan. But if you know nothing about the town, that will all change when you see the riotously funny play, “Escanaba in da Moonlight.” Prepare to be enlightened, and thoroughly entertained. The play, written by Jeff Daniels (of “Dumb and Dumber”), is the basis of a movie with the same name. Whether you’ve seen the movie, or not, get ready for a surprisingly fun treat. Connie Mockenhaupt, Sutter Street’s artistic director, compares the show to “Dumb and Dumber” on steroids. The play is set in a hunting lodge, and follows Reuben Soady, the family’s youngest boy, who happens to be only member of the family who hasn’t bagged a buck yet. “It’s an Upper Peninsula tradition — everyone hunts,” said Mockenhaupt. “The family goes hunting on opening day each deer season, and Mr. Soady tells his son, ‘If you haven’t bagged a buck by the time you turn 35, you might as well paint a yellow stripe down your back.’” While the town folk are beginning to call Reuben “Bambi’s Best Friend,” he turns to his wife, an Ojibwa Indian named Wolf Moon Dance, for some spiritual help. Jinxes, curses, rituals, and wild escapades ensue. The Yoopers (what people from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula are commonly called) are a surprisingly loony and fun bunch. Dipped in mysticism, and downright bathed in humor, the comedy debuted in Jeff Daniels’ Purple Rose Theater Company in Chelsea, Mich., and became the longest-running show in Detroit’s history. Escanaba has audiences cracking up across the country. “You will laugh from the opening monologue to the end of the show,” said Mike Jimena, who plays Albert Soady. “This is a funny, irreverent comedy. If you’re looking for a play with socially redeeming qualities, this is not the show for you.” Theater enthusiasts might remember that Sutter Street produced the show a few years ago, and audiences couldn’t get enough. “It was a huge success, and since then, everyone has been asking us to bring the show back. We got several Elly nominations the last time we did the show,” Mockenhaupt said. “We have a top-notch cast — a very experienced cast, several from renowned area theater companies.” Outstanding performers, unique and intricate technical treatments, and a hilarious script make for a rip-roaring, fun time for all. “If you want to laugh, this is the place to do it,” Mockenhaupt said. * * * “Escanaba in da Moonlight” When: 8 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays, 4 p.m. Sunday, through March 11 Tickets: $23 general, $21 seniors, $18 students with ID, $15 children 12 and under Where: Sutter Street Theatre, 717 Sutter St., Folsom Info: Sutterstreettheatre. com, (916) 353-1001