Review: Wyandotte stars shine in ‘Savage in Limbo’ at WSU Studio Theatre

Posted by Times-Herald Newspapers on 4/25/11

By Sue Suchyta
John Patrick Shanley’s “Savage in Limbo,” which opened Thursday at Wayne State University’s Studio Theatre and runs through Saturday, is a superbly performed show, and offers a strong finish to the Studio’s season.

Much of that immediacy can be credited to the focused and intense talent in the five person show, directed by first-year doctoral student Jennifer Goff.

Set in 1986 in a Bronx bar, five former classmates, each 32 years old, find themselves together and apart. None are sure where their lives are going or what they want.

The cast of characters sounds like the lead-in for a bad joke: A bartender, a boyfriend, a virgin, a not-quite nun and a woman of easy virtue all walk into a bar. Humor aside, the show strikes a chord with anyone who has ever wondered why they seem stuck in rut while also wondering where their life is going – if anywhere.

The cast of Wayne State University’s Studio Theatre production of “Savage in Limbo” includes Yesmeen Mikhail (left) of Wyandotte as Linda Rotunda, Justin Wagner of New Baltimore as Tony Aronica and Lisa Youngs of Wyandotte as Denise Savage. Photo credit: Rick Fosbrink

Wyandotte residents and Roosevelt High School alumni Yesmeen Mikhail as Linda Rotunda, and Lisa Youngs as Denise Savage offer very strong performances in the energy-intensive, non-stop 90-minute show. Youngs plays a frustrated virgin caring for an aging mother, while Mikhail plays an upset young woman who discovers she can no longer use sex to control the dynamics of Monday night only intimate relationship.

Jonathan Hoopingarner of Roseville plays Murk, the bartender, whose rules seem to have symbolic parallels to the world at large. He also serves as the protector for April, a wisp of a woman who copes with the memories of her mother’s untimely death and her crisis of faith by drinking herself into oblivion. Murk enables her behavior with the ease of a practiced codependent. April is played with quirky energy by Kelsey Lusch of Clinton Township.

Justin Wagner of New Baltimore plays Tony Aronica, a restless stud reminiscent of a young Tony Danza. His unsettling discovery that “smart but ugly” women serve as an aphrodisiac has rocked has world while simultaneously driving his hormonal paramour to the breaking point.

Opening night action was non-stop and infused with the intense energy of actors invested in their roles. The actor emotions, especially the anger, was palpable, and each made us forget they were “people in a play” as their characters reacted to each other and their particular frustrations.

Costumer Cheryl Churchill nailed the decade costume-wise on a limited budget with era-authentic finds from thrift stores. Among the eye-candy were Mikhail’s bright pink and flattering disco-style dress and Wagner’s leather pants.

Hat’s off to Alan Devlin, scenic designer, and Leanne Turrell, properties chair, who made the bar looked effortlessly accurate to the era, from the event fliers to the bar glasses.

The show is being performed in the Hilberry rehearsal studio on the fourth floor of Old Main, 4841 Cass Ave., on the Wayne State University campus in Detroit.

Tickets range from $10 to $12, with student, senior, group and alumni discounts available.
For more information, call (313) 577-2972 or go to


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