Student theatre, it seems, will always reside in relative obscurity. But take a look at the relentless assault of mediocre TV shows and movies — all aimed to appeal to the widest possible audience — and maybe obscurity ain’t so bad. Basement Arts is a student-run theatre company that performs out of the Arena Theater (Michigan’s only black-box theatre) deep in the bowels of the Frieze Building.

Basement Arts’s no-budget status keeps the company independent, ensuring an unpressured creative environment for the development and realization of some truly great theatre (it also keeps tickets attractively free).

As with any local creative endeavor, Basement shows can be fairly hit and miss, but from the looks of it, the Basement has a serious hit on its hands this weekend. “The House of the Blue Leaves” by John Guare, is viewed by many critics as one of the best contemporary comedies of the past 30 years. It is the story of Artie Shaunessy (the hilarious Rob Hess), a struggling young songwriter who has grown too old for the title. He has the soul of an artist but none of his talents, and so lives in a deluded world where dreams of fame and the phantoms of celebrities are more real to him than the truth. Bananas (Katie Johnston) and Bunny (Rebecca Schwartzstein) are the women in his life and participate willingly in his deluded fantasy. The playwright, Guare, writes of “the ridiculous and humorous and desperate way in which we pursue our dreams and goals and ultimately how those dreams humiliate us.”

This may all seem like heavy stuff, but tragedy makes for the best comedy and the cast has mixed the suffering with the sublime in expert style.

 

Today, 7 p.m.

Tomorrow, 7 p.m. and 11 p.m.

Saturday, 7 p.m.

 

The Arena Theater

Frieze Building

Corner of State Street and Huron

 

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