Jeff Daniels Has Cabin Fever

By Kohn, Martin F. | American Theatre, December 2009 | Go to article overview

Jeff Daniels Has Cabin Fever


Kohn, Martin F., American Theatre


"THE FURTHER NORTH you get, the stranger it is," contends Purple Rose Theatre Company artistic director Guy Sanville, describing Michigan and the guiding principle behind Jeff Daniels's comedic trilogy about three generations of a deer-hunting family in the Upper Peninsula.

The trilogy's third installment, Escanaba, opened Sept. 17 and runs through Dec. 19 at the Purple Rose, the theatre Daniels founded in his hometown in 1991. A prolific playwright whose writing career has been overshadowed by his achievements as an actor, Daniels wrote Escanaba in da Moonlight, his initial look at the Soady clan, back in 1995.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

"It really was meant to stand alone," he recalls. A tall and raucous tale about hunters in a deer camp, that play featured slapstick humor, fart jokes, snappy one-liners and hailed the opening day of deer season: "It's like Christmas, with guns." With its local color, hunting lore and rough, manly humor, "We thought we could drag people who'd never been to a theatre into ours," Daniels says.

They did. Moonlight proved so popular that the Purple Rose staged it again in 1997 and mounted a commercial production in Detroit that ran for a record-setting 66 weeks. …

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