Bonstelle Theatre stages brilliant production of August Wilson’s ‘Fences’

By Patty Nolan, reposted from The Examiner. Read the full review here.

Rose Maxson (Will Bryson) and Troy Maxson (Kayla Mundy). Courtesy Bonstelle Theatre

Rose Maxson (Will Bryson) and Troy Maxson (Kayla Mundy). Courtesy Bonstelle Theatre

A fence means something different depending on which side of it one happens to be standing. A fence can be used to define a border – it signals “this is mine, not yours.” A fence can protect what’s inside from those on the outside; conversely, it can imprison people inside who long to get out.

In August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning play “Fences,” garbage collector Troy Maxson deals with literal and metaphorical fences as he struggles to make a better life for his family in 1950s-era Chicago. This new Bonstelle production, the latest outstanding effort by Director Lynch R. Travis, is a compelling story about a family struggling with race relations, paternal responsibility and the gap in generational expectations that affect every family dynamic.

As the play opens, Troy (Will Bryson) is bragging to his friend and co-worker, Bono (Danté Jones), about how he officially complained to management because only the white workers get to drive the garbage trucks, while the African American garbage men are required to lift and empty the heavy cans all day long. We sense that this is a common theme with Troy – the expectation that a black man must work twice as hard as the white man and be happy with half the reward. We quickly learn that Troy is an imaginative, proud, physically strong man who carries a deep resentment against his father, against the white-man’s world, and against anyone who challenges his authority.

Troy’s stories of his own exploits are hilariously larger than life – including a wrestling match with Death himself. Troy’s wife Rose (Kalya Mundy) tries to leaven Troy’s big talk with practical words, but it only seems to provoke Troy to tell bigger, more outrageous stories. As we watch him sawing boards for the fence he is building, he reminisces about swatting baseballs over the outfield fence back when he was one of the highest scoring players in the Negro Leagues. Even with his mighty swing, he couldn’t clear the racial barrier that kept African Americans from playing Major League Baseball. And when that fence came down, after WWII, Troy was too old to compete. Now in his early ‘50s, his resentment includes the men of color who now play in the majors – certain that their skills are nothing compared to his own prowess.

Read the full review here.

REVIEW: Louise Heck-Rabi One Act Festival offers three distinct student plays

Reviewed by Patty Nolan, The Examiner.

Click HERE to read the review on The Examiner’s website.

View production photos or join the Facebook event!

Posted March 1, 2013

Zyle Cook as Sandy, Joe Sfair as Lou, Dan Miller as Felix
Photo: Felix Li
Check out more photos!

If you are interested in new plays, new playwrights and the emerging theatre scene, don’t miss WSU’s Heck-Rabi One Act Festival. This is an annual showcase of three one-act plays composed by student playwrights, performed by student actors and directed by, yes, fellow students.

The Louise Heck-Rabi Dramatic Playwriting One Act Festival has been an annual event since 2000, a program designed to encourage young playwrights to submit their original works in hopes of having them produced. Each year, six or seven semi-finalists are chosen out of all submissions. The plays are then read at a Workshop, where they are critiqued by judges. Three finalists win a scholarship as well as the opportunity to produce their play in front of a live audience. Each winning playwright has the invaluable opportunity to work with a student director and student performers to realize their productions on the stage.

Opening last night, February 28, and running through March 9, 2013, audience members at the Studio Theatre were treated to a diverse selection of winning plays – spanning the abstract, the inevitable, and a haunted theatrical production. All three plays are performed in a single evening with a short intermission between each — a three-course dramatic meal that is most satisfying. Making it even more interesting is that all of the winning playwrights are also actors whom you may have seen perform on the Hilberry stage.

This year’s selected student plays include: “Hurts So Good,” by Carollette Phillips and Edmund Alyn Jones, (who appeared together in “Richard III” as Lady Anne and Richard); “A New Play by Neil Simon,” by Dave Toomey (“Frank Langella’s Cyrano”); and “Chiseled,” by Laura Heikkinen (“Summer and Smoke”).

“Chiseled,” by Laura Heikkinen opens the show and is the most abstract of the three pieces. A sculptor encounters a young woman at a gallery displaying his newest work – and they are inexplicable drawn together. In a series of staccato scenes, we watch their relationship unfold and his creative work wax and wane until we are not sure which is art and which is artifice. This abstract piece is open to much interpretation and is sure to stimulate conversation regarding what we “thought” happened.

Directed by Sharayah Kay Johnson, the cast for this play features Hannah Butcher as Model, Denzel Clark as Dan, Kristen Dawn-Dumas as Cee, Tayler Jones as Em/Guest 1, Bryauna Perkins as Elle, Laith Salim as Jay and Brad Smith as Guest 2. Amanda Mahoney is the Stage Manager.

Dave Toomey’s “A New Play by Neil Simon” is a hilarious backstage play with a sinister twist. Lou, a theatre veteran and director, has returned to his hometown to help out best friend Sandy, who has sunk everything into a decrepit theatre and the production of a new play by renowned playwright Neil Simon. The trick is, the play doesn’t sound anything like Neil Simon – with themes of demonic repossession and grisly murder. The ill-fated production takes a turn for the worse when disembodied voices and shadows haunt the theatre. You may scream … you’ll certainly laugh.

“Hurts So Good,” by Carollette Phillips and Edmund Alyn Jones, drops us into the middle of a story between two people who clearly have a history. Are they friends? Lovers? Both? Ultimately, this is a moving little slice of life about complicated relationships and the eternal struggle to know if what feels right is really all wrong.

“Hurts So Good” stars James Jordan and Alexis Mabry under the direction of Zee Bricker; Michael Hallberg is the Stage Manager.

It’s always fun to watch students in action in the intimate Studio Theatre (downstairs from the Hilberry Theatre) and these young actors hold up to close scrutiny. This trio of unrelated plays makes for a most entertaining evening – put it on your calendar.

Tickets are a bargain at $5 and are available by calling the Hilberry Theatre Box Office at (313) 577-2972, purchasing online, or by visiting the box office at 4743 Cass Avenue on the corner of Hancock.

REVIEW: Bonstelle’s ‘Arabian Nights’ is fun

Reviewed by Robert Delaney, Detroit New Monitor
Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Arabian Nights at the Bonstelle

Dunyazade (Sydney Macheskey) Shahryar (Luke Rose), and Sheherezade (Yesmeen Mikhail)
Photo: Patrick Pozezinski

A young woman saves her neck by telling fascinating stories to the prince she has been forced to marry in “The Arabian Nights,” the current production at Wayne State’s Bonstelle Theatre in midtown Detroit.

Tony Award-winner Mary Zimmerman has adapted the famous collection of Persian, Indian and Arabic tales, “The Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night,” for the stage. Under Jennifer Goff’s direction a youthful and energetic undergraduate cast has great fun performing it — and that fun is shared by the audience.

It would, of course, be impossible to include all of the tales in one play, and Zimmerman has chosen to leave out some of the more familiar ones — such as those of Sinbad, Aladdin and Ali Baba (which were not actually in the original collection) — in favor of some less well known stories.

Yesmeen Mikhail is the storytelling enchantress, Scheherazade, and Luke Rose is her homicidal husband, Shahryar. They both also portray other characters, as do all of the cast members.

Also very impressive are Laith Salim as Harun al-Rashid, Lisa Youngs as Sympathy, and Nicholas Yocum as the Madman. Scenic designer Leazah Behrens has given us a fanciful set, and the costumes designed by Donna Buckley are (who would have thought I’d ever be able to say this) “right out of the ‘Arabian Nights.’”

“The Arabian Nights” continues this weekend, through February 17, with performances at 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and at 2 p.m., Sunday afternoon, at the Bonstelle Theatre, 3424 Woodward Avenue, a block south of Mack and just a few blocks south of Orchestra Hall. For ticket information, call the WSU Theatre box office at (313) 577-2960 or go to www.wsushows.com.

REVIEW: Bonstelle offers holiday treat for kids

Reviewed by Robert Delaney, The Detroit New Monitor

Kai (Nicholas Yocum) and The Snow Queen (Mackenzie Conn).

Kai (Nicholas Yocum) and The Snow Queen (Mackenzie Conn).

Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytale, “The Snow Queen,” makes a delightful stage play for children in the adaptation by Tyler J. Monroe now being offered at Wayne State University’s Bonstelle Theatre in Midtown Detroit. This is not only high-quality children’s theatre, but perhaps the most technically impressive show I have ever seen on the Bonstelle stage. There are some pretty fancy special effects here, ones I wouldn’t have guessed the Bonstelle could pull off. And there is an interactive aspect to the show that begins with pre-show activities for kids 45 minutes before the opening curtain. Working with WSU undergraduate actors and technical staff, visiting director Allegra Libonati has recreated the production she did last year with the American Repertory Theatre of Cambridge, Mass., where she is the resident director. Children will delight to the story of the young girl, Gerda’s (Kristin Dawn-Dumas) efforts to rescue her friend Kai (Nicholas Yocum) from the Snow Queen, Mackenzie Conn (shown at right). And they will also be fascinated by the antics of the Goblin (Zyle Christian-Cook) and the many other characters in this splendid story by the author of “The Little Mermaid” and “The Ugly Duckling.” Anyone who has seen Conn in any of her other WSU roles can easily imagine that she makes a strikingly beautiful Snow Queen. No praise would be too high for the work of all the behind-the-scenes contributors to the show’s success, notably scenic designer/technical director Fred Florkowski, costume designer Mary Copenhagen, lighting designer Samuel G. Byers and sound designer Ryan Koprince. Director Libonati has said, “If families can be swept away in this fairytale, go on a journey together, and be inspired by the strength of a little girl alone in the North Pole, that would be a wonderful thing.” Indeed, this production of “The Snow Queen” is truly a wonderful thing. “The Snow Queen” continues this weekend, through December 9, with performances at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday; and at 2 p.m. Sunday afternoon (pre-show activities begin at 7:15 p.m. or 1:15 p.m., at the Bonstelle Theatre, 3424 Woodward Avenue, a block south of Mack and just a few blocks south of Orchestra Hall. For ticket information, call the WSU Theatre box office at

(313) 577-2960 or go to http://www.wsushows.com

Or join the Facebook Event!

 

REVIEW: Discover the wintry magic of ‘The Snow Queen’ at Bonstelle Theatre

Reviewed by Patty Nolan

Click HERE to read the review on The Examiner’s Website

If you can remember clapping your hands to save Tinker Bell’s life… if you ever wanted to visit Narnia… or looked for faeries in your grandmother’s garden… then you should get to the Bonstelle Theatre for this magical production of “The Snow Queen.” And if you can grab some kids to make it all look like a magnanimous effort on your part, so much the better.

This artistic, enthusiastic and interactive Bonstelle production is an adaptation by Tyler J. Monroe of one of Hans Christian Andersen’s most popular children’sfairytales. Timed to help families get into the holiday mood, “The Snow Queen” isn’t a Christmas story, per se, and is suitable for people of all faith backgrounds.

It’s the story of a little girl named Gerda (the amazing Kristin Dawn-Dumas) who is determined to rescue her friend, a young boy named Kai (the wonderful Nicholas Yocum), from the clutches of the evil Snow Queen. Basic values of loyalty, friendship, selflessness and courage are conveyed in a story that is filled with adventure, drama and enough brilliant stage spectacle to satisfy the wiggliest children. Although the story is essentially sweet, it is never saccharine, and is rich with eccentric and even dangerous characters who help or hinder Gerda on her journey.

The Bonstelle Theatre presents Hans Christian Andersen's winter holiday fairy tale 'The Snow Queen.' This breathtaking production is directed by Allegra Libonati. She directed the play’s premier a year ago at the American Repertory Theater and worked with a gifted design team in Detroit to bring it to life on the Bonstelle stage. The use of oversized puppets (Anthony Karpinski), a set design created by sweeping, swirling fabric and ingenious props (Fred Florkowski), inventive lighting (Samuel G. Byers), imaginative costumes (Mary Copenhagen) and engaging sound design (Ryan Koprince) all combine to pull the audience (young and old) into the enchanted world of the Snow Queen.

The delightful and talented cast of Bonstelle “children” swarm the theater before the show opens, inviting audience members to swordfight, toss balloons, admire their noise-making prowess, and answer personal questions. Once the show begins, Grandpa (Michael Meike) and Grandma (Jacqueline Fenton) summon their grandchildren for story time. As the story unfolds, the grandchildren take on multiple roles, engaging with Gerda as she moves from one adventure to the next.

The show includes several audience participation moments. In fact, children are invited to arrive 45 minutes before curtain time to participate in a preshow craft activity with cast members. Paper roses and snowflakes will be made in the upstairs lobby and used by children in the audience to interact with the show.

“The Snow Queen is a show where you can bring family members of all ages and everyone can take away a part of the story,” says Libonati. “If families can be swept away in this fairytale, go on a journey together, and be inspired by the strength of a little girl alone in the North Pole, that would be a wonderful thing.”

“The Snow Queen” runs from November 30 to December 9, 2012. Shows are on Fridays and Saturdays with an 8 p.m. curtain and Sunday with a 2 p.m. curtain. Children get a special ticket price of only $6; adult tickets are $12 – $15 and are available by calling the Bonstelle Theatre Box Office at (313) 577-2960, purchasing them online, or by visiting the box office in the Hilberry Theatre located at 4743 Cass Avenue on the corner of Hancock.

And as one of the happy coincidences that sometimes pop up in the Detroit theater scene, an original version of “The Snow Queen” – in purely puppet form – is also opening this weekend atPuppetART. We’ll be reporting back on that show yet this weekend.

So fall in love with the magic of “The Snow Queen” – and see it twice for the first time – at the Bonstelle Theatre and the PuppetART Theatre in downtown Detroit.

Congratulations to the cast of The Snow Queen”: Zee Bricker (Detroit, MI) as Robber Queen, Mackenzie Conn (Walled Lake, MI) as Snow Queen, Zyle Christian-Cook (Marcellus, MI) as Goblin, Kristin Dawn-Dumas (Detroit, MI) as Gerda, Jacqueline Fenton (Allen Park, MI) as Grandma, Katelyn Foster (Harrison Township, MI) as Rose 1, Garett Harris (Royal Oak, MI) as Prince, Sharayah Johnson (Birch Run, MI) as Flower Witch, Gaia Klotz (Midland, MI) as Swallow 1, Alexis Mabry (Grosse Pointe, MI) as Princess, Sydney Macheskey (Shelby Township, MI) as Sun, Jackson McLaskey (Mt. Clemens, MI) as Raven, Michael Meike (Clinton Township, MI) as Grandpa, Matt Miazgowicz (Dearborn, MI) as Rose 3, Brittany Michael (St. Clair Shores, MI) as Robber Girl, Jonathon Pigott (Wyandotte, MI) as Swallow 2, Aeisha Reese (Flint, MI) as Rose 2, Luke Rose (Harrison Township) as Reindeer, and Nicholas Yocum (Royal Oak, MI) as Kai.

Broken Glass: “Outstanding” Review from The New Monitor

Give it up for the Cast and Crew of Broken Glass who have a received an “Outstanding” review from The New Monitor.

Broken Glass - WSU Studio Theatre, Detroit

Michael Gingerella (Philip Gellburg) and Tiaja Sabrie (Sylvia Gellburg)
Photo: Felix Li

“Director Bilha Birman-Rivlin, a WSU doctoral candidate, has worked with and unusually accomplished undergraduate cast to give us a remarkably impressive production of this lat Miller play.”

– Robert Delaney

Make sure you catch one of the final TWO performances: October 26 and 27 at 8:00 p.m.

For more information check out the Facebook event and our website.

REVIEW: The Bonstelle opens its fall season with a real witch story, ‘The Crucible’

Reviewed by: Patty Nolan

The Crucible - Bonstelle Theatre, Wayne State University, Detroit

Click HERE to read the review on the Examiner website!

 

Halloween is a great time for spooky stories about ghosts, haunted houses, witches and goblins.

But the Bonstelle Theatre has opened its new season with a real witch story – the Tony Award-winning play “The Crucible” by world-renowned playwright Arthur Miller.

With this important American play, Miller used the hysteria surrounding the 1692 Salem witchcraft trials to draw analogies to the McCarthy-era trials in which people accused of being communists were forced to name colleagues or risk being black balled, having their careers destroyed, and is some cases, losing their personal freedom.

Miller’s classic play explores how the pious citizens of 1692 Salem were predisposed to believe that it was Satan himself who, using agents in the community, caused their babies to die, their crops to wilt, their hearts to lust, and their children to laugh in church. And when the paranoid Reverend Parris catches his niece Abigail Williams and several other young girls dancing around a fire in the woods, he is all too willing to believe Abigail’s accusations that members of the community have put them under a spell.

This Bonstelle production is brilliantly directed by Lavinia Hart, who opens the play with an eerie look at the voodoo ritual being practiced by the young women in the village. The physical presence of evil is treated seriously, with the use of magical lighting and foreboding sound design, to orient the audience to the mindset of 17th Century Massachusetts.

Abigail quickly uses her new-found power to whip the community into a frenzy of mass-hysteria. Over time, as good people are brought to trial and executed without due process, those in charge become less willing to admit that they’ve been duped. And so, to prove that Satan walks in their midst, the courts require the accused to name fellow Satan worshipers, or face public execution. Quickly, it is the most devout people in the community who are imprisoned and executed, because they refuse to confess to the court’s lie, even to save their own necks. Ironically, at the end of the play, those who are unscathed by the witch trials are the most guilty.

Director Lavinia Hart comments, “In the face of corruption, we discover the distance some will be required to go in order to meet their responsibility to family, friends and society.”

Although it is easy for modern audiences to smugly condemn the superstitious residents of Salem, Miller clearly understood the real and present danger. As long as it is possible for mobs of frightened, paranoid people to blame someone else for their suffering, witch hunts will continue.

As we reach the final weeks of an especially ugly election year, we would all do well to treat smear campaigns with skepticism. Both political parties would have us believe that the other candidate is evil incarnate. But history shows us that the real evil is ignorance, fear, paranoia, hysteria, greed, pride, and jealousy. Miller would urge vigilance against those daemons.

WSU’s young Bonstelle Theatre ensemble brought a compelling performance to this difficult material. Mackenzie Conn was delightfully wicked as Abigail Williams; Colin Mallory struck the right balance of obsequious paranoia and self-righteousness as Rev. Parris; Jackson McLaskey was strong and empathetic as John Proctor; Nicholas Yocum, as Reverend Hale, takes us on an authentic spiritual journey as he realizes that the people he condemned on Abigail’s say-so are innocent; and Ivy Haralson brought lovely authenticity to the role of Barbados slave Tituba.

The cast also includes: Jacqueline Fenton (Allen Park, MI) as Susanna Walcott, Daniel Finn (Armada, MI) as Ezekiel Cheever, Jordan Fritz (River Rouge, MI) as Giles Corey, Amber Gale (Detroit, MI) as Girl 1, Robert J. Hammond (Troy, MI) as Willard, Shannon Hurst (Warren, MI) as Girl 4, Sharayah Johnson (Birch Run, MI) as Ann Putnam, Sara Kline (Royal Oak, MI) as Rebecca Nurse, Kelly Klopocinski (Sterling Heights, MI) as Elizabeth Proctor, Alyssa Lucas (Garden City, MI) as Mercy Lewis, Jackson McLaskey (Mt Clemens, MI) as John Proctor, Michael Meike (Clinton Twp) as Judge Danforth, Matthew Miazgowicz (Dearborn, MI) as Thomas Putnam, Yesmeen Mikhail (Wyandotte, MI) as Sarah Good, Malvina Mirowski (Sterling Heights, MI) as Betty Parris, Hope Morawa (Lincoln Park, MI) as Girl 3, Bryauna Perkins (Chesterfield, MI) as Hopkins and Girl 2, Aeisha Reese (Flint, MI) as Mary Warren, Laith Salim (Dearborn, MI) as Francis Nurse, Stuart Sturton (Dexter, MI) as Judge Hathorne, and The production team includes:

Director Lavinia Hart is supported by: Nicholas Boyd (Stage Manager), Anthony Karpinski (Scenic Designer), Fred Florkowski (Technical Director), Donna Buckley (Costume Designer), Gabriel Rice (Lighting Designer), Michael C. Thomas (Sound Designer), Cheryl Turski (Movement Coach), and Patrick Pozezinski (Publicity Manager).

The Crucible” runs at the Bonstelle Theatre for two weekends only, closing Sunday October 21. Curtain time is at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, at 2 p.m. on Sundays. There will be a special morning performance on Thursday, October 18 at 10 a.m. Tickets are $12 – $15 and are available by calling the box office at 313-577-2960, visiting the Bonstelle website, or purchasing tickets at the Hilberry Theatre box office, located at 4743 Cass Avenue, at the corner of Hancock.