REVIEW: Bonstelle’s ‘Bat Boy’ a must-see musical

Review by Robert Delaney, New Monitor

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'Bat Boy: The Musical' Credit: Kevin Replinger

‘Bat Boy: The Musical’
Credit: Kevin Replinger

A freakish creature often reported on by the Weekly World News is discovered in a West Virginia cave in “Bat Boy: The Musical,” being given a superb production at Wayne State University’s Bonstelle Theatre in Midtown Detroit.

Yes, after all these years of seeing him stare at you from the front page of that supermarket tabloid as you waited in the checkout line, Bat Boy is the subject of a lavish stage musical, thanks to Keythe Farley and Brian Flemming, who wrote the book, and the music and lyrics of Laurence O’Keefe.

And Bat Boy is bringing delight, not terror, to Detroit audiences, thanks to this splendid production directed by Michael J. Barnes and performed by a truly impressive undergraduate cast.

The show is surprisingly great fun to watch, and many aspects of this WSU production rise above what one would normally expect of even a good college production.

This is most especially true of the outstanding and genuinely professional quality performances of Nicholas Yocum as Bat Boy, Britta Peele as Shelley Parker and Bridgette Jordan as Reverend Billy Hightower.

Yocum scores high marks for not only his acting and singing, but also for the agile athleticism he brings to the role.

This has been quite a season for Peele, a graduating senior in WSU’s program. She earlier wowed area audiences with her portrayal of Lolia in “Hamtown Races” at the Planet Ant Theatre in Hamtramck and as Annie in “Cancer, the Musical” at the Marlene Boll Theatre downtown. If you have yet to see this very talented young actress or hear her excellent singing voice, make sure you catch her in this production.

Also giving truly impressive performances are Kelly Robinson as Meredith Parker, Jackson McLaskey as Dr. Thomas Parker and Luke Rose as Rick Taylor. But the entire cast can be justly proud of the success of this production, as can the musical ensemble, led by Devon L. Hansen, and those who worked the technical side of things.

Scenic designer Curtis Green, costume designer Mary Gietzen, lighting designer Brian M. Scruggs and choreographer J.M. Rebudal are certainly among those who deserve great credit for their roles.

How sad that such a sensational production should only run for two weekends! But there is still time to get tickets to one of this weekend’s final three performances.

“Bat Boy: The Musical” continues through April 21, with performances at 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday, and a 2 p.m. Sunday matinee, at the Bonstelle Theatre, 3424 Woodward Ave., a block south of Mack. For ticket information, call the WSU Theatre box offi ce at (313) 577-2960 or visit http://www.wsushows.com.

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REVIEW: ‘Time Stands Still’ a must-see production

Reviewd by Sue Suchyta

Click HERE to read the review on Sue’s blog.

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James (Carl Ghigliazza), Mandy (Maria Radu), Sarah (Sydney Machesky), and Richard (Michael Fisher)Photo: Kevin Replinger

James (Carl Ghigliazza), Mandy (Maria Radu), Sarah (Sydney Machesky), and Richard (Michael Fisher)
Photo: Kevin Replinger

Despite the title, time is running out to see Donald Margulies’ Tony award-nominated “Time Stands Still,” a well-written and acted, thought-provoking production at Wayne State University’s Studio Theatre, 4743 Cass at Hancock in the lower level of the Hilberry Theatre.  One performance, 8 p.m. April 6, remains to see the show. Tickets are $10 and $12, and are available through the Studio Theatre Box Office. Mention coupon code 3CP7 and receive $2 off the price of your ticket. For more information, call (313) 577-2972 or go to www.wsustudio.com.

Directed by Katherine Skortz, the show focuses on Sarah, a photojournalist injured by a roadside bomb. As she recovers, she and her boyfriend, James, try to explain to their friends, Michael and Mandy, the reality of covering tragedies in war zones. Why photojournalists record the events for the world, while non-journalist people might take an immediate hands-on approach to relieve suffering, is a key discussion point for the play’s characters.

Sydney Machesky of Shelby Township is stellar in her performance of Sarah, a photojournalist recovering from serious injuries caused by a roadside bomb. Not only does she consistently portray the physical limitations connected to her recovery, she captures the short tempered personality of someone who has undergone so much stress that they are just barely holding on to a veneer of civility.

Carl Ghigliazza of Southgate is very believable in his portrayal of James, her longtime boyfriend, portraying both guilt at not being overseas with her when she was injured and frustration over Sarah’s insistence on doing a job that constantly puts her in danger, which is as essential to her as oxygen.

Providing a lighter and entertaining counterpart to the two main characters are Michael Fisher of Livonia as Richard, James’ editor, and Maria Radu of Westland as Mandy, Richard’s girlfriend, a young, perky event planner.

Radu remarkably creates a likeable person out of her role, despite the character being much younger and an intellectual lightweight compared to the other three characters. Her naïve optimism and genuine “niceness” creates much of the comic relief in the show, and she shows us how people not in the news reporting business react to the horrors and violence of war and other human tragedies encountered by field reporters.

As Richard and Mandy’s relationship grows stronger over time, more cracks appear in Sarah and James’ bond, even though they try to strengthen it.  Sarah’s desire to return to the field becomes stronger than James’ persuasion to stay safe stateside and start a family with him.

Whether she needs adrenaline, or driven by a career more than maternal urges remains open to the viewer’s interpretation.

“Time Stands Still” runs for one more performance at 8 p.m. April 6, at the Studio Theatre. For tickets or more information, call (313) 577-2972 or go to http://www.wsustudio.com.

REVIEW: ‘Time Stands Still’ at WSU’s Studio Theatre

Review by Patty Nolan, The Examiner

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

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Wayne State University’s Studio Theatre is home to the PhD Directors’ Series and a perfect venue for the gifted students in the Maggie Allesee Department of Theatre and Dance.

Sarah (Sydney Machesky) and James (Carl Ghigliazza)Photo: Kevin Replinger

Sarah (Sydney Machesky) and James (Carl Ghigliazza)
Photo: Kevin Replinger

Their newest production is “Time Stands Still,” the Tony-nominated play by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Donald Margulies. It’s one of those seemingly simple plays that takes place entirely within the Brooklyn flat of war correspondents and lovers Sarah and James. But the distance we travel emotionally and the complex, contradictory points of view expressed in the dialogue, give this drama a delicate intelligence and unpretentious sophistication.

The Studio Theatre cast, under the direction of second-year PhD student Katherine Skoretz, is most impressive.

The play opens as Sarah (Sydney Machesky), a photo journalist, returns home after being seriously injured by a roadside bomb in Iraq. Her boyfriend James (Carl Ghigliazza) feels guilty about not being with Sarah when she was nearly killed. But he is dealing with his own emotional trauma. Sarah’s scars show. James’ do not. Both are trying to come to terms with their feelings about witnessing outrageous horrors and being required to maintain a professional detachment. Are they helping the victims of these tragedies by getting the story out to the rest of the world? Or are they exploiting the victims for personal gain?

The name of the play comes from Sarah’s description of how she copes with the horror she witnesses as part of her job. When she’s looking at the world through her camera lens, searching for the perfect shot, “time stands still.”

The perspective of these war-hardened journalists is contrasted to that of their friend Richard (Michael Fisher) and his young girlfriend, Mandy (Maria Radu). She is sincere but naïve, and doesn’t understand how Sarah can witness human suffering without wanting to put down her camera and help her subjects. Sarah believes it is up to journalists to show people the truth – the hard reality of what some people endure. Mandy admires the raw beauty of Sarah’s work, but doesn’t know what she’s supposed to with that “truth” except feel bad about it.

“We are a nation born to movement,” Director Katherine Skoretz explains. “We are also a nation of crusaders, believing that we can change the world for the better, even when we aren’t sure how to do that. Our desire to change the world for the better conflicts with our desire to be comfortable. Since September 11 we have seen a massive deployment of Americans trying to make a difference in the world: both soldiers and civilians. In the last couple of years, playwrights, like Donald Margulies, have been writing about what happens when veterans of war zones come home. What does home mean when we’re intimately confronted with what goes on in war zones?”

Ultimately, this play explores the need for home and comfort as weighed against the addictive satisfaction of being the person who can deliver the goods in the midst of imminent danger, chaos and overwhelming human tragedy. Sarah and James are seeking healing together, but where does that healing lead? Should they go back out on assignment in the Middle East, or stay home and build a new, more conventional but safer life? Is it “okay” to choose happiness, or is that even an option when daily horrors continue to disrupt the world?

This thoughtful production of “Time Stands Still” raises important questions without forcing the answers. Sydney Machesky, as the wounded Sarah, finds the right balance of smart and bitchy, tough and vulnerable. Carl Ghigliazza, as James, is the conflicted man who loves Sarah because of her fearlessness but is terrified of losing her. Michael Fisheras Richardis convincing as the average good, informed American guy trying not to feel guilty about choosing happiness. And Maria Radu, as Mandy, gives the play its chief comic relief and, in some ways, its most empathetic and grounded character.

The stellar production company includes Cassandra Maniak (Stage Manager), Amy Schneider (Lighting Designer), Lois Bendler (Scenic Designer), Melissa Hall (Costume Designer), Michael Hallberg (Sound Designer), and Felix Li (Publicity Manager).

“Time Stands Still” runs through Saturday, April 6, 2013. Shows are Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10 – $12 and are available by calling the Studio Theatre Box Office at (313)577-2972, by purchasing them online, or by visiting the box office in the Hilberry Theatre located at 4743 Cass Avenue on the corner of Hancock. The Studio Theatre is located downstairs from the Hilberry.

REVIEW: Impressive ‘Time’ at WSU Studio

Review by Robert Delaney, New Monitor

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Sarah (Sydney Machesky) and James (Carl Ghigliazza)Photo: Felix Li

Sarah (Sydney Machesky) and James (Carl Ghigliazza)
Photo: Felix Li

The physical, emotional and ethical aspects of war reporting all figure in Donald Margulies’ 2009 play Time Stands Still, the current production at the Studio Theatre on the Wayne State University campus.

Ph.D.-candidate director Katherine Skoretz, working with some very fi ne undergraduate acting talent, has given us a production of this play that would stand up to any professional yardstick.

Sarah (Sydney Machesky), a photojournalist, and her lover, foreign correspondent James (Carl Ghigliazza) are back in the United States, but bear physical or emotional scars of their recent overseas assignments in combat zones.

Sarah is recovering from serious injuries incurred when a roadside bomb exploded; James is dogged by guilt because he had left her in Iraq to accept another assignment just before the incident.

Sarah’s publisher, Richard (Michael Fisher), visits with his new — and much younger — girlfriend, Mandy (Maria Radu), which provides the natural opportunity for Sarah and James to talk about what has happened and what they are going through.

And although Mandy is not only from another generation, but totally out of the others’ league when it comes to education or awareness of current events, her very innocence of the big issues leads her to raise uncomfortable questions.

We see the two couples’ relationships develop during the course of the play. And not only does this happen in a quite believable way, but these four young actors are so good that we really do believe them. They do such a good job of bringing their characters to life that we not only suspend our disbelief in the usual sense, but reach the point where it is truly as if we were seeing these four people living out their lives before our eyes.

This is not the first time Fisher has impressed me. He is clearly an exceptional young talent — one who really should go far if he makes acting his career. But Machesky and Ghigliazza, both of whom I had only seen before in minor roles, were also able to show us something of the depth of their talent in this play.

And to learn from the program that Radu is a freshman in her first WSU production is simply startling.

Besides being a triumph for Skoretz and her cast, this is also a show of which scenic designer Lois Bendler, costume designer Melissa Hall, lighting designer Amy Schneider and sound designer Michael Hallberg can be justly proud. Alas, however, as is always the case with Studio shows, this production only has a two-week run, which means you only have three remaining opportunities to see it. So what if you’ve made other plans — cancel them and see this show.

“Time Stands Still” continues through April 6, with performances at 8 p.m., Thursday through Saturday, in the Studio Theatre, downstairs at the Hilberry Theatre at Cass and West Hancock on the WSU campus.

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

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