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.

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Posted March 1, 2013

Zyle Cook as Sandy, Joe Sfair as Lou, Dan Miller as Felix
Photo: Felix Li
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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.

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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.