Superheroes bring Shakespeare to life: WSU’s Bonstelle adds a fresh look to a classic play

Photo by Anne Suchyta

Photo by Anne Suchyta

Mix superheroes with Shakespeare and you bring a delicious new twist to the classic show, “The Comedy of Errors.” Dearborn actors in the Wayne State University undergraduate Bonstelle Theatre production include Annabelle Young (left) as a Courtesan (Jasmine); William Turbett as Pinch (Gandolf); Jacqui Michnuk as an officer (GI Joe Agent) and Kerianne Fergurson as the Abbess (Padme Amidala).

By Sue Suchyta
Shakespeare may have found his patrons in royal circles, but he found some of his most loyal fans among the working class people of his time.

If you ever are lucky enough to learn about the Bard from a really capable and enthusiastic teacher, you’ll discover the off-color jokes, innuendo and political satire that Shakespeare wove into his work. If he were alive today he’d be writing for “Saturday Night Live” and off-Broadway satire – and being much better paid for it than he was in his day.

At the Bonstelle Theatre, in Wayne State University’s undergraduate production of the classic play “A Comedy of Errors,” director Jesse Merz has opened with an interesting aside: He introduces a frustrated, procrastinating student faced with reading a Shakespearean play on his own and feeling overwhelmed and unsure of himself in the face of writing the inevitable paper.

Enter a sage, or wise friend and a solution is proposed: See Shakespeare from your own perspective. Thus our reluctant scholar grabs some action figures and uses them to try to keep the characters straight. As the action leaves the student’s small cubbyhole, a giant laptop shows up on stage, and we see action figures – or popular culture heroes – bring the story to life.

“A Comedy of Errors” is a story of mistaken identity, twins reunited, and finding out who you are. The stage looks like a Hollywood Halloween party. Luke Skywalker is cloned into the upper class twin masters, while the faux furry Ewoks become the twin servants.

The two leading women are Disney princesses – Sleeping Beauty and Snow White. Katie Lietz Flannery is fun to watch in the lead role of Adrianna and decked in Disney best.

You’ll smirk and titter at the Burger King monarch, admire the agility of the vivid blue avatar, and enjoy the enthusiastic and furry Ewoks. Princess Amidala reminds one of the Kabuki maidens of the Asian traditions.

And just when you think the costumers have exhausted their bag of tricks, the messenger appears in the form of Hedwig, Harry Potter’s owl, manipulated by an actor in a dark bodysuit. It worked for Avenue Q, so why not Stratford on Avon?

Kudos to Mary Copenhagen and her talented costumers for the trip down action figure lane.

The giant laptop on stage provides a wonderful way for the set designer to project brilliantly colored backdrops and seamlessly integrate them into the set. Likewise, the “desktop accessories” – erasers, dice, and other geometric props – become the working tables, chairs, ramps and what not.

“A Comedy of Errors” runs one more weekend, Thursday through Sunday. Friday and Saturday shows are at 8 p.m., with a 2 p.m. Sunday matinee.

Tickets are $15, with discounts for seniors, WSU faculty, staff and alumni association members. Student rush tickets are $10 the night of the show. For tickets, call (313) 577-2960, or go online at

The Bonstelle is at 3424 Woodward, in Detroit. For more information go to the Web site

‘HATS! The Musical’ in Wyandotte
The Downriver Actors Guild will present the dinner theater “HATS! The Musical” March 5, 6, 12 and 13.

The show explores what happens to people after they turn 50. The play will take you through the life stories of seven women, each of whom has a unique story to share.

The show promises to demonstrate that life does not end at 50. It features the original music of Pam Twill, Melissa Manchester and Cathy Lee Gifford. It promises to be joyful, provocative and hilarious.

Tickets for the dinner theater are $23.50, with a table of eight running $200.

The show will be performed at Biddle Hall, 3239 Biddle, in Wyandotte. Funds raised will support the Friends of the Taylor Youth Theater.

Guild holds ‘Thoroughly Modern Millie’ Tap Dance Workshop
The Players Guild of Dearborn Casting Committee will hold a tap workshop from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. March 6 for those auditioning for “Thoroughly Modern Millie” Those attending should bring their own tap shoes and wear comfortable clothing. The shows choreographer, Jennifer McPherson, will run through various tap steps and sequences that will be used in the audition.

Open auditions will be held on March 8 and 9. The play will be directed by Kim Donovan and musically directed by Ken Pletzer. Performance dates are April 30 to May 2 and May 7 to 9, 14 to 16, and 21 to 23.

For more information on the show and character descriptions, or directions, go to