Spring theater season in full bloom

Photo courtesy of WSU Alexandra Stewart

Photo courtesy of WSU Alexandra Stewart

Dearborn natives Jacqueline Michnuk (left) as Dr. Plummer and Joe Hamid as Nurse Dan perform in “Easy as Hard Can Be” by Alan Ball. The one-act play is part of the Heck Rabi student-written and -produced showcases.

By Sue Suchyta
As Michigan’s tenacious hold on winter gives way to the seductive warmth of spring, it’s tempting to head outdoors and rediscover the pastoral pleasures of our economically battered but still beautiful state.

However, don’t forget the great escapism that’s still as close as your nearest stage – spring theater season will hit its stride about the same time as the pollen starts its rise.

Whether on high school stages, at local colleges, or at community and professional theaters, there’s plenty of well crafted theatrical escapism to savor.

And with ticket prices at historic lows, now is a great time to enjoy some great plays.

At Wayne State University, the theater department continues to offer a triple treat: The Bonstelle undergraduate theater, the Hilberry graduate repertory company, and the student-run Studio Theatre, the third stage in the basement of the Hilberry.

Despite the recession, interest in theater as a curriculum remains strong. The annual Heck Rabi student playwright competition at the Studio Theatre offered a fascinating selection of student written plays, as well as showcasing some terrific local talent.

Alan Ball, one of the outstanding actors in the Hilberry Company, showed his wit and timing as a playwright in his recently performed play, “Easy as Hard Can Be.” The show follows an older man facing his great challenge yet – how to live, and how to die on his own terms.

Jacqui Michnuk, as Dr. Plummer, and Joe Hamid, as Nurse Dan, both Dearborn homegrown talents, anchored the show. Hamid also performed a strong supporting role in Erman Jones’ “All Kinds of Men,” which took a humorous yet touching look at what is often a hushed up topic: sexual role playing.

The third of the three plays, “Furnishings,” showcased a couple’s struggle to get through to their autistic son.

The acting skill and theater craft displayed on Wayne State University’s third stage was impressive this year, and delivered some of the best Heck Rabi performances to date. Strong scripts and strong acting led the charge.

Wayne State’s undergraduate theater company will perform the Stephen Schwartz musical “Pippin” April 16 to 25 at the Bonstelle Theatre.

Schwartz wrote the music for “Pocahontas,” “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” and “Wicked” – so set aside your preconceived notions about the longtime musical and see it through the fresh eyes and perspective of a high-energy, creative college-age cast.

Of local interest, Dearborn’s Annabelle Young will perform the role of Berthe in the production.

Curtain is at 8 p.m. for Friday and Saturday shows, with 2 p.m. Sunday matinees.

For tickets, visit or call the box office at (313) 577-2960. Tickets are also available on-line through www.wsushows.com.

The Bonstelle Theatre is at 3424 Woodward Ave. in Detroit, near Orchestra Hall and the Medical Center. Regular tickets are $20, or $15 for seniors 62 years and older. Student rush tickets are $10 the night of the performance. There are also discounts for Wayne State alumni, professors and staff.

For a tale that’s taken 300 years to come to the stage in its present form, one thing remains clear: Men still haven’t learned that honesty really is the best policy when presenting themselves to women.

The Beaux Stratagem” has been through three playwrights. Written in 1707 by George Farquhar, in 1939 award-winning playwright Thornton Wilder tried – but never completed – a rewrite.

It wasn’t until Wilder’s estate contacted popular and talented playwright Ken Ludwig in 2004 that the project was once again given a fresh chance to entertain. The show premiered in 2006 in Washington, D.C., where it was hailed as a fun and laughter-inspiring comedy and satire.

The story follows two young men who have used up their money by living beyond their means. They leave London and head for the countryside, where they each hope to find a wealthy woman for at least one of them.

The two switch back and forth between being servant and master, exchanging roles as they enter a new town. However, things get a bit more complicated in the town they just entered, and a fun-filled serving of laughter is presented along with a side dish of satire.

The show will run in rotating repertory April 9 to May 15. The show opens at 8 p.m. Friday, with 2 and 8 p.m. shows Saturday. There is a 2 p.m. matinee on April 14, and 8 p.m. shows April 15, 16, 24 and 30. There is a 2 p.m. matinee May 8, and 8 p.m. shows May 6, 8, 13, 14 and 15.

The HFCC drama department will present Peter Townsend and the Who’s hit musical “Tommy” weekends April 16 to 25. Show times are 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, with 2 p.m. Sunday matinees.

General admission is $15, or $10 with a student I.D. Group discounts for 10 or more are also available.

The rock opera “Tommy” tell the story of a boy who becomes catatonic after witnessing a murder. He is abused and later molested, and turns to pinball to escape. The story and the music are sophisticated and intense, as is Tommy’s journey to find himself.

The show is based on the 1969 double album. It debuted on Broadway in 1993, and won five Tonys. The show features a 10-piece live band, and a cast of 25 actors singing and dancing through rock songs, ballads and other memorable music.

For more information, call (313) 845-9817, or e-mail gadzuiblinski@hfcc.edu.