Hilberry season will let its stars shine

Photo by Janine Pixley

Photo by Janine Pixley

During the 2009-11 season the Hilberry company presents “The Servant of Two Masters” in traditional style of Commedia dell’Arte. The play follows the comic misadventures of an underpaid and overstretched wily Italian servant, Arlecchino, in the classic comedy.

By Sue Suchyta
Even though most theaters are now air conditioned, any local box office manager will tell you that it is a Herculean feat to drag normally enthusiastic southeastern Michigan theater patrons away from the great outdoors during the summer months.

However, as summer wanes, theaters around town issue a sudden flurry of press releases promoting the shows that will soon hit local stages.

And with the local economy still reeling, box offices are offering competitive values as they compete for consumers’ limited entertainment dollars.

The Hilberry Theatre, Wayne State’s graduate repertoire company, is Detroit’s theatrical star, and offers superb shows from Shakespeare to Steinbeck.

The company’s 2010-2011season opens with Noel Coward’s, “Hay Fever.” Set in the English countryside, each member of the self-absorbed Bliss family has invited an unsuspecting romantic prospect as a house guest without informing the others. When rain traps the passionate family and their guests indoors, life becomes entertainingly chaotic.

The production will run Oct. 1 through Dec. 9 in rotating repertory.

The second show of the Hilberry season is Nobel prize-winning author John Steinbeck’s, “Of Mice and Men.” George and Lennie, who travel from farm to farm working for others, dream of having a small ranch of their own someday.

George is a protector and father-figure to Lennie, a mentally challenged man who possesses “a giant’s strength and a child’s innocence.” When a lonely young woman flirts with and then frightens Lennie, whose unchecked strength poses a threat when he’s emotionally upset, George fears he can no longer protect Lennie from himself.

“Of Mice and Men” will include morning student school performances. The show will run from Oct. 22 to Feb. 5 in rotating repertory. Student matinees are listed on the calendar portion of the theater’s Website, www.theatre.wayne.edu.

Shakespeare’s highly acclaimed, “Richard III” is – coincidentally – also the third show of the season. King Richard the Third, who is physically deformed and embroiled in deadly schemes, weaves a dangerous web of intrigue while he attempts to remove the obstacles that stand between him and the English throne. Alpha males and swords clash in this classic political play.

The show will run Nov. 19 through Feb. 25 in rotating repertory.

The graduate company will usher in the New Year with Jean-Baptiste Molière’s richly sophisticated comic drama, “The Misanthrope.”

The misanthrope is a man who dislikes the hypocrisy of his peers while remaining distainfully apart.

However, when he unexpectedly falls in love with a woman he has introduced to other suitors, he must take on the unexpected challenge of pursuing her to win her. Life unravels at a fascinating clip in this comic masterpiece about men, women, passions, and protestations.

The production will run Jan. 28 to March 5 in rotating repertory.

The graduate company will break with tradition and will lead the cast of a musical production on the Bonstelle undergraduate theater stage in the spring.

Terrence McNally and David Yazbek’s “The Full Monty” was an audience survey top pick. The musical features an award-winning soundtrack.

Set in Buffalo, N.Y., the show follows the stress-relieving, somewhat crude humor of six unemployed steelworkers who decide to “bare it all” to raise some much-needed cash. Their journey helps them renew their self-esteem, form deeper friendships and remember to nurture their dreams.

The play contains nudity and mature themes. It will run for a fixed limited engagement, April 15 to 24 on the Bonstelle stage. The theater on Woodward near Orchestra Hall and the Detroit Medical Center.

The groundbreaking Detroit premiere of the two-part epic, “The Cider House Rules,” by John Irving and adapted for the stage by Peter Parnell, will close the Hilberry season.

Set in a 20th century orphanage, the drama explores what it means to be human.

The show is seen through the eyes of Homer Wells, a foundling raised in an orphanage by the gruff obstetrician who delivered him. The doctor tries to maintain a distance from the other orphans so they can transition more easily into adoptive families.

Homer longs to explore the world beyond the confines of his limited experience. As he discovers intense friendship and love, he finds they sometimes carry a difficult emotional cost.

When his best friend is sent off to war and his fate is uncertain, Homer falls deeply in love with his friend’s girl. Passion leads to pregnancy, and a return to the orphanage, where Homer resumes his mentor’s work, and perhaps his life.

The play contains mature themes. The shows will run March 31 to May 13 in rotating repertory.

Season subscriptions, which start at $115, offer all seven shows. Season ticket holders receive discounted prices on other purchases, priority seating, ticket date exchange privileges, lost ticket insurance, the Hilberry newsletter and an invitation to the annual subscriber party.

Season tickets are available through the Hilberry box office. To order tickets, call (313) 577-2972, or visit the box office in the theater lobby.

The Hilberrry is at 4743 Cass Ave., on the Wayne State University campus in Detroit. For more information, go to the Websites www.theatre.wayne.edu and www.wsushows.com.