West Side Theatre Project raises funds for Dearborn High theater program

Photo by Cynthia Frabutt

Photo by Cynthia Frabutt

The cast of the West Side Theatre Project’s production of “Picasso at the Lapin Agile” features Phil Booth (left) of Dearborn as Sagot, Dylan Frabutt of Dearborn as the Visitor, Chris Washburn of Dearborn Heights as Picasso, Valerie Haas of Inkster as Germaine, Shauna Hazime of Dearborn Heights as Suzanne, Brian Townsend of Dearborn as Freddy, Greg Gedert of Dearborn as Einstein, Cynthia Szczesny of Dearborn as the Countess and Rich Bulleri of Dearborn as Gaston.

By Sue Suchyta
The West Side Theatre Project will present “Picasso at the Lapin Agile” at 8 p.m. Thursday, Saturday and Oct. 7 to 9 at Dearborn High School’s Valentine Auditorium as a fundraiser for the school’s theater program.

There will not be an Oct. 1 performance because of a home football game.

The long-running off-Broadway comedy was written by comedian Steve Martin. It places Albert Einstein and Pablo Picasso in a Parisian café in 1904 before either was famous. The two geniuses discuss the upcoming century, as well as art, science, society and women.

The cast includes other colorful characters as well: the bar owner and his sassy mistress, a smarmy art dealer, Picasso’s current girlfriend, an elderly bar patron, an inventor with delusions of grandeur and a mysterious visitor from the future.

The show is directed by Cynthia Frabutt and produced by Greg Phillip Viscomi, both of Dearborn.

The cast includes Dearborn residents Greg Gedert as Einstein, Brian Townsend as Freddy, Philip Booth as Sagot, Rich Bulleri as Gaston, Paul Morgan as Charles Dabernow Schmendimen, Cynthia Szczesny as the Countess, Mariam Mustafa as the female admirer and Dylan Frabutt as a mysterious visitor from the future.

Dearborn Heights residents in the cast include Chris Washburn as Picasso and Shauna Hazime as Suzanne. Valerie Haas of Inkster portrays Germaine.

Admission is $14 for general admission, with a $2 discount for senior citizens and students. Call (313) 827-1647 for tickets. The play contains mature language and may not be appropriate for children age 12 and under.

The Players Guild of Dearborn announced the cast for “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” Wednesday.

The musical comedy, which will be directed by Dianne Bernick of Dearborn, will run Nov. 12 to 14, 19 to 21, 26 to 28 and Dec. 3 to 5, with 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday shows and 2:30 p.m. Sunday matinees.

The cast includes Dearborn residents Michael Bollman as Leaf Coneybear and Jeff Ostrowski as William Barfee.

Others in the cast include Eric Floetke of Brownstown as Chip Tolentino, Sara Mayne of Redford as Logainne SchwartzandGrubenniere, and Christina Salvo-Brown of Farmington as Marcy Park.

Julienne Kobylasz of Flat Rock will play Olive Ostrovsky, while Leah Cooley of Taylor will perform the role of Rona Lisa Perretti, the Bee’s moderator and a former champion. Kenyada Davis of Detroit will portray Douglas Panch and Kenneth Gibson of Albion will perform the role of Mitch Mahoney the comfort counselor.

For more information, call the Guild’s hotline at (313) 561-TKTS or go to www.playersguildofdearborn.org.

Stagecrafters at Royal Oak’s Baldwin Theatre has taken a leap of faith by presenting its first Shakespearean play in its 55-year history. Its upbeat and very original interpretation of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is filled with fantasy and original music sure to be a hit with everyone from high school students to Shakespearean scholars.

The cast is as diverse as it is talented – and the director and producers have a technical team that deliver a stellar production.

The updated classic keeps Shakespeare’s literary gems from the script intact while making them easy to understand and full of emotion. A magical soundtrack of electronic music is added as androgynous faeries seem to suffuse the shadows as if flitting in and out of a netherworld nightclub.

Two star-crossed young couples, defying their parents in a familiar Shakespearean theme, have their personalities and visages stripped to their most basic level in a manner both literally and symbolically reminiscent of what Brad and Janet underwent in the cult classic “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” The faeries – though invisible to the couples — even look like the guests at the Frankenfurter castle – and have a sneaky habit of disrobing the disoriented duos.

“Midsummer” is a “play within a play,” and several storylines overlap. When the local royals – Theseus, played by Tony Battle of Royal Oak, and Hippolyta, played by Stephanie Bonin of Rochester, plan the entertainment for their wedding feast, they engage a traveling troupe to put on a play.

As the amateur actors seek privacy in the woods to rehearse their play for Theseus’ event, their storyline begins to overlap with the mischievous and androgynous techno-faeries, who are visible to the audience but seemingly not by the onstage humans.

Nick Bottom, the weaver, who has sorely tried the patience of his company with his eccentricities, is turned into an actual ass through Oberon’s spell and Puck’s complicity.

Titania, thus under Oberon’s spell, falls in love with Nick Bottom in the visage of an ass upon wakening. Seeing her and the faeries dote on Bottom is always an amusing scene.

Edmond Guay, who plays Nick Bottom the weaver and amateur actor, steals the show, though, with a comic delivery that reminds one of John Lithgow, well known for “Third Rock from the Sun.” A high school drama teacher, many of his students filled the house opening night, laughing heartily at the onstage antics of their teacher.

The glittery and garish techno-faeries are ruled by Oberon, played by Desmond Walker of Royal Oak and Titania, played by Shelly Fager-Bajorek of Fraser.

Fager-Bajorek has an appealing stage confidence. Walker wears Oberon’s mantle of power with ease and just enough patience and humor to keep the character from becoming a cliché. They believably capture the power couple caught up in a power struggle of egos and one-upmanship.

Meanwhile, when two mortal couples stumble noisily into his quiet woods with their own problems, Oberon decides to manipulate their love lives, again using the impulsively careless Puck to carry out his orders. Jeff Weiner of Troy captures the frenetic energy of Puck.

Sara Leahy of Dearborn plays Hermia, who wants to marry Lysander, played by Tony Castellani of Berkley. Hermia’s father wants her to marry Demetrius, played by John Lewis of Royal Oak. Helena, who dotes on Demetrius, is played by Julie Spittle of Rochester Hills. They gave their character modern gestures, body language and tone of voice that made it easy to relate to them. Their roles required an enormous amount of dedication, with blocking as physically intense as the weight of the dialogue.

There is a reason Shakespeare’s works are as popular today as they were when he wrote them. By bringing Shakespeare to more people and making the plays appealing to a mainstream audience, more people will not only discover but come to treasure his plays.

The production runs through Sunday, with 8 p.m. shows Thursday through Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday.

The Baldwin Theatre is at 415 S. Lafayette. For more information, call (248) 541-6430, or go to www.stagecrafters.org.