Hilberry has a ball with a zany Restoration comedy

By John Monaghan, Special to the Detroit Free Press. Read the full article on the Free Press website, here.

From left: Sarah Hawkins Moan, Annie Keris, Santino Craven and Bevin Bell-Hall in Hilberry Theatre’s production of “The Way of the World.” (Photo: Bruce Giffin)

From left: Sarah Hawkins Moan, Annie Keris, Santino Craven and Bevin Bell-Hall in Hilberry Theatre’s production of “The Way of the World.”
(Photo: Bruce Giffin)

With so many local theater companies adopting a less-is-more policy of doing shows that call for just one or two actors and minimal sets, it’s a treat to take in Hilberry Theatre’s production of “The Way of the World.” The Restoration-era comedy by William Congreve, first performed in 1700, offers lavish settings, two intermissions and enough witty banter to fill another three plays.

With that said, the play can be a bit of a challenge, especially when keeping track of the complicated plot. At its core, “World” is about putting one over on vain dowager Lady Wishfort (Bevin Bell-Hall), whose blessing is required if Mirabell (Kyle Mitchell Johnson) and Millamant (Annie Keris), her niece, are going to marry. They are linked by an unconventional (you might even say unromantic) view of romance.

What follows is an elaborate scheme that involves friends, relatives and servants whose names are nearly as absurd as their characters. Some, like the servants Foible and Waitwell (Devri Chism and Michael Phillip Thomas), are in on the plan, while others have private agendas.

Read the full article on the Free Press website, here.

Contact John Monaghan: madjohn@earthlink.net

‘The Way of the World’

Three stars

out of four stars

In repertory through March 7

Hilberry Theatre

4743 Cass, Detroit

313-577-2972

www.hilberry.com

$21-$31

Production will be recorded for posterity

Despite its standing as a textbook example of Restoration comedy, “The Way of the World” has no recorded representation at the Theatre on Film and Tape Archive in New York City. That will be corrected when cameras roll during one of the final performances of the Hilberry production in early March.

“I can’t remember if we contacted them or they contacted us,” says Maxwell Bolton, marketing manager at the Hilberry, Wayne State University’s graduate theater program. “But they didn’t have the play in their collection, probably because it is so rarely performed.”

Bolton says a three-camera setup will be used to capture the William Congreve comedy. Once it’s edited, the production will be available for viewing by appointment at the archive in Lincoln Center. The program, a part of the New York Public Library, has been recording significant theatrical works, including full performances and artist interviews, since 1970.

“We’re obviously proud of the show,” says Bolton, “and even more proud that it will soon be a part of theater history.”

REVIEW: Fine Production of a Christie Classic

Reviewed by: Robert Delaney, New Monitor Detroit

The Mousetrap

Pictured: Alec Barbour (Giles Ralston), Topher Payne (Christopher Wren)
Photo: Felix Li

An eclectic assortment of characters snowed in at an English manor house-turned guesthouse are terrified when first one, then another is murdered in Agatha Christie’s classic thriller, “The Mousetrap,” the first production of the new season at Wayne State’s Hilberry Theatre.

“The Mousetrap” is the record-setting mystery thriller that has intrigued generations of playgoers, as they try to guess which of the characters might be the murderer (or murderess). And Christie keeps the audience guessing as, bit by bit, we learn more about these characters who have come together not entirely by chance.

Master director David J. Magidson and a talented cast of grad-student actors have given us a very fine production.

Alec Barbour and Megan Dobbertin are Giles and Mollie Ralston, the bright young couple who have turned Mollie’s white elephant of an ancestral home into a guest house.

Topher Payne is the flamboyant Christopher Wren, who was named after the famous architect.

Vanessa Sawson is the testy and disapproving Mrs. Boyle; Joshua Blake Rippy is the brusk Major Metcalf; Danielle Cochrane is the very liberated Miss Casewell; and Edmund Alyn Jones is the exotic Mr. Mustapha.

Christopher Call rounds out the cast as Detective Sergeant Trotter.

Special mention must be made of John D. Woodland’s fine costumes, and extra-special mention is due the spectacular set designed by Curtis Green.

Even the many playgoers who have seen “The Mousetrap” before should find this an enjoyable evening (or afternoon) of theater.

SHOW DETAILS: “The Mousetrap” continues in rotating repertory through Oct. 13 at the Hilberry Theatre, at Cass and West Hancock on the Wayne State University campus. For performance and ticket information, call 313-577-2972 or go to www.wsushows.com.

Reprinted with permission of the New Monitor, Sept. 27, 2012

REVIEW: Hilberry opens killer 50th season with Agatha Christie’s “Mousetrap”

Reviewed by: Samantha White

Click HERE to read the review on the Oakland Press website!

Pictured: Alec Barbour (Giles Ralston), Megan Dobbertin (Mollie Ralston)
Photo by: Felix Li

Dame Agatha Christie’s murder-mystery thriller, “Mousetrap,” begins a killer season at Wayne State University’s Hilberry Theatre.

Christie’s work has been called the most popular literature in the world after William Shakespeare.

“Mousetrap” was named by Guinness Book of World Records as the longest-continuously running play of all time, having opened in London in 1952 still running to this day.

The play is beloved by audiences for its mystery, comedy, zany characters and all the wonderful trappings of a “whodunit” storyline.

IF YOU GO

Showtimes for “The Mousetrap” are at 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday with a 2 p.m. matinee on Saturday, Oct. 6, plus 2 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 3. It runs through Oct. 13 at Hilberry Theatre, 4743 Cass Ave. in Detroit. Tickets are $12-$30. Visit www.hilberry.com or call 313-577-2972.

The mysterious murderer bases his killings around the English nursery rhyme “Three Blind Mice.”

The Hilberry delivers exactly what Christie intended when she wanted her audience to be on the edge of their seats.

The actors, Alec Barbour as Giles Ralston, Christopher Call as Detective Sergeant Trotter, Danielle Cochrane as Miss Casewell, Megan Dobbertin as Mollie Ralston, Edmund Alyn Jones as Mr. Paravicini, Topher Payne as Christopher Wren, Joshua Blake Rippy as Major Metcalf and Vanessa Sawson as Mrs. Boyle, all deliver steady performances.

There were some sound challenges at the beginning of opening night — a couple of the actors seemed to struggle with projection. But, this waned as the show moved forward.

The actors truly impressed with their British accents. They remained in character and never loss them as they navigated their way through the dialogue.

It was nice to see a really intricate and detailed set for “Mousetrap.” Occasionally, Hilberry seems to lean toward the less complicated. But, the scenic design of this show is absolutely wonderful — from the snow machine and trees to the thoughtful vintage furniture that decorates Mr. and Mrs. Ralston’s Monkswell Manor. The lighting softly augments the gorgeous scenery.

Edmund Alyn Jones is great as Mr. Paravicini. He is the comic relief of the show with all of his delightful eccentricities — not to mention the fact that he wears a smoking jacket as well as Hugh Hefner himself.

Vanessa Sawson’s Mrs. Boyle is also a brilliantly developed character. The young actress truly makes the audience believe she is the gray-haired, crotchety, stiff-upper-lipped Brit that Christie intended her to be.

Both Sawson and Jones are graduating seniors this school year and proof of the success of Wayne State’s graduate theater program — they are still learning, but are much more refined since their Hilberry debuts nearly three years ago.

Payne is entertaining as the quirky and rambunctious Christopher Wren. He teases Mrs. Boyle with the tenacity and terror of a 2-year-old. But, he also makes you, like Mrs. Ralston, want to protect him because of his childlike quality.

Hilberry gives a great homage to the Queen of Crime in this fine-tuned production.

REVIEW: Hilberry Theatre works hard to build a better ‘Mousetrap’

Reviewed by: John Monaghan

Click HERE to read the review on the Detroit Free Press Website!

It’s only fitting that the Hilberry Theatre opens its 50th-anniversary season with “The Mousetrap.” For the past half-century, the graduate theater company at Wayne State University has been staging quality classics like this polished, entertaining version of the Agatha Christie thriller.

Alec Barbour, left, and Megan Dobbertin run the British country hotel that is the setting for Hilberry Theatre’s “The Mousetrap.” Photo by: Felix Li

The 1952 whodunit, still the longest-running play in theater history, finds a group of travelers snowbound at Monkswell Manor, a British country hotel. They include Major Metcalf (Joshua Blake Rippy), recently retired from the British army; childlike Christopher Wren (Topher Payne); prim magistrate Mrs. Boyle (Vanessa Sawson), and the modern, masculine Miss Casewell (Danielle Cochrane).

These and others are eventually questioned by Detective Sgt. Trotter (Christopher Call), who arrives at the scene on snowshoes. A murderer is on the loose in the vicinity and Trotter has been sent to investigate. His interrogation grows more insistent when one of the guests ends up dead, strangled to the tune of “Three Blind Mice.”

Soon we discover along with the detective that the murderer is out for revenge related to a case involving child abuse and neglect that was in the headlines years ago.

And of course, no one on the premises — even the young couple (Alec Barbour and Megan Dobbertin) who run the place — is coming clean about what link they might have to the story.

The first thing you notice about this “Mousetrap” is the atmospheric set design by Curtis Green. He has used mature, leafless birch trees, lit a frosty blue, as the backdrop for his cozily decorated stage. As snow falls outside the tall, burnished windows of Monkswell Manor, the characters deliver their lines in and around well-worn but comfortable overstuffed chairs.

It’s this line delivery that sometimes trips the actors up. Most have the British banter down, which makes Call’s weak accent work as the detective stand out.

The other performers strive to make their characters more than stock types. Edmund Alyn Jones, my favorite member of the current Hilberry troupe, even changes the name of his part from Mr. Paravicini in the original script to Mr. Mustapha here. Think Chico Marx with a fez.

At the production’s best, the Hilberry and director David J. Magidson do with “The Mousetrap” what they strive to do with any chestnut — allow the talented troupe of students to take what could have been a waxworks exercise and make it fresh again.

Contact freelancer JOHN MONAGHAN: madjohn@earthlink.net

More Details: ‘The Mousetrap’

* * *

out of four stars

8 p.m. Thu.-Fri.,

2 & 8 p.m. Sat.

Through Oct. 13

Hilberry Theatre

4743 Cass, Detroit

313-577-2972

www.hilberry.com

$12-$30