On Stage


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Thorsten appeared in many stage productions at the Hilberry Theatre, a unique graduate repertory theater in Detroit.

Information on a selection of these performances is included in this section.  

Above: As Eilert Loevborg in Hedda Gabler

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A Flea in Her Ear

Hilberry's Flea has comic bite

The Detroit News

by Edward Hayman, Published October 9, 1991

Wayne State University's Hilberry Theatre is 29 years old this season, And while the American theatre has changed enormously inn that tine, the Hilberry has not.

In some ways, that's a good thing, as the season's opener, Georges Feydeau's turn-of-the-century farce A Flea in Her Ear, demonstrates. As escalating costs have driven most theatres to seek small plays with tiny casts and simple sets, the old-fashioned Hilberry has become unique all over again.

There aren't many theatres left that operate in repertory (presenting a different play every night), or have either the production capacity or the mandate to do a big, brawling old warhorse like A Flea in Her Ear.

I didn't see the Flea that Hilberry took to the American College Theatre Festival's national competition in 1968, but I'm willing to bet it wasn't a lot different from the one that is opening this season.

Director Robert T. Hazard dedicates this Flea to his late colleague Richard D. Spear, who staged the 1968 version - presumably with Spear's celebrated flair for big, visual ensemble pieces that require crack timing. Hazzard is after nothing more or less himself. He doesn't want to surprise us with something reinterpreted or deconstructed. He simply wants this generation of Hilberry actors, all dolled up in snappy period costumes by Wendela K. Jones, to do the droll shtick of Feydeau's thoroughly innocent sex romp mostly the way it's customarily done. And they do.

By modern standards, A Flea in Her Ear has enough plot for several plays. A trap, by way of a letter, laid by a jealous wife to catch the husband she mistakenly believes to be philandering ultimately ensnares a roomful of people, including her husband's randy friend, who has designs on her; her own friend who wrote the letter for her; that friend's revenge-minded Spanish husband, who brandishes a pair of dueling pistols; a cousin whose speech is a nasal disaster until a doctor gives him a silver palate, which he often loses.

What is happening doesn't matter nearly as much as how it is happening, and how it is happening is on the run, in and out the many doors of Russ Smith's set, with eyes popping, mouths making big ovals, seats of the pants getting kicked, heads ducking under bedspreads, and so on.

Feydeau has endowed his play with not one but three running gags. One is cousin Camille's disappearing palate, giving red-haired Lance Retallick all the fun of switching back and forth between clear speech and furious ranting through his nose, both of which confound his listeners. The second is the Spanish gunplay, provided noisily by Richard R. Hamblin using a moist but unidentifiable accent. The third is the case of mistaken identity, in which Michael S. Ouimet's Victor Emmanuel, the unjustly accused husband, has a look-alike in the dopey hotel steward Poche.

As usual, the second act , which is set in the bordello-red Hotel Coq d'Or, is the most fun for both actors and audience. It is here that everyone comes for hanky-panky that never quite happens. It's a beautifully engineered series of clashes among characters who expect to run into someone else as they dash in and out of rooms and up and down stairs and ride the turntable around and around.

The actor to watch in this melee is Thorsten Kaye as the innkeeper Feraillon, who wears a seedy military uniform and a Chaplinesque mustache, and plays the escalating madness with a deadpan finesse that could serve as a model for his colleagues.