Play review: ‘Macbeth’ Strings Up Detroit

DETROIT — I went and saw the opening night of Macbeth at the Detroit Opera House on Saturday. There’s always an excitement in the air on opening night. I remember one opening night seeing “Rocky” with my buddies at Showcase Cinemas in Sterling Heights when I was in high school. The entire theater gave it a standing ovation after the final scene. Yo, Adrian!

Any classic’s audience on the opening night of its run has an ambiance of a certain energy, a certain electricity, that only happens one time.

At any rate, Susanna Branchini as Lady Macbeth sang angelicly. She sang her arias like a sweet little bluebird from Heaven.

Stephen Powell as Macbeth was great. So was Burak Bilgili as Banquo. I love that name. Banquo. LOL!

But, Branchini’s Lady Macbeth stole the show. Giuseppe Verdi came in a close second. Third place in show-stealing was the orchestra itself, with special mention to Molly Hughes, the violinist with the maple violin. Molly the violinist with the maple violin is pretty cool. I’ve spoken with her a few times during various intermissions and before Act Ones.

I think the orchestra likes to have a bit of actual interaction with the audience. I jokingly asked the musicians near Molly if they could play “Kashmir” by Led Zeppelin, rather than just warm-up nothingness. (It would’ve been way cool if they’d broken into it during Intermission. So, let’s get it out there, lol.) It was then that Molly looked up and we recognized each other and smiled.

I told Molly it’d be cool if it was a double feature: first Macbeth, and then Tamburlaine the Great by Marlowe. She went along with it happily. Musicians are pretty cool. They are one of the least uptight people in my experience, by and large, lol. Marlowe and Shakespeare were both born in 1564 A. D, having a rivalry that foreshadowed Stallone and the Governator. A double feature would be splendid! I guess I need to compose a score! Marlowe once said, “Comparisons are odious.” He must’ve been tired of being compared unfavorably to Willie all the time. No one needs that kind of odium in their life. We are all beautiful in our own way!

Lastly, I showed her the artwork on the back of my tee shirt. “The Magnificent Man With The Hole In His Head VIII” by me and B.W.C. was the image I used to promote a documentary about me and my art by sheila franklin. “the king of pluto” won an Award of Excellence for sheila in 2004 at the Berkeley Film & Video Festival. sheila was delighted when she got the award in the mail. R. I. P., sheila. I need to get that award framed and give it to her kids. She and I were together for a long time. She died in 2014. I also need to get it on YouTube.

Anyway, the front of the tee has an axiom I wrote about art. “Art is eternal action.” I also told Molly how to track down this review, lol.

So, feeling buoyant from speaking to a cool acquaintance, off I sauntered from the orchestra pit back to Row R, whereupon I was accosted by an irate, white-haired gentleman in a white tie and tux – angry that I’d discounted the ambiance by wearing a tee shirt. I escaped back to my seat after a brief review of The Communist Manifesto to prove I wasn’t red. I told him I don’t like dictatorships, be it of the proletariat, the elite, or of some petty, provincially-minded county prosecutor who’s never read Alexis de Tocqueville and fires people based on their bumper stickers.

Luckily, my conversation with Molly was able to balance things out; and, thusly, I was able to enjoy the last two acts relatively unperturbed. They were just as strong, or stronger, as the first two acts. The cast and Verdi’s music by the flawless orchestra were absolutely electrifying. Those maple violins really are something. And Shakespeare’s story shines like Jupiter from its moons Callisto or Io! Or Europa!

And, hey, don’t worry, next time I’m wearing a tie. And it won’t be red.


Before I took the longish drive up to Marysville to take my Vietnam Vet buddy Ernest to see Macbeth, I ordered a large round pizza from Paparoni’s Pizza in Warren at 14 & Hayes. Having worked at Domino’s, I can vouch that a family-owned authentic pizzeria is on a higher level than the corporate drone shops that pepper the American landscape. I ordered my favorite combo that I came up with when I drove for Domino’s in Ann Arbor. Ham, Italian sausage, mushrooms, onions, and green olives. Extra sauce, too. You can get extra cheese, too, if you wanna be totally decadent, lol. They should dub it The Mikey Pie. LOL. It was the best pizza I’ve had in a long time. The best za in Macomb County, yo! We saved so much time by having za, we were able to see the Heidelberg Project before the opera. I love that place so much. It put me in a good mood for Willie and Giuseppe. Pizza and art go together pretty good. Well, pizza goes good with most everything. Well, not scrambled eggs, lol.

 For tickets and more information about “Macbeth,” visit
“Plontonimus” was on the Society of Unapologetic Pluto Huggers Official tee shirt that my buddy was wearing. He fought for our nation so that artists could go to the opera wearing a tee shirt with their art on it, among other reasons. (Mike Wrathell)


“The Magnificent Man With The Hole In His Head VIII” is a shang I did with B. W. C. It is when you make a work of art, and then a second person creates a new work of art using the original piece as a launchpad. This particular work of art was the eighth piece we did. I think we stopped at eight because it was so cool. (Mike Wrathell)


Me @ The Heidelberg Project. Tyree Guyton’s sun clock in the background. (Mike Wrathell)


“Banquo’s Ghost” is an abstract work of art I drew the night of the opera after I got home. His ghost was one bad ghost and inspired me a lot. He really put a fright into Macbeth! (Mike Wrathell)

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  1. Another Night At The Opera
    By Ernest Stewart

    “He happens to be the president, Charles, not you.” ~~~ Emily Monroe Norton Kane
    “That’s a mistake that will be corrected one of these days.” ~~~ Charles Foster Kane

    My buddy Mike, who is also my editor, my attorney and a good artistan in his own right took me to see McBeth at the Detroit Opera House as he is wont to do from time to time. I might mention the opera is by Giuseppe Verdi and alas not the bard of Avon.

    First may I say that the Detroit Opera house is a top tier Opera house with a fine acoustics, orchestra, and cast of players. Saturday night they were wonderful and of that I have no complaints. It was also the 20th anniversary of the Opera moving into this new building, so champagne and cake, on the house, all around! I know, my bad, but in the 3 plus hours I only heard two lines from Willie, for example, “Out Damn Spot” and that was just the beginning. Yes, I understand that Detroit is a union town, but still, I seem to remember just three Witches in Shakespeare’s version, not the 22 Witches that were on stage. Sure, they could do a background singers thing for McBeth, his ole lady, Duncan, Banquo and Macduff, who certainly did lay on and on with a aria of his own. Not a bad opera but far from Verdi’s best.

    Half way through the four acts there was an intermission and sitting on the end row we were quickly out the door to get something to drink and since we didn’t want to get up and into the aisle a dozen times we waited until the orchestra told us that we had about 5 minutes. I was standing by the door to our aisle waiting for Mike to return when I was approached by a 1% Bozo in a $5,000 tux and $1,000 pair of Italian shoes who asked me where my tux was because dressed as I was I was spoiling his ambience, because after all, he had paid $100 a piece for his tickets and another $1,000 for his well dressed escort “friend,” about a third his age and how dare I not “Put On The Ritz.” To be fair I usually wear a suit looking like Jim Caviezel ala Person of Interest and had planned on doing so this trip. However, Mike was feeling particularly artistic and suggested that we dress down and wear some art. Sure. So I wore a new pair of jeans, my new white tennis shoes, (thank almighty Zeus for Dr. Scholl’s with their triple EEE width) and a brand new t-shirt with one of Mike’s paintings on it. So I politely told him that I only wore a tux for Rigoletto. I mean how can you go wrong when the main character is a hunch-backed court jester to an evil Duke! To which point he almost exploded as his face turn beet red as did his eyes, (I thought that he was Satan for a minute) fortunately for him, his rather bored looking girlfriend smiled at me as she went by and back to her seat and at which point I could no longer hold back my laughter and exploded with glee in his face. Yes, the worst thing you can do to power is to laugh at it, so with one last glare to me he beat a hasty retreat after his mistress.

    Still, the story doesn’t end there. Mike had gone down to the orchestra pit to talk to one the musicians, like he does every time we go and who do you suppose had a front row seat right behind Mike, who as I have said, was dressed down like me. He proceeded to call Mike a “Commie,” haven’t heard that term in a while. He must have been an old cold warrior, well, more like, an old, armchair cold warrior. He accused Mike of breaking his ambience and then ask Mike if he knew the meaning of the word ambience. Since Mike has a JD (Juris Doctor) and stands just a little to the side of Darth Vader in his political outlook he assured Citizen Kane that he was neither a Commie or a fool.

    Another great night at the Opera! Perhaps next time I’ll wear a blond fright wig, baggy pants, and carry a large squeeze horn, ala Harpo, and search the first few rows for our pal Citizen Kane! I know, my bad!

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