If live theatre is going to make a comeback on local stages in June, there’s no question that William Shakespeare is going to be involved. This coming June, live theatre climbs its way back onstage in a big way with no fewer than three Shakespeare shows making it to the stage. But first: there’s this Beatles thing in Elm Grove.
The Sunset Playhouse has a live in-person performance with a title that kind of sounds like something out of a really, really weird game of Clue. Sgt. Pepper with a Revolver on Abbey Road is a cabaret-style show featuring songs from Revolver, Sgt. Pepper and Abbey Road. As this is an indoor show in an actual theatre, patrons, volunteers, and staff MUST provide and wear face masks when inside Sunset Playhouse. The show run June 7 and 8. For more information, visit Sunset Playhouse online.
Boozy Bard’s Shakespeare Raw returns to The Best Place Tavern this June with a one-night-only staging of The Merry Wives Of Windsor. This is a fun comedy featuring Shakespearian favorite Sir John Falstaff. Who will play him at the Best Place this June? No one knows until the show. Actors take roles at random in a fun environment that can result in some incredibly memorable performances.
The one-night-only show takes place on June 23rd starting at 7pm.
For more information, visit the show’s Facebook events page.
Admission is $10 at the door and $5 if you show-up in “quarantine clothes” (whatever that means for YOU.) But if you’re looking to support the Boozy Bard, you might consider showing-up in a t-shirt, skirt, stockings (or possibly all three) featuring the group’s eerily iconic “Shakespeare in a Beer Helmet” logo. All this and more is available from Redbubble. It's real merch. Go to the show be-merched, drink and be crazy. It's June.
The Summit Players Theatre is launching another traveling season this June featuring a new production of The Winter’s Tale. The free production will visit 24 different Wisconsin State Parks over the course of this summer starting on on June 12th at the Richard Bong State Recreation Area. After the Bong opening, the show goes to High Cliff on the 13th and Three Bridges on the 18th. It’s a truncated version of the show that starts with a 5:30 pm workshop for those interested and then a 7 pm show. For more information, visit Summer Players online.
Door Shakespeare will be opening its outdoor production of Hamlet at month’s end...with both in-person and “stream at home” options for those who might not be able to make it all the way up to Sister Bay this year. The show features the conspicuously talented Milwaukee-based actor Ryan Schabach in no fewer than 17 roles. That’s right: it’s a one-actor Hamlet. This would be kind of harrowing for any audience were it not for the fact that the one-actor in question is Schabach. He’s really good at holding an audience. It should be fun to see him tackle the entirety of Hamlet in the idyllic wonder of Sister Bay’s Björklunden performance space.
Door Shakespeare’s Hamlet runs June 30 through August 17. For more information, visit Door Shakes online.
Veteran comedy group Broadminded makes it online this month with a new offering: The First Zoom Comedy Show Ever. The all-woman comedy group runs a series of bits live and online in a surprisingly smooth hour of comedy. (Okay...so the first of two performances had its glitches, but for a multi-sketch Zoom show it was surprisingly smooth.) The show successfully uses the Zoom format for a few clever sketches about culture in. An age of COVID. There is school. There is multi-level marketing. A coffee maker and a bag of beans are used as puppets. It’s fun. It’s weird. It’s Broadminded.
Amazon user reviews Are going to be an interesting thing for future generations to look at. It’s such a bizarre distillation of the values of a contemporary society. The Broads take a look at it this in a series of dramatic readings of reviews of a certain electric pencil sharpener that serve as on of the better bits in the show.
Fringe Politics as MLM
Stacy Babl dives into a little bit of political commentary with a fascinating little sketch in which the extreme rate is depicted as someone selling Avon or Mary Kay style cosmetics on Zoom. The MAGA crowd does have a tendency to come across like a multi level marketing group, which makes the sketch all the more clever, that one gets the sinking suspicion that perhaps the sketch doesn’t go quite far enough. It’s hard to outdo the absurdity of actual political extremists on this sort of thing. It’s not hard to imagine...say...Babl’s concealed carry themed concealer being sold at a Trump rally or a gun show.
Education About Education
By far the best skit in the entire show had to be one in which Melissa Kingston play a teacher of grade school students during her office hours. And comic fashion, the rest of the brides played kids with a host of different problems and concerns that had almost nothing to do with school itself and the math class that her character was teaching. There’s a profound depth in about that sketch that speaks to many of the issues that teachers are facing right now. More than simply funny, this bit is actually...edifying. Teachers are going through a lot right now. It’s fun to watch one of them actually playing with that for the purposes of a comedy sketch online...in the exact same format that so many teachers have ACTUALLY been forced to deal with recently.
And Some Other Stuff
Not everything worked perfectly. The two instances in which the group talked about sketches they done in the past were played with choppy video. The sketch at the end involving a video conferenced wake seems to go on for a bit longer than it probably should have. But on the whole this is very fun hour’s performance.
The more sketch comedy group that’s been around for quite a long time continues to deliver some very interesting stuff and yet another program. There’s one more chance for everyone to check out what is a fun, little one-hour excursion into Zoom-land with some funny people.
Broadminded’s The Very First Zoom Comedy Show Ever will return for one more performance on May 22nd at 7:30 pm. For more information, visit Broadminded online.
As society moves more and more into an information-based existence, it’s forced to grow-up into the kind of sensitivity that prompts nauseatingly empty terms like “politically correct,” and “cancel culture.” As a society, we’re only starting to learn how to become truly sensitive to the injustice and inequalities that form the basis for everything we know. Milwaukee Chamber Theatre explores the difficulties of this growth with Larissa FastHorse’s surprisingly brisk and effervescent comedy The Thanksgiving Play. Director Laura Gordon brings together a very thoughtfully-constructed ensemble in the story of a group of actors trying to put together a culturally sensitive traditional Thanksgiving play for kids.
Kelsey Brennan and Eric Schabla are warmly endearing as Logan and Jaxton--two very progressive people trying to put together a staged story of “the first Thanksgiving” for kids. The ever-charismatic Torrey Hanson plays Caden--an aspiring playwright and history teacher looking to be as historically accurate with the play as possible. Hannah Shay rounds-out the cast as Alicia: a professional actress who has been hired to help fulfill requirements for an arts grant that’s been bestowed upon the production. Every member of the creative team trying to bring the show before the kids is saddled with serious handicaps of some sort. Will they be able to somehow bring together both educational children’s theatre AND a story the lends historical accuracy to a very bloody time in the history of North America? Probably not, but it’s fun to watch them try.
FastHorse’s script renders some pretty sophisticated characters for something that could easily be read as a light sitcom. Gordon lends the ensemble more than enough room to bring the characters to life with tender nuance. Logan and Jaxton could easily read like annoying amplifications of awkward liberal over-sensitivity, but Brennan and Schabla play them with a deep respect. These are a couple of characters who are aching to get it right in every possible way both on and off stage. Brennan and Schabla focus on that deep and driving desire for total perfection.
It’s refreshing to see former Rep actor Torrey Hanson in another local production. Caden could have struggled through an overly awkward and pathetic presence onstage. Hanson lends Caden an inner strength and integrity that fits well within the ensemble. Shay’s character could be read as the problematic stereotype of a vapid professional Hollywood-style actress who prefers to be superficial. Alicia DOES gain a great amount of power from the apparent superficiality of her personality. Shay stalks the role with impressive Zen-like preternatural poise. It’s really, REALLY hard to get preternatural wisdom to work in a portrayal of someone who appears to be stereotypically vapid at first glance. Shay lounges gorgeously into Alicia’s depth, deftly balancing out the more cerebral energies of the rest of the cast.
FastHorse’s script weaves very, very quickly between light sitcom and very, very heavy moments of social satire. Gordon and company faithfully follow the switches in tone in a production that can play equally well to those looking for something light and those looking for something a little deeper. It’s deliciously imperfect as it casts a mirror to contemporary culture. As a society, we are caught somewhere between light comedy and the need for something deeper.
Milwaukee Chamber Theatre’s online production of The Thanksgiving Play is available through May 23. For more information, visit Milwaukee Chamber Theatre online.
There’s a little bit of everything online as the traditional theatre season closes in an age of COVID. Local Milwaukee theaters are still planning for live seasons in 2021-2022, but there’s still an opportunity to catch some really interesting and potentially innovative locally-produced stuff online before everything begins to migrate back to the live stage late next fall.
The Loud ‘N Unchained Black Theater Festival
All the theatre going on online lately has offered a really cool opportunity to see locally-produced stuff that hasn’t been locally produced in Milwaukee. April closes into May this year with Madison’s Loud ’N Unchained Black Theater Festival. It’s a live two-day streaming show featuring work from Madison-area theater, drag and spoken word artists. And...y’know...it’s free. Given all the stuff going on at the festival, this looks like a really fun way to enter May. The show runs April 30th and May 1st. For more information, visit the festival online.
The Laramie Project
It’s been nearly a quarter century since the brutal murder of Matthew Shepard. I’t would be nice to think that things have gotten better since then. I’ve seen productions of Moises Kaufman’s exploration of the murder quite a few times over the years in quite a few different formats. This coming weekend, the UW Green Bay theatre department stages a live production of the show online. In addition to being a really important exploration of the brutality the people are capable of, it’s a good project for university theatre online. The show consists largely of first-person accounts delivered directly to the audience...it’s a chance for an actor to really explore the portrayal of deep individual thought and intellectual reflection.
UWGB’s production of The Laramie Project runs April 29 to May 2 online. The show is free. For more information, visit the show’s page at UWGB.
This month 53212 Presents welcomes UWM Dance composer Allen Russell to the screen with another improvisational dance performance. The show mixes live and limited in-person audience with a free online streaming presentation in an eclectic digital atmosphere. Up to 12 people can register in advance to attend the performance live. (This IS one of the most intimate stages in Milwaukee right now.) The rest of us are free to watch it live on May 2nd from 10:00 am-12:00 pm. (Sunday mid-day dance? Sounds lovely.) For more information, visit the show’s page on Eventbrite.
KidsWrites: Time Capsule
The Skylight’s KidsWrites program has been around in one format or another for decades. This year, the project that pairs kids’ writing with professional musical theatre producers tackles the subject of the pandemic. Kids had written about a variety of different things impacting them that were developed into little video packages online...from the soulfully operatic Time Capsule to moody acoustic guitar to the straight-ahead comic opera of Ode to Toilet Paper. The show runs online from May 3 - June 13. It’s free. To register to see it online, visit Skylight online.
The Very First zoom Comedy Show Ever: Why has no one thought of this before?
If sarcasm had a title it might be the name of the new Broadminded Comedy show. The seemingly invincible all-woman comedy group continues straight into the pandemic with an online sketch comedy show. The prolific group will feature all-new material that has been constructed specifically for videoconferencing format. Zoom has become such a universally...tolerated...format over the course of the past year. It should be fun to see the unique mix of comedy brought to the screen by a group of writer/performers who have a long history onstage together. Broadminded’s new show runs May 8 and 22nd online. For more information, visit Broadminded’s website.
Milwaukee Chamber Theatre has been doing a really good job of tackling the challenges posed by COVID. The pre-recorded productions that the group has been bringing to the internet are among the most satisfying that Milwaukee has had to offer. This month MCT opens its production of Glen Berger’s Underneath the Lintel. The production stars Elyse Edelman as a librarian giving a presentation regarding the mystery of a library book that had been retuned 113 years overdue. A dry cleaning ticket and a number scribbled into the margin of the book serve as the opening of a long and winding story told with great enthusiasm in a one-woman show that’s online this month.
Traditionally the one-character play draws a great deal of appeal from the strength of a single performer onstage drawing-in an audience for a sustained, intermission-less 90 minutes or so. It would take a very unique kind of energy to translate that energy to the screen for an online production. Edelman plays a librarian from Holland who travels far to discover the mystery of the book’s history. Edelman’s Dutch accent is warm and deeply engaging. She brings a very sophisticated reality to the stage aided only by a slide projector, blackboard and irrepressible intellectual exuberance. A video format would theoretically tempt a director to add-in superfluous elements intended to amplify the production. MCT Artistic Director Brent Hazelton shrewdly allows Edelman a stylishly minimalist production.
The playwright hands Edelman numerous difficulties that the actress finesses with a strikingly deft poise. Berger’s script requires the librarian to be an expert storyteller gradually unveiling the elegant convolutions of the story. Edelman does the brilliantly. Berger’s script requires the actor playing the librarian to be vulnerable while wielding a great inner strength. Edelman plays the librarian’s arcane constellation of trivia with a beautifully idiosyncratic appeal that swims in and around Berger’s script. The complex intricacies of the mystery can make the librarian feel like a bit of an obsessive schizophrenic obsessing away at minor trivialities even as her life seems to be falling apart in the process, but Edelman draws strength from the character’s love of the mystery that’s truly inspiring.
Milwaukee Chamber Theatre staged a production of Underneath the Lintel back in 2013. James Ridge played the librarian. Like that live staged production, Edelman’s pre-recorded performance engages audiences in a journey through the fringes of history that reaches into the heart of human curiosity. There are moments in every mystery thriller in which intrepid investigators discuss clues that they have run across in the course of their struggles. (It’s one of the better elements of any good mystery story.) Berger’s script lives exclusively in those moments. Like Ridge before her the better part of a decade ago, Edelman finds the energy of those moments with graceful tenacity. Edelman is an immensely appealing video Sherlock Holmes for any number of living room Watsons.
Milwaukee Chamber Theatre’s production of Underneath the Lintel is available through May 2nd. For ticket reservations and more, visit Milwaukee Chamber Theatre online.
Milwaukee theatre percolates in and around the edges of the internet in April as COVID’s impact on the stage continues to be felt more than one full year after the initial outbreak. April offers a little bit of everything from drama to comedy...from shorts to feature-length shows. There’s even a live reading onstage for those interested in venturing out to Hartland this month.
Someone has returned a book to a library that is 113 years overdue. A sole librarian goes in search of the book’s history with one initial clue: an unclaimed dry cleaning ticket. This is the premise behind Glen Berger’s Underneath the Lintel. This coming month, Milwaukee Chamber Theatre stages the show online in a production featuring the always-engaging Elyse Edelman as the librarian in question. Brent Hazelton directs the show, which runs April 9 - May 2 online. For more information, visit Milwaukee Chamber Theatre online. Milwaukee Chamber Theatre has done a really good job of bringing compelling local theatre to the internet. With Edelman paired with a good script, MCT appears to have another compelling show for the 2020-2021 season.
The Village Playhouse has maintained activity over the course of this past year. This coming month, they’re bringing program of three shorts by George Bernard Shaw online.
“Overruled,” is a one-act about a pair of couples looking to negotiate complexities of open relations.
“Passion, Poison and Petrification,” involves a poisoning and cure-by-plaster in a rather strange comedy.
“How He Lied To Her Husband,” is a three-person comedy involving a woman named Aurora, her husband and her lover.
An Evening With Shaw is available April 15-25 online. For more information, visit Village Playhouse online.
Deanna Strasse directs a staged reading of a play she’s written that will be staged in Hartland at Lake Country Playhouse this month. Islands is set in a bed and breakfast in Ireland. A group of strangers come together in a potentially fun, little excursion outside of Milwaukee for anyone interested in seeing something live. Lake Country Playhouse will, of course, be staging the reading in a reduced-capacity socially distanced format. The show will be performed Saturday, April 24 at 7:30 pm and Sunday, April 25 at 2:00 pm. For more information, visit Lake Country Playhouse online.
Director Michael Cotey brings a contemporary drama to light in Next Act Theatre’s latest. An American soldier is accused of war crimes in Iraq. Casey Hoekstra plays the soldier in question who finds himself lost in encounters with superior officers, lawyers, preachers and more. The cast also includes Next Act Artistic Director David Cecsarini, Chike Johnson and Malkia Stampley.
“9 CIRCLES is not about war or Iraq,” says Next Act Producing Artistic Director David Cecsarini, “but the journey of a man discovering himself within the environment of war.”
The show runs April 26 - May 16. For more information, visit Next Act online.
It’s an hour in a basement with an insurance agent. It’s okay, though: she’s cool. She’s enjoyably philosophical and engagingly articulate. And she’s played by Jennifer Vosters so…y’know…she’s really cool. It’s a one hour video production of Lauren Gunderson’s Natural Shocks. The one-act monologue is set in “A half-finished basement in a normal house in America right now.” Only it’s not right right now. She doesn’t mention anything about COVID. And she would because she gets into A LOT of different topics over the course of the monologue. And because she’s really really into risk assessment. She would have preferred to be an actuary, actually.
Directed by Micheal Cotey, the incredibly tight, little video package was produced for the Third Avenue Playhouse as a part of its PlayWorks 2021 online series. It was available for one night only on the 19th, but wow…it’s REALLY too bad this video isn’t available anymore as it was one of TAP’s “special events.” Vosters’ one-hour performance was an incredibly nuanced portrayal of one of the sweetest, most endearing characters ever committed to drama. She’s trying to be honest to the audience, but she lies about some things. She says that there’s a disaster coming. A tornado. And so she’s addressing an audience. And since this is made-for-internet, Vosters plays the character delivering the monologue into her phone. It’s a powerfully intimate performance.
Vosters has had a lot of experience delivering monologues into the internet recently. Her “Impassioned Video Monologue” series on Facebook has been raising money for American Players Theatre over the course of the pandemic. She’s a captivating presence pointed directly at an audience from within a glowing rectangle. In the course of that series, she’d played…actually she’d played a few characters in one of those videos. (But only briefly. And they were all played for comedy.) With Natural Shocks Vosters a deeply engrossing ability to render the inner complexities of a single person and her memories. Vosters deftly dives into one hour in the life of a person who is very, very familiar with the nature of risk and hazard as she hides out in her own basement.
Lauren Gunderson’s script is jaw-droopingly intricate. There’s a HELL of a lot going on in the script narratively, poetically and thematically. The themes being covered in the script are staggeringly important in today’s socio-political environment. It’s a play that needs to be seen. Again: it’s really too bad that this was a one-night thing. With any luck this script gains traction and makes it onto tiny, little stages all over the place once COVID restrictions lift. This video, though…wow. Things can be incredibly intimate on the small stage, but this script played to a phone on low-res video…it gains quite a bit. It’s just you and her and the screen. It is darkly stunning in so many ways.
The Third Avenue Playhouse’s PlayWorks 2021 online series continues into the Spring and beyond with James Valcq’s The Kissing Girl and Theresa Rebeck’s The Understudy coming-up in April and May. For a full schedule of upcoming events, check out TAP online.
You may not be able to see Vosters cowering in a basement in character, but you CAN see her delivering monologues online. Jennifer Vosters’ Impassioned video monologue series remains available on Facebook. There are 16 of them. They’re all 5-6 minutes long and they’re all a lot of fun.
And the show may be over, but audiences can still view the trailer. Here it is:
As the COVID pandemic continues into the current Milwaukee theatre season, the more established local companies have been putting some really compelling stuff onto the internet. It may not be live performance, but the intimate, small-cast productions have been host to some remarkably compelling drama. The latest show to premiere with Milwaukee Chamber Theatre online is Isaac Gómez’s The Way She Spoke. Michelle Lopez-Rios plays an actress reading a script for a writer friend of hers. Director Lisa Portes has brought together subtly minimalist elements to amplify Rios’ performance in a one-actor one-act that progresses through an uninterrupted 83 minutes.
As the actress sits-down, she’s reading the script for the first time. Lopez-Rios plays an actress engaging with a script that recalls certain memories for her. The memories aren’t hers, though. The narrative tells the story of a town in Mexico where numerous women have been disappearing. Thousands of women have vanished from Mexico. Horrific murders have been targeting women in the area. The memories are those of the narrator who is the playwright who wrote the script that the character is reading. As this begins to become apparent, she’s learning things about a man she’s known for years.
The drama unfolds at a table against a black brick that feels very much like the Broadway Theatre Center’s Studio Theatre that has played host to so many memorable MCT productions over the years. As Lopez-Rios reads the script, photo and video are projected against the brick wall. The projections are faded imagery in the background as the narrator breathes through an actress being portrayed by Lopez-Rios. Her voice echoes off of the walls. She’s trying to understand the tragedy of so much death and human trafficking. The darker side of humanity is explored with powerful resonance through a single script and a single performer, but the narrative valiantly reaches for an alchemy that reaches for the shadows of so many missing women.
The drama of the narrative casts light from the darkness of human horror to those courageous enough to explore it to the playwright to the actress to actress who is playing her and out into the video that’s captured it all. As remarkably vivid as the drama is, it’s very, very difficult to connect with the reality of it. It all feels like such dark fiction, but it’s weaving a story that is an appalling reality for so many people living in the shadow of the good fortune that so much of the rest of the population of the world has been gifted with. It’s absolutely essential that stories like Gómez’s continue to be told. It’s all too easy to forget about those occupying the edges of popular perception. There’s darkness in the periphery, but it needs to be seen if we are to come together as a compassionate species. This drama needs to be seen if we want to be something better than we are as a society.
Milwaukee Chamber Theatre’s production of The Way She Spoke is on-demand until April 11th, 2021. More information about MCT, its virtually reimagined 20/21 season, how to purchase tickets, and how to donate can be found at www.milwaukeechambertheatre.org.
UWM Theatre BFA graduate Erika Kirkstein-Zastrow has put together a short film that’s being submitted to various film festivals. Save All Who Dare has made “Special Mention” at the London International Monthly Film Festival and “Honorable Mention” at the Athens International Monthly Art Film Festival. UWM BFA Gretchen Mahkorn co-wrote and co-produced and co-stars in the short which also features LA-based actor Ross Crain. The 7-minute short film is being screened at various film festivals. I had an opportunity to see it online last month. It’s been circulating around in my mind ever since. Finally I get an idle moment to write about it.
The film was entirely shot in rural Wisconsin. Crain and Mahkorn play a couple who are struggling with life in a cult. Far from being the sort of overly-expository stuff one might expect from a 7-minute narrative about life in a cult, the dialogue is sparse and poetic. Crain and Mahkorn spend some time alone in a field and a church thinking about a really important decision that they’ve essentially already made. Wind blows through tall grasses as the two stare meaningfully off into the distance. Things are as sturdy and firm as ever inside the church as the two stare forward discussing the only option they truly have in the midst of a crisis of faith.
I know firsthand what it’s like to sit through shorts being submitted to a film festival. Save All Who Dare has a bit of an uphill climb. Not much actually happens in the course of the film. It’s quite pretty, but its beauty lies in the kind of beautiful stillness and vacancy that doesn’t play terribly well as the next film in a large cue for a panel of judges to consider including on a film festival. I’d watched the film, felt its mood and drifted away from it for a few weeks, slowly being reminded of the essence of its energy as the local winter has begun to warm to spring. It’ actually quite haunting when it’s had a chance to breathe into idle moments beyond the constant rush of work, life, love and social media.
Kirkstein-Zastrow and Mahkorn’s story is a simple exploration of that restless stillness that accompanies the weight of overwhelming existential issues. There’s a kind of death and rebirth captured in Save All Who Dare. It’s not exhilarating or intensely explosive the way such things are so often represented on stage or screen. This I death and rebirth at the moment of acceptance. Years ago I’d had the opportunity to speak with a number of people shortly after the moment they realized they weren’t going to commit suicide. (I’d lived through that moment myself decades ago.) It's not a moment that gets a whole lot of attention in plays or movies. Save All Who Dare doesn't capture that moment exactly, but the narrative resonates through that precise type of moment when revelations are made, exhaustion sets-in and all that’s left is the stillness of the human spirit slowly asserting itself from the ruins of great stress. It’s a beautiful seven cinematic minutes for a Springlike mood. I hope it finds its way onto a great many screens in the coming months.
Erika Kirkstein-Zastrow and Gretchen Mahkorn’s Save All Who Dare continues its journey. For more information including a brief trailer, visit the short’s Twitter page.
The societal changes that are go along with the latest global pandemic are transforming human interaction in ways that society is only beginning to comprehend. Cooperative Performance explores the nature of truth and human connection in the age of COVID with director/creator
Andrew Coopman’s RE: Social/Divide. The pre-produced 90-minute dramatic comedy features a rather large ensemble playing a group of writers and editors for a publication as they navigate the complexities of life and work via videoconference.
The 90-minute show consists of many, many little scenes outlining a week in the life of the magazine. It’s a highly episodic plot that plays very much like highlights from an entire season of a well-written sitcom. Not every single moment is brilliant, but the RE: Social/Divide holds more than enough moments to hold together for a fun 90 minute week with an enjoyable group of characters. New York-based actor Benjamin Neumayer plays editor of a publication the employs an appealingly diverse group of writers. Julia Gorordo (who also wrote some particularly poignant music for the show) appealingly plays tenacious serious journalist Kate. Maria Rojkova brings some remarkably heartfelt emotionality as Elvira: the privaely conflicted sexy social influencer working for the publication.
There’s a whole lot of subtlety in a script that seems modeled after video serial sitcoms that have a tendency to lean in a far lighter, less complicated direction. Of particular note here is Niv Joshi as a sweetly enigmatic gossip columnist who seems almost impossible to read socially even though she seems almost completely open an earnest in casual conversation. In some of the better scenes in the show, Joshi reaches an impressive amount of characterization with relatively little screen time.
One of the more intricate dramatic moments in the show happens between well-meaning aspiring black community ally Shannon Annabelle (Ashley Retzlaff-Rogaczewski) appears on the “Spill the Tea” podcast hosted by Reenah and Teenah (Aria Caldwell and Kayla V. White.) Race relations are dizzyingly complicated. Retzlaff-Rogaczewski manages a thoughtful rendering of a woman who really IS trying to connect-up through an earnest appreciation of black culture. Caldwell and White sharply render a couple of characters caught in a particularly difficult moment for themselves socially and professionally.
The Reenah/Teenah/“Shannabelle” plot has more than enough weight to carry a feature-length drama. It might feel a little light mixed-in with everything else, but then...so does the plight of Elvira and...well...A LOT of the rest of what’s going on in a very large ensemble piece which comfortably presents a hell of a lot more story than one might expect from a single 90 minute program. Audiences are getting a great deal of content for only $15...it’s a remarkably tight, little package of drama and comedy.
Cooperative Performance’s RE: Social/Divide is streaming on demand through April 11th on Vimeo. For ticket reservations and more, visit Cooperative Performance online.