A Three-Act March
Milwaukee theatre openings in March have sort of a three-act plot structure. We open with themes of death at the beginning of the month...then move on to jazz-age dance and music and some light Shakespearian comedy followed by an even-tempered sort of warm-hearted dramas--one based on a beloved book and another featuring a book of an entirely different kind. So three acts: Sadness. Then Dance and Comedy. Then cozy drama. Here’s a look.
Okay, so it’s not exactly about death. It’s about what happens to those death leaves behind. It’s an ensemble piece about three women who meet each other in the presence of their late husbands’ graves. The Cemetery Club graces the stage of the Sunset Playhouse at the beginning of the month. Life moves on even after death in a charming script that should play well at the end of a placid suburban winter. Donna Daniels directs the poignant contemporary comedic drama March 2 - 19 at Sunset’s space on 700 Wall Street in Elm Grove. For more information, visit Sunset online.
This one IS serious drama. Right Before I Go concerns playwright/TV screenwriter Stan Zimmerman (The Golden Girls, Roseanne, The Gilmore Girls) and his journey to understand his friend’s suicide. He’s not able to read his friend’s suicide note, so he reads the suicide notes of others online. The play explores suicide notes of celebrities, veterans and members of the LGBTQ+ community. Erica Case & Sara Kohlbeck direct. All-In Productions and The Medical College of Wisconsin present a two-performance staging of the drama March 3 - 4 at Sunstone Studios on 127 E Wells Street. For more information, visit All-In online.
UWM Theatre lightens-up the late winter with a celebration the ’30s and ’40s. Fran Charnas’ The All Night Strut is billed by Music Theatre International as “an easy-to-produce crowd pleaser, has minimal set requirements and features a small orchestra and a small, flexibly sized ensemble cast.” The dance of the era accompanies songs like “Tuxedo Junction,” “Brother Can You Spare a Dime?” and “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing.) The Gershwins, Hoagy Carmichael, Duke Ellington and more swing across the UWM Mainstage one week only March 8 - 12. Steven Decker directs with musical direction and choreography by Ryan Cappleman. For more information, visit UWM Peck School of the Arts online.
Boozy Bard returns the The Best Place Tavern on on 917 W Juneau Avenue this month, They will be presenting a Shakespeare RAW production of As You Like It. A painstakingly adapted script of Shakespeare’s classic comedy is presented with an open, irreverent style that can feel more than a bit like improv comedy. (Actors are chosen for roles at random before the shows starts.) It’s been a lot of fun following the Facebook posts by Bardwriter Andrea Roedel-Schroeder regarding the editing process. Evidently she had to cut the character of Jacques entirely. Touchstone remains in the current edit. (“I’m sorry..." she says, "having 2 separate dingdongs is messing up the scene flow.” She’s posted animated GIFs of a ridiculously large pair of scissors and an enraged Daniel Day-Lewis. It’s a whole thing...) Warmer weather is welcomed by a cozy night with Shakespeare March 13th - 14th. For more information, visit the show’s Facebook page.
The local small stage has been really good to actress Cassandra Bissel lately. She's been really good to it too. She's delivering some impressively intricate emotion in the role of an understandably frustrated professor with Next Act through the end of winter. At month's end, she returns to the exact same stage on 255 S Water St. with an entirely different theatre company: Renaissance Theaterworks. Bissell appears in the world-premiere production of Kristin Idaszak's one-person drama Tidy. Bissell plays a woman excavating her life in a sea of stuff as guided by Marie Kondo's self-help book: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. The show runs March 24 - April 16. For more information, visit Renassaisnce online.
This month First Stage goes from a post-apocalyptic Middle Earth to the wacky, shiny technicolor of a cel animated Bikini Bottom. (That one opens in a couple of days.) Late this month the children’s theater group shuffles off to a genteel poverty in 19th century Concord, Massachusetts. The talented Karen Estrada directs the stage Kate Hamill adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s beloved novel Little Women. The warm, emotionally rich drama of the March sisters makes its way to the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center from March 24th through April 2nd. For more information, visit First Stage online.
Romance Before the Blackboard
Next Act Theatre explores a playfully classy romantic mood with its latest. Mickle Maher’s There is a Happiness That Morning Is dances whimsically across the stage in rhyming verse as two actors speak of lust, love and so much else in monologues diving into dialogue which graces the stage for 90 minutes without intermission. The audience serves as a large class of undergraduates listening into a lecture that may be the last for either one of the two professors. They had engaged in very public lovemaking on the college campus and now they’ve each been asked to apologize to their students for the inappropriate behavior. Maher frames, the alternating monologues and graceful, rhyming verse that is so elegant that it scarcely feels like the poetry it so clearly is. It feels very natural, very casual very carefully constructed in crushingly beautiful all at once.
Neil Brookshire plays Bernard. His printing on the chalkboard is simple, very neat and very legible. He passionately speaks of the primacy of young love. He speaks the title, like it truly means something very deep in and within him. There’s a great emotional depth to what he is presenting. He manages a great deal of strength and wisdom that are also very childlike. It’s a cleverly captivating dichotomy that echoes so many of the rest of the dichotomies reverberating throughout the drama. Through it all, Brookshire remains radiantly charismatic. Bernard is attempting a deeply fearless aesthetic honesty that Brookshire fully embraces.
Cassandra Bissell plays Ellen. Her handwriting on the chalkboard is a dense cursive. She speaks with powerfully articulated vulgarity. She’s frustrated for a great many reasons. And there is a great elegance to her wit. Bissell slides deftly through a some of the most powerful emotions imaginable. She does so in a way that holds it all at an intellectual distance just a far enough away from her and the audience to appreciate its beauty. Ellen is passionately searching for the truth knowing full well the weight of the time that has been given to her. Bissell’s grasp of Ellen’s immediacy is inspiring.
Mark Corkins adds a crazy energy to the conflicts at the end of the drama. His passion crests over the passions of the other two with every bit as much manic exaggeration as the script seems to call for. There’s a real desperation in his performance, which provides a passionate counterpoint to the drama going on between the male and female leads.
Director Mary MacDonald Kerr has fostered a dynamic between the three actors that allows for very fluid transitions between moments of monologue. It would have been all too easy for flat and relatively lifeless transitions as one actor gives away to another in the alternation between contrasting passions. Kerr has assured that the overlapping energies of each actor exists in a very dynamic interplay. The other two actors aren’t always necessarily always present when one is addressing the audience, but the presence of every actor in the show is felt quite profoundly from beginning to end.
Next Act Theatre’s production of There is a Happiness That Morning Is runs through March 19th at the space on 255 S. Water St. For ticket reservations and more, visit Next Act online.
Voices Found Repertory conjures a snug, little island to the tiny space Inspiration Studios in West Allis as it presents a staging of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. An ensemble of five swiftly spins through many more than five roles in the course of the immersive, little comedic drama. Under the direction of Alex Metalsky, weightier dramatic elements fade out in a flurry of well-aimed comedy that speaks to various aspects of the human condition.
Local theatre veteran William Molitor performs as the central anchor of the cast in the sole role of the wizard and displaced nobleman Prospero. The rest of the cast play castaways and spirits in a tumultuous tumble of comic conflicts, murder attempts and various other bits of scheming on an uncharted Shakespearian island.
Hannah Kubiak deftly inhabits a few different prominent characters including one quarter of the indentured spirit Ariel and drunken butler Stephano. (Everyone onstage but Molitor plays a quarter of Ariel in a well-modulated quartet.) Kubiak’s sense of comic conception and tasteful exaggeration serves the role well. Relative newcomer Grace Berendt makes quite an impression in a few roles. She plays to the darker end of the drama as the crafty usurper Sebastian. Berendt does an impressive job of taking-on the characters from every end of the play, making them her own and giving them life without undue exaggeration. It’s a lot of fun to watch. She’s powerfully present with physical and intricate verbal comedy in the meekly funny role of Stephano’s partner Trinculo and the sweetly romance of Prince Ferdinand.
Ferdinand falls for Miranda--daughter of the island who also falls for him. Miranda is given earnest life by Chloe Attalla. Towering Cory Fitzsimmons rounds-out the cast most prominently as Caliban. Fitzsimmons’ high-gravity presence could easily overpower everyone and everything else onstage. He does an impressive job of muting his physical presence to play a shambling slave. In the intimate confines of Inspiration, it’s quite apparent that Caliban could easily become the single most powerful character in the whole story if only he were confident enough to stand upright and stand-up for himself. This dynamic makes for an interesting contrast to most other stagings of the story that I’ve seen over the years. The only true native of the island is subjugated by interlopers. Fitzimmons is vividly portrays the innate power of the island itself in an enjoyably immersive comic staging of Shakespeare’s final script.
Voices Found Repertory’s production of The Tempest runs through Feb. 19th at Inspiration Studios on 1500 S. 73rd St. in West Allis. For more information, visit Inspiration Studios online.
Beautiful Aquatic Dichotomies
A sad and wistful drama fairy tale is given a fun and playful staging as Milwaukee Opera Theatre and Danceworks present Rusalka. Dvořák’s opera playfully glides across Danceworks’ cozy space somewhere between Downtown and the East Side in a brisk 80 minutes without intermission.
The Czech version of the Little Mermaid legend is presented in a graceful dance and beautiful song that is hosted by narrator Jason Powell as The Moon. Powell also adapted the opera for the production, which conjures a crisp, contemporary atmosphere for the ancient story. Stage Director Jill Anna Ponasik has found a clever variety of ways to keep things light while remaining true to the original opera. Quite a lot of this involves some very sharp and nuanced work by choreographer Christal Wagner.
Not long after a few mood-establishing moments, Powell enters to welcome everyone...dressed exactly like the moon in sparkly athletic shoes and something resembling a white jumpsuit with a sewn-on name patch that clearly identifies him as, “Moon.” Saira Frank is equal parts powerful and vulnerable as the water spirit Rusalka who has fallen in love with a mortal man. Colleen Brooks summons a darkly droll craftiness in the role of Ježibaba--the witch who agrees to turn Rusalka into a mortal girl in exchange for her voice. Tim Rebers is quite charming as the guy that Rusalka has fallen for. He’s completely unaware of the magic in the world around him, but deeply connected with the whole idea of romantic love as witness by the fact that he falls for Rusalka and a visiting foreign princess who becomes an integral part of the story’s central conflict.
Powell, Ponasik and Wagner’s best collaboration involves a party. A romantic triangle between Rusalka, her love and a foreign princess is given clever presence. The dancers move about in a brilliant fusion between a casual party mood and graceful ballet amidst the overwhelming iconic presence of shiny, red plastic solo cups. Kaitlyn Moore has a sharply witty presence onstage as the somewhat bored foreign princess who has kind of a lot to drink. Moore’s drunken grace has the same kind of understated precision that her disaffected, unengaged silence manages at the top of the scene.
The flow of action feels a bit strange. The sudden crash of events at the end of the story IS quite sad. Somehow Powell, Ponassik and Wagner manage to maintain the overall playfulness of the production without compromising the sadness of the ending. It’s not really all that clear how they manage this.
It's playful. It's witty. It's sad. It's tragic. It's romance and indifference and dance and song. And it's like...80 minutes in a cozy, little theatre. Things are so cleverly balanced onstage that the mood seems to make sense even if it really has no business doing so. There’s a kind of magic in turning a 3-hour-long show into a more manageable 80 minutes. It’s a magic that allows for whimsical, little dichotomies to peak out of the shadows and tumble across the stage in a graceful and deeply satisfying fusion of music and dance.
Milwaukee Opera Theatre and Danceworks’ production of Rusalka runs through Feb. 12 at Danceworks Studio Theatre on 1661 N Water Street. For mor information, visit Milwaukee Opera Theatre Online.
Magic, Love and Poetry In February
A hell of a lot of fantasy is coming to inhabit small stages in Milwaukee this month. Fairies, time travelers, nymphs a Shakespearian wizard, a dragon and at least one Hobbit are drawn to small Milwaukee stages this month. The month ends with an opening featuring Cassandra Bissell. It may not exactly be fantasy, but Bissel is kinda magical in her own way. Here’s a look at what’s opening on small stages in February.
Shakespeare. Time travel. Sunstone Studios explores something new with the big premiere of playwright Rick Bingen’s Whirligig of Time. There’s a Shakespeare-themed pub in London. There are Shakespeare-themed drinks. Things happen. (The aforementioned time travel and such.) Sounds like fun fantasy in the intimate space of one of Milwaukee’s smallest theatre spaces. Tim Kietzman directs a show featuring original musical compositions by Kaila Bingen. February 3rd - 18th on 127 E Wells St. Bingen’s script calls for seven actors, which should feel like a relatively large crowd for this month’s trip to Sunstone. (The space has recently been home to smaller casts.) For more information, visit Sunstone online.
I love how ambitious projects can find their way onto even the smallest of stages. Sometimes it’s like...it’s like a hobbit walking into Mordor. This month First Stage presents a small-stage adaptation of a J.R.R. Tolkien classic as it stagesThe Hobbit at the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center on 325 W Walnut St. Some 96,000 words are lovingly compressed into a 90 minute stage drama as Bilbo, Smaug, Sting and the One Ring all come to inhabit a cozym little stage attended by parent and children Feb. 3 - Mar. 5. For ticket reservations and more, visit First Stage online.
Music and dance fuse in a cozy space as Danceworks and Milwaukee Opera Theatre present a staging of Antonín Dvořák’s classic story of magic, nymphs, love and the moon. Between the Stage Direction of Jill Anna Ponasik and the choreography of Christal Wagner, this should be a spellbinding experience. The traditional runtime of Dvořák’s opera is like...three hours. I ran into Ponasik recently and she assures me that the show is actually like...one hour long. As I recall, she also assures me that they haven’t abridged it or messed with the fabric of space and time or anything like that. Ponasik didn’t exactly explain to me how they manage this...but she didn’t NOT tell me either. Evidently it has something to do with Jason Powell, who not only adapted the opera for the production...he also plays The Moon. I will not question his powers further. Milwaukee Opera Theatre and Danceworks’ production of Russalka runs February 9-12 at Danceworks Studio Theatre on 1661 N Water Street. For more information, visit MOT online.
Voices Found Repertory chooses the coldest month of the year to go tropical as it presents The Tempest at Inspiration Studios in West Allis. William Molitor plays Prospero in a streamlined 5-person cast that includes charming longtime VFR-er Hannah Kubiak, Chloe Attalla, Grace Berendt and Cory Fitzsimmons. It sounds like kind of a tricky thing to manage, but these guys know what they’re doing. The warmth inhabits the stage for two-hour stretches February 10th - 19th on 1500 S 73rd St. For more information, visit the show’s Facebook page.
The one big non-fantasy to open on a small stage this month is a romance that is delivered entirely in rhyming verse. Cassandra Bissell and Neil Brookshire play a couple of university professors who had engaged in “coitus on a campus green.” They take turns explaining themselves in a romantic comedy that is cute in the best possible way. Playwright Mickle Maher’s There Is a Happiness That Morning Is runs February 23 - March 19th in a production with Next Act Theatre. For ticket reservations and more, visit Next Act online.
I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the final preview performance of the midwest premiere of playwright Martyna Majok’s Cost of Living. The show makes its local debut in a remarkably vivid Renaissance Theaterworks production. Two pairs of people deal with the complexities of human connection in the course of two hours on an intimate stage. Director Ben Raanan shepherds the dramatic energies through alternating scenes between the two pairs in a deeply moving emotional drama.
Bryant Bentley and Regan Linton are an estranged couple who struggle to find some common ground in the face of tragedy. Bentley is quite charming as Eddie--a trucker who is turning his life around. Majok’s script arms him some of the sharpest lines in the script. He’s matched in grit and wit by his wheelchair-bound wife Ani. She’s been through hell. Thanks to Eddie, she’s going to be through a bit more before things can have a chance to turn around for her. Linton carves together a gruff appeal of her own as Ani tolerates the company of a man she has not spent much time with in recent months. Raanan has helped Bentley and Linton climb their way through some very tricky emotional territory between the two characters. The tragedy that binds the two of them is beautifully crushing on a deep emotional level.
Jamie Rizzo and Valentina Fittipaldi captivatingly fill their half of the two-hour drama as John and Jess. John is a man suffering from neuromuscular challenges that leave him largely wheelchair bound as well. As the play opens, John is looking to hire Jess as a personal aid to help him with the arduous tasks of shaving, showering and so on. Fittipaldi and Rizzo carefully manage the dauntingly complex relations between John and Jess. The unlikely pairing of a wealthy man and his financially challenged aid hit the stage with a deeply engaging emotionality. Fittipaldi is crushingly endearing as a woman who has been through far too much to be able to casually trust anyone. Her performance might be one of the most memorable performances of the whole season thus far. Fittipaldi makes clever and beautiful use of the chance to deliver great complexity in a wide spectrum of silences in and around a charmingly pensive performance.
The alternation between the two different stories sometimes felt a bit interruptive. Just as things were really developing between Eddie and Ani, Majok jumps over to Jess and John. Jess is such a deeply interesting character for me...and Fittipaldi was so good at bringing her to the stage that I found myself taking a bit more time to warm-up to the perfectly charming gruffness of relations between Bentley and Linton. The two stories inevitably fuse at the end of the drama’s two hours onstage. It’s a very touching end to the whole thing, but I wish I would have been able to focus a bit more on things with Eddie and Ani.
Renaissance Theaterworks’ production of Cost of Living runs through Feb. 12 at the theatre space on 255 S Water St. For ticket reservations and more, visit Renaissance online.
On the Edge of the Classroom
The set is kind of an advanced-looking fifth grade classroom. The theatre in question is Sunstone Studios. It isn’t really a whole lot bigger than most fifth grade classrooms. A teacher’s desk and a few kids’ desks are visible. A few essays are tacked-up on the walls amidst posters of various gods and goddesses. It’s the site of a cozy, little two-person drama called Gidion’s Knot. Specitic moments might falter a bit here and there, but Director Caroline Norton has done an excellent job of fosters an environment which delivers the depth, shadow and nuance of a very sophisticated script by Johnna Adams.
Sarah Mankowski-Lathrum shows strength and compassion as Heather--an elementary school teacher who is relatively new to the job. (She’s already had a career in advertising and moved on to education.) She’s dealing with a couple of different traumas and quite unprepared for a parent-teacher conference. One had been scheduled for the afternoon, but she hadn’t expected it as the child in question had died at his own hands. When the mother of the late student does, in fact, show up, she’s taken more than a little off-guard. Sarah Mankowski Lathrum maintains a light-but-firm handle on the gentle emotional shifts that Heather undergoes as she and the mother discuss the late student.
Tina Nixon is a strong and formidable intellect in the role of the mother Corryn. She’s made an appointment and she intends to keep it. Her sone had been suspended for doing something that the teacher had felt was inappropriate. Corryn was contacted. Now that he’s dead, the mother is looking for answers. Heather would rather the school principal be present for the discussion, but Corryn is insistent. Nixon has a powerful silent presence onstage as Corryn deftly navigates her way into some sort of an explanation for a suicide that she feels Heather may have been responsible for in some way.
An investigation into the nature of passion, aggression and emotion gradually reveals itself in a single conversation that isn’t much longer than an hour. Adams packs a hell of a lot into that hour. There are some pretty tight narrative corners with tensions shifting back and forth at breakneck speeds. The delicate shifts of aggression, intension and emotion don’t always flow through the performance quite as swiftly as the script might require.
Suicide is one of the more difficult subjects to dive-into in a two-person drama. Even without the subject of loss and grief, the whole concept of fifth grade is absurdly complicated on so many levels. People on the edge of childhood who are tumbling across the precipice of adolescence have a dizzying amount going on in their lives. Adams’ script handles that complexity without much in the way of direct interaction with them. The kids who are characters are only presented in their writing. Crushingly bewildering concepts are held at a distance as two people try to figure out what went wrong. It’s a very, very beautiful and brief moment of drama on a small stage.
Gidion’s Knot runs through January 28th at Sunstone Studios on 127 E. Wells St. For ticket reservations and more, visit Sunstone online.
Onstage In January
It’s been an unseasonably warm new year, but there’s little doubt that the cold is coming. A warm comedy opens 2023 in a month dominated by some very serious and weighty dramas that are certain to accompany some of the coldest days of the year. A charming southern musical warms the Milwaukee stage in a month that also finds topics of suicide, infertility and basic human survival inhabiting the heart of winter on the live stage in Milwaukee. A couple of 20th century classics join some remarkably compelling works from the past ten years in a very promising month for local theatre productions.
Bombshell Theatre Company stages a classic 1970s country-western musical at the beginning of 2023 as it presents The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. Director Eric Welch brings the show to an intimate studio theatre space that should amplify the small-town feel of the show. Robbyn Wilks plays the proprietor of a brothel that finds itself in jeopardy due to a TV expose. Promo pics of the upcoming production reveal a classy, vintage boudoir feel about the costuming by Welch and Madison Nowack. January 6 - 15 at the Sunset Playhouse in Elm Grove. For ticket reservations, visit Bombshell online.
Director Caroline Norton brings weighty drama to one of the smallest stages in town this month as it presents the classroom drama Gidion’s Knot. Sarah Mankowski-Lathrum plays a grade school teacher who is confronted by Corryn (Tina Nixon)--a parent of a student who committed suicide. The tiny space at Sunstone Studios serves as a grade school classroom in a very tense and provocative 90-minute drama. Johnna Adams’ script dives into intense complexity that is compellingly explored between two characters. The whole of society is reflected in a single tragic death. January 13 - 28 at 127 E. Wells St. For ticket reservations, visit Sunstone online.
A cast including a couple of Milwaukee theatre veterans is brought together for a look at one of the most acclaimed dramas of the 20th century as Milwaukee Chamber Theatre presents Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? January 20 - February 12 at the Broadway Theatre Center Studio Theatre. Laura Gordon and James Ridge feature prominently in 0ne of the more haunting stage dramas to come out of the 1960s. A casual get-together between a couple of couples turns very serious as the evening progresses. Things are never as they appear. For ticket reservations, visit Milwaukee Chamber Theatre online.
Renaissance Theaterworks closes-out the month with the Midwest premiere of Martyna Majok’s clever 2016 comic drama. Ben Raanan directs the story of four mismatched characters. A former trucker and his paralyzed ex-wife are contrasted against the concerns of a young man with cerebral palsy and his new caregiver. In contemporary America, survival is expensive. Life can be incredibly difficult in one of the wealthiest nations on the planet. Four people struggle in a show that’s brought to a cozy space January 20 - February 12 at 255 South Water Street. For ticket reservations, visit Renaissance Theaterworks online.
Lumpy the Golem Boy was mixing with the crowd and collecting donations as Audrey Thompson-Wallace played the harp in the center of the room. It was The Best Place...somewhere between spirits in Boozy Bard’s production of A Christmas Carol. Dickens’ classic is probably the single best-known story of any kind in the Western world. It’s been adapted so many times in so many ways that anyone could recite the plot entirely from memory without even realizing they’ve done so.
And so it’s a perfect choice for a Boozy Bard show. (Or it would be if it had been written by Shakespeare.) It’s good. A lot of fun. The first of two evenings’ performances of the show happened on Friday the 16th of December. The Best Place was packed. If it wasn’t a sell-out crowd, it at least felt like one. The cozy, little bar was filled with people looking to watch Scrooge get haunted again. Stephen M. Wolterstorff served as a charismatically informal host for the evening’s proceedings as the show started.
Every show with Boozy Bard is drastically different from every other show with Boozy Bard. Actors choose roles at random from a hat. Last night’s Scrooge was barefoot for the entire show. A witty puppet served as narrator. It was weird. It was cool. The group raised a lot of money for the very worthy cause of Sojourner Family Peace Center.
Somewhere amidst drinks, scripts and various bits of costuming, the story unfolded. The adorably attentive, fuzzy blue visage of Lumpy the Golem Boy looked-on from as the all-too-familiar story shuffled across the stage with tastefully comic exaggerations of drama. It’s a weird improv comedy sort of an atmosphere that’s elegantly tethered to a streamlined adaptation of the classic holiday story. Audience and cast members took turns heckling the wealthy, old anti-hero in a fun and festive atmosphere. Every now and again, there’s something truly unexpected to anchor a Boozy Bard show. Last night it was Thompson-Wallace’s serious gravitas as Belle, who delivered a heavy weight to the evolution of Scrooge’s personality. Scrooge chooses greed over love and Lumpy is seen in the background comically slamming his face against the script in frustration. It’s such a weirdly unrehearsed energy the animates the moment...the type of thing that makes a Boozy Bard show as truly appealing and unique as it is.
There’s real warmth in a holiday crowd that has such an open distain for wealth. Want to go to a fancy adaptation with big sets and costuming that’s attended by people with money? You know where the Pabst Theatre is. There’s plenty of seating there. Want a closer, less formal brush with Dickens? The Best Place is...well...the best place for that. But here’s the catch: there’s only one performance left. The show starts at 7 pm. And y’know...get there early because last night seating filled-up pretty fast. (The line for the bar is pretty crazy too. So...y’know...consider that as well.)
Boozy Bard’s production of A Christmas Carol (Raw) emerges for its second and final performance tonight, December 17th at The Best Place Tavern in the Historic Pabst Brewery on 917 W Juneau Ave. For more information, visit the show’s Facebook Events Page.
Onstage In December
As the weather continues to lack warmth outside, there’s actually kind of a lot of it coming from the small stages in and around Milwaukee. There are a pair of world premieres emerging onto cozy, little spaces this month. There are also a couple of holiday shows. Here’s a look at some of what lies ahead in the month of December.
The deeply endearing Samantha Sostarich returns as Cindy Lou Who all grown-up in playwright Matthew Lombardo’s twisted one-woman comedy. It’s a decidedly adult mutation of Dr. Seuss’ Grinch. Sostarich was a lot of fun in this role before. She brings a badass cuddliness to the intimate stage of Sunstone Studios once more. This show is a whole lot of fun. But...it’s not exactly for everyone. No kids. Only ex-children. Catch-up with Cindy Lou Who years later. Have a beer with her in the trailer she calls home. It’s way more fun than it has a right to be. Dec. 5 - 20 at the tiny, little space on 127 E Wells Street. (The show runs Mondays and Tuesdays as Sostarich is in a much larger production on a bigger stager over the weekends through the end of the year.) For more information, go to Sunstone online.
This coming month, UWM Peck School of the Arts launches the premiere of a new drama set in the sole residential neighborhood the Menomonee Valley. Written by Alvaro Saar Rios, it’s a Hamlet-inspired drama about a man who is trying to run the family brewery after the suspicious death of his father. So....Hamlet in a Milwaukee microbrewery? Sounds cool. The show runs Dec. 7 - 11 at UWM’s Mainstage Theatre. It’s a part of UWM’s New Dramaworks series dedicated to developing new plays written by Midwestern writers. For more information, visit UWM online.
Whirligig of Time
Rick Bingen is Assistant Professor of Computer Science at Carthage College. Pretty cool, but he’s also a playwright. And it’s also very cool that a play he’s written is making its world premiere with Sunstone Studios this coming month. Whirligig of Time finds a contemporary Olivia going into a pub and traveling back in time to the late 16th century. The play features an impressive cast including Samantha Biatch, Steve Decker, Sean Duncan, Adam Raul Medina, Alicia Rice, Keighly Sadler, and Liz Shipe playing the likes of John Heminges, Richard Burbage, Will Kemp and William Shakespeare. The Sunstone debuts the show Dec. 15 - 30. For more information, go to Sunstone online.
A Christmas Carol: RAW!
Boozy Bard returns to The Best Place Tavern with another decidedly underprepared stage adaptation of Dickens’ classic supernatural horror show. Actors take roles at random and perform from a breezily streamlined script. Cratchit, Scrooge and a few ghosts all appear in the right order, but anything could happen in an open beer hall atmosphere with some really good ales on tap. Dec. 16 and 17 at the Best Place on 901 W. Juneau Avenue. For more information, visit the show’s Facebook events page.