The month of December features a skewed look at the familiar. From a tale of WWI to a lovingly skewered approach to classic Dickens, fun, music, sin and more...this December feels like a really enjoyable mix of different elements to close out the year of 2023--a remarkably satisfying year in Milwaukee theatre.
It was five months into WWI. Things were bleak on the Western front. Opposing forces decided to take a pause from killing each other to celebrate Christmas. It’s a beautiful story in its own way, but it’s also very, very haunting. This December Vanguard Productions presents a dramatic adaptation of the history with All Is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914. Playwright Peter Rothstein’s adaptation of the story features musical arrangements by Wrick Lichte and Timothy C.Takach. Vanguard’s production runs Dec. 1 - 10 at Calvary Presbyterian Church on 628 N 10th St. For ticket reservations and more, visit the show’s page on Eventbrite.
The Holidays are the PERFECT time to reflect on humanity’s shortcomings. (And really...when ISN’T it a good time to do that?) The Constructivists take a festive dive into the darker end of humanity this December with A Very Deadly Constructivists Holiday. The show celebrates the seven deadly sins with a series of shorts featuring true stories of people being bad brought to the stage in a variety of different ways. It’s a clever bit of counter-programming conceived and directed by Jamielyn Gray featuring Andrea Ewald, Ekene Ikegwuani, Nicole McCarty, Nate Press, Matt Specht, Kellie Wambold, and Ben Yela. The show runs December 6 - 9 at Zao MKE Church on 2319 East Kenwood Boulevard. For more information, visit the show’s page on MKE Tickets.Com
The talented Marcella Kearns directs the First Stage Young Company in a staging of Shakespeare’s classic drama of war, passion and power as it presents Henry IV Part 1. The Young Company strips a very large and unwieldly drama down to its most immediate essence. Kearns works with a group of actors who are only just beginning their exploration of the stage...launching themselves into one of Shakespeare’s coming-of-age story of Prince Hal growing into the man who would become King Henry V. The show runs December 8 - 17 at the Milwaukee Youth Art Center on 929 N. Water Street. For more information, visit First Stage online.
Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol might be the single most universally-known story...in existence. It’s been adapted so many different ways in so many different forms over many, many years. It’s a cozy story for the holidays that touches on quite a few different sentiments. And since it IS so familiar to so many people, it’s a perfect match for Boozy Bard’s format. Once again this holiday season the wildly informal comedy group stages an unrehearsed series of performances of the classic with A Christmas Carol: RAW! Actors choose roles at random and perform the beloved tale from scripts in a sketch/improv comedy sort of environment. The show makes it to a couple of different venues this year. December 10 - 12 the show will be staged at The Best Place at the Historic Pabst Brewery on 917 W Juneau Ave and December 15 and 16 the show is staged at Hawthorne Coffee Roasters at 4177 S Howell Ave. For more information, visit Boozy Bard’s Facebook page.
Dewey Finn really wants to play a solid concert. Paying rent would be cool, too, but he really just wants to play a kickass concert. Of course...winning the battle of the bands and climbing to the top fo Mount Rock to become a towering legend in the recording industry would be cool as well. But it’s the music, right? THAT’s what it’s all about And all he needs is one shot at it with Skylight Music Theatre’s The School of Rock. Cleverly comic musical theatre talent Joey Sanzaro plays Finn in a big, energetic production featuring an impressive cast.
Dewey just got kicked out of the band that he started. He’s also been fired from theo nly job he’s had. And now he’s facing the very real possibility of getting kickedo ut on the street if he can’t come-up with something like rent. Then he takes a call that isn’t exactly intended for him...and winds-up falling into a substitute teaching position at a prestigious private school. There’s real money in the position if he can fake his way through the job for long enough to make a paycheck, but when he finds out that the kids in his class are all talented musicians, Dewey falls into the kind of ambition that just might get him into some serious trouble with EVERYBODY.
The cast of kids is played by...kids. TALENTED kids too. There’s a fully stocked rock orchestra in the pit, but there’s som genuine talent onstage that mixes an entertaining musical energy with some cleverly deft comic dynamics. In addition to a very sharp student cast, there are some notable performances in the adult cast as well. Stephanie Staszak has a crisp precision in the role of the school’s young principal Rosalie Mullins. Staszak manages a sharp balance between strict authority and endearing vulnerability as a professional who is placed in an extremely awkward position that threatens the financial wellbeing and reputation of the school as a whole.
Director Michael Unger has done an excellent job of bringing all of the elements of the production together. It’s extremely difficult to get everything to come across with an even balance in a rock musical. The sound, pacing and overall energy of a show with so much power and amplification is difficult enough. Add to that the fact that a really important part of the production is...a bunch of kids without a whole lot of experience onstage and things could easily go wrong in a very, very big way. Unger and company do a staggeringly good job with the aid of Scenic Designer Lindsay Fuori, who has done an admirable job of bringing a show to the stage that has quite a few different locations that range from a rock stage to a dive bar to a tasteful middle-class living room to a prestigious private school and more.
Skylight Music Theatre’s production of School of Rock continues through Dec. 30 at the Broadway Theatre Center on 158 N Broadway. For ticket reservations and more, visit Skylight Music Theatre online.
The weather starts to get serious about being cold and local Milwaukee stages begin to resonate with a bit more music than usual. Nearly everything that I'm going to this month has some sort of a musical things going on. There's rock by way of Andrew Lloyd Webber, Liberace, "Superboy and the Invisible Girl," and more. Here's a look:
UWM Theatre presents a staging of a dark comedy by playwright Jen Silverman who also wrote Witch (a really good dark comedy in its own right which continues through the 12th with Renaisssance Theaterworks) Inspired by a Brontëan mood, the play is set in the desolate English moors. A. young woman arrives at a remote manor of a man with whome she’s been exchanging romantic correspondence. When she arrives at the manor, there are only two sisters, a maid...and mastiff living there...Nov. 1 - 5 at Kenilworth Square East, Kenilworth Five-0-Eight on 508 Kenilworth Ave.
Next To Normal
Kimberly Laberge directs a small-stage production of this haunting contemporary American musical for Kith and Kin Theatre. A contemporary suburban family deals with mental illness. It’s an unflinching look at the flaws and strengths buried deep within the heart of life on the edge of the 21st century. A mother suffers from bi-polar disorder as a family tries its best to cope with so many issues. November 10 - 19 at The Interchange Theater Co-Op on 628 N 10th St. It’s not often that a full musical makes it to a space as small as The Interchange. Laberge will feature the full cast and a five-part orchestra in a cozy, little studio theatre environment.
Acrot/Composer/Lyricist Brett Ryback celebrates one of the most prominent musical celebrities of the 20th century has he pays tribute to Wisconsin’s own Władziu Valentino Liberace with Milwaukee Chamber Theatre. Writer Brent Hazelton constructs a show with original music by Jack Forbes Wilson. The powerful personality of a musical mega-star has served as a glittering foundation for intimate, little musical theatre shows on more than one occasion in the past. (Milwaukee Chamber posted a video short featuring the costuming and...wow...look at all those sequins...) The charismatic Ryback has a suitably charming presence that should serve the production well. Nov. 15 - Dec. 10 at the Studio Theatre in the Broadway Theatre Center on 158 N Broadway.
School of Rock
Based on the 2003 film. this is one of Andrew Lloyd Weber’s most recent musicals. Skylight Music Theatre stages a production of the musical comedy. Skylight Music Theatre’s Artistic Director Michael Unger directs the show featuring New York-based Joey Sanzaro as a substitute teacher at a private school who sees potential rock music talent in the kids that he teaches. Talented, young local actress Stephanie Staszak plays the school principal who unwittingly hires a man who isn’t quite what he has presented himself to be. Nov. 17 – Dec. 30 at the Broadway Theatre Center on 158 N. Broadway.
One of Agatha Christie’s most beloved mysteries makes it to the stage in a production directed by the talented Mary MacDonald Kerr. Next Act Theatre presents a production with an impressive cast including Libby Amato, Jonathan Gillard Daly and Doug Jarecki. Nov. 22 - Dec. 17 at the space on 255 S. Water St.
Neil Brookshire is the devil. (Kind of.) He’s actually a demon. Or rather...Neil Brookshire is an actor playing a devil playing a young salesman. Call him Scratch. He inhabits the stage with warmth and charisma in Renaissance Theaterworks’ production of playwright Jen Silverman’s dark comedy Witch.
Silverman describes the era of the comedy as “Then-ish.” It’s a European era of antiquity somewhere in the vicinity of half a millennia ago. (Give or take a century.) A kingdom is in decline. There’s a devil who comes to do a little bit of business. The dialogue is quick, witty and quite contemporary. Silverman’s deliberately anachronistic dialogue nails the overall feel of the comedy to be strikingly familiar. It feels much like a Jacobian version of Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s Good Omens. Scratch is a low-level sales rep looking to sign a few contracts. He’s got something of a junior life insurance salesman’s demeanor about him. (Seriously. Take it from someone who has been in the foreboding presence of Northwestern Mutual. There’s something casually demonic about life insurance agents. Brookshire has the essence of that sinister sales quality about him. It’s perfect.)
Marti Gobel is stunningly engaging as a woman named Elizabeth who has been offered a deal in exchange for her soul. She’s not terribly interested in whatever it is that Scratch is selling. Naturally he’s going to be intrigued by her. Gobel and Brookshire have a clever chemistry together. He’s a devil. You don’t want to trust him. She’s a woman being offered anything she wants, but you know it’s wrong. You know something awful is going to happen but you don’t want it to happen to her...and you don’t exactly want it to happen to him either.
Prior to approaching Gobel, Scratch delivers his pitch to a couple of guys who turn out to be more receptive. James Carrington endearingly plays Cuddy--a lovable noble who would prefer to be focus on his Morris Dancing than concerning himself with the affairs of the state. He’s competing for the affections of his father with a dashingly handsome peasant guy who has been unofficially adopted by his father. Joe Picchetti is sharp and precise with an arrogantly youthful poise in the role of Frank--the rising peasant who just might inherit a kingdom if he plays his cards right. Reese Madigan is a comically tragic as Cuddy’s father--the wealthy and powerful Sir Arthur Banks. Sir Arthur is in decline at the loss of his wife. Her portrait is ever at his side as he sheepishly haunts the stage like a fading image. Eva Nimmer brings a deep emotional gravitas to the role of Winnifred: a maid in the estate with a special and especially tragic connection to the action.
Director Suzan Fete does a brilliant job of fostering a deeply complex connection between everyone in the ensemble. There’s some particularly brilliant work being done in the realm of the physical onstage between the work of Intimacy Director Jen Dobby and Fight Choreographer Jamie Cheatham.
It’s a fun ensemble comedy that wraps itself in impressive darkness without ever going into the kind of weirdly fantastic existential depths that would be open to the story of a devil hanging around a doomed kingdom. It focuses quite wisely on interpersonal drama between the ensemble, but misses a chance at something deeper and more comically profound. The procurement of souls as big ticket sales makes for a fun interaction between Gobel and Brookshire. It might have been a bit more interesting to see the whole thing framed from the perspective of the office that Scratch operates out of. Something like Glengarry Glen Ross with souls would have been one Hell of a lot of fun...
Renaissance Theaterworks’ production of Jen Silverman’s Witch continues through Nov. 12th at the space on 255 S. Water St. For more information, visit Renaissance Theaterworks online.
The Skylight playfully twists the atmosphere of the Broadway Theatre Center into a deliciously surreal and irreverently absurdist adventure as it opens its season with Leonard Bernstein’s Candide. Based on Voltaire’s classic work of literature, the show features a charmingly charismatic Sam Simahk as the haplessly optimistic title character--a privileged, young man who is cast out of an idyllic life and into a strange adventure which finds him questioning his overall optimism at every turn. Susie Robinson plays to great nuance and complexity in the role of Candide’s love Cunegonde. The cast includes some amazing performances around the edges of the ensemble including Andrew Varela as the irrepressibly optimistic Doctor Pangloss, Ben George as the altruistic James the Anabaptist and a pleasantly earthbound Samantha Sostarich as the chambermaid Paquette.
Director/scenic designer James Ortiz transports the audience through an astonishingly vivid fantasy world as massive, colorful backgrounds are projected onto immense white screens behind the action. Ortiz draws imagery from a number of different familiar places including the works of M.C. Escher and Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. Ortiz also designed some graphically impressive puppet for the show including a toweringly ominous inquisitor and a voluminous banker. They both tower over Susie Robinson as they terrorize Cunegonde.
Ortiz barrels the Bernstein musical through an impressive range of moods in the course of the adventure. There’s a kind of fearlessness in the mixture of horror, drama, dark and light comedy. Some of it occasionally runs the risk of teetering over the edge of bad taste, but every emotional beat seems to land more or less perfectly in a dazzling stage adventure that fuses fantasy with something that feels far more real than so much of what happens on the world outside the stage.
Skylight Music Theatre’s production of Candide runs through Oct. 29 at the Broadway Theatre Center on 158 N. Broadway. For more information, visit Skylight online.
October's always a fun month for local theatre. There's a little uptick in weird, offbeat shows that mix horror with more traditionally popular local stage fare. This month puppets and music and a healthy sense of exploration going on in and around local stages for a very promising month ahead.
There’s murder. There’s hallucination, There’s paranormal activity and a few witches who just might be fate itself. Macbeth rests quite comfortably somewhere between cliche and tradition in October theatre schedules all over the place. Boozy Bard presents a twisted improv-fueled mutation of Shakespeare’s classic as actors draw roles from a hat before each performance. Oct. 9 - 11 at The Best Place Tavern on 917 W Juneau Ave. For more information, visit the show’s Facebook Events Page.
Back in the middle of the 1700s, French author philosopher Voltaire wrote an absurdist episodic adventure. (Those are the best kind.) It’s the tale of a strange adventure of a man who had been living in a kind of paradise who is suddenly forced into the chaos of the world beyond his bubble. Back in the middle of last century, Leonard Bernstein wrote an operetta based on the classic. Over half a century later, Skylight Music Theatre stages a production of Bernstein’s classic. James Ortiz designed the set, the puppets (yes, there are puppets) and directed what should prove to be a whimsically erratic tale smoothed over by Bernstein, Ortiz and the Skylight. Skylight's Candide runs Oct. 13 – 29 at the Broadway Theatre Center on 158 N. Broadway, For more information, visit Skylight online.
Local playwright Deanna Strasse is hosting a virtual pitch for three of her plays this month. Everyone’s invited. It’s free. It’s acutally a very casually clever idea: she’s written plays. She wants to see them produced. She’s getting together a group of actors to do readings of excerpts online. It’s a cool opportunity to hang out with a bit of drama and comedy online. The pitch starts at 7pm on Oct. 14. For more information, visit the pitch’s Facebook page.
It’s been way too long since Theatrical Tendencies did a show. The group had produced some of the more memorable productions to be placed on the Milwaukee small stage over the course of the past. Stop/Kiss, The Temperamentals, The Laramie Project and [Title of Show]. This month they return to the stage with a production of Harvey Fierstein’s Torch Song. The show includes some great talent including Kevin J. Gadzalinski as Arnold (the Harvey Feirstein role) and Mark R. Neufang as Ed (Arnold’s lover.) The show runs Oct. 20 - 29 at Inspiration Studios on 1500 S. 73rd St. in West Allis. For more information, visit Inspiration Studios online.
Suzan Fete directs a decidedly supernatural show for the coming Halloween season as Renaissance Theaterworks presents Witch: a comedy by Jen Silverman. A devil shows-up in a small town to bargain for the souls of its residents. The ensemble assembled for the show features som exquisite local talent including Marti Gobel, Reese Madigan. James Carrington, Joe Picchetti and Eva Nimmer. It’s just...a phenomenal cast. Also...Maria Pretzl’s Facebook marketing campaign for the show has been great fun so far. She’s got some clever ideas for engaging an audience before the show. Very cool stuff. Looking forward to more before the show on Renaissance’s feed. The show runs Oct. 22 - Nov. 12 at the space on 255 S Water Street. For more information, visit Renaissance Online.
Not too long ago, Milwaukee Opera Theatre teamed-up with the puppet people of Angry Young Men Ltd. to produce Night of the Living Opera--a live operatic stage adaptation of George Romero’s classic Night of the Living Dead. Zombie puppets have been kicking around Milwaukee for a number of years now. They largely only come out around Halloween. (I would imagin it’s kind of difficult for them to get work the rest of the year. I can’t help but wonder how they might perform at an audition.) Anyway...the show (as done in concert with MOT last year) is...staggeringly good. It sticks perfectly to Romero’s plot and embellishes it with opera. (So cool.) The show runs Oct. 27 - Nov. 5 at the Broadway Theatre Center’s Studio Theatre on 158 N Broadway. For more information, visit MOT online.
So there was this guy named Robb White. He was the son of Episcopal missionaries. He was kind of a prankster as a kid, but he went on to write A LOT of stuff for various magazines back in the mid-20th century. Somewhere along the line he started writing screenplays. One of them got produced as a cheap horror film directed by William Castle starring Vincent Price. The House on Haunted Hill is a cute idea: a diverse group of people are offered a large sum of money ($10,000, which would be like...$100,000 in today's money) for surviving overnight at a haunted mansion. The script may have been clever, but the movie?...it was bad. Boozy Bard presents an irreverent staging of the screenplay just in time for Halloween Oct. 31 - Nov. 1 at The Best Place Tavern on 917 W Juneau Ave. For more information, visit the show’s Facebook Events Page.
Mariana is having an awful time. Her Miami gallery was all set to exhibit the work of a successful artist when it all went missing. Every single painting was stolen. To make matters worse, her mother has shown-up clearly in need of something. Family drama mixes with beautifully idiosyncratic comedy in Laughs In Spanish. Playwright Alexis Scheer’s cleverly-crafted 90-minute party satisfyingly opens the season for Milwaukee Chamber Theatre.
Isa Condo-Olvera makes a deeply appealing appearance as Mariana--the coherent center to all of the rest of the chaos which seems to be orbiting around her. Rána Roman summons a strong presence to the stage as Mariana’s mother--a Hollywood actress who looks to get closer to her daughter at a rather difficult point in her life. To make matters a bit more complicated, the only solution to the suddenly empty gallery seems to be employing the paintings of her assistant Carolina (an emotionally dynamic Ashley Oviedo) who happens to be dating a police officer who has boldly put himself in charge of investigating the theft. Arash Fakhrabadi had an earthbound charm as a man who is caught-up around the edges of an extended family in flux.
Director Anna Skidis Vargas keeps the crazy energy of the show moving without ever overwhelming the audience. The offbeat energies of the comedy inhabit a very appealing visual world. Costume Designer Jazmin Aurora Medina does a beautiful job of dressing the contemporary Miami art world against a very clean and bright backdrop by Scenic Designer Em Allen. Emotionally endearing comedy moves through an appealing visual world.
Milwaukee Chamber Theatre’s production of Laughs In Spanish runs through Oct. 8 at the Broadway Theatre Center’s Studio Theatre on 158 N. Broadway. For ticket reservations and more, visit Milwaukee Chamber Theatre online.
Before they took the stage, I was having a 3 Sheeps IPA with a cookie that had been handed to me by a time traveling housewife. Venerable all--woman sketch comedy Broadminded is opening it’s show this month with a different act each week. Opening night the opener was Professor Merryweather’s Time-Traveling Improv Show. It’s kind of a high-concept premise for improv: everyone in the group plays someone from a different era. It’s a fun show.
The Broads present another show that comes from a diversity of different angles on a loosely-defined theme. Each one of the four members of the group brings something distinct and unique to a very well-established connection that has built up between them over many, many years. And the comedy itself ranges from deeply satirical historical comedy two light observational humor to some very clever physical comedy that also engages emotionally.
As with any sketch show, some of the humor lands much more impressively than the rest of it. One of the more sophisticated sketches was “Women of the 1890s”--an imagined TV commercial for the opium that women were constantly being prescribed in the era of menotoxins. (Actually that was a concept that was proposed in the 1920s, but...y’know...women have been mistreated by medical science for SUCH a long time....ugh...) As real-life daytime pharmacist Anne Graff LaDisa spoofed about the benefits of opium, Melissa Kingston and Megan McGee engaged in some cleverly nuanced (yet somehow still completely over-the-top) physical comedy. It was a dual-track highbrow-lowbrow sketch that represents some of the groups better work.
Physical comedy engages on a few different levels over the course of the program. Kingston’s “Cell Problems” feels like a catharsis as much as it is a sharply physical, little episodic piece. “Losing My Edge” is an entirely nonverbal comedy bit that reaches a deep emotional level while playing around with delightfully accessible observational humor. Truly heartfelt emotionality salvages a few moments that might otherwise feel superficial. Stacy Babl gets perilously close to very simple and obvious physical comedy with a roll of duct tape, but she turns it out at the ends with an emotionally endearing punchline. Her “Mr. Fixit” sketch runs the risk of engaging in a bit more complexity than might be readily available through sketch miming...but the dynamic between her as husband and Kingston as wife gives the sketch a strong emotional center which effectively sells the sketch.
There’s some somewhat experimental moments in the show as well. The level of detail thrown into a presentation on Pointless charts is pleasantly dizzying and the delicate interplay between generations in a generational quiz show sketch is one of those rare sketches that manages to stick around in the psyche long after the show. Once again...Broadminded continues to show a distinct kind of comedy that’s so very difficult to find anywhere else.
Broadminded’s #Lifehacks continues through September 30th at the Interchange Theatre Co-Op on 628 N.10th St. For more information, visit Broadminded online.
Playwright Aaron Posner casts a Chekhov classic into a Generation X aesthetic with Stupid Fucking Bird. The comedic drama has a 1990’s indie cinema feel about it in a small stage production that comes to inhabit Sunstone Studios this weekend courtesy of Placeholder Players. A remarkably nuanced and textured cast works its way through a contemporary US adaptation of The Seagull with heart, poise and powerful emotion that strives to plunge itself right into the existential heart of theatre.
“Start the Fucking Play.” (Zachary Thomas Woods tells everybody that right at the beginning of the play.) Someone has to say that before the play can start. Opening night it was just about everybody...opening night appeared to be sold-out. It was a deeply engaged crowd for a deeply engaging drama.
Woods plays Con--a struggling contemporary playwright who is trying to change the world. He wants to do art that carves its way into the center of reality to find some sort of truth. He’s falling for the woman he has cast in the center of a piece that he’s written. Mary Grace Seigel plays to a casually playful poise and perfection as the actress Nina, who is actively seeking fame and love from everyone. Seigel lends some depth to the character as she explores a deep emotional vulnerability in seeking the love of the famed author Trig, played with a sense of intellectual passion by Rick Bingen.
Grace Berendt is achingly stunning as Mash--a goth girl in fishnets with a ukulele who feels a powerfully overwhelming darkness about the world. The darkness comes at least partially because of the love she feels for Con, which is destined to be forever unrequited. Berendt’s sweetly beautiful voice dances out across the intimate space of Sunstone Studios as she plays something wistfully dreamy about the futile nature of life. Berendt is irresistible in the role...occupying the edges of the ensemble except for a couple of brief moments. The structure of the play allows Berendt an opportunity to show some deeply moving emotional development as Mash opens-up to the possibilities that are open to her. It’s a profoundly satisfying transformation that is presented without undue amplification around the edges of the ensemble.
Jabril Rilley plays with a charming innocence in the role of Dev--a guy who is understandably in love with Mash. Riley resonates a casual wonder about the world that lends an honest, childlike levity to the production. Rilley balances the innocence against a simple, pragmatic wisdom that Posner is clever enough to give the character. So often an adult of innocent wonder is played-up as an idiot. Posner may have placed a bit of that in the script, but Rilley plays it with such an intellectually adroit energy that Dev feels like a fully-rendered person onstage.
Kim Emmer plays Con’s mom. Bill Molitor plays an old, retired doctor. They’re both given their moments, but Posner hasn’t really been able to engage with them in a way that feels truly connected and integrated with the rest of the cast...and then...they weren’t THAT significant in Chekhov’s original play anyway...so once again the more experienced end of a cast is on the periphery.
Woods’ presence opens and closes the show. He’s got the first and last lines. As Con, he’s well aware that he’s in a play...and there’s a really cool fusion between actor and character in a gorgeously existential angle of one of the better plays to be placed on any stage so far this year. The complexities of love. art and commerce that Chekhov was working with feel kind of interesting in a contemporary US setting...the whole thing feels like a MUCH more complicated mutation of Helen Childress' Reality Bites.)
There are two more performances.
Placeholder Players' staging of Stupid Fucking Bird runs through September 3rd (one weekend only) at Sunstone Studios on 127 E. Wells Street. For more information, visit Sunstone online.
Milwaukee Theatre opens the Autumn with a few moments of very heavy drama punctuating a largely light month of pleasant comedy. From the intimate comedy of Placeholder Players to Shakespearian romantic comedy with Boozy Bard to offbeat laughs with Next Act...it looks like a largely fun and breezy time on local small stages this month. Here’s a look.
Stupid Fucking Bird
Back in 1896, Anton Chekhov wrote The Seagull--a large ensemble drama involving a novelist. About ten years ago, Aaron Posner wrote Stupid Fucking Bird--a contemporary adaptation of the ensemble drama involving a struggling playwright. This September Placeholder Players present a staging of Posner’s play at Sunstone Studios on 127 East Wells Street. The ever-charismatic Zach Thomas Woods plays the playwright in question: a guy named Con. The cast includes quite a bit of talent including Mary Grace Seigel, Rick Bingen and Grace Berendt. The show runs one weekend only: September 1st - 3rd. For more information, visit Sunstone online.
The Boulevard Theatre hosts one more performance of a remarkably thoughtful and nuanced staged reading of Joshua Harmon's Significant Other in the back room of Sugar Maple this month. Director Mark Bucher has put together an impressive cast for the show including Kyle Conner, who also stars as the title character in Richard II with Voices Found Rep. It also features Grace Berendt and Mary Grace Seigel who appear in Stupid Fucking Bird...so it's kind of a cool opportunity to spot a few actors meeting-up for a quick matinee performance after a couple of shows close. Significant Other's single performance takes place on September 9th at 2pm at Sugar Maple on 411 East Lincoln Ave. For more information, visit Facebook.
Love’s Labours’ Lost
Four guys attempt to avoid the company of women in the interest of focussing on their studies. Naturally, they fall for the Princess of France and her ladies. It’s a fun, little premise for a Shakespearian comedy that makes its way to a fun and informal stage by way of Boozy Bard this month. Roles are chosen at random before each performance in a fun comedy environment Sep. 11th - 13th at The Best Place Tavern on 917 W Juneau Ave. For information, visit Boozy Bard’s place on Facebook.
Milwaukee's longest-lived sketch comedy group clearly has enough experience to provide more than a few helpful tips. There's real wisdom that comes from hanging out together onstage for quite a few years. All-Woman comedy group Broadminded continues its relationship with the stage in a series of shows at The Interchange Theatre Co-Op this month. Each show is preceded by an opening act. Broadminded's Lifaehacks runs Sept. 16th - 30th. For more information visit the show's page on Eventrbrite.
Splash Hatch On the E Going Down
Next Act Theatre opens its season this coming month with a contemporary drama. Jada Jackson plays Thyme--a 15 year-old pregnant Harlem girl. She’s an A student who is eco-conscious and coming to terms with a great many things in a world that suffers from environmental racism. Playwright Kia Cothron touches on quite a few different very serious issues with a promising drama that debuted back in the late 1990s. The Next Act production runs Sep. 20th - Oct. 15th on 255 S. Water St. For more information, visit Next Act online.
Laughs in Spanish
Isa Condo-Olvera stars as the owner of a Miami art gallery that has become a crime scene in an offbeat murder comedy that opens the season for Milwaukee Chamber Theatre. It’s described as a cross between a Telenovela and a Wes Anderson movie. So in other words...it’s the perfect opening to what appears to be a really impressive season for Milwaukee Chamber. September 22nd - Oct. 8th at the Broadway Theatre Center’s Studio Theatre on 158 N Broadway. For more information, visit Milwaukee Chamber Theatre online.
A Piece of My Heart
Playwright Shirley Lauro explores the lives of women who served in Vietnam from their own perspective in a very gripping emotional drama that I’ve seen a couple of times before. Marquette University Theatre celebrates 100 years with a season that opens with Lauro’s drama. The show runs Sep. 29th - Oct. 8th at the Helfaer Theatre on 1304 W Clybourn St. For more information, visit Marquette University online.
Three Other Sisters
Theatre Gigante closes-out the month with a show that manages to fit so many different moods...a strangely engaging fugue starring Simone Ferro, Isabelle Kralj, and Tori Watson. I’ve seen Gigante do this one once before and it’s a great deal of fun. Sep. 29th - Oct. 1st at Kenilworth 508 Theatre on 1925 E Kenilworth Place. For more information, visit the show’s page online.