There continues to be power in the drama of larger-than-life characters from antiquity speaking lines of beautiful poetry by one of the most loved authors in the English language. The problem is that…though some of Shakespeare's female characters WERE quite powerful, the vast majority of his more central characters are men. All the male title characters end up feeling a little bit repetitious. I like them, but...y'know...there's only so many times you can watch a guy climb to heights of power and then be dashed to pieces via his own hubris or whatever...it's just tedious. This past month, Voices Found Repertory remedied this a bit with an edit of several scripts which placed Queen Margaret of Anjou at the center of her own Shakespearian drama. (This is not the first time they’ve given women a more central role for Shakespeare. Jennifer Vosters was commanding and deeply memorable as Richard III for Voices Found back in 2017.)
Writer/director Jessica Trznadel’s Margaret had a limited staged reading at Sugar Maple not too long ago. Thankfully for those of us who hadn’t been able to be there, Voices Found is providing a video of the reading online this month. Trznadel’s script comes through with striking clarity, which is quite an accomplishment given all of the obstacles presented in the format. Voices and facial expressions at muffled and muted in a responsibly masked ensemble. The audio quality sometimes makes dialogue difficult to hear and though there are a few cameras capturing the performance, the video feels only a bit better than surveillance camera footage. Given the fact that it was primarily intended for live performance, the lack of clarity in the audio and video is understandable. (The opening credits look quite good by comparison. This show has a beautiful introduction.) The low quality of the video notwithstanding, it’s really fascinating to watch. Trznadel’s script glides briskly by, which is particularly impressive as it IS two hours long.
They are at the center of the action is Jackey Boelkow in the title role. The staged reading amplifies her significance as she is front and center in front of everyone else. All of the action flows around her. It’s such a refreshing angle on Shakespeare to have a woman the center of all the action. It IS a heavy editing of the War of the Roses plays, but if Boozy Bard can stage a compelling edit of Troilus and Cressida that edits out the characters of Troilus and Cressida, then Voices Found can certainly focus on a strong heroine in some of Shakespeare’s lesser-known plays. Boelkow is remarkable in the central role amidst all of the turmoil and conflict. Trznadel has woven a tight thread through The War of the Roses. A staged reading doesn’t do it justice. It would meet its greatest potential in a fully-staged production. Hopefully that’s forthcoming. For now it exists as a really breezy and enjoyably dramatic couple of hours online.
The video presentation of Margaret will be available through the end of March via a $15 donation to Voices Found on Ko-fi. For more information, visit the show's page on Ko-fi: https://ko-fi.com/s/ca285e55ee.
March opens-up on Springtime in Milwaukee theatre with a mix of new shows, classics and classics adapted for the small stage in various places. The winter is serious about being winter for the last couple of weeks of the season, which offers local groups an opportunity to warm-up the stage in anticipation of warmer weather outside. Here’s a look at some of what’s coming on local stages in March.
The Sunset Playhouse opens the month with the classic Neil Simon comedy Barefoot in the Park. Angela Bolmes and Kieth R. Smith star in a romantic comedy set in New York in the late 1960s. Director Donna Daniels delivers the classic tale of a young married couple who move into a fifth-floor walk-up apartment in Greenwich Village. It’s been 30 years since Sunset’s last production of this classic, which has been produced elsewhere in various places in and around Milwaukee over the course of the past decade or more. March 3rd - 20th at the Furlan Auditorium on 700 Wall St. in Elm Grove. For more information, visit Sunset Playhouse online.
Right before the COVID outbreak, First Stage launched an impressively-staged production of the witty showdown children’s musical The Legend of Rock, Paper Scissors. This month, First Stage returns to a show that only had the opportunity to run for a few performances before COVID shut down it and so many other productions for a very long time. I’d had the opportunity to see it with my family right before it shut down. Seasoned local stage veterans Karen Estrada and Rick Pendzich return to a show directed by the talented Kelly Doherty. The show runs March 5th - April 3rd. For more information, visit First Stage online.
Boozy Bard returns to a castle near The Fiserv Forum for another open dance with Shakespeare as it presents Shakespeare RAW: Romeo and Juliet. There’s a cast. There’s a script. There’s no real rehearsal as no one in the cast knows who is playing what. The casting director is a hat. There are names in that hat drawn at random. It’s weird. It’s fun. There is beer. It’s the first half of the week in the last gasp of winter and a bunch of people are having fun with a strange and tragic romance. The show runs March 7 - 9 at The Best Place Tavern on 917 W Juneau Ave. For more information, visit the show’s Facebook Events Page.
Rachel Zientek and Elyse Edelman star in Milwaukee Chamber Theatre’s latest drama. Written by Paula Vogel Indecent tells the tale of the first play to be translated from Yiddish: a romance between two women. Debuting in 1906, the play was shut down on Broadway. Indecent tells that play’s story...and Milwaukee Chamber tells it with some of the most accomplished Milwaukee stage actors including James Pickering, James Ridge and a host of others. The show runs March 10 - 27 at the Broadway Theatre Center for ticket reservations and more, visit Milwaukee Chamber online.
An actor opens-up a script for the first time onstage and proceeds to read that script. The actor is completely unaware of what is about to happen. And I’ve already probably said too much about White Rabbit Red Rabbit...a strange, little stage concoction by playwright Nassim Soleimanpour. This monh, Sunstone Studios presents a staging of the script with a number of actors including Joel Kopischke and Jackey Boelkow. The show runs March 11th-13th. For more information, visit Sunstone online.
Jaimelyn Gray directs a sci-fi drama for The Constructivists that opens on the last day of winter. Jacqueline Goldfinger’s Babel--a dark comedy set in the near-future in which babies must be pre-certified in utero to ensure they have the purest genetic traits. Dystopia, infertility, eugenics and a talking stork come to the Broadway Theatre Center Studio Theatre March 19 - April 2. For more information, visit The Constructivists online.
The problems posed by the systematic socioeconomic oppression of African Americans are overwhelmingly complicated. These problems are maddeningly difficult to understand in all their complexity. An entire subset of the population has been marginalized for generations. It's GOING to be complicated. Next Act Theatre takes a thoughtful and impressively deft look into the nature of the struggles of the marginalized in playwright Dominique Morisseau’s sharply-rendered school and family drama Pipeline. Ibraheem Farmer is heartbreakingly relatable as Omari--a tensely troubled high school student who is harrowingly close to being kicked out of school for assaulting a teacher. He’s made a mistake and he knows it. Formidably focussed Kristin E. Ellis anchors the drama in role of Omari’s mother Nya. She’s a teacher herself and she’s trying to understand the actions of her own son.
Morisseau’s script is populated by remarkably sophisticated characters who are walking through a minefield of dramatic complexity. There is a HUGE amount being explored in the script that never quite manages to make it into the dialogue. Director/Co-Scenic Designer Jamil A.C. Mangan maintains a deeply provocative and subtle complexity about the drama that embraces the complexity of the script. Will Sims II says a tremendous amount between the lines as Omari’s estranged father--a man who is desperately trying to keep everything together from a distance. This is contrasted against James Carrington’s portrayal of a school security guard with open charisma who is trying to maintain stability with a more active and compassionate energy. Active compassion is weighed against more openly assertive energies in the character of Omari’s girlfriend Jasmine. Malaina Moore wields a tremendous amount of charisma and confidence as Jasmine, who finds herself at odds with the mother of her missing boyfriend. Tami Workentin steals a couple of scenes as a grizzled veteran public school teacher who tumbles into a couple of conversations with Nya.
Next Act Theatre’s production off Pipeline runs through Mar. 6 on 255 S. Water St. For ticket reservations and more, visit nextact.org or call the box office at (414) 278-0765.