April opens-up on lingering winter weather as March of 2023 goes out like a snowy lion. Local stages offer a wide spectrum of different shows including a contemporary family drama, a couple of historical dramas musicals and more. Here's a look at what lies ahead in warmer weeks.
Boozy Bard opens the month in a week and a half with its staging of King Lear. Shakespearean drama hits the stage with a breezy improv atmosphere in a show that features a different randomly-generated cast every single evening. Shakespeare RAW: King Lear runs April 10 - 12 at The Best Place Tavern. For more information, visit the show's Facebook events page.
Dominique Morisseau's powerful period drama debuted about ten years ago. Chelle and her brother Lank are starting-up a basement business to make ends meet. A mysterious woman enters the picture, throwing everything out of synch in the second production by VIP (Voices Included for People of Color.) It's a group operating under the umbrella of Marquette Theatre that is expanding the group of diverse productions that the University is bringing to the stage. The drama runs April 14-23 at the Helfaer Theatre. For more information, visit Marquette online.
I’M GONNA PRAY FOR YOU SO HARD
Jaimelyn Gray directs Milwaukee theatre veteeran James Pickering and the talented Rebekah Farr in The Constructivists’ production of Halley Feiffer’s tale of a father and his daughter. He’s a playwright. She’s an actress who is work The Interchange Theater Co-Op on 628 N.10th St. The show runs April 15-29, Also of note: The Thursday, April 27th performance is a dedicated understudy show featuring William Molitor and Maya Danks in the roles of father and daughter. For more information, visit The Constructivists online.
The 2007 musical theatre adaptation Mel Brooks’ 1974 enduring horror comedy gets an Elm Grove staging this month as The Sunset Playhouse launches its production. Eric Nelson plays the title character of Dr. Frankenstein’s grandson Frederick Frankenstein (It’s pronounced FrahnkenSTEEN!) The charismatically tall and reasonably mesomorphic Steven Sizer the monster to Nelson’s Frankenstein The cast also features Cheryl Roloff as Frau Blücher, Tommy Lueck directs a show that should be a sizable hit for Sunset. It should be interesting what Sunset does with costuming and scenic design for a colorful horror comedy spoof. April 20, 2023 - May 7, 2023 at the Furlan Auditorium on 700 Wall Street. For ticket reservations, visit the Sunset Online.
BOB MARLEY’S THREE LITTLE BIRDS
Back in 2006, legendary reggae musician Bob Marley’s daughter Cedella wrote a children’s book called Three Little Birds. She named the main character after her little brother Ziggy. (An accomplished musician himself.) The. Ziggy of Three Little Birds is afraid to leave the house. He’s afraid of tropical storms, evil spirits and more. Ziggy learns not to be worried in a fun, little story. A little under ten years ago, Cedella worked with playwright Michael J. Bobbitt on a musical adaptation that opened in New York. The show gets a Milwaukee production this month courtesy of First Stage. Directed by Samantha D. Montgomery, the show runs APRIL 21 - MAY 21, 2023 at The Marcus Center's Todd Wehr Theater. For ticket reservations and more, visit First Stage Online,
Playwright Katori Hall focuses on a single moment in time: Martin Luther King Jr.’s last night on Earth. King is in the Lorraine Motel, having just delivered his “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech. Milwaukee Chamber Theatre stages a production of the drama this month. Cereyna Bougouneau plays a young maid goes to the motel room and has a conversation with the civil rights leader. Hall adds some perspective on the legend of the man who would prove to be so influential. Mikael Burke directs. The show was staged about ten years ago with the Milwaukee Rep. The Milwaukee Chamber production runs April 21 - May 7 at the Broadway Theatre Center’s Cabot Theatre. For ticket reservations and more, visit Milwaukee Chamber Theatre online.
Bombshell Theatre Company stages the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical adaptation of the classic 1950 film...on Broadway. (Or...at least...the Broadway Theatre Center's studio theatre.) The intimate space of the studio should serve as a cozy space for all the glamor that Bombshell can conjure. Featuring Kara Ernst-Schalk as the Hollywood diva Norma Desmond, Eric Welch as struggling screenwriter Joe Gillis and Rae Elizabeth Paré as script reader Betty Schaefer. The show runs April 21 - May 7. For more information, visit Bombshell online.
Bombshell always does a good show. This is one that I'm really disappointed that I won't be able to make it to. I would be tempted to make it a four-show week, but I've tried that once before and...it was not pretty...
The story goes something like this: contemporary playwright Bill Cain was simmering in COVID lockdown when he heard the same things all of us did: Shakespeare wrote some really great work during Bubonic Plague lockdown. Being a playwright, Bill Cain wrote a play about the playwright and thus was born God’s Spies. This month, Next Act Theatre presents the world premiere of Cain’s work. Directed by David Cecsarini, the show features an impressive cast including Mark Ulrich, Eva Nimmer and Zach Thomas Woods. The show runs April 27- May 21st, For ticket reservations and more, visit Next Act online.
It's a beautiful mess. Jeffrey D. Kmiec’s circular set rests beneath a circular lighting fixture that fittingly references the one above The War Room in Dr. Strangelove. This is Renaissance Theaterworks' world premiere of playwright Kristin Idaszak’s mind-bending dystopian one-woman drama Tidy. The stage rests beneath a small city of clutter. Noele Stollmack’s lighting design casts the mess onstage in a shadowy hue of blue that seems to permeate everything. Movement becomes apparent behind a stack of boxes. It’s actress Cassandra Bissell who glances over everything in the sole role of The Detective. She’s dressed quite casually in a space that she considers to be her home.
A Welcome In the Shadows of Human Residue
The Detective is cleaning-up for a get-together. Judging from the state of the stage, she’s got a hell of a lot of work to do. She’s not getting any help from her partner Joy. Joy has left the apartment and it’s up to the detective to make the place presentable for the people who are coming to visit. It’s okay: she wants to do it. (She really does.) She’s excavating the past by looking over so many things that she really should simply throw away. In the process of the excavation, she stumbles into a mystery which calls every possible assumption into question.
Echoes of a Simple Gravity
Bissell offers a thoughtful performance that radiates charisma throughout the entire one-woman show. Idaszak’s script is dense and deeply engaging, but without the right mood, motion and emotion all of those details would be hopelessly lost. And it isn’t easy to maintain an audience’s interest for 90 minutes or more without intermission. To make matters more difficult, Idaszak’s script demands that The Detective avoid anything that would suggest a commanding stage presence. Bissell is contemplative. She’s cleverly curious. She doesn’t have to reach out and grab the audience. Attention simply...falls into her like gravity. She deftly coaxes the audience into casually noticing strange depth in even the smallest details of a script that is cluttered with fascinating details. Some of them are clues. Some of them are red herrings. Some of them spark joy. All of them hold interest.
An Exploration of Ambiguity
(Here There Are Spoilers)
It’s difficult to mention much of the substance behind the show without spilling spoilers all over the place. The play is set “next year.” All too often dystopian dramas attempt to assault the viewer with the overwhelming darkness. Idaszak allows the ecological apocalypse to settle-in around the edges of a perfectly normal process of cleaning and tidying-up. The apocalypse slowly sneaks-in around the edges that way it has in the world outside the theatre.
The Holocene Extinction is very real and very tragic, but it’s not something that makes for terribly compelling drama...until someone like Isaszak comes along and makes some kind of genius detail-driven paranoid nightmare fairy tale for the children of the information age. It’s a prismatic funhouse of a story. When it becomes apparent that The Detective might not have the capacity to be a totally reliable narrator, a particularly engaged audience might find reason to question every last detail in Isaszak’s script. There’s a tantalizing ambiguity about it all that speaks to the greater mysteries of human existence. The fact that it’s also roughly 90 minutes without intermission means that there’s plenty of time after the show in which to get into some pretty deep discussion on one of the most provocative shows onstage this season.
Renaissance Theaterworks’ world premiere production of Tidy runs through April 16th at the theatre on 255 S Water St. For more information, visit Renaissance online.