Milwaukee theatre enters the summer with a really classy June featuring mystery, coming-of-age drama, a little Greek-inspired 17th century Italian Opera and drunken Shakespeare. Welcome to Summer...
An Inspector Calls
June opens in Elm Grove with Sunset Playhouse’s production of An Inspector Calls. The ever-classy Mark Neufang plays the title character: a British police inspector who has come to visit the estate of a well-to-do family in 1912. He’s there to investigate a murder in this classic 1945 three-act mystery drama by J. B. Priestley. Carol Dolphin directs a show that should be a fun journey into drama in Elm Grove at the opening of the summer theatre season. The show runs June 2, 2022 - June 19 at the Furlan Auditorium on 700 Wall Street in Elm Grove.
It’s surprisingly rare to find a local production of anything from the vicinity of the early 17th century...I mean...outside of Shakespeare. (We get a lot of Shakespeare. And that’s cool and everything...but I mean...there isn’t a whole lot of other stuff from the era.) This month Milwaukee Opera Theatre stages an opera that debuted in Mantua just a few years after Shakespeare banished Romeo there in Romeo and Juliet. Monteverdi’s historic opera makes its way to Calvary Presbyterian Church on 935 West Wisconsin Avenue June 9 -12. It’s a new translation co-sponsored by professional Milwaukee-based choral ensemble Aperi Animam. What’s it about? Well...remember when Orpheus went into Hades to bring back his dead bride Eurydice? It’s that story. As an opera. Cool.
Anne of Green Gables
Opening the same week as L’Orfeo is a stage adaptation of the beloved Lucy Maud Montgomery novel Anne of Green Gables. The beautiful outdoor atmosphere of SummerStage of Delafield serves as a pastoral home for the story of a young orphan girl in Canada...played here by Lydia Wilhelm. The show is directed by Kelly Goeller. Early 20th century Canada comes to Lapham Peak State Park June 9 - 25.
Much Ado About Nothing
It's summer. So...y'know...there's going to be A LOT of Shakespeare opening in June. (A lot.) The first big opening comes courtesy of The Summit Players. The free outdoor Shakespeare group is doing Much Ado About Nothing this summer. The show opens June 10th at Richard Bong State Recreation Area. It then makes a tour of Wisconsin State Parks that runs through the entire summer, ultimately ending August 20th at Havenwoods State Forest. The cast this year includes Maya Danks, King Hang, Caroline Norton and more. For more information on dates, times, cast and crew, visit Summit Players online.
Shakespeare RAW: Troilus and Cressida (not)
I love the story behind this one. If I’m not mistaken it goes something like this: Andrea Roedel-Schroeder had been working on an adaptation of Shakespeare’s classic Troilus and Cressida for the fun and breezy informal Shakespeare company Boozy Bard. The more she cut from it, the more she realized that the title characters were kind of extraneous. So they put togetherTroilus and Cressida without...Troilus and Cressida. To make it even more fun, this IS a Boozy Bard production, which means none of the actors know who they’ll be playing until the hat full of names that serves as casting director makes a decision. Always fun...and not something that I’m able to make all that often. But this one? I mean...how often does one get to see a play with the title characters edited out? The show runs June 13th- 15th at The Best Place Tavern at the Historic Pabst Brewery.
The Twelfth Night or What SHE Will
Just a few days after Boozy Bard offers its abridgment of Troilus and Cressida, Optimist Theatre presents IT'S abridgment of Twelfth Night focussing on relations between Viola (Brielle Richmond) and Olivia (Kaitlyn Feely.) Also featuring the talents of Libby Amato as Maria and Susie Duecker who should be great fun Olivia's jester servant Feste. June 18th through August 7th at various free outdoor locations. For more information, visit Optimist Theatre online.
There’s a production picture for Bard and Bourbon’s Hamlet (Drunk.) The title character is speaking to Ophelia. This might be the last time they speak. Hamlet’s wearing a Harley Davidson hoodie. The smiling cheshire cat tattoo can be seen smiling beneath Ophelia’s shoulder. The glowing red Exit signs of Sunstone Studios can be seen hovering in the darkness behind them. The exit’s in sight. She really COULD get herself to a nunnery. It’s way too easy to look for symbolism in the imagery of that one photo. There’s one other thing that’s apparent in the photo: height.
Anya Palmer towers over Brittany F. Byrnes. Palmer plays Ophelia. Byrnes plays Hamlet. Palmer has a gorgeously magnificent stage presence that could easily feel overpowering. Byrnes’ relatively short stature and diminutive size could pose a challenge to anyone looking to assert themselves in one of the loftiest roles in the history of stage drama. Aided by Director Katie Merriman, Palmer and Byrnes find a really novel way of finessing the dynamic between Hamlet and Ophelia that makes for a captivating dynamic that makes for one of the more memorable Milwaukee productions of Shakespeare’s classic in the past couple of decades.
Byrnes has an imrpessively condensed energy about her in the role of Hamlet. What’s so often overlooked in casting is the fact that Hamlet’s energy is SO young. He’s a goth kid with mental health that’s been twisted by chance and circumstance. So often the energy of any actor playing Hamlet is WAY too old for me. I want a young Hamlet. Byrnes’ youth serves the role better than just about any actor I’ve ever seen in the role before. Byrnes’ energy is that of a powerful, little sinewy predator. Real passion and joy can be seen around the edges of the hunt for revenge...making for a very nuanced portrayal of one of the most revered tragic figures in dramatic history.
Palmer makes quite an impression onstage without saying anything at all. She’s got a natural poise that feels larger-than-life heroic. This worked particularly well in the WWII. drama ‘Neath the Hills of Bastogne that opened at Sunstone not too long ago. Here she’s playing a tragic figure. Palmer finds an endearing vulnerability in the role of Ophelia embracing a soft kindness that gently radiates. It’s calming until it’s not. Byrne’s voracious, little carnivore of revenge stalks through a scene that leaves Palmer’s kindness emotionally lacerated. Then there’s the death of Ophelia’s father and that final scene for her. The calm warmth Palmer brought to the stage early-on is tilted into a melancholy madness that’s all the more heartbreaking because it IS coming from an actor with such a powerfully assertive physical presence onstage.
Bard & Bourbon’s production of Hamlet (Drunk) runs through June 4th at on 127 E. Wells Street. For ticket reservations and more, visit sunstonestudiosmke.com. My comprehensive review of the show will be available with the Shepherd-Express in the next few days.