Outdoor summer shows begin to come to an end with another Summer of COVID. Things still seem to be waking-up in the midst of the Delta Variant. September approaches. There’s a bit more going on in and around small stages in and around Milwaukee than there was in September 2020.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Voices Found Repertory recently posted a video promo for their upcoming production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The cast looks really, really good for the show, which opens the month at Imagination Studios in West Allis. Response has already been impressive with the first performance nearly selling-out very quickly. The video promo feels a lot like an opening of a 90s Xer-based comedy like Singles or Reality Bites or...I dunno...Friends or something like that. If director Sarah Zapian takes this direction with the production, it could make it really, really interesting. The show runs Sep. 2 - 12.
Run For Your Wife
Seasoned director Brian Zelinski opens the season for the Sunset Playhouse. Phil Stepanski plays a London cabbie in Run For Your Wife. Tanya Tranberg plays his wife Mary. Allison Chicorel plays his wife Barbara. Mary doesn’t know about Barbara. Barbara doesn’t know about Mary. Two separate wives give the cabbie two separate lives that come crashing into each other as the cabbie is mugged and winds-up in the hospital. The 1983 Ray Cooney comedy runs Sep. 9 - 26 at the Furlan Auditorium in Elm Grove.
Pitch & Play
So...the idea is this: people get together to throw around ideas for new programs.
An open atmosphere might be a good place to make connections and introduce new ideas.
What better place to do this...than at a boxing studio?
This has got to be one of the more novel ideas for generating new work.
Cooperative Performance’s Pitch & Play takes place Saturday, Sep. 18 at Dropout Fight Club on 830 E. Keefe. Ave. from 4-6 pm.
Next Act Theatre opens its season with a production of Jeffrey Hatcher’s program of monologues. Three people tell three stories drawn from a small midwestern funeral parlor. Next Act brings to the stage stories of a widow, a jewelry thief and a man going to great lengths to win a woman’s heart. It’s dark, intimate comedy. An evening with three characters in Next Act’s theatre space. Next Act is limiting each performance to half capacity and requesting that everyone in attendance be masked and vaccinated. The show runs September 23 - October 17.
Season Preview Gala Fundraiser
Bombshell Theatre closes the month with a fancy-dress season preview fundraiser gala. Bombshell has already announced their first show: Bryanna VanCaster in a production of Funny Girl. Preview performances from the show will be staged alongside an appetizer buffet from Apple Spice, a drinks station, a silent auction and more. The gala happens September 29th at Inspiration Studios in West Allis.
Milwaukee-based actress/playwright Cara Johnston graces the internet this month with a sharply clever, little dramatic historical comedy. The Little Glass Slipper as Performed by the Queen of France and Her Friends imagines a quaint, little production of a classic fairy tale with an ominous background. Marie Antoinette plays Cinderella in a production staged in her own, personal theatre on July 14th of 1789. (This turned out to be kind of a big day in history.) Johnston puts together an ingeniously intricate, little comedic drama with dizzying thematic balance. Johnston also directed the piece, which was shot on July 14th of 2021. (Oh...and she also plays Marie Antoinette...and did some set painting...)
The premise has some basis in history. Marie Antoinette was a great lover of the theatre and even had a performance space built on which she would, in fact, perform. She evidently loved playing people who weren’t queen. And I mean...these were characters who REALLY weren’t queen: farmer’s wives and soubrettes and things like that. And she would play alongside her royal friends with her own servants in the audience diligently (and perhaps nervously) playing along in the role of the claque. (It's true. Take a look at Muriel Zagha's “Drama queen: a peek inside Marie Antoinette’s private theatre,” Apollo ) So there’s actual history here that’s fascinating. Johnston’s decision to have herself play Marie Antoinette playing Cinderella on the day of the storming of the Bastille is kind of a brilliant one thematically. In light of growing inequities between the wealthy and the poor in the contemporary world, this is a particularly fun angle on the show.
Johnston is delightfully awkward in the role of a queen who is quite oblivious about the nature of her own privilege. Johnston’s work is deeply comic on a variety of levels...many of which have to do with the cluelessness of the ruling class. There’s greater depth in it all, though. Marie’s desire to escape the pressures of queendom find her fantasizing about being a servant girl as all around her disintegrates. A would-be assassin even finds himself thrust into a role onstage. Knowing full well that they’re doomed, a number of Marie’s fellow cast members abandon the show mid-performance. Cinderella ascends to royalty as the woman playing her descends into a darkness that will inevitably see her executed. It’s impressively well-balanced and poignant.
Local actresses Alicia Rice and Jennifer Vosters play with opposing energies in the heart of the cast. Rice is warm and sympathetic well-meaning Princess onstage with Marie who is genuinely concerned for her wellbeing. Vosters is comically cold as the naturally talented Duchess in the cast who is far more concerned for her own survival. It’ a nice contrast that rests at the center of a tight, little ensemble.
The Little Glass Slipper is a very, very intimate production, but there’s a delicious feeling of excess about it as it was shot on the stage of a rather nice theatre in Texas. Production design by Cara’s sister Courtney Miles includes sumptuous costuming by Jerry Miles. Jun Kang did an excellent job of shooting and editing the production. I didn’t see any one specifically credited for the lighting, but it’s gorgeous. The visual reality of the ruling class fumbling on its way to the guillotine is absolutely stunning in a fun, little one-hour comedic drama.
The Miles Sisters’ production of Cara Johnston’s Little Glass Slipper is available online from two different outlets:
--the Edinburgh Fringe Festival is hosting it online for free, but there IS a registration fee of a little more than £1. They’re hosting it through Aug. 30.
--the Milwaukee Fringe Festival is also hosting the show online. Tickets are $15. They carry the show through Aug. 28.
Lenny Magrath the oldest. She’s called her middle sister Meg to come back to her hometown of Hazlehurst, Mississippi. There’s a family emergency involving their baby sister Becky. Becky shot her husband in the stomach because she, “didn’t like his look.” The police know she shot him. She told them. She doesn’t wanna talk about it, though. So she’s going to need a really good lawyer. Only problem is she just shot the best lawyer in town. Once again, playwright Beth Henley’s classic 20th century drama Crimes of the Heart makes an appearance in a local production courtesy of SummerStage of Delafield. Director Kelly Goeller helps a talented cast balance on nuance in a staging bed rather definitely straddles the line between comedy and tragedy.
Brigid O’Brien plays the oldest sister Lenny with a somewhat heroic sense of duty and competence that manages to amplify the characters solitude and desolation. She’s been looking after her ailing grandfather forever. He hasn’t really had a life of her own. O’Brien illuminates the character With a very sturdy, well grounded life that feels very organic. Near the opening of the play, transferred to Lenny is trying to light a candle on the smallest piece of cake imaginable. She’s having difficulty doing so. Still manages to almost sing happy birthday to herself, though. O’Brien captures a very sad moment with the heart and humor that sharply introduce A very sophisticated script.
Abbi Minessale is casually irresistible as middle sister Meg. She’s a free spirit who moved up to Hollywood to pursue musical career that seems to have stalled. The character has a rookie term that Minissale has a little difficulty bringing to the stage. As she is such a dumb and personality, she’s one of the more difficult characters in the play to render with any sense of sophistication. It would be way too easy to just let the script guide the character. Minessale Find the screen unique heart and comedy of a fish out of water in her hometown and inhabitant with tenderness and grace.
Madison Penzkover might have one of the biggest challenges in the ensemble as Becky Before she even appears on stage, we know that her character has shut her husband in the stomach. When she shows up, she quite casually says that she meant to shoot him in the heart. She says that without even the slightest remorse. And yet Penzkover is able to Come across as a sweet, endearing personality who seems quite open even in her on mysteries. The chemistry between her and Logan Milway might be one of the cutest things on a local stage all summer. Milway has an earthbound valiance in the role of the man looking to represent Becky in court.
Drama and comedy wash over a late summers afternoon In the process of the coming evening. An open domestic setting arrests in a very beautiful park somewhere in the periphery of Milwaukee County. Southeastern Wisconsin becomes a 20th century Mississippi however briefly.
SummerStage of Delafield’s production of Crimes of the Heart runs through Sep. 4th at Lapham Peak State Park. For ticket reservations and more, visit Summerstage online.
Milwaukee Irish Fest makes a return to Maier Festival Park this weekend. Once again, Milwaukee Irish Arts makes a return to the festival with Sebastian Barry’s casual, heartfelt dramatic comedy Fred and Jane. Directed by Lindsey Gagliano, the show features Amanda J. Hull and Margaret Casey as a couple of Irish nuns who have been friend forever.
In and amidst all of the activity of a typical ethnic festival on the Milwaukee’s lakefront, there’s a cozy, little theatre tent. This year it’s tucked away far from the noise of neighboring bands and other noisy acts. Comfy plastic chairs sit around tables in the shade in the presence of a stage with a couple of far more comfy-looking chairs. A tea set rests on a table. After a brief introduction, a couple of nuns who have come-in to the festival from a convent in Ireland in 1996. They rest there telling the stories of their lives for a brief time whilst sipping tea.
Margaret Casey is engrossing as the older of the two nuns: Beatrice. She just might have heard the calling to a life of service having seen Fed Astaire glowing larger than life on a movie screen. Amanda J. Hull plays Anna, who had aspired to being an actress in her youth, but found the habit instead. The two tell tales of having grown-up, met, become quite close and then forced to be apart. Tales of two lives quickly whisk across the stage and soon find rest at the end of a performance brief enough to sweetly linger in the mind even amidst the bustling activity of the large festival beyond the tent.
It’s really, really difficult to bring a couple of extremely well-acquainted characters onstage. It’s really difficult to fake the kind of intimacy a couple of good friends have...especially if they’ve known each other for a decade or more. Casey and Hull do a brilliant job of allowing Barry’s script to weave the story of the two characters together with the mutual warmth and respect of a couple of charming actresses onstage. The memories of a couple of characters lightly fill a quiet, little tent on the edge of the festival.
Casey and Hull do such a good job of delivering the familiarity of two character onstage. The illusion feels pleasantly believable. It’s not difficult to imagine Milwaukee Irishfest welcoming a couple of Irish nuns to a small stage to tell stories. Casey and Hull sell the charming presence of these characters so well that it’s difficult not to look around the festival and expect the two of them to be casually strolling around with a couple of scones talking about which stage they’re going to visit next.
Milwaukee Irish Arts’ Milwaukee Irish Fest production of Fred & Jane has two more performances: Saturday, Aug. 21 at 7:00 pm and Sunday, Aug. 22 at 6:00 pm. All performances take place in The Theatre Pavilion at Henry Maier Festival Park.For more information, visit Milwaukee Irish Arts online.