Late this month, The Milwaukee Entertainment Company hosts an evening of three one acts by seasoned local actor/director/playwright Bill Jackson. Once again, t’s refreshing to see live theatre in an indoor setting after lockdown. The three shorts are presented with a single intermission. Brief dramatic comedies about truth and identity open and close a program also featuring a comedy of a couple of pairs of sisters. It’s all very small, intimate and well-executed. One of the first big returns to traditional indoor theatre in Milwaukee turns out to be a casual evening with nine characters. Conversation are had. People learn a bit more about each other. And everyone goes home.
The program opens on a dreamily resonant note courtesy of Bill Jackson, who begins the show directing his own work. Coffee With Doug imagines a chance meeting between two strangers who turn out to be more than strangers. Joe Ferrie has a ragged, frazzled charisma as a guy who has come to edit some poetry in peace and quiet. Scott Sorenson summons a fair amount of earnest curiosity as the guy who ends up distracting him for the course of the drama. It’s a pleasant, little dark fantasy that delves into the nature of celebrity in the heyday of the baby boomer...the last era of the enduringly resonant mega-celebrity demigods. It’s a short that might be lost to those without some passing familiarity with the rock and roll of the era. Celebrity is a hell of a lot more cheap and disposable in the age of the internet than it was back then. Playwright/actress Deanne Strasse makes a fun, little cameo as a waitress at the coffee shop.
The music of The Doors lingers as the scene changes for the second one act: Nut Ring. Becky Cofta and Hayley San Filippo play a couple of sisters slipping into a conversation about sex with a pair of older sisters played by Kim Emer and Leslie Fitzwater. Open and honest discussion of sex has a tendency to be awkward to begin with, but the one pair of sisters in this case just happens to be mother and aunt to the other pair. Jackson plays an interesting, little chamber symphony of comedy directed by Raven Dockery. Everyone has a chance at a slightly different angle on the sex-based comedy conversation. Filippo is sweet. Cofta is sensual. Elmer is earnest. Fitzwater is a little bit of everything. It’s a nice, little four-part harmony of ribald comedy.
The program returns after intermission with Nate Press and Ashley Oviedo as fiancees Ash and Cassie in Immortal. The two characters have only been together for a brief period of time when she comes home to accuse him of being immortal. What might seem absurd on the surface gradually delves into greater and greater thematic depth as Jackson explores truth and identity. Press has a brilliantly layered sense of comedy that serves the short well. He’s as good with obvious punchlines as he is with far more subtle and nearly imperceptible shades of humor. Oviedo is crushingly vulnerable and courageous as someone who isn’t afraid to sound crazy to someone she loves in order to get the truth. Director Robert A. Zimmerman cleverly sets tone and mood while sharply directing the flow of traffic in a script that could all-too-easily feel overwhelmingly weighty. Oviedo is remarkably magnetic. Press is appealingly restless. It’s a truly enjoyable end to a really, really fun evening of shorts.
Table For Three: An Evening of One Acts by Bill Jackson runs through August 14th at the Brumder Mansion on 3046 W. Wisconsin Avenue. For ticket reservations and more, visit Milwaukee Entertainment Company online.
A quick recap: There was a lot going on online. Then there was a lot going on in outdoor spaces. Now with the 2021-2022 Milwaukee Theatre Season beginning to look into opening itself up, Milwaukee stages look to begin responsibly returning to indoor spaces as an open house, fundraisers and quite a lot of other events begin to populate the calendar at the close of the summer of 2021.
It was one of the smallest of the small stages in Milwaukee (which I’m pretty sure would make it one of the smallest of the small stages in the world, but I really have no idea.) The space re-opens as Sunstone Studios: an entirely different theatre this month with a completely new group of people in charge of it and a really, really ambitious set of ideals. Lots of work has been done. Lots of plans have been made. And now the tiny little space across the street from the Pabst Theatre opens to the general public. The newly imagined space will be open for viewing. Events are being planned for the whole day of August 6th on 127 East Wells St. For more information as it becomes available, visit the grand openings’ Facebook Events page.
This September, Voices Found Repertory will present a staging of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Imagination Studios in West Allis. Sarah Zapian directs. In advance of that opening, the group is hosting a little fundraiser on August 7th at Bad Moon Saloon on 4035 S. Clement. It’s a casual evening of games, socializing and drinks with a silent auction and live music performed by cast members for the upcoming production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It’s a cleverly subtle dreamlike preview of some of the talent that will manifest in West Allis at the beginning of next month in a production that will open Sept. 2nd. For more information, visit the fundraiser’s Facebook Events Page.
Generation X is...aging. I mean...I realize that Green Day had a musical and everything, but every now and then something like Rock of Ages or Don’t Stop Believin’ rolls around and it just feels weird. Music I remember hearing on WAPL as a young kid beginning to grow-up in the early 1980s is now making its way to the Musical Mainstage at Sunset Playhouse in Elm Grove. Music from late ‘70s/ early ’80s vintage bands like Journey, Rush, Styx, Boston and Foreigner will be performed on the big stage by local musical theatre talents like Rana Roman, Bob Hirschi, Tommy Hahn and others. Don’t Stop Believin runs August 9th and 10th at Sunset. For more information, visit the Sunset Playhouse online.
Summerstage of Delafield opens the second show of its outdoor season this month as it presents the mid-20th century Beth Henley drama Crimes of the Heart. Kelly Goeller directs Brigid O’Brien, Abbi Minessale and Kelly Goeller as three sisters who have returned to Hazelhurst, Mississippi to await news of their ailing grandfather. The touching family drama runs Aug. 19th - Sept. 4th at Lapham Peak State Park. They peaceful, idyllic atmosphere of a gorgeous outdoor space should serve as a powerfully resonant home to Henley’s thoughtful drama. All shows start at 7:30 pm. For more information, visit Summerstage online.
Optimist Theatre hosts a restless green forest this summer as it wanders about to various locations performing an abbreviated Shakespearian experience in the middle of summer. A Midsummer Night’s Dream: The Lovers’ Tale. Is a fun focus on Athenian love lost amidst the meddling of a couple of fairies. The 90-minute show is a perfect little nap of a narrative that makes the dizzying, convoluted trips and swings through complex romance easy and enjoyable for audiences of all ages.
The set is simple. Just a couple of backdrops dotting the stage area. Costuming is bright and cheery with character is paired up in their ideal romantic connection by matching colors. The physical comedy of the show is amplified and exaggerated in a way that does not detract from the depth and sincerity of the romantic drama being presented. The directors have maintain a delightful balance that keep everything moving very quickly from beginning to end as the sun migrates towards the western horizon of whatever outdoor space they happen to be performing in at the time.
Rebeka Farr and Susie Duecker play to their strengths as two young women struggling with love, life, family and death threats. Farr’s sweet earnestness in love makes her a perfect fit for the fair Hermia. Duecker’s something of a genius with physical comedy, which fits the role of Helena quite well. As this is an intimate, small-stage affair, Farr has an opportunity to get into subtleties of romantic love while Duecker deftly explores a range of physical comedy from subtle confusion to passionate physical exaggeration.
Fabian Guerrero and King Hang play the ore aggressive, dramatic ends of the male end of the comedy in very robust dramatic motions that occasionally delve into greater subtlety. Libby Amato and Seth Hale each play dual roles. Hale is charismatic and subtly witty as both Theseus and Oberon. Amato is captivating as both Puck and Hippolyta.
Focussing as it does on the lovers, the only two speaking fairies of note in the play are Puck and Oberon. Hale’s sense of humor brilliantly filters in around the edges of his portrayal of Oberon. Amato is endlessly fun as the heroically confident trickster Puck. Amato’s grasp of physical humor is immensely enjoyable from subtle annoyance every time her talents are questioned to her blinding glee at causing confusion and chaos.
Not everything about the production is perfectly smooth. There IS some really, really engaging scoring that plays through one of two large speakers. This adds to the fully-rendered feeling of the outdoor production and really adds to the comedy, but I made the mistake of sitting right underneath an amp and the amplification was kind of deafening. Also: the wind in the mics caused static and distortion that was a bit wince-inducing in places.
Micheal Pettit does a little bit of puppetry for the show including a very pretty, ethereal Titania and the a pleasantly cute little bald-headed walking Egeus voiced from elsewhere by Optimist’s Tom Reed. The problem is that little Egeus’ head doesn’t articulate and Reed’s voice comes in more powerfully than anything else onstage even though the little puppet never appears to be speaking. So it’s like this little, bald puppet is...telepathically projecting his dialogue...which makes him seem a bit more supernatural than the two superhuman fairies who are in the show. A bald-headed mortal apparently capable of telepathic communication doesn’t quite fit the production. It would seem more at home in a school for gifted youngsters in Westchester County.
The Optimist Theatre’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream: The Lovers’ Tale runs through September 6th at various locations in and around Southeastern Wisconsin. For more information, visit Optimist Theatre online.
Larry Shue had the ability to be an actor’s writer of comedy. In The Foreigner, he wrote an incredibly intricate, little pseudo-language for the title character in a plot populated by a lot of interesting characters. In The Nerd, he constructed an entire ensemble of people who are totally grounded and realistic while all being a bit mad. This summer that madness comes to the outdoor space at Summerstage in an enjoyable production that opens the summer season in Lapham Peak State Park. Dustin J. Martin directs a capable cast in a comedy of bad manners of a house guest who rapidly wears out his welcome and can’t seem to get the idea that everyone wants him to leave.
Scott Fudali plays an architect who is a bit too timid to take what he really wants out of life. Patrice Hood is charmingly engaging as Tansy: the meteorologist who loves him, but must move across the country in pursuit of her dreams in front of a map on in the Washington DC television market. Nicholas Callan Haubner is cleverly droll as a good friend of both of them who only wants to make sure that the two of them are happy. Matters between the three of them are slowly. established over the course of a few moments at the opening of the comedy. Then there’s a call from Rick Steadman.
Steadman had saved the architect’s life back in Viet Nam. He’d never met the guy, but he corresponded with him over the years since they both re-entered their civilian lives. And now Steadman is dropping by quite unannounced to spend some time with the guy who owes his very life to him. Everyone seems excited to meet the hero. Their excitement quickly sours when it turns out that Steadman is a comically obnoxious human being who is quite unaware of a great many things.
James Sevens is great as Steadman. The title role could end up being a flat stereotype of a 1980s nerd exaggerated to comic excess. As written by Shue, the character has strange layers that rest within stranger layers that could easily be overlooked in the pursuit of laughter. Sevens is well aware of these layers and manages a portrayal of Steadman the is just annoying enough to be funny and just vulnerable enough for an audience to care about him. There’s a careful execution of the comic amplification of Steadman’s annoying habits that Sevens sometimes wields like a scalpel.
Martin has directed the flow of comic traffic across the stage in a way that makes for a very appealing show...the gradual increase of comic energy amplifies over the course of the play as things increase into a pleasantly surreal attempt to get Steadman to leave of his own accord. I’ve seen a few different productions of the play...this one seems to have a really solid handle on the bizarre otherworldly quality of that climactic scene. It’s refreshing to see this kind of madness outdoors in the middle of summer after a long lockdown.
Summerstage’s production of The Nerd runs through July 31. For ticket reservations and more, visit Summerstage online.
Post-COVID lockdown theatre continues to develop into July with a number of productions on live stages. There’s Broadway cabaret in Elm Grove, a contemporary drama, comedy and, as always, Shakespeare. Here’s a look of a few items on local small outdoor stages in and around the greater Milwaukee area:
Broadway Hits Cabaret Sunday at Sunset
Bombshell Theatre Company and Sunset Playhouse team-up for an outdoor cabaret right outside the theatre on Sunday, June 27th. Talent includes Marcy Doherty-Elst, Erich Welch, Tim Albrechtson and more. The performance is taking place right outside the Sunset Playhouse, so in the event of rain, the show can scamper indoors. The sleepy, little commercial area of Elm Grove that Sunset inhabits can be really beautiful this time of year as I well know having bussed it to the venue from the south side on more than one occasion. A light musical cabaret show outdoors in Elm Grove amidst the nearby hum of light Sunday afternoon traffic sounds idyllic.
Ghost Bike in the Park
The Milwaukee Rep’s Professional Training Institute welcomes audiences to a free outdoor performance of Laura Jacqmin’s Ghost Bike. The PTI features actors from grades 9-12 experiencing professional stage for the first time. Ghost Bike is the story of Ora, who travels into a strange afterlife to meet her best friend Eddie who tragically died in a biking accident. The show runs July 8 - 11 at the Selig-Joseph-Folz Amphitheater in Kadish Park on 701 E. Garfield Ave. For more information, visit The Milwaukee Rep online.
Shakespeare Auditions Intensify
Voices Found Rep continues its search for a cast for A Midsummer Nights Dream through June 28th. Its video auditions remain open for the next couple of days. The production runs in September. The director is Sarah Zapian who is a talented, young actor in her own right. She' also got a very clean, crisp, precise, professional presence that would likely be a lot of fun to work with. For more information, visit Voices Found online.
Also: Fleeing Artists Theatre will be escaping to the stage in Kenosha with a production of Hamlet which will run in early September. Auditions take place July 6th and 7th. For more information, visit the auditions’ Facebook Events page.
The Nerd in the Park by the Peak
It’s said the Larry Shue came-up with the name for The Nerd before he ever had an idea of what it was going to be about. The early 1980s sitcom continues to appeal decades after its original appearance. It’s got everything: a man making-up his own language. A theatre critic. The schemes of the KKK are foiled. There’s even a rousing game of Shoes and Socks. This coming month, Summerstage opens its season with a production of the comedy directed by Dustin J. Martin. The show runs July 15-31 in Lapham Peak State Park. For more information, visit Summerstage online.
Oedipus in the Garden
Ancient Greek tragedy...in Kenosha. One of the most durable pieces of drama ever written makes it to the Lincoln Park Flower Gardens July 16th - 25th. The tragedy makes it to the stage by way of a production directed and adapted by Kimberly Laberge. It’s Free Outdoor Oedipus in late July. Shakespeare gets a lot of attention from parks all over the U.S. It would nice to see more of the ancient Greek stuff prowling around for free in parks. It’s nice to see Fleeing Artists Theatre trying a different kind of classic. For more information, visit Fleeing Artists online.
Shakespeare Gets Mobilized
This year, Optimist Theatre will be going mobile with its Shakespeare in the Park program.
They will be performing Midsummer Nights Dream...on the road at various places across Milwaukee. The 60-75 minute version of the show will be great for families with little kids looking to hang out with Oberon, Titania and the rest of Arcadia. The show will consist of 12 matinee performances beginning the week of July 24-25. For more information as it becomes available, visit Optimist Online.
Live, indoor theater was going to feel weird for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic. Good thing I had a weird show to go to. I hopped a #80 bus and dove into the Deer District to climb through a the crowd assembled for the big Bucks game. I was going to The Best Place Tavern to see the return of Boozy Bard Productions’ Shakespeare Raw staging of The Merry Wives of Windsor.
The tiny, a little bar on the edge of all of the activity last night had a respectable crowd assembled to see a group of talented, comedic Shakespearian actors breeze through an irreverent, little staging of a light comedy. Boozy Bard’s Jeremy Eineichner opened the show with the all-too familiar intro that set the tone and pace. A big part of the show is selling the total informality it all. The cast is just there to have fun with an old script from a beloved, British 16th century Zack Snydery pop storyteller who just happened to be really good with words. Whether or not it’s actually the case, the overall feel is that they’d be doing what they’re doing even if there wasn’t an audience. It is for this reason that it’s always so good that they DO have people coming to see them. They’re having fun. They’re delivering that fun to the audience. And people drink good beer. Huzzah.
Playing the comedic lead of Falstaff was longtime Boozy Bard Brian Bayer. He didn’t know he was going to be playing the character when he got there, of course. (That’s the way it works with Shakespeare Raw. Names and roles are paired through a hat.) The hat can be a bit sketchy. Sometimes the decisions that hat makes as casting director make it seem drunk (or...idunno...inanimate or something.) For the most part, the hat seemed to be playing the casting straight ahead for the first show after “the plague.” Brian was a perfect comedic choice for the silly sinister Falstaff who is looking to woo two wealthy wives at once.
Michelle White and Nick Firer played the wives. Michelle White was a perfect choice. White is a delight. Her open comic energy served the evening well, contrasted as it was by Nick Firer. Firer knew full well that a towering bearded man in the role of a dainty wife was comic enough without amplifying, so he wisely played the role with no hint of exaggeration. You wouldn’t know it just to look at them, but White and Firer made for a perfect pairing.
Brian Bayer is also a musician who writes a new song for every show, performing it on a synthesizer to begin the second half of the show. This time around it was a Merry Wives Journey parody. “ Don’t Stop Deceivin’ ” was a strong choice. It’s the type of thing that gets played quite a bit at tiny bars populated by X-ers and older millennials. It’s powerfully iconic pop stuff. Bayer needed only get the minimalism of the basic suggestion of the song (and synth-approximation of a guitar solo) through the keyboard and it was like...it was like hearing Steve Perry sing about Falstaff of a track recorded thirty years ago. Then Bayer was right back onstage as Falstaff alongside White, Firer and the rest of the cast. Weird. And fun.
Boozy Bard’s Shakespeare Raw: Merry Wives of Windsor was a one-nigh-only thing. Just to see how it feels. (It felt good from where I was sitting.) Past shows can be seen in glorious SurveillanceCameraVision on the Boozy Bard’s YouTube page. Boozy Bard will be announcing upcoming shows as they become apparent. Check out the group’s Facebook page for upcoming announcements. And check out their cool merch on Redbubble.
If live theatre is going to make a comeback on local stages in June, there’s no question that William Shakespeare is going to be involved. This coming June, live theatre climbs its way back onstage in a big way with no fewer than three Shakespeare shows making it to the stage. But first: there’s this Beatles thing in Elm Grove.
The Sunset Playhouse has a live in-person performance with a title that kind of sounds like something out of a really, really weird game of Clue. Sgt. Pepper with a Revolver on Abbey Road is a cabaret-style show featuring songs from Revolver, Sgt. Pepper and Abbey Road. As this is an indoor show in an actual theatre, patrons, volunteers, and staff MUST provide and wear face masks when inside Sunset Playhouse. The show run June 7 and 8. For more information, visit Sunset Playhouse online.
Boozy Bard’s Shakespeare Raw returns to The Best Place Tavern this June with a one-night-only staging of The Merry Wives Of Windsor. This is a fun comedy featuring Shakespearian favorite Sir John Falstaff. Who will play him at the Best Place this June? No one knows until the show. Actors take roles at random in a fun environment that can result in some incredibly memorable performances.
The one-night-only show takes place on June 23rd starting at 7pm.
For more information, visit the show’s Facebook events page.
Admission is $10 at the door and $5 if you show-up in “quarantine clothes” (whatever that means for YOU.) But if you’re looking to support the Boozy Bard, you might consider showing-up in a t-shirt, skirt, stockings (or possibly all three) featuring the group’s eerily iconic “Shakespeare in a Beer Helmet” logo. All this and more is available from Redbubble. It's real merch. Go to the show be-merched, drink and be crazy. It's June.
The Summit Players Theatre is launching another traveling season this June featuring a new production of The Winter’s Tale. The free production will visit 24 different Wisconsin State Parks over the course of this summer starting on on June 12th at the Richard Bong State Recreation Area. After the Bong opening, the show goes to High Cliff on the 13th and Three Bridges on the 18th. It’s a truncated version of the show that starts with a 5:30 pm workshop for those interested and then a 7 pm show. For more information, visit Summer Players online.
Door Shakespeare will be opening its outdoor production of Hamlet at month’s end...with both in-person and “stream at home” options for those who might not be able to make it all the way up to Sister Bay this year. The show features the conspicuously talented Milwaukee-based actor Ryan Schabach in no fewer than 17 roles. That’s right: it’s a one-actor Hamlet. This would be kind of harrowing for any audience were it not for the fact that the one-actor in question is Schabach. He’s really good at holding an audience. It should be fun to see him tackle the entirety of Hamlet in the idyllic wonder of Sister Bay’s Björklunden performance space.
Door Shakespeare’s Hamlet runs June 30 through August 17. For more information, visit Door Shakes online.
Veteran comedy group Broadminded makes it online this month with a new offering: The First Zoom Comedy Show Ever. The all-woman comedy group runs a series of bits live and online in a surprisingly smooth hour of comedy. (Okay...so the first of two performances had its glitches, but for a multi-sketch Zoom show it was surprisingly smooth.) The show successfully uses the Zoom format for a few clever sketches about culture in. An age of COVID. There is school. There is multi-level marketing. A coffee maker and a bag of beans are used as puppets. It’s fun. It’s weird. It’s Broadminded.
Amazon user reviews Are going to be an interesting thing for future generations to look at. It’s such a bizarre distillation of the values of a contemporary society. The Broads take a look at it this in a series of dramatic readings of reviews of a certain electric pencil sharpener that serve as on of the better bits in the show.
Fringe Politics as MLM
Stacy Babl dives into a little bit of political commentary with a fascinating little sketch in which the extreme rate is depicted as someone selling Avon or Mary Kay style cosmetics on Zoom. The MAGA crowd does have a tendency to come across like a multi level marketing group, which makes the sketch all the more clever, that one gets the sinking suspicion that perhaps the sketch doesn’t go quite far enough. It’s hard to outdo the absurdity of actual political extremists on this sort of thing. It’s not hard to imagine...say...Babl’s concealed carry themed concealer being sold at a Trump rally or a gun show.
Education About Education
By far the best skit in the entire show had to be one in which Melissa Kingston play a teacher of grade school students during her office hours. And comic fashion, the rest of the brides played kids with a host of different problems and concerns that had almost nothing to do with school itself and the math class that her character was teaching. There’s a profound depth in about that sketch that speaks to many of the issues that teachers are facing right now. More than simply funny, this bit is actually...edifying. Teachers are going through a lot right now. It’s fun to watch one of them actually playing with that for the purposes of a comedy sketch online...in the exact same format that so many teachers have ACTUALLY been forced to deal with recently.
And Some Other Stuff
Not everything worked perfectly. The two instances in which the group talked about sketches they done in the past were played with choppy video. The sketch at the end involving a video conferenced wake seems to go on for a bit longer than it probably should have. But on the whole this is very fun hour’s performance.
The more sketch comedy group that’s been around for quite a long time continues to deliver some very interesting stuff and yet another program. There’s one more chance for everyone to check out what is a fun, little one-hour excursion into Zoom-land with some funny people.
Broadminded’s The Very First Zoom Comedy Show Ever will return for one more performance on May 22nd at 7:30 pm. For more information, visit Broadminded online.
As society moves more and more into an information-based existence, it’s forced to grow-up into the kind of sensitivity that prompts nauseatingly empty terms like “politically correct,” and “cancel culture.” As a society, we’re only starting to learn how to become truly sensitive to the injustice and inequalities that form the basis for everything we know. Milwaukee Chamber Theatre explores the difficulties of this growth with Larissa FastHorse’s surprisingly brisk and effervescent comedy The Thanksgiving Play. Director Laura Gordon brings together a very thoughtfully-constructed ensemble in the story of a group of actors trying to put together a culturally sensitive traditional Thanksgiving play for kids.
Kelsey Brennan and Eric Schabla are warmly endearing as Logan and Jaxton--two very progressive people trying to put together a staged story of “the first Thanksgiving” for kids. The ever-charismatic Torrey Hanson plays Caden--an aspiring playwright and history teacher looking to be as historically accurate with the play as possible. Hannah Shay rounds-out the cast as Alicia: a professional actress who has been hired to help fulfill requirements for an arts grant that’s been bestowed upon the production. Every member of the creative team trying to bring the show before the kids is saddled with serious handicaps of some sort. Will they be able to somehow bring together both educational children’s theatre AND a story the lends historical accuracy to a very bloody time in the history of North America? Probably not, but it’s fun to watch them try.
FastHorse’s script renders some pretty sophisticated characters for something that could easily be read as a light sitcom. Gordon lends the ensemble more than enough room to bring the characters to life with tender nuance. Logan and Jaxton could easily read like annoying amplifications of awkward liberal over-sensitivity, but Brennan and Schabla play them with a deep respect. These are a couple of characters who are aching to get it right in every possible way both on and off stage. Brennan and Schabla focus on that deep and driving desire for total perfection.
It’s refreshing to see former Rep actor Torrey Hanson in another local production. Caden could have struggled through an overly awkward and pathetic presence onstage. Hanson lends Caden an inner strength and integrity that fits well within the ensemble. Shay’s character could be read as the problematic stereotype of a vapid professional Hollywood-style actress who prefers to be superficial. Alicia DOES gain a great amount of power from the apparent superficiality of her personality. Shay stalks the role with impressive Zen-like preternatural poise. It’s really, REALLY hard to get preternatural wisdom to work in a portrayal of someone who appears to be stereotypically vapid at first glance. Shay lounges gorgeously into Alicia’s depth, deftly balancing out the more cerebral energies of the rest of the cast.
FastHorse’s script weaves very, very quickly between light sitcom and very, very heavy moments of social satire. Gordon and company faithfully follow the switches in tone in a production that can play equally well to those looking for something light and those looking for something a little deeper. It’s deliciously imperfect as it casts a mirror to contemporary culture. As a society, we are caught somewhere between light comedy and the need for something deeper.
Milwaukee Chamber Theatre’s online production of The Thanksgiving Play is available through May 23. For more information, visit Milwaukee Chamber Theatre online.
There’s a little bit of everything online as the traditional theatre season closes in an age of COVID. Local Milwaukee theaters are still planning for live seasons in 2021-2022, but there’s still an opportunity to catch some really interesting and potentially innovative locally-produced stuff online before everything begins to migrate back to the live stage late next fall.
The Loud ‘N Unchained Black Theater Festival
All the theatre going on online lately has offered a really cool opportunity to see locally-produced stuff that hasn’t been locally produced in Milwaukee. April closes into May this year with Madison’s Loud ’N Unchained Black Theater Festival. It’s a live two-day streaming show featuring work from Madison-area theater, drag and spoken word artists. And...y’know...it’s free. Given all the stuff going on at the festival, this looks like a really fun way to enter May. The show runs April 30th and May 1st. For more information, visit the festival online.
The Laramie Project
It’s been nearly a quarter century since the brutal murder of Matthew Shepard. I’t would be nice to think that things have gotten better since then. I’ve seen productions of Moises Kaufman’s exploration of the murder quite a few times over the years in quite a few different formats. This coming weekend, the UW Green Bay theatre department stages a live production of the show online. In addition to being a really important exploration of the brutality the people are capable of, it’s a good project for university theatre online. The show consists largely of first-person accounts delivered directly to the audience...it’s a chance for an actor to really explore the portrayal of deep individual thought and intellectual reflection.
UWGB’s production of The Laramie Project runs April 29 to May 2 online. The show is free. For more information, visit the show’s page at UWGB.
This month 53212 Presents welcomes UWM Dance composer Allen Russell to the screen with another improvisational dance performance. The show mixes live and limited in-person audience with a free online streaming presentation in an eclectic digital atmosphere. Up to 12 people can register in advance to attend the performance live. (This IS one of the most intimate stages in Milwaukee right now.) The rest of us are free to watch it live on May 2nd from 10:00 am-12:00 pm. (Sunday mid-day dance? Sounds lovely.) For more information, visit the show’s page on Eventbrite.
KidsWrites: Time Capsule
The Skylight’s KidsWrites program has been around in one format or another for decades. This year, the project that pairs kids’ writing with professional musical theatre producers tackles the subject of the pandemic. Kids had written about a variety of different things impacting them that were developed into little video packages online...from the soulfully operatic Time Capsule to moody acoustic guitar to the straight-ahead comic opera of Ode to Toilet Paper. The show runs online from May 3 - June 13. It’s free. To register to see it online, visit Skylight online.
The Very First zoom Comedy Show Ever: Why has no one thought of this before?
If sarcasm had a title it might be the name of the new Broadminded Comedy show. The seemingly invincible all-woman comedy group continues straight into the pandemic with an online sketch comedy show. The prolific group will feature all-new material that has been constructed specifically for videoconferencing format. Zoom has become such a universally...tolerated...format over the course of the past year. It should be fun to see the unique mix of comedy brought to the screen by a group of writer/performers who have a long history onstage together. Broadminded’s new show runs May 8 and 22nd online. For more information, visit Broadminded’s website.