January continues unabated. Distance theater continues to be presented online from locally-sourced talent. There are a few really promising shows coming-up in the weeks to come:
In only a couple of days, The Constructivists will stage the next in their Under Construction play development series. They're presenting a reading of a completely new show live on their YouTube channel.
From the website: "Eliza on the Ice is a psychological thriller set in Slinger, Wisconsin. It's been forty days since Eliza went under. Forty nights since she's seen family, freedom, the light of day. Now today, with a storm on the horizon and time running out, Eliza is determined to make her escape."
Eliza on the Ice takes the screen January 14th at 7:30 pm. For more information, visit The Constructivists online.
Optimist Theatre has been busy bringing Shakespeare to the small screen in an upcoming free video serial on YouTube. Starting on Jan. 13, OT will be presenting a No Holds Bard adaptation of the lesser-known Shakespearian drama Pericles, Prince of Tyre. It’s an ambitious 16-episode serial with new chapters going live every Wednesday. The cast includes Andrew Varela, John Kishline, Deborah Clifton, Libby Amato, David Flores, Kelly Doherty, Rebekah Farr and more. For more information, visit No Holds Bard online.
Voices Found Repertory is going to be staging a Sunday afternoon “theatre and chill” reading of Reginald Rose’s 12 Angry Jurors. Better known as 12 Angry Men, the title of this reading leaves the company open to have a jury of men AND women, which should be really, really cool considering how very, very good the talent pool is with VFR. The staged reading takes place Sunday, January 17th at 2pm. For more information, visit the show’s Facebook events page.
The interesting thing here is that Reginald Rose originally wrote the play for TV on CBS’ Studio One back in 1964. Over half a century later, VFR brings the show to the streaming service Twitch for a staged reading that could be viewed...on TV. (I watch their shows on the Twitch Apple TV app when I have the chance to do so.)
Milwaukee Opera Theatre’s first Distance Commission arrives on the 22nd. With music, book and lyrics by Matt Zembrowski (who is also the mind behind the popular Wisconsin musical Dad’s Season Tickets,) In The Cloud is billed as “a story in three songs.” Catie O’Donnell directs a three-person cast including Milwaukee theatre veterans Norman Moses and Marilyn White. They’re playing the mother and father of a daughter played by the magnetically appealing Rae Pare. The performance is the first in the company’s “Zoirèes.” It’s an intimate Zoom-based experience limited to no more than 18 devices per performance. It’s online. It’s intimate. It’s MOT. It’s going to be fun. In The Cloud runs Jan. 22 - 31. For more information, visit the show’s Eventrbrite page.
2021 moves into existence this week. Though COVID still has its grip on local stages, a few shows for the new year have already been announced. Here’s a look at a couple of shows coming in the coming month.
Kettle Morraine Playhouse will be staging a one-night-only virtual puppet theatre show. The Ruby is retelling of an ancient fable. Performed by Kristin Bayer, Deanna Gibeau, Bill Gibeau & Peter Gibeau, the strange, little experimental show looks promising. The performance will be presented for free. For more information, visit KMP online. Here’s a look at the promo video:
Water Street Dance has been conscientiously embracing the idea of live theatre. This month, they present a series of performances in Cedarburg that are already selling-out. Each socially-distanced performance is limited to 14 audience members. The performance space on a big 6,000 sq. foot facility on W62 N226 Washington Ave. in Cedarburg. For more information, visit Water Street Dance online. Water Street Dance has put together a promo video. The show is called Reveal. Here’s a look:
First Stage is bringing a new show to the stage at month’s end. Written by Finegan Kruckemeyer, the online virtual playhouse show Escape From Peligro Island is billed as a “createe your own adventure” play in which audience votes on the hero’s path. Callaway Brown is stranded on a desert island and it’s up to the viewers to help him out.
From the promo: “Will Callaway time travel to the Wild West and meet a talking horse? Develop superpowers and fight crime in the future? Or have a crush on a vampire? The choice is yours!”
The show runs Jan. 29 - Feb. 6. For more information, visit First Stage online.
UWM Theatre alum Michael Cotey has created a nationwide program to tap into the voices of high school students from all over the country. #ENOUGH is a program of shorts written by those growing-up in an increasingly dangerous world of mass shootings and increased awareness of police-related assault and homicide. Many scripts were submitted. A few chosen scripts are being performed by theatre groups all over the country. Last night Sturgeon Bay’s Third Avenue Playhouse presented a live reading of the shorts on YouTube.
The opening short Loaded Language started with a group of students talking about plans and strategies on how best to survive a shooting at their school. The dialogue is written by high school senior Elizabeth Shannon. In an earlier era this would have been morbid idle thought in a study hall, but in the modern world this is practical planning for a potential tragedy. It’s a stark introduction to the program. In the second scene an offhand remark about a troubled classmate bends the talk of potential tragedy into active drama.
Former Milwaukee Chamber Theatre Producing Artistic Director C. Michael Wright directed the second short on the program: Debkanya Mitra’s Malcom. A quartet of voices remember one person...a victim of a police shooting. There’s real anger and frustration fused into the story of one life lost in police/civilian altercation that has become all too tragically common. It’s a very vivid character sketch that is delivered before the account of his death. It’s a very powerful moment.
Ms. Martin’s Malaise follows the story of Malcolm. A teacher is juxtaposed against students, reports of a firearm and the fates themselves. Written by Adelaide Fisher, it’s a drama with intensity that is amplified by the videoconference format of the show. It’s just people. With no other distractions, the complexity of issues surrounding firearms in the US get a striking close-up in a provocative, little drama.
Probably the most memorable short on the program was California Sophomore Sarah Schecter’s Hullabaloo. Milwaukee’s Ryan Schabach playing a showman named Hunter in a Wild Bill-style political satire on the bloody history of the United States’ relationship with firearms. There’s a charismatic poetry about it that engages the slicing satire that feels bombastically oversimplified in places, but Schecter casts quite a bit of light on aspects of the past that aren’t often explored in pop entertainment formats. Schecter levels a suitably potent photonic cannon at the history of guns in America. It’s a clever contrast to the heaviness of much of the rest of the program. Of all the shorts on the program, this one feels like it might be the one that would feel most dynamic expanded into a feature-length show. The history of this country’s relationship with guns is a long and sordid one. It’s a history that needs to be seen in all its vicious ugliness.
#ENOUGH will be presented in a hybrid production online from a few different theatre groups from all over the country will be presented on Broadway on Demand. For more information on that and the ambitious program, visit #ENOUGH online.
It’s December 24, 1615. Shakespeare is hanging out at the Windmill Inn in Stratford upon Avon. Naturally a modern actor would find himself walking into the place. He had just been at a post-show talkback in Illinois. Playwright/actor/Milwaukee theatre veteran John Kishline plays Shakespeare himself in a staging of the play that’s being presented by Door Shakespeare. Kishline is joined by a talented cast of actors in a drama that’s presented videoconference-style with each actor appearing in front of the same backdrop suggesting a 17th century tavern.
In the course of the play’s sole hour onscreen, the staged reading format of the show gradually melt into the background. The first actor making unexpected meeting with Shakespeare is played by Neil Brookshire. He’s charismatic as an actor suddenly found himself in the presence of one of the most legendary writers in history. He performs a bit as Friar Lawrence with Shakespeare before a couple of fellow actors enter. Cassandra Bissel and Deborah Clifton play the other two contemporary actors entering the tavern to inadvertently stumble into the legend. Bissel is particularly warm as an actor suddenly in awe at Shakespeare’s presence. Before long, the others perform a little bit of Shakespeare’s work with him.
Director Michael Stebbins has done a good job of finding the perfect minimalist framing for the drama. The simple backdrop works well enough. Stebbins himself reads the stage directions. Not much longer later, Duane Boutté appears as the final member of the modern cast to run into Shakespeare. Kishline’s script serves as a fun backdrop for a simple reading of excerpts from Shakespeare. Bissel, Boutté, Clifton and Brookshire carry the Shakespeare.
Delivering Shakespeare in videoconference is always difficult, but Door Shakespeare makes it work. The ensemble’s greatest victory, though, lies in bringing the distinct social atmosphere of a group of actors to the screen. It’s a scripted dialogue over videoconference, but the ensemble brings it all together like it’s a casual soiree between actors after a talkback. Kishline’s dialogue is stiff in places as he dives into history with Shakespeare. The ensemble does a brilliant job of keeping it all very light and social even on those few occasions when Kishline’s script feels awkwardly historical.
An ancient playwright and a group of actors spend some time together on a video screen. It’s a fun bit of light and classy entertainment that might inhabit a cozy corner of any holiday get-together on the journey out to the middle of the month. Outside of COVID, Kishline’s script has great potential to be a holiday standard. Classy snippets of Shakespeare would be a welcome alternative to traditional holiday fare in almost any theatre market. Casts of contemporary actors meeting Shakespeare could be adapted to fit the market. Here it’s Neil and Cassie and Deborah and Duane, but it could just as easily be any othe quartet in any other region interacting with Shakespeare for a holiday show set on Christmas Eve in 1615. Kishline’s script is a fun diversion from the usual type of thing that makes it to stages for the holidays.
Dream Upon Avon is available for free online through December 13. For more information, visit Door Shakespeare online.
The coronavirus continues unabated. A lot of local theatre talent has been sitting around waiting as patiently as possible for an opportunity to perform. Theatre has been extremely difficult to transfer to the internet in the age of COVID. There have been numerous attempts to bring the feel of theatre to the screen. Some attempts have proven to be better than others. The Masked Collective did a truly admirable job of delivering a completely new, locally-written drama to the screen in the premiere of No “Serious Stuff.” The two-person drama written by local playwright Emily Elliott is endearingly captivating. It’s a one-hour conversation between two friends over Zoom.
Sarah Zapiain and Deena Turkomani play a couple of friends who haven’t talked in a long time. Zapiain cleverly treads the dichotomy of a self-confident vulnerability as Billie. It was Billie’s idea for the two to get together for a video chat. She has a list of possible topics that both could discuss if anything becomes too awkward. Turkomani is charmingly scattered as her friend Parker, who has a very rough series of months behind her. Things start-off warm and pleasantly social, but they gradually descend in to emotional territory far too murky for any list of topics to adequately defend against.
Director Emmie D’Amico has done a hell of a job pulling together a very organic feel between two actors who are never allowed to be seen together directly. It’s all one scene. It’s a one-hour video chat that plays out in realtime. All that’s ever revealed about the two is revealed directly in the course of their conversation. It’s simple and refreshing. Zapiain and Turkomani have developed a very organic emotional dynamic. Elliott has crafted dialogue that feels very real. There are very few moments in the course of the drama that feel like they’re scripted. D’Amico has allowed for poignant silences to occasionally punctuate something that has a great sense of depth and vitality about it.
There’s a kind of a murky emotional power in a conversation that’s written entirely to be performed in video chat. Serious two-person dramas onstage have so many distractions. No “Serious Stuff” is a crushingly intimate portrait of two people. It’s rare that two actors are looking directly at the audience in a talking-heads format for an entire hour in an earthbound emotional drama. It’s been so very, very difficult for theatre to deal with the challenges of internet drama. Emily Elliott’s No “Serious Stuff” fully embraces the opportunities presented by live online drama.
The recorded video of The Masked Collective’s No “Serious Stuff” is now available on YouTube. The video can't be embedded in this page, but it CAN be viewed here. (The show is under an hour. It’s a two-hour video with a long title card. The actual show starts at the 01:05:36 mark.)
For more information about this and more, visit the Masked Collective online.
The National Weather Service predicts a possible opening night for the snow season this evening. With only 0-3 inches expected, it’s not going to be a huge opening near the lake, but it’s a very, very busy week for Milwaukee-related theatre openings. Tonight there’s something of an inadvertent double feature of theatre shows. Local Playwright Emily Elliott's No Serious Stuff opens for John Kishline's Dream Upon Avon. Here’s a look at items available for the next 4 days:
No...seriously No Serious Stuff debuts in just three hours. The Masked Collective is providing the show’s big debut online for a suggested $7 or more donation that is “encouraged by not required.” It’s live on YouTube. Milwaukee playwright Emily Elliott presents the story of Parker and Billie: a couple of people who haven’t spoken in a year. Things didn’t end well for them. They agree to a FaceTime call to discuss things...sounds like a perfect idea for videoconference-style theatre. The show opens at 6:00 pm on YouTube. For more information, visit the show’s Facebook events page.
Door Shakespeare will be presenting an online presentation of a holiday play by Milwaukee theatre veteran John Kishline. It’s a reading of Kishline’s Dream Upon Avon. It’s Christmas Eve and Shakespeare is hanging out at his favorite pub. He is visited be a series of people...each with unrealized dreams of unanswered questions. Kishline is joined by a remarkable cast including Cassandra Bissell, Duane Boutte, Neil Brookshire and Deborah Clifton. The reading takes place Dec. 11 (tonight) and 12 at 7pm and Dec. 13 at 5pm. The show is free. For more information, visit Door Shakespeare online.
Voices Found Repertory’s Mission: Audition event takes place tomorrow afternoon. The next in the actor’s audition workshop series runs 4:30 pm-7:30 pm. Tomorrow VFR’s Jessica Trznadel is joined by guest Jennifer Vosters for an audition workshop for contemporary monologues. They’re looking to provide feedback for modern monologues of 2 minutes’ length. (Anything written after 1920.) It’s $10 for a 20-minute individualized workshop. As of this post, there are still two slots left for the workshop. For more information, visit the sign-up site.
Next Monday, The Third Avenue Playhouse presents #ENOUGH--a program of 10-minute plays that address the issue of gun violence. All the plays are written by teens. The free program will be broadcast online. TAP’s readings of the winning plays go live Monday, May 14th at 7pm. For access to the show, visit the show’s Facebook Events page.
Considered to be Shakespeare’s first play, Two Gentlemen of Verona feels a bit embryonic in many ways. This makes it a fun show to watch teens perform in. The romantic comedy has fresh honesty in the presence of people just beginning to relate to those emotions expressed in the script. This month First Stage’s Young Company shows that it’s also kind of a brilliant choice for a Zoom-based online performance format. There’s a vivid connection between ensemble, camera and audience which eliminates everything but the very nature of human action and interaction. And there are some beautiful performances in the show.
Director Marcella Kearns has kept the production simple. Characters appear as talking heads in front of black backgrounds. Given the crazy nature of Shakespearian romance, this could come across in a way that might feel unpleasantly surreal, but the Young Company has a firm and passionate hold on the underlying humanity of the script to keep the production from slipping into abstract, soullessly disembodied iambic pentameter. The format allows for a breathtaking portrait of the agony and ecstasy of young love in all its many moods. It’s restless and it’s anxious and it’s enraptured and it’s thoughtless and it’s selfish and it’s so much else.
Eloise Field cascades through an impressive range of emotions as Julia, a lady of Verona who finds herself very attracted to a guy named Proteus. The object of her love is a very problematic character on a few different levels. Liam Jeninga does an admirable job of keeping Proteus’ passions earnest even as he’s being a total jerk to Julia. A thoughtfully tender Zachary Nowacek is allowed more of a traditional romantic hero presence in the role of Proteus’ friend Valentine. Proteus falls for another lady and casually cast aside all interest in Julia. The new woman is named Silvia. Silvia is played with sharply expressive eyes and a very engaging heart by Madison Uphoff. More so than any other character in the play, Julia is a victim. Field is crushingly endearing in the role of a woman who shows great strength in the face of victimization. Kearns allows her and the unwitting weapon of her victimization a moment at the end of the play. Field and Uphoff embrace the two most emotionally dramatic roles in the play.
Kearns finds a clever framing for the light comedy of Proteus’ servant Launce and his dog Crab. Nicholas Hollenbeck plays Launce in one window as a soulful brown dog named Loki plays Crab in a neighboring window. In an era when the image of a Zoom meeting is all too familiar, the. simple act of placing a canine actor in front of a camera and labeling him at the bottom right of the window is clever every time it shows-up onscreen. Sometimes it’s the littlest things that add immeasurably to the memorability of a production.
First Stage Young Company’s production of Two Gentlemen of Verona is available through Dec. 14. For more information, visit First Stage online.
It’s weird entering the Pandemic Holidays. It was exceptionally strange rolling through Thanksgiving with my family and then...NOT having some sort of a Christmas or Holiday show at the Brumder or the UC or...anywhere else. Nevertheless, there ARE quite a few alternatives to live theatre making it to the internet from Milwaukee this month. Here’s a look at a few options.
Tomorrow night, Milwaukee Public Theatre and Quasimondo present the story of a tiny cookie company that is taken over by a large Conagra-style food corporation. An overworked, understaffed regional manager struggles to find a way to market a small, local brand for national distribution. The collaboration is a part of a series of staged readings being presented via Zoom. The cast includes some really, really cool people including Barbara Leigh, Kirk Thomsen, Jessi Miller, Posy Knight, Andrew Parchman and Jenni Reinke. According to the promo copy, “this hilarious and poignant piece explores consumer culture, workplace discrimination, and the importance of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).” Cool. The reading takes place on Zoom on Tuesday, Dec. 1 at 7:30 pm. For more information, visit the show’s page on Brown Paper Tickets. “Order” the free tickets via BPT and you’ll be sent a link to the Zoom for the show.
The Milwaukee Rep is providing a free online version of its popular adaptation of A Christmas Carol. Evidently back in 2016, The Rep recorded the production of Mark Clements’ adaptation of Dickens’ classic. Though it’s substantially less accomplished than the Joseph Hanreddy/Edward Morgan adaptation which preceded it, Clements’ interpretation could be a lot of fun as seen from the comfort of one’s own private home version of the Pabst Theater. The show is available for free online December 1 - 24. In order to get a free link to the video, go to the Rep’s registration site and fill out the form. Links will be mailed to those registering with the site.
Voices Found Repertory is hosting Mission: Audition--a series of audition workshops this month. The group has put together some really good shows in the past. In addition to the occasional show that’s posted online via Twitch, the group has been keeping busy with lots of little events in and around the edges of the internet. The latest is a series of auditions workshops on three consecutive Sturdays this month. Dec. 5--Hannah Kubiak and guest provide feedback on 2-minute auditions from Shakespeare and classical theatre. Dec. 12--Jessica Trznadel and guest do the same for 2-minute auditions of contemporary/modern audition work. Then on Dec. 19--Sarah Zapiain and guest host a Musical theatre audition workshop. All workshops take place in the afternoon. It’s $10 for a 20 minute time slot. For more information, visit Mission: Audition’s facebook events page.
It’s been interesting to watch the range of different responses to COVID in local theatre. Not too long ago the Sunset Playhouse had an audio drama fundraiser featuring a classic script from the golden age of radio. This month, the Village Playhouse presents a live The Little Women Radio Show. Louisa May Alcott’s beloved novel is adapted into a classic 1940s radio show that will be available for viewing Dec. 10 - 31. The show stars Hannah Kubiak, Savannah Miracle, Christine Hoehn and more. The show is free online with a suggested donation of $10. For more information, visit Village Playhouse online.
And there’s a little spot of Shakespeare this month online as well. Boozy Bard presents a Shakespeare Raw(ish) production of the classic Hamlet. The show is performed entirely over Facebook Live in online conference-style. Who’s going to play which roles? AS always, chance and circumstance are the casting directors in a production of the classic tragedy which taps into the heart of chaos to hopefully pull out something beautiful. The show takes place free online on Dec. 16. The show starts at 7:00 pm. For more information, visit the show’s Facebook events page.
Patrick Schmitz--the author of Rudolph the Pissed-Off Reindeer stages an all-new reindeer-based comedy this month. This time it’s a murder/mystery comedy. Santa and his reindeer crash. They soon realize that the crash...was no accident. Now they must work out who it is who caused the crash as they find themselves killed-off one-by-one. Will they find out who is responsible before it’s too late? Sounds like a fun premise for a comedy. The show will be staged online with three different performances: December 18 and 19th at 7:30 pm. There’s also a matinee on December 19th at 2:00 pm. For more information, visit Schmitz & Giggles online.
The trip out to Next Act Theatre happens over the opening credits. There’s a drive through a Milwaukee night followed by entry through the lobby past concessions and into the theatre. There in the darkened theatre David Cecsarini stands in darkness. The camera approaches him. He gazes into the camera and suddenly the location shifts to Gethsemane United Methodist Church in Pewaukee. That church serves as the set for Next Act’s production of playwright Lucas Hnath's The Christians. It’s a very organic production of a drama that explores a church’s search for identity in the face of intellectual and philosophical change.
The play opens on a sermon by Cecsarini as Pastor Paul. Cecsarini radiates a warmth about him in the role of a man who questions the exclusivity of the church. He tells the story of an honorable person who has died without believing in Christ. He doesn’t believe that the person in question went to hell. He asserts that one does not have to believe in Christ to avoid damnation. He knows this is revolutionary talk. Precisely HOW revolutionary it is becomes apparent after he finishes his sermon. Andrew Muwonge is charismatically resolute as Associate Pastor Joshua, who Paul freely welcomes into an open debate about the church in front of the congregation after his sermon.
Though he cannot refute Paul’s logic, Joshua believes in his heart that Paul is wrong. A vote is held. The majority side with Paul. Joshua must leave the church to pursue his beliefs, but all is not perfectly at peace with the church’s new direction as Paul finds out over the course of the rest of the drama.
The first disharmony that Paul is confronted with comes in the form of a meeting with church elder Jay (Rick Richter.) The church elders are completely behind Paul, but they’re concerned with how quick he was to let Joshua go. A conversation follows about a possibility of a schism that may result from Joshua’s departure. Richter navigates his way through a very sophisticated political conversation with careful attention to the intricate gravities of the situation.
The second disharmony approaches Paul in the form of a dialogue with a congregant named Jenny (played by Emily Vitrano.) She’s a single mother who has questions. Joshua is forming his own church and there are congregants who are leaving. A man that she had been dating had gone off to that church and left her with uncertainty. Vitrano treads a careful path through the concerns of a woman who is looking for answers. She's also looking for a reason to stay with a church that seems to have alienated some of its congregants.
The final disharmony comes in the form of a conversation with his wife Elizabeth. Marti Gobel glides through an intricate and articulate conversation about Paul’s sermon. A conversation between husband and wife mixes with that of a congregant and her pastor. It’s a complicated talk on very intimate politics between two people who have been sharing a life together without necessarily sharing a spiritual understanding.
Director Edward Morgan has done a good job of bringing stage actors into the frame for a very compelling theatrical video presentation. The mood and motion of the drama feels very fluid for its entire 83 minutes. Passionate statements made in casual conversation are delivered by microphone in the church as voices reverberate through a vast space. The frequent cuts from intimate conversation to church oratory could seem a bit disconnected. Under Morgan's direction, those moments are edited together in a way that feels very natural...firmly rooted in the emotionality of what’s being said.
As good an actor as Cecsarini is onstage, it’s really nice to see him in action as a screen actor. The conversation between Paul and elder Jay allows for a few close-ups that amplify subtle nuances in Cecsarini’s performance. In the comfort of an office set he can speak just above a whisper. The screen may lack the intimacy of Next Act’s space, but it allows for a different kind of immediacy for Next Act. For audiences that have been going to see Next Act shows for years, this is a bit of a revelation. It's deeply satisfying to see the same energy that makes a Next Act show so distinct put in the service of drama inside a glowing rectangle.
Next Act’s production of The Christians is available through December 23. For more information, visit Next Act online.
Playwright Qui Nguyen adapted her acclaimed contemporary drama She Kills Monsters for online performances. It’s an appealing, emotionally-engaging story of an older sister getting to know her late sister through fantasy role-playing. This month First Stage presents a production of the drama. Though the script was designed for live online performances on videoconferencing platforms, First Stage has developed a really sharp pre-produced presentation of the show featuring an all-kid cast including brief semi-animated segments and cool synthesizer music cues. Recommended for kids in high school or older, the drama is a tightly-produced, entertaining, little hour.
Maggie Stubbs reaches into some very deep emotional territory as Agnes--a girl who is curious about her late sister. She discovers a Dungeons and Dragons adventure that her sister had been writing at the time of her death. Unfamiliar with the game, Agnes contacts Chuck: someone familiar with the game who serves as her game master (played by Max Larson.) Heading into the adventure, Agnes is surprised to find out that her sister Tilly is there in the form of Tillius the Level 20 Paladin. Maya Thomure shows heroically tender nuance as Tillius/Tilly. The adventure is a quest to find Tillius’ soul, which has fallen into the possession of the immortal five-headed dragon Tiamat. Tillius leads Agnes into a sword-and-sorcery gaze into the psyche of her younger sister. Charles Elliott lends a compassionate confusion to the cast in the role of Agnes’s boyfriend Miles who is trying to understand the importance of her search for her sister.
Director Coltyn Giltner has done a good job of getting an all-kid cast together for dramatic complexity in a series of scenes that had been pieced together from single-camera shots of individual actors. It’s difficult enough for any seasoned actor to deliver real emotional dialogue alone directly into a camera. More than merely managing this challenge, Giltner fosters an environment that brings out some really compelling performances from a rather sophisticated ensemble of characters that represent aspects of a late girl’s psyche. The action of the drama can be a bit awkward in places, but the dramatic rhythm of the story is maintained from beginning to end. Aggression, love and a range of different emotions are modulated quite vividly by a cast of young actors.
Costuming is limited. Just enough to suggest an elf, a paladin, a demon, a couple of cheerleader/succubi and a few other elements that come into play in the course of the story. Backgrounds are simple and domestic. Nguyen’s distinct mix of high school drama and fantasy adventure plays out in an enjoyably compelling hour and 12 minutes of video. The mix in the script is a little clumsy at times. Some of what Nguyen is exploring claws its way at the fantasy setting in a way that feels a bit disingenuous. The script doesn’t really engage with D&D in a way that really embraces its complexity. Giltner and company pull the script out of stiff sentimentality throughout...firmly rooting the drama in organic, heartfelt emotion.
First Stage’s production of She Kills Monsters: Virtual Realms is available through Nov. 22nd online. For more information, visit First Stage online.