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Climate Control, Uprooted Theatre, Suddenly Last Summer

Down in the Bayou, Violet Venable’s (Marti Gobel) genteel Victorian sensibilities cling to changing times. Her son Sebastian, the apple of her eye, her muse, her poet, anchors their impenetrable blood alliance, rooted in his artist talent and the rush of collecting graces available only to those with penchant for the niceties of high art and noble society. They together blazed an international trail through the last Gilded corners of global society, recognized nearly as wed.

Together her and her son stood in Paris, while Violet’s husband lay on his death bed. Her and Sebastian’s appetite for couture and soiree too salubrious to abandon. Violet’s husband dies, and Violet and her son live on, inner ring socialites. Their occupation of leisure takes a set back when Violet, stricken by a stroke, must rest in the confines of her home.

Sebastian carries on his tours as a renowned poet with his oft-shunned cousin Cathrine Holly (Sola Thompson) by his side. He has no ties, no wife, no children. For a man entering mid-adulthood this is an eyebrow raising characteristic even at face value, to be hidden by the company of his in-law relation. No matter the question of her suitability to navigate the world contained in his mind, she floats along as Sebastian’s buoy, by his conscious or her guile, much to the chagrin of his mother.

He and Catherine travel through the vestiges of European renaissance, in Spain something goes awry. Catherine returns and is committed to a mental hospital. Sebastian stays forever, dead under nebulous circumstances.

Violet seeks the clinical perspective of Dr. Cukrowitz (Marcus Causey) to dispel Cathrine’s account of Sebastian’s demise, on which presumably hinges a donation Violet may make to the hospital Dr. Cukrowitz has residency if he can fulfill Violet’s wrath. This tension brings Violet’s in-laws Mrs. Holly (Mara McGee) and George Holly (Derrion Brown) out of the woodwork. Catherine’s hospital attendant Sister Felicity (Raven Dockery) and Mrs. Foxhill (Freedom Gobels) helplessly stand-by in awe of the intrigue.

Playwright Gigante

Suddenly Last Summer provides an obscure example of Tennessee Williams’ brilliance as a playwright, often overshadowed by legendary works Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Street Car Called Desire. With co-founder Dennis F. Johnson in the directors seat, Uprooted Theatre venerably stages Suddenly Last Summer as the company’s benediction to a ambitious five year run to lift up African-American theatre for all eyes to see. It’s a verbose and technically challenging play that is wonderfully executed.

Marti Gobels, Uprooted’s founder and Artistic Director, and Johnson alternatively cast William’s play with black American actors, transposing them with William’s original perspective that embodies white American characters. In contrast to color-blind and gender-blind casting, Gobels and Johnson’s artistic intent here provokes the players and the audience to experience the play in its original perspective deliberately inhabited by people of a different race, to challenge our inherent beliefs about the play’s content given our existing historical and sociological knowledge of the play’s setting.

Despite this didactic aspect of the production, the dramaturgy of this play strikes the ear and eye as at once as fascinating, convincing, and as offering full justice to one of Tennessee William’s masterworks, a provocation of the idea that actors from all walks of life can develop the chops to perform roles of depth and dramatic technicality.

Uprooted Theatre’s production of Suddenly Last Summer, has three more runs graciously hosted at Next Act Theatre in Milwaukee’s Third Ward, Saturday May 23, 2:00p matinee, 7:00p evening show and Sunday May 24, 2:00p matinee.


Deep Sweat, Alchemist Theatre, King of Pop

His contemporaries left silhouettes of incenerated ashes, others have more recently been unearthed long after their heyday, for years burried under piles bullshit they inundated each other with. He immortalized himself, a self-sculpted bronze statue still standing. Andy Warhol the central figure of the New Wave Pop Art movement did not plan to die; loath the idea to let anyone kill him, with establishment aesthetics or petty bullets.

Aaron Kopec delivers his latest stage piece, part 2 of the New York Trilogy, as ode to the 70’s New York underground, a party of legendary hacks and prodigies. He takes us mid-decade where people have tirelessly molded themselves into deformed characatures, desperate attention-starved hedonists. Even the talented put their strengths third at best, lest they sell out.

The Original Fortress

Andy (Randal T. Anderson) is raising an army. An ill-trained band of latently degenerate personalities live mouth to foot in a dingy, crumbling decommissioned factory. They long to make noise, moving pictures and images that get noticed, lacking the strength to project themselve on to the public platform.

Andy lures Edie (Shannon Nettersheim) into his maniacal plans, her place secured by her clutch. She’s a reluctant focal point of the scene, thrown high into the air by Warhol’s crafty vision, will she ever come down. 

Blown in by Westerly winds, a young fellow named Bob (David Sapiro), to all eyes a talented bumpkin, who could go places if he wasn’t so…bumpkin, feels the invisible hands of the Industry message him into an icon. His contemporary Lou (Mitch Weindorf), ornery in all respects, won’t bend his artistic sensibilities easily, reluctantly sharing the stage with Nico (Niko King), a buxom diva stuck solidly in disco glam.

Valerie (Grace DeWolff) nags Andy at every opportunity, a firecraker, willing to go any extreme to propagate her radical feminist doctrines. She’s ready to get off of street corners and on the silver screen. She fixates on Andy as the goat and glorious key to the room she wants to inhabit, will she get the boost she needs?

A growing hoard of sycophants infest the fortress until one by one they fall to pieces. Jack (Greg Ryan) lewdly employs shock value until no one cares. Vivid (Kathy Landry) reinvents herself, fleeing her midlife routine, neglecting her most important connections for the artifice of an art scene. Suede (Paul Pfannensteil), Candy (Amie Lynn Losi), and Nova (Liz Witford) aimlessly add to the body count of exhibitionist megalomaniacs lingering at the feet of Andy. Fed up, Andy looks through the gudders for new treasures to fancy, finding Jean-Michel (Lamont Smith) a perfectly suitable scratching post.

Gifted and Talented

King of Pop steadily clips through scenes, a touch from Kopec that physically translates the short attention spans contained in the collective conscious of artists. The production benefits from even acting up and down the cast. Anderson and Sapiro deliver spot-on performances that mimic the manner and motive of two legendary figures, that provide a solid axis for the show to revolve. 

Nettersheim uses her enigmatic and fragile presence to portray a relativley gripping character without a lot of stage time to do it in. DeWolff and Weindorf also play well, leaving a distinct impression on the production from the fringe, through their ability to concoct personality and quirks of mannerism into the their performances.

A few zingers get sprinkled throughout to keep the audience honest during this enjoyable, although relatively deliberate 2 Act. Moments of staged melodrama distract from the story, however they stay in check enough as not to distract from the overall quality of the show. Kopec weaves a multimedia aspect into the production, a flavor that is always welcome in live theater.

King of Pop opened last Thursday at the Alchemist Theatre and has runs May 7, 8 and 9, 14, 15 and closing May 16, all show times are 7:30p.


Jetting, Jazz Estate, Unrehearsed MKE #26

Setting the mark for improvised jazz in Milwaukee, Unrehearsed MKE paced its two year anniversary with a follow-up show in March. Unrehearsed MKE came equipped its usual stable of thorough bred musicians, fit for carrying music jockeys around the gormandizing track, a mile and a quarter.

Unrehearsed’s departure from the traditional recital performance doesn’t reveal itself until host Barry Clark shares the recipe, its all improvised. The musicians are live tracks that Clark taps, steps back, and listens to the joy that composition gave.

Unrehearsed #26 featured selections of go-to instrumentation of Jay Mollerskov with Nicholas Elert, and Cody Steinmann all on guitar. Jess Lemont (percussion), Michael Lang (percussion), and Nick Weckman (trombone) went in together.

An odd pairing, vibraphone and gongs performed by Timothy Dries and Michael Bettine, ushered a savory flavor profile coating the audience with satiating interplay.

Unrehearsed #26, Jazz Estate

Unrehearsed #26, Jazz Estate part 2

Unrehearsed MKE residency at Jazz Estate will pick up its monthly place sometime in future, as in May 3rd at 7:30p.


The Big Disk, Record Store Day

You may have heard that it’s Record Store Day tomorrow, WMSE has been pumping it so I’m all for it. You may have also heard that vinyl is pretty cliche now, even though hip-hoppers have been going to the crates for decades. Since you are back in your place recognizing who-did-what-when-first, I can go on, it’s ok if hipster was the new hip-hop.

Getting back to vinyl LPs, 7″ and 45s, the main reason you should check out RSD is that theses gals and guys keep these dusty plastic relics around so classic, rare and new music live for decades. Although Record Store Day exists more to honor those diehard proprietors that value those that value the experience of bricks and mortar music shopping, the day will also provide great opportunity to kindle an appreciation for Milwaukee’s vinyl record stores. I can’t buy all the LPs in Milwaukee so I’ll my favorite crate digging spots.

 The Well-Knowns 
Bullseye Records – Eastside, Irving and Farwell

Sitting just-off one of the hippest corners of the City, Bullseye Records has new and used picks suited for finicky Rock fans of all gradients. It also has a decent stack of soundtracks and an underrated jazz section of all eras. They get a little pricey, they also know a LP fiend when they see one. You can listen to used records first, a move that is always appreciated. 

 

Rushmor Records – Bay View, Kinnickinnick and Potter Ave
Ask yourself if you are deep [add rock genre left of prog]. If you have an answer, head directly to Rushmor Records. They have a storied history of producing and supporting hand-picked local bands, so yeah, no posing allowed. 

The Exclusive Company – Eastside, Farwell and Brady, Southridge, Steinmart Plaza, 5026 S. 74th
To Milwaukeeans ancient and younger Exclusive has always been the place to go for new music. Post Napster and iPod launches, none of the big boy record stores survived, not even Sam Goody. The Exclusive Company, a Wisconsin staple, is the kind of place you can go in need of a guitar pick, even in Oshkosh and someone will magically have one behind the counter. Vinyl has become a bigger part of the mix on recent years and they’ve done well sorting and categorizing their bins. The South store gets noteriety for a ripping metal and 7″ punk section. They keep the local kids stocked too. You can get that adoptahighway release a fault off the shelf there. Today on the Mother’s Day of record stores, Exclusive will have live music at the Eastside location and will be giving stuff away with Dave Grohl on it (he’s RSD’s official Ambassador).

 

Lesser Known 

Off the Beaten Path – Eastside, 1938 N Farwell
It was way dustier and more disorderly before the original owner died, the quality is still there. Off The Beaten Path has kept up the tradition, and is a real oasis for the LP enthusiast. Its got a lower half level that sends you 30 feet to the back of the store where its easy to lose track of time. Off The Beaten Path offers a balanced set of genres and wrapped rare releases and reissues.
 
   

  

Musical Memories – Juneau Town, Kilbourn and Marshall

It’s a premier shop. When James Brown died I stopped in there and bought 5 classic James Brown albums in pristine condition, and there about 16 more. The Big Payback still hits my table regularly. Musical Memories has one of the most carefully curated selections I’ve seen in the City and all the records are in excellent condition.
 
 

 

Record Head – West Allis, 70th and Green Field
Radio Shack wishes it could be Record Head. This shop has a nice selection of used instruments and audio gear. They carry vast selection of used and new mainstream media like movies, cds and games. The vinyl here stays secluded to mostly 70s and 80s funk, classic, psychedelic and 80’s rock and jazz, good digging overall. They have some good dollar bins as well. 

Unsung 

 

Bay View Books and Music – Bay View, 2653 N Kinnickinnick
Those tried and true Eastsiders should remember this shop from that skeezy little retail outlet that used to be on Prospect Ave. Bay View Book and Music has a the best dollar bins around. The main selection has several dozen choice classic rock, metal and soul plays. 

  

 

 

Love Unlimited – Bay View, 2649 N Kinnickinnick
When you see that hunk of plastic mannequin donning mega retro vintage clothing you think resale shop. Love Unlimited despite its rep a clothing store has well groomed cabinets of vinyl LP with local oddities like Eric Blowtorch somehow embedded in there. A listening station sits in the back giving some piece of mind if you see album with the rocking album cover you’d rather not take a chance on. 
Honorable Mention 

They’re a couple other super top secret spots I’m not going to mention because well, you got to keep some things sacred. My quick honorable mention spots are the South and especially the Northside Half Priced Books. The old Downtown Books was probably on of the best all around experiences Milwaukee before it splintered, they had vinyl… mostly folk and palor music, which store has the selection now? That’s your scavenger hunt of the day… Go!!! Lastly, although I haven’t been yet, Glass and Groves on 3rd and Wells Street downtown can probably get you going too.


Jazz will never die, Kneebody, Jazz Estate

Shane Endsley’s horn pitter-pattered like hand-placed rain drops on a hot tin roof, pinging tones varying with the contours of the surface they hit; mo’ better. Ben Wendel bled raw emotion over the reed of his sax in response to the weather around him, seeking companionship from Kaveh Rastegar’s bass scales, sharing the moment. Mirages hid the tenacious movement of drumsticks parried by Nate Wood’s hands. Wood may be a mutant able to perceive rhythm and tempo more precisely than a digital controller. Keyboardist Adam Benjamin blankets it all with modulation and visionary arrangement taking the place of 7 guitars.

Pretty damn cool these Kneebody kids are. Reading the periodical titles in their review trophy case you might think these dudes were the clone army spin-off band of Dave Koz. Wall Street Journal, New York Times and L.A. Times all agree Kneebody makes beautiful music. Some consternation can be traced in attempts to find a suitable genre box to pack them. For whatever value it may have, to my ears they do much to contribute to the progression of acid jazz.

The Jazz Estate’s hit streak continues, justifying occasional pricey covers for taste shattering performances that recently included Sidewalk Chalk and the Greyhounds.

Kneebody, Jazz Estate

Kneebody, Jazz Estate p. 2