Orsino (Stuart Mott) strides on the set, his bellowing maroon silken half tunic rippling at every incisive gesture he makes, urging his tender aged servant attendant Cesario to his presence.
Espousing noble tenure, Orsino with much affection, whether smug, faintly sarcastic, or down right charmingly dorky, commands his boy to his slightest need. Cesario abides dutifully, though peevish, at times practically nervous. There lies some question of what dynamic really radiates between them.
A duet of local theater groups opened a masterfully delivered three act production of Twelfth Night over the weekend, a cheeky piece from Shakespeare’s repertoire of plays. Performed in the Thomas Moore High School outdoor commons, the production runs three more shows this weekend. A wonderful collaboration, H+D Productions and Storyteller Theater breathed the hot breath of artistic life into this show.
A Letter, A Love
On glen some miles away, Olivia (Bridgette Well) swirls in her well stationed life, surrounded by her handmaid Maria (Sasha Sigel), second relations Sir Toby Belch (Shanna Theiste), and a muse Feste (Tawnie Thompson). Olivia’s courtier Malvolio (Ethan Hall), a special breed of maniacal obsessive, deludes himself into believing in his conceit, as he caters all of Olivia’s favors.
Mercurial in his ways, Orsino surmises with certainty Olivia should be the Lady of his court. As any Lord would do, Cesario is given chore to deliver his masters purpose to Olivia. Receiving this message, Olivia prods Cesario on its suggestive designs. Cesario’s loyalty to Orsino and other demurely difficult ways, charm her. Alas, he stands but a servant.
Sir Toby Belch keeps some ragtag company to toy around, notwithstanding his fellow Sir Andrew Aguecheek (Eric Scherrer). Sir Andrews’ counterpart Feste (Tawnie Thompson) sides up to Maria whenever she can. The two of them become intertwined in their domineering friends’ machinations, entangling Sebastian (Glenn Widdicombe) and crossing paths with swashbuckling Antonio (Rachel Zembrowski).
Maria tries to humiliate one of the court, and Sir Toby Belch and Maria instigate fights between the whole lot. Meanwhile, Orsino becomes impatient with Olivia’s hesitation and approaches her in person with Cesario in tow. Olivia, having been enchanted on an earlier occasion by a gentleman thought to be Cesario, is visibly smitten.
Though Cesario pledges his allegiance to his master Orsino, the matter of Olivia’s feelings leave the situation unresolved. Viola (Hayley Cotton), a familiar acquaintance to Orsino, enters suddenly after attempting to flee her past. In the end, the audience is left to discern just desserts.
Beating the Beaten Plath
Taking a traditional swipe, H+D Productions and Storyteller Theater staged Twelfth Night in its given period. Although a choice that has fallen out of favor over the years, thankfully this directing duo failed to heed theater’s current aversion to traditional Shakespeare.
Director Jared McDaris staged each scene with purpose, allowing the actors to thrive. Each of the players represent each role with an impressive performative center; each character roaming their eyes and accentuating precise and choreographed gestures to convey their meaning.
Producers Hayley Cotton and Danielle Levings have plenty to be proud of in this show. The three act runs just over two hours with hardly a wasted movement. Their staging of Twelfth Night actually leaves you satisfied but willing to stuff yourself on pure drama. It’s minimal, allowing this exceptionally balanced cast to work their characters, and a brilliant overall production from two promising theater artists.
Twelfth Night performances will happen again Friday August 1 and August 2 at 6p and Sunday August 3 at 2p at Thomas Moore High School 2601 E Morgan Ave, Milwaukee. $10 admission. (Though obscurely sited, Its a modest and worthy courtesy).
Professor Whately (Kathryn Cesarz) notices a few people ambling down the long hallway leading to the humble Quasimondo Physical Theatre studio space. She points the way cordially before meeting the rest of the group touring Miskatonic University. Like most college kids we were a little eager, possible a bit anxious, going so deep into the annals of such a austere and cavernous building for the first time. Before the first scene, the strokes of genius laid in this production by Artistic Director Brian Rott and assistant Simon Eichinger begin. Even the audience must get in character.
New Research Wing
As if portions of the lecture hall are being a revamped, the first scene can be viewed through a torn tarp. A single window hung in one of the set’s partitions provides another vantage point to the opening faculty meeting. Dim white light glows through a mist that has overtaken the Dean’s office. The professors prone on the floor, writhe as if possessed, jerking as if stricken by tetanus. What has overcome them?
Meet the Professors
Unaware of the ordeals, the student body meets their new instructors as the faculty file in revealing each others’ finer points through charade. Dean Thurston (Jeremy Eineichner) introduces Dr. Judith Wilmarth (Jenni Reinke) professor of English, her knowledge and ambition for literary mastery unmatched.
Herbert West, Prof. of Medicine and Anatomy (Kirk Thomsen) and his Graduate Assistant, Danforth (Alex Roy), make a formidable team capable of conquering mortality. Her eyes contemplating the wonders of the universe, Prof Whately’s gaze never leaves heaven’s stars, diligent in her research of Astronomy, she may have interdisciplinary interests. Physicist Randolh Carter (The Skrauss), practical and calculating, keeps the faculty grounded in reality.
Prof. Webb (Thom Cauley) doctorate of Anthropology, persistently searches for intellectual understanding of human cultures, desperately has intertwined with Amelia Dyer (Jessi Miller), Emeritus in Geology, who constantly pursues her life’s work through harrowing experience. Wound in the aesthetics of existence Professor of Art History Victoria Wilcox (Emily Craig), wields the power to interpret life through symbols.
The students who actually made it freshman orientation will get a fleeting chance to peer into each of these learned individuals’ life work and personal struggles, as they come to terms with their tenure being interrupted by Dean Thurston’s crowing discovery of the ancient text Necronomicon, and its translation by expert Semitic linguist Prof. Angell (Michael Guthrie). Eventually, each of the Professors’ personal complexes, personified by a celestial alien monster, will consume every one involved.
Love & Cthulhu is the most ambitious and inventive production Milwaukee has seen in recent years, quite possibly ever. Only one other comes to mind as even coming close. Directed into their strengths, everyone in the ensemble performed exceedingly well and with immense presence. Semi-lead roles by Thom Cauley, Kirk Thomsen and Jessi Miller stood out further, their roles accentuated by tenacious method and character.
Staged as a series of vignettes, Love & Cthulhu shows that the imagination of a few handfuls of dedicated individuals knows no bounds. They boil illusion, set design, props, movement, lighting, sound, pantomime, dance, acrobatics, live classical music, and miniature and large format puppetry into a cauldron that leaves the audience stirred, challenged, and awestruck; their imaginations’ still twisting at the curtain.
If Cthulhu rings a bell you are in rare air. That’s right Rott and his ensemble adapted Love & Cthulhu liberally from H.P. Lovecraft’s body of work that bridges the gap from Mary Shelly to Orson Welles.
Quasimondo’s production runs long and packs every scene with so many goodies this review would become an exposition. It’s run time is worth every moment of drama.
Love & Cthulu has gaping mouthed undiscovered tribes, expeditions “on belay” in distant lands, seething monsters, aliens, chanting cults, academic socialites that invite illusionist Nyeriathotep (Eichinger) to entertain them, geek romance over petri dishes and telescopic photographs, scientific experiments with Serum 3.2.1, and ballads of desperation.
The Quasimondo’s tech work deserves extremely high regard. Puppeteers Dawn Swarty, Bridget Cookson, and Mike Petit, led by Andrew Parchman, animated inanimate objects such that Dr. Moreau would fly into a jealous rage.
Stage Design held the hallmarks of Quasimondo’s inventiveness, sparse and utilitarian partitions the main feature, constructed by Paul Bentz, Andy Walsh, and Rott and illustrated by Nerissa Eichinger and Andy Walsh. Costume hit the spot designed by Fabrizio Cappeli Salon, Carolyn Christianson and Rott.
Quasimondo’s company boasts a team fluid in multiple artistic disciplines, many of the cast double musical composers. Jennie Reinke, Steve Wolf, Kathryn Cesarz, and Simon Eichinger scored the show. Choreography and Dance directed by Eichinger, Reinke, Miller, Rott, and Couley.
You hardly are ever missing out on a show, but if you miss Love & Cthulhu you definitely are and you’ll miss the most epic scene change in the history of theater. Tonight’s the night, Love & Cthulu closing performance March 1 at 8pm at The Fortress. Arrive early, as your entry to the house is guided.
As the dialog in the theatrical duet The Chairs goes on, you begin to notice the Old Woman (Kelly Doherty) and the Old Man (Tim Linn<) nonchalantly bringing chairs from places all over the stage into the scene. Somehow 52 chairs have made it on stage by the closing scene. Who was this guy Eugene Ionesco and what was he up to?
At Leda Hoffman’s direction Doherty and Linn, guide us along the final bend of that sleepy road that married couples travel in their golden years. The Old Woman and Old Man sit in their chairs, frail, all movements an ordeal. The Old Woman gushes over her husband, of how talented he is and how many people he knows. None of that seems to matter any more, those days were decades ago. The Old Man laments his chosen fate to sequester himself from the world to tend to their humble existence.
A Captain on a Sinking Ship
The Old Woman endearingly butters up the Old Man to tell her a story she’s heard a million times, of how the Old Man revealed his treasured life work to the most important people of the world.
They routinely pantomime the guests’ arrival, as a couple might play a cribbage game together, cordially greeting and conversing with their imaginary socialites. Some guests the Old Man knows. He speaks with regret to his true love Belle, as the Old Woman flirtatiously entertains the Colonel. Soon after they witness a tawdry affair between Belle and Colonel.
More guests arrive. As the Old Man answers the door, the Old Woman fetches chairs and struggles to find places for them. At one point she’s distracted by salacious banter with a photographer who lures her into her own vanity while the Old Man is distracted across the room. Finally, the Emperor arrives.
In a Pyrrhic victory over their futile lives the Old Man and Old Woman commit suicide in a dramatically metaphorical way, meeting the sea that they greet when the play opens, as they climb out of their humble abode’s windows before the plenary they’ve prepared even begins. The Orator enters dressed to the intellectual nines to deliver the Old Man’s message.
The Orator gathers himself and forcefully speaks a mumble, he cannot hear himself. He tries again. A strained sound exits his mouth, his tongue can’t find its way around his pallet, his is mute. He takes to the chalk board and rakes lines emphatically, inscribing what should be letters but are only line that happen to touch one another. He is illiterate.
Wringing Every Drop
Ionesco mastered “theater of the absurd”, and Leda Hoffman does well to see his vision through. Doherty and Linn share compelling stage presence convincingly portraying that intertwined distantness that elderly spouses sometimes have. The familiar routines, the prediction of the others’ mannerisms appear naturally through their portrayals.
Hoffman successfully makes space for the audience to interpret the piece. In her rendition. the growing distance between the Old Woman and Old Man leaves one to wonder do the chairs represent all those memories and lost interactions of the past each has held on to, drawing them further and further to isolation though their mutual company that never ends.
The Chairs closed The Alchemist’s 2013 – 2014 season February 22. Credit Antishadows for Lighting Design, Andrea Bouck for Costume Design, Stage Manager Jared McDaris, Dramaturg Emily Penick, Set and Sound Design Aaron Koepec.
Creative conspirators Sarai Yardbird Anzaldua, Josh Bryan and Jackie Benka hit their point on their first roll of Cream City’s newest live performance channel Cabaret Milwaukee.
Nestled in the catacombs of the The Brewery’s local watering hole Best Place, eager ladies and gentleman seated snugly around wood furnishings filled the rathskeller for an evening of Valentine’s night entertainment. They received large and savory helpings of melodrama and sideshow talent interludes set to a prohibition era radio show theme.
A Night Under the Cups
Radio host Richard Howling (Adam White), conducted the nights performances backed by the house jazz band stationing Anthony Deutsch on piano, Devin Drobka at drums, Clay Schaub on upright bass and Scott Hlavenka on guitar.
Between scenes that brought the mean streets of gangland Chicago pub side in episode one of The Jealous Revolver, Richard Howling played maestro to zinging one line comedic punches from Mrs. Milli (Laura Holterman) and show tunes belted by jazz siren Sadie Starlight (Jen Cintron).
The Howling Radio Hour talent interludes also featured Jason Hillman stirring the mood with a long form stand up routine, tapping toes of dancer Danielle Weber, and advertisements from the angelically persuasive voices of the Jingle Crew Steve Breese, Sarah Mellstrom, and Katrina Cengeri.
A visually enticing approach, the Creative Director Sarai Yardbird Anzaldua’s vision comes to life with scenes staged throughout the cabaret, and at times right next to audience members. In other spots, dual framed scenes allow players to discuss the goings while others are in action.
The technical acumen of co-producer Josh Bryan highlights it all, especially with resourceful lighting design. Jackie Benka’s knack for dialog flavors the entire production with requisite dramatic pace to keep the audience engaged at all times.
Acts of Noir
In episode one of The Jealous Revolver we meet a host of underworld characters. Nightclub owner Vick Marconi (Michael Keiley) has a couple of young workers, starlet Vivica (Michelle White) and Joey Yardbird (Ryan Nelson). The regulars Anna (Anna Ceragioli), Stella (Anzaldua), and Tommy (Bryan) keep the club rumor mill turning, as run ins with the local mob affiliates Jean (Jennifer Grundy), Tony (Brian Miracle), and Marco (Greg Ryan) heat up.
The action reaches a fever pitch when soon after Jean’s unfortunate alcohol induced demise, Marconi is called to a sit down with Marco. Marconi has eyes for Vivica all along, and pushes the issue insisting that she come to the sit down as a customary female acquaintance. Under Marconi’s thumb Joey rides along as the mission’s driver.
At Vivica’s pick up point there is no trace of her, she and Joey have plotted an escape from Marconi’s grip. When Marconi arrives at Vivica’s place instead of Joey, she realized something has gone awry. Marconi weaves through Viviva’s smokescreens, finally with sinister resoluteness applying heavy pressure revealing the Joey’s zip-cock misfired. In treachery Joey ran off before Marconi could catch him. In the nick of time Joey arrives at Vivica’s to intervene Marconi’s wrath, revealing his secret romance with Vivica. Now they’re both on the lamb… until the next episode of The Jealous Revolver.
A lot of familiar faces from many other artistic efforts in Milwaukee appeared in Cabaret Milwaukee, an truly amazing prospect to see the nucleus of the art’s scene readily forming new bonds. Cabaret Milwaukee’s next stew is sure to be a crowd pleaser in its period homage, overacted glory.
Just like sitting in forth grade homeroom again, a PA crackled the sound of a matronly voice informing us of what had come to her attention concerning recess play ground antics. Ut oh! No more “Smeer the Queer” or “Beat the Geek”, we have to play nice. Luckily for all of the troublemakers in the crowd, the ladies of Broadminded Comedy were willing to some of the dirty work for us.
Jerks!, Broadminded’s latest episode of improvisational and sketch comedy, hit the Grand Avenue Arcade over the Thanksgiving Holiday in the Underground Collective performance space. The relaxed fitting and functional black box stage gave Anne Graff DeLisa, Stacy Babl, Megan McGee, and Melissa Kingston plenty of room to knock eagerly awaiting funny bones.
Fun with Poking
Like a magical unicorn beast, sketch and improv comedy moves elusively between slapstick, sarcasm and irony. If you find that mystical place in your mind to play along, Broadminded will make that unicorn appear before your computer glazed eyes. They’ve pulled off a series of individual shows, and participated in many comedy fests over recent years, succeeding in snatching laughs out of their audiences’ bellies since 2006. Their latest show Jerks! supplied no exceptions.
A two act pony, Jerks! boasted 21 scenes in all, tapping the opposite shoulder of many everyday situations and ubiquitous current news topics involving a caricature of someone behaving on the spectrum of “jerkism”. The Broads kicked off with The Apology, a skit where DeLisa explained reluctantly to her roommate, played by Kingston, how she mistakenly shredded Kingston’s favorite college hoodie in the wash. McGee, the third roommate, sat at a computer absorbing the drama airing out.
DeLisa breaks the news indirectly, and Kingston shrugs it off, as if assured of her sweatshirt’s whereabouts. Feeling guilty DeLisa, adds emphasis to the reality of her apology and produces a green absurdly tattered cloth, at the sight of which Kingston looses it as if her best friend moved away. McGee smarmily gives a clinical blow by blow of Kingston’s reactions, illustrating to DeLisa that everything will be okay. After all, her tantrum subsiding, predictably Kingston will think of what could have intervened to save her sweater, before she falls into a heaping emotional funk. On cue, Kingston overacts each stage of the Kubler-Ross model.
Finally, Kingston gets over it and turns to DeLisa to instigate conversation with McGee as she studiously finishes her homework. McGee gets testy, and Kingston snidely remarks that McGee must be lacking Maslow’s first basic need, food. Lesson learned: stop being the “#$@&” that analyzes your friends problems just because you took some stupid college intro course. Let rinse and repeat, a few highlights from Jerks!
Pot shooting the wine drinking crowd in the Rich Bitches skit, Babl and McGee prop themselves up haughtily at a table for two. They comment hideously on the traits of the wine they are sipping, its obvious shortcomings, and why it should have been decanted. DeLisa, the server, drops a bombshell into their gaping mouths that they’re having diet cola.
Just Brand Me
Three moms, push their kids in imaginary swings. In What’s in a Name, McGee and Babl marvel that DeLisa renamed her kid, taking up a well known candy corporation on an offer of a large undisclosed sum of money to purchase the naming rights of her daughter. DeLisa admits that the name was very special to her and her husband, a memento to lasting memories of the travels of their young romance. Reconciling her decision, DeLisa explains they’ll rename their kid, and she’ll keep all of her local appeal and won’t sacrifice any of her intelligence. Now everyone in the world will know her name! Get it? Milwaukee now gets its favorite brewed beverages off of a metaphorical bus.
Meet me in the Bathroom
Act two brought everyone back to attention with a little audience participation. What’s improv without a little potty humor, that’s what Vajayprov guaranteed. Broadminded company members extolled audience members to blurt out an item they would find in a kitchen. Some answers bounced back, “knife”, “glass”. Kingston, impeccably timed as always, wizzed back, “Ok, great,… butt plug.” The sketch commenced barging through frenetic quips and wits, and much like DeLisa’s mime, the mental imaginary window opened and some of the audience climbed out. Others stuck around for a kick in the pants.
Wry vs. Spy
Although they all were great, Broadminded’s NSA Nancy sketch was genius. Mom locks herself out of the house, no problem, NSA Nancy shows up friendly as the mailman, and has the key to let her in. Mom doesn’t know that her son is trying to hook up with the friendly neighbor girl, no problem, NSA Nancy shows up just in time with a condom. What’s that? The neighbor doesn’t have garlic for the pasta sauce, no problem, NSA Nancy heard about the dinner party two weeks ago and let herself in to give the neighbor the clove she needed for taste. They all reply, Thanks NSA Nancy. Thanks Broadminded, that was beyond classic.
A Common Thread
You’re at the mall, you’re on vacation, you’re in a confessional, and suddenly the song “Brown Eyed Girl” starts playing and two girls jump out of no where and start screaming that they have brown eyes, and giggle hysterically and jump around singing along. They hitch hike a ride on a tractor trailer, and what on the AM dial? “Brown Eyed Girl”. The trucker dishes that he loves Van Morrison, the naturally reply from the “Brown Eyed” girls, “Huh”?
Worth Your While
They’re funny, smart, and all that good stuff, and worth a evening out with someone you like to share lighthearted and witty laugh. Broadminded Comedy’s next show is scheduled for next April, 2014, so you have plenty of time to build up false expectations and get on their mailing list.