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Posts tagged “theatre

The Rote and the Writer, Alchemist Theatre, True West

Austin (Jason Will) has stolen away to the desert to have a stand-off with his typewriter, struggling to coax his next screenplay on to the blank leafs rolling through its paper carriage. He’s somewhere deep in the Southwest, house-sitting while his mother is on vacation. Even if his writing becomes more of a plow, he at least relishes the quiet.

Austin sits, sips coffee, and concentrates. Kimmer (Mitch Weindorf), a small-time Hollywood producer, will visit him soon to tour Austin’s story before it’s translated to film. Unexpectedly, Austin’s estranged brother Lee (David Sapiro) appears at the door like a dust storm, with barely a knock. Just how straight laced is Austin?

Lee holds himself up as the cracked mirror so we can better perceive the distorted angles and dark crevices of Austin’s family life. As Lee makes himself at home, rustling through his mothers drawers and cabinets, helping himself to Austin’s cheap brew while emitting a constant chatter, unconcerned with Austin’s concentration. You soon wonder if it’s actually Lee that is surprised to see Austin.

Like Rolling Stone

Lee, covered in a physical grime and unkempt, has the charm of a successful rug salesman. Lee launches into Austin, extracting his pity with persistent narrative of his troubles and guilt-trudging laments about Austin’s disregard for their alcoholic father. Wearing thin, and against his better judgment, Austin soon relents to Lee’s presumptuous ask to borrow his car. Austin just wants to be rid of his brother for a few hours and hopefully long enough to do business with Kimmer before Lee returns. Austin had offered Lee money, which Lee venomously refused. It slowly becomes clear what Lee really wants. In my head I begin to hear Bob Dylan sing, “… Once upon a time you dressed so fine, You threw the bums a dime in your prime, didn’t you ?…”

The Cat, The Yarn

Director Nicole Eggers takes few chances in developing her adaptation of Sam Shepard’s True West, beside empowering highly capable players Jason Will and David Sapiro to inhabit the verbose roles required to bring True West to life. Will convincingly portrays a tightly wound, Ivy League college grad, that predictably lacks an edge, coming unhinged relatively easily when enough pressure is applied. Sapiro, appeared challenged initially with playing Lee, however immersed himself deeper into character as the play worn on, exuding cringe-worthy qualities needed to give Lee the proper dimension. I found Sapiro’s performance particularly intriguing for this reason, as first impressions are nearly impossible to reverse, especially on stage.

Subtle metaphors worked there way into the production, through Eggers vision for the play. In one standout scene, Lee has conveniently returned to Austin in the middle of Austin’s meeting with Kimmer. Lee is carrying a t.v. and places it on the kitchen counter facing the audience. From that point forward, Lee and Austin are mostly opposite each other with the t.v. visually separating them.

During these scenes, Lee harps on his hard-living and surviving hand-to-mouth in the desert, while Austin meekly squirms for the safety of his measured intellect. The presence of the t.v. challenges the audience to determine who belongs on what side of the tube. Eventually, through his charisma and cunning, Lee is able to wiggle into the professional relationship Austin has established with Kimmer. As the action falls, Austin and Lee’s orientation to the television prop at key moments flip, then eventually become interchangeable.

And Dylan sings,

…You’ve gone to the finest school all right, Miss Lonely But you know you only used to get juiced in it

And nobody has ever taught you how to live on the street And now you find out you’re gonna have to get used to it

You said you’d never compromise With the mystery tramp, but know you realize He’s not selling any alibis

As you stare into the vacuum of his eyes

And say do you want to make a deal?…

True West disguises itself as drama filled with didactic episodes, but really a melodramatic psychological thriller (okay Im being melodramatic) might describe the play better. It hits you when Lee and Austin’s Mom (Deborah Clifton) arrives home early. Her ironic and underwhelming reaction to the aftermath of Lee and Austin’s prolonged interaction adds to the bizarre ordeal. A rare production that builds momentum, Eggers’ rendition of True West gathers your attention with each passing scene, rolling out humor, irony, conflict and degeneracy contained in Shepard’s story all the way to the curtain.

True West opened January 16th, and has weekend runs at the Alchemist Theatre through January 31, 2015 with all-show times starting at 7:30p.


Grotesque Couture, Quasimondo Physical Theatre, Buboes

Buboes Quasi

An old worn monsieur hobbles forward, eccentric and slightly obsessive, gathering refuse of interest along his way. The lines in his face trace a life of difficulty, all the same to him.

Fitting of late medieval times, a woman nurses a babe coarsely, holding it by the neck to her bosom. She meets an unseen demise, her babe still clutching. A miscreant duo collects the fallen maiden leaving the babe behind, yet another castaway. Prodding along, the long-suffering worn monsieur comes upon the orphaned babe and gathers it up, to his surprise it suckles him. He carries it off, like the rest of his belongings cluttered but well-kept.

Folly’s Upheaval

It’s dark, and the proverbial queen’s stark white face defies this fact amidst Buboe’s setting. Her face cuddled by black contrast, glowers over the stage. She has ruby red glossed and penciled lips set to pucker, her face set stone. The queen’s courtier and hunchback servant amble to their own beat, wavering, at once beheld to the queen and their own impulsiveness. The French countryside’s ‘bouffons’ scuttle around her feet, trying harder and harder to lose any purpose they might have. The queen clearly feels her grip of control slipping.

A Mystic appears keeping company with the provincial Cardinal. The Mystic walks with death following in his foots steps, the Cardinal’s comforting and pristine presence precedes false hope, two sides of the same coin. Stricken with a mysterious affliction, some locals froth visibly at the mouth, others are dying, carted off by the barrel full. Who’s dying from what is hard to tell.

Return of the Product

Shrouded in room for interpretation, a valiant rebel comes forth from a mysterious origins. The pestilence is running rampant, the stunning rebel aided by well-intentioned towns people roots out an unexpected villainy, only to be thwarted by the town miscreants who are now virtually seething ghouls. At least, that’s what I saw.

An Elegant Calamity

True to form, director Brian Rott summons unparallelled imaginative energy to give theater goers a show requiring some effort to wrap your head around. A period piece straddling medieval and renaissance France, Buboes stirs a deeply recessed portion of your consciousness.

Daring you to rely nearly exclusively on visual comprehension, Buboes elicits silent film era notions of gesture and movement, and in a more contemporary and immediate sense draws directly from the theatre tradition of Jacques Lecoq. Each of the players engage the Buboes subject matter as heavily with their eyes as they do with their bodies. Jenni Reinke in her role as the rebel, presents the epitome this technique, piercing the audience with her facial tonality, conveying a troubled detachment.

Body Work

In supporting roles Ben Yela and Posy Knight similarly fill their characters with a deliberate and studied portrayals of the ‘miscreant’ and the ‘provincial queen’, melding expression and movement creating intriguing physical compositions. Giving shape to one of the queen’s court, Jessi Miller toddles about as a nimble humpback, startling with her transformation from physical ineptness to spry agility.

You might think Kirk Thomsen has the rickets in real life, given his embodiment of limb discomfort. In concert with supporting roles from Andrew Parchman (Mystic), Emma Kate (Courtier), Kristopher Xavier (Miscreant), and Raven McCaw (Cardinal), these affects lets Buboes exact an ounce of intrigue from your flesh and lance that abscess blocking the natural flow of your imagination. On par, the Quasimondo team throws in dashes of prop illusions, action scenes, and puppets to complete the magic that surrounds their performances.

Buboes is technically sound with credit to Jessi Miller (Assistant Director), Jeff Achterberg (Technical Director), Posy Knight (Set and Scenic Design), Michael Pettit (Puppet Design), Ben Yela (Lighting Design), Raven McCaw and Sarah Seefeldt (Costume Design), and Kirk Thomsen and Kristoffer Xavier (Production and Stage Management).

Buboes’ remaining runs are Saturday December 6,8, 12,and 13 at 8p, with Sunday matinees December 7 and 14 at 2pm. Quasimondo Milwaukee Physical Theatre is housed by Milwaukee Public Theatre, which has turned a former big box retail space into a cove of dramatic creation in Studio G across from the TJ Maxx in Grand Avenue Mall.


No Doze, Suicide Sleep, Alchemist Theatre

He has that tortured look on his face. Rick (Joshua Devitt) sits up from his bed in the middle of night, intimately bothered. The rowdy neighbors give him plenty of reason to fix his face to glare at nothing in particular. The bass is pounding from a sound system next door, and he wonders how he got to this place. At least somebody is having a good time, but he doesn’t care.

In desperation, Rick reaches inside a raggedy moving box. Out comes his hand with a prescription bottle, from which he frantically dumps a mega capsule. A NyQuil chaser follows quickly, all he wants is some sleep and he finally gets it, but for how long?

A Dream Inferred

Interrupted by reminiscent premonitions, Rick’s sleep repeatedly has invaders. Here comes Jimmy (Tim Palecek), affable and doting he shows plenty of concern for Rick’s introspection. Despite his intentions, Jimmy is mostly another nuisance to peace and quiet. As soon as you think he has gone, he reappears with an imaginative take on an an absurd scenario perpetuated by the degenerate scene around Rick’s stank hole apartment.

Rick has a girlfriend. Jimmy pins most of Rick’s distress on her. Lynn (Liz Witford), an ambitious psychology student, wants the best for her and her boyfriend Rick. She wants him so bad all to herself. She does everything she can to help him, including syphoning off some perscription tabs to remedy his inability to sleep.

Rick returns repeatedly to his bottles of relief. His self-meds seem to work well to assist him stall on figuring out what to do with his life. Possibly too well? Rick’s periods of REM become less restfull and full of idiations of his father’s untimely death, his friend Jimmy’s inifinite dude-wisdom, or himself, or his free-flower paramour Sarah (Sammich Ditloff), a mysterious dreamgirl (Kelsey Witford), or an ill-fated moment involving his everything, Lynn.

Short-Form Theater

Suicide Sleeps’ Director Charles Sommers and writer/producer Aaron Kopec, tucked this mentally stimulating live drama into a 40-minute pocket that clipped along fluidly, without a beat wasted, leaving much of the apprenhension theatre goers have about long productions with lulliby scenes stranded in the back of your mind. In spite of the short run time, you still feel your admission is well spent.

A cast of faces familiar to Alchemist productions has a heavy hand in accomplishing this. Each player fills their role with relatable and interesting personal quirks and nuiances. Palecek is overly believable as the bar fly that everyone has known at one point in their life. Devitt, as Rick, is the middle-american kid torn between his family’s values and expectations and his want to chase waterfalls. Witford perfectly fills the body of the highly composed, put together and contriving all-american girl etched into Lynn’s character. Ditloff, playing Sarah, courts and wins believability’s hand in all her scenes as an uber hip girl from the depths of cool-dom.

Where many of Milwaukee’s theatre troops continue to encroach on the realm between stage and auidience, Suicide Sleep stays refreshingly distant from the audience, nearly replacing the ‘third wall’ with an 160 inch LCD screen. The show actually plays like an episode of a television series, a concept that has room to run.

Suicide Sleep is on the Alchemist channel as a double feature with shows starting at 7:20 and 9:00p on October 23, 24, 25, and 30th at the Alchemist Theatre in Bay View.


Theatre Season! Anodyne, Playback Milwaukee

So much talk about the changing seasons. Yes, it’s here. Theatre Season!

Playback Milwaukee Theatre Company looks like a promising outing as they prepare to take the stage tomorrow at Anodyne Roastery in Walker’s Point at 7p.

Founded by Milwaukee native James Murrel, playback theater is a form of improvisational theater that feeds on stories told by the audience as content for their performances. The company takes stories told by audience members and translates them into a script for impromptu vignettes, animating their accounts through movement and gesture, live and unrehearsed.

At the heart Playback Milwaukee’s methods, a space stays open for addressing difficult circumstances that participant from the audience or the troop may have. Certainly, lighter subjects also lay plot lines to follow.

The ensemble lead by James Murrel, accompanied by Yvette Murrel, Bernie Higgins, Erin Moore, Crystasany Turner, Zari Blackmon, Tia Richardson, and Robert Glover.

Playback Milwaukee Theatre Company performs Wednesday October 15, 2014 at 7pm, Anodyne Coffee in Walker’s Point and what Acts are in the playbill are up to you!

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Blood and Bodice, H+D Productions, Storyteller Theater, Twelfth Night

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.

High Five

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.

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photo courtesy of H+D Productions20140731-101204-36724219.jpgphoto courtesy of H+D Productions

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.

The Follies

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).

20140731-103012-37812251.jpg20140731-101204-36724531.jpgphoto courtesy of H+D Productions

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).