An e-zine for happenings of local culture in Milwaukee and elsewhere


Holiday Cheer, Next Act, The Twelve Dates of Christmas

Mary’s fiancé backed out of Thanksgiving plans claiming he ate ‘bad chicken’. Unexpectedly home alone, Mary watches the NYC Thanksgiving Day parade as planned. Her entire face a gasp, not only did her fiancé stand her up, but he got caught on national t.v. necking his highly manicured coworker… at the parade.

In a moment that probably got snickers during the show’s run, Mary insinuates that she’s now sure he ate some ‘bad chicken’. After getting publicly jilted, Mary (Susie Duecker) desperately tries to piece her life back together.

Oh Gee Thanks

Having a “typical middle American” social background, Mary’s support network finds increasingly proactive, however oblivious, ways to rally around her. Mary’s athletic and over achieving sister Sally (Susie Duecker) starts Mary on her regimen of unwanted help by getting her to blow off some steam on a punching bag.

Ironically, Mary’s anticipated rage barely registers on the training prop. This vignette gives a taste of how the “normal European-American” woman’s life course will be put on comical display, painted with absurdity, and depicted with exaggerated character sketches.

Mary finds herself jostled between her mom’s social expectations, her Aunt Kathy’s meddling, her personal respectability rules and codes (all 1,462 of them), and of course the sordid dealings of her courtiers. Her misfortune having begun on turkey day, gives ample time for social pressure to build up as each seasons’ holiday approaches, snowballing into her worst year ever.

As Mary recounts these follies in front of her Christmas tree, her mind’s resident keyboardist Jack Forbes Wilson and doo-wop duo Kelly Doherty and Marcee Doherty-Elst boost her dramatic stories with holiday flavored musical accompaniment.

Comedy, Commentary and Places Inbetween

David Cecsarini brings Ginna Hoben’s The Twelve Dates of Christmas to life on Next Act Theatre’s stage. Quip and witty, the one act challenges Deucker as Mary to cycle through about 20 individual character impersonations with thoroughly humorous and effervescent affect.

She travels fluidly to and from personas of her southern aunt, her midwestern mom, a harried New Yorker, a tragically hip barista, an Irish import bartender and a cute kid actor, and several others, immersing the audience in a year Mary’s life in run-on detail.

Kelly Doherty and Marcee Doherty-Elst, well-known for their acting prowess on independent theatre stages, can carry a tune quite harmonically and gave the audience tastes of their Doherty Sisters Cabaret throughout the act.

The Twelve Dates of Christmas closes with a matinee show today (if you hustle) Sunday, December 9 at 2:00p at Next Act Theatre, 255 S. Water St. Milwaukee, WI 53204 in the Third Ward.


Many Phazers, Cactus Club, Dramatic Lovers

Dramatic Lovers is the latest configuration of a band of buddies that have a couple decades of history together making music. They play a indie pop/alternative riff on shoegaze, driving deep into any emotional cavities it can find.

They put out a 7″ on Foriegn Leisure records titled Make Believe/Made it My Own in the spring of 2017, then chilled out for a bit.

Dramatic Lovers, pt 1, Cactus Club, MKE

Dramatic Lovers is back around this fall with new music to close out 2018. Cactus Club hosted this outfit in mid-October, nestled in with Luxi (currently on her Lost Letters tour) and Buhu (Austin) on a random Friday. They rocked this live version of Made it My Own pretty hard.

Dramatic Lovers, pt 2, Cactus Club, MKE

They featured a performance at the 88.9Radio Music Awards 2018 last night. If you missed it, add Dramatic Lovers’ next show to your weekend bucket list, which is tonight December 7 at Colectivo Back Room on Prospect at 6:30p (a rare all ages show at that)… or just go sternum deep and see them at the A/V Club showcase at SXSW 2019.

Rotten bite, Alchemist Theatre, Punk is Dead

Don (Liz Mistele) paces the greasy floor of her downtown flop room rambling on crassly, spilling the contents of her tortured soul dragged down with her lifelong impulse to seek attention through music. Maybe a moment of vulnerability let the hard veneer of an consummate disinterested and dispassionate artist crack and leak this type of sappy introspection.

The guitar being her main tool, her f-the-world attitude supplys the battery power for her punk artistry. She strains to stay inspired to find words for her voice, tinged with a soft southern drawl, to fend off the onslaught of train-jumping troads popping up more and more bringing youthful disregard and foreign technology into her scene of rarified Punk.

Stoli (Natasha Mortazavi) patiently listens to Don’s ranting and moaning through brief interruptions from various half-drank booze bottles strewn about and consultations with a heart-shaped box. Stoli’s conversation and thoughts come off stereotypically shallow at first impression, matching her curled and pinned up blond hair. Then randomly with the ease of a natural born poet songwriter lets her words console and coddle Don’s ego, appetite and libido, after all Don’s dingy apartment doubles as a love nest for the two of them. Or is it a tomb?

Wishing to come off as innocent as a daisy in a pastoral field, Stoli dolts about her past as a sweet southern girl, daughter of a slick wheeling businessman and a trophy wife. With a second glance something else lingers around her, a grim side seething with a thirst for blood.

Sacred Sanguine

Long known now for his mildly-salacious halloween tales drawing their settings from visions of dank NYC nights in summer of ‘77, Aaron Kopec delivers another cryptic and cleverly written story for the small stage in Punk Is Dead! It’s a wolf cry to our primal and perverted curiosity about New York counterculture of that era. His characters this time make an odd couple of an age weathered degenerate musician and a naive and primrose doll who decided to break her pedestal awaiting her sexual maturity by absconding with said degenerate musician.

On the surface, the story has some typical elements, kitsch punk rock novelties and costume design; some cliche punk stuffing like crappy guitars, pleather, harsh language and drugs. However, within the script Kopec again through his knack for allusion, irony and commentary gives this story needed volume by taking on contemporary issues such as male douchery, American fetishism over youth, same sex relationship stereotypes, and stilted and exploitative midcentury modern marriage arrangements and gender roles, and anything commonly thought to be normal.

This is not a show for people with Victorian sensibilities. Punk Is Dead!, an airy black hearted excursion into the lurid psyche of the American mind that gets a little campy, crude, and self-absorbed made strictly for the entertainment of avid independent theatre maniacs.

Michael Christopher as Chuck the not so punk sound guy from CBGB completes the cast of Punk Is Dead!

Production credits go to Brittany Broache (stage manager), Evan Crain (set design), Kara Penrose (Violence and Intimacy Choreography).

Punk Is Dead!’s run comes to a fitting end this weekend with shows remaining Friday, October 26 and 27th at 7:30 at the Alchemist Theatre in Bay View.

Theater RED, In Tandem Theatre, The Prison Where I Live

His unbridled vanity flowing through his wavy mane, Edwin Booth (Jared McDaris) paces his backstage dressing chamber running his lines for his next performance of Richard III, a routine piece in his repertory. His motivation, not quite as strong as his ambition we find out later, can’t drown out his reflections on his life clanging in the back of his mind. Booth’s tortured faculties lament his past, present and future, interrupting his rehearsal frequently and pitifully.

The woefully state of Booth’s id, ushered to peril by the ghosts of his infamous brother John Wilkes Booth (Corey Jefferson Hagen) and his first wife and muse Molly (Andrea Burkholder) further pestered by his misfortunate second wife Mary Vickers Booth (Marcee Daugherty-Elst), eventually gets jolted by an encounter with deranged eccentric Mark Gray… Esq.

Focused Conversation

Angela Iannone brings us The Prison Where I Live, another well thought out drama centered on internationally renowned actor Edwin Booth. Innone, a cardinal in the cult of Edwin Booth, delivers a extremely well-sourced two-act that runs like a live-action profile piece, chalked full of historically relevant contextual references and subtle wordplay found in all brilliant dialog. The Prison Where I Live follows Iannone’s 2015 debut original work Seeds of Banquo which depicted Booth at the pinnacle of his acting prowess. In The Prison Where I Live we see Booth at a lower moment in his trajectory.

Booth a Gilded Age a-list thespian that featured on the highest profile stages around the US and Great Britain, mostly delivering performances of Shakespeare’s canon, known when in his element for his unflappable if not stilted persona. Booth appears here as fragile and more weathered than what we knew of his public image, we find out his looks have good reason. Iannone’s work here squeezes tension out of this natural contrast incumbent to celebrities, brought to bear when confronted with the fanatical appearance of Mark Gray (Brandon Haut). Gray entwines Booth’s attention with his own uninvited interpolations of Booth’s character and ambitions, which culminates to a flash point between the two that usually happens when fame meets obsessed stranger.

Big Stage Quality in Quaint Spaces

As the infamous Wilkes Booth, Hagen gives an inspired and spirited portrayal of a buoyant and bulldozing grifter. Booth’s second wife comes to life through Daugherty-Elst’s notable ability to fill out otherwise weak and hard-to-like characters. McDaris has the difficult task of portraying Edwin Booth as a complex and vulnerable personality, convincing the audience of both. Haut’s play as Mark Gray steals the show as he exudes the cold cunning of an unshakable sociopath.

The Prison Where I Live continued Theater Red’s success producing high-quality independent theatre for Milwaukee’s small stages and closed The Prison Where I Live September 9 with a afternoon matinee at In Tandem Theatre.

Well-deserve production credits go to Leah Dueno (Costume Design), Alan Piotrowicz (Lighting and Sound Design), Christopher Elst (Scenic Design and Stage Management), and Eric Welch (Hair and Makeup Design).

Untitled Productions, Marcee Doherty Elst, I’ll Eat You Last

photo credit: Crystal Wagner

She eventually took over Zsa Zsa Gabor’s L.A. mansion, a descent ceiling for an Hollywood talent agent from upstate New York. She transplanted to the Bronx after a her dad’s suicide, which she now sees as cliche through her jaded and glassy veneer smudged from years of swimming in the movie biz’s soupy waters. Her proudest score was Barbra Streisand, who she met in her early expeditions into NYC’s hungry belly looking for fame.

In her silk caftan robe, Sue Mengers flippantly credits Halston with the axiom “if you don’t have something bad to say about someone, just sit next to me.” We find out dishing dirt on the major Hollywood players was not just her favorite past time, but an priceless skill in the post-golden film era.

She’s flamboyant, dramatic and damn near maniacally crude. In a snobbish, in-crowd kind of way, Mengers gabs bombastic references to a few dozen famous movies and the actors in her fold when she had the hot hand. Despite her mettle, we catch her when her luck ran out twice as quick as it took to make. She recants old glories, while awaiting a call from Streisand that may never come.

Theatre Red June 28-50

photo credit: Crystal Wagner

Sue talks a blue streak about getting Gene Hackman the lead in the French Connection over an A- to C-list of actors including Paul Newman, a washed up Jackie Gleason and Charles Bronson. Of how she got Faye Dunaway Chinatown. And how she got Streisand many successful projects, although Streisand was known to turn down gimmes like Cabaret for inexplicable movies like The Main Event (which by the way Sue likened to cross-dressing).

Doing it for the sake of the deal, when Sue finally got Streisand to take a movie she didn’t want, All Night Long, it bombed. A bad project turned into a scandalous Hollywood gossip feeding frenzy, now Richard Dreyfus won’t even come to Sue’s parties, announcing his absence by surprise telephone RSVP. It was the last of Sue as Streisand’s agent. Delightfully insufferable, by the time she’s done with us Sue makes it worth our while, bestowing us with her sacred five rules of being a successful agent that ironically betrayed her in the end.


Film/Theater Buff Crack

I’ll Eat You Last, written by John Logan and directed by Eric Welch, pays tribute to Sue Mengers’s personality and escapades with  shticks, healthy sprinkles of potty mouth, and snooty sarcasm packed into a juicy one-sided conversation. Thoroughly entertaining, Marcee Doherty-Elst delivers the monologue like a running faucet, dressed in aforementioned caftan, starch straight middle-parted blonde hair, oversized gaudy 70’s eyeglasses, and wicked horrifying makeup-job jabbing at Mengers’s heyday.

I’ll Eat You Last was co-produced by recently launched Untitled Productions and Theater RED and has one more curtain at the Kimpton Journeyman on Chicago Street in the Third Ward at 3:00p this afternoon. It’s hot, why not daydrink in fashion and in  a/c before you hit the rest of your summer fun.

The production crew that brought I’ll Eat You Last to stage deserve hi-fives, Antishadows (lighting design), Joe Picchetti (props design), Allison Kasprovich (stage manager).