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

Archive for October, 2013

Intricate Deluge, Alchemist Theatre, Closing Night

ClosingNight Alchemist

Even though they like jangle out of storage bins to dance in October, skeletons don’t smash carved stories for Halloween like the Alchemist Theatre. Per tradition, Artistic Director Aaron Kopec brings a bit of intrigue to the fall season with his choose-your-own-adventure mystery drama Closing Night.

A cerebral crime story, Closing Night challenges its cast to lead the audience out of their seats on a fluid and nerve turning journey through the depths of the Alchemist Theatre space, to learn the dark secrets of its murky past, and fates of the present day Alchemist ensemble that has succumb to the theater’s sanguine lineage.

Psychic Hotlines

Two cooky spirit mediums lead the audience’s haunted tour of the Alchemist’s history, hinting at clues along the way that reveal who, with what, and why the Alchemist’s present day company were murdered. The secrets lie within the twisted tale of the theater founders Montecore and Lillian’s charmed lives and deaths, and the artifacts of the current company’s contribution to the Alchemist’s canon.

In the story, the Alchemist’s director Trisha is a distant relative of Lillian’s, who’s productions have tremendous success reviving the theater’s magic through the type writer pecks of her writer Maggie, and the ensemble of type cast usual suspects: a guy everyone can agree on, Mitch, a vixen, Lucille, and a offbeat maintenance man, Don, and a newcomer, Sheila. In a flash, they are all dead, or are they?

Getting Closer

Once presented the nebulous prologue, the audience must shed their voyeuristic tendencies (that brought them to the theater in the first place) and use their wits, and unwits, to uncover the well hidden hints to the case of the deceased Alchemist cast. Cryptically written messages on walls, decoys and dead ends are plenty as you go from the theater, to the lounge, to the cellar, to the writer’s office, the workshop, the catacombs, and the film studio.

If you are clever you will activate one of the many sensory hotspots that detect motion, sound or touch, and take one step closer to putting the pieces of the plot together. Most of the clues are found interactively, by noticing a combination of tip-offs located in the wall art, note pads, and other furnishings that make up the multiple staging areas of the production. Although you are encouraged to touch props and set pieces, an astounding aspect of the show is that nearly every clue is hidden in plain sight.

All in Good Fun

Rather than try to scare a weird expression out of you, Closing Night presents a great Halloween themed date night for couples and friends. Its a great activity as talking is acceptable during most of the show, and it will either leave you feeling either very smart or feeling like you need to accept that free online trial of Luminosity. Light hors d’oeurves are served with the quip humor of Alchemist’s core performers including Anna Figlesthaler, Libby Amato and Sammy Ditloff and host of other notables.

Closing Night runs heathen weekends (starting on Thursday) at 7:30p from now until November 2 at the Alchemist Theatre.

Enter the Villa, The Quasimondo, The Bacchanalia


At the top of a ravine, two stair cases shoot down symmetrically into an expansive flower garden framed by an ornate wrought iron fence. From Lincoln Memorial Drive, glances at the distant beauty held in the Italianate terrace excite ideations that a real life Vito Corleone could have made their retreat there.

In all of its intrigue, it stands as a vintage monument, permanent show space for decorative arts, and for a brief moment the Villa Terrace offers itself as theatrical staging befitting a tribute to the gods. Quasimondo Milwaukee Physical Theatre begins its season by laying at the alter The Bacchanalia, a wonderfully presented dramatic montage in the tradition of Greek tragedy and cult.

Other Worldly

Showcasing major threads in the performance repertoire of Quasimondo, The Bacchanalia is anything but traditional. Its multiple dimensions incorporate human puppetry, masks, interpretive dance and a host of other exceptional dramatic special effects.

Whisking its audience away to antiquity, Artistic Directors Brian Rott and Jessi Miller compose The Bacchanalia, a three act masterpiece staged using three distinct spaces of the Villa Terrance.

Three Takes

On the terrace, Act One introduces us to the tradition of the Bacchanalia from perspectives held by mortals and gods. Seamlessly the audience is transferred deep into the mundane on-goings of mythological Greek life.

A league of pre-knowledge gentlemen figure and hash out the philosophical underpinnings of Western thought. Among them, a who’s who of pre-educated fools the likes of Socrates (Michael Davis), Aristotle (Josh Bryan), Plato (Kirk Thomsen) and even Diogenes (Michael Guthrie) bumble around until the gods intervene. Heroes in the making leave their doting maids, to find honor and adventure, encountering all manners of bane and beast.

The gods show their boredom, meddling in the lives of mortals. Naturally, Zeus (Davis) is central to the drama, as the grand scandal of his affair with Semele (Sarah Ginger Seefeldt) is portrayed so that we know how this “Bacchanalia” madness started. Hermes (Thomsen) complicit in this tawdry episode, absurdly assists Zeus avoid Hera’s (Brooke Maroldi) temper.

Act Two, performed in the court yard, prominently features Apollo (Ben Yela) and Artemis (Jenni Reinke) as they continuously enter the earthly fray, as they choose lovers and take turns instigating and intervening in lovers’ quarrels.

Act Three, staged in the terrace foyer, closes the show with a tremendous sense of abstract fluidity, as several vignettes bridge the past to the present, offering dramatic metaphors to make sense of the frailty, purpose and futility human existence.

For Your Eyes Only

A hedonistic fever engulfs The Bacchanalia production unwittingly infecting the audience with allusions of sexual deviance and a reasonable level contextual perversity (although their is nothing explicitly lewd or vulgar, this is absolutely and adult ages show).

The Bacchanalia is absolutely stellar and a must see. The musical composition accompanying the show performed by Bill Webb and backed up by Narazio Chickpeazio, and player Ben Yela provides the perfect shading to the production.

The ensemble is rounded out with multiple roles from Emily Craig, Jeff Kriesel, Sarah Ann Mellstrom, Andrew Parchman, Michael Weiss, Ashley Milewski, Jessi Miller and Brian Rott.

The final run of The Bacchanalia is tonight at 7:00p at the Villa Terrace. The show is set outdoors for two scenes, so dress accordingly. For tonight the perfect closing night, there shouldn’t be an issue.

Brian Rott, Artistic Director of Quasimondo, introduces “Bacchanalia Redux” at the Villa Terrace. from Andy Walsh on Vimeo.