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

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.

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