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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.

Breaking Stables, Quasimondo Physical Theatre, Animal Farm

QuasiAnimal Farm

Dusk had yet hit and I’m on the edge of some suburban, southwesterly boundary of Milwaukee County. The clouds hold harmonies of country fields, drawn off key a bit by encroaching gated communities. Historic Trimborn Farm in Greenfield was platted there, and gave plot for Quasimondo Physical Theatre’s physical and interpretive theater adaption of George Orwell’s classic socio-political commentary Animal Farm.

In the Dell

Kicking-off their second formal production season, with great ambition as always, Quasimondo devises several acts of scenes transforming puppets into the mammalian hides of domesticated animals. Mr. Jones (Ben Yela) farms these animals: a hand full of pigs with alphas Napoleon (Kirk Thomsen), Snowball (Jessi Miller), and Squealer (Jeff Kriesel); a charming Cow, Clover (Danielle Levings); a sturdy horse, Boxer (Michael Guthrie) and sumptuous phillie Mollie (Emma Kate).

Benjamin the donkey (Jordan Moran) gives the animal politic a no-nonsense layman conscious, bearing the burden of limited instincts held by a flock of sheep (Kristoffer Xavier), peep of chickens (Michael Petit), and a gaggle of geese (Kris Sukup), a pack of dogs captained by Bluebell (Julia Teeguarden), some birds and Moses the domesticated raven (Andrew Parchman) cawing mocking humor.

Animal Activity

The audience is invited into the social workings of Manor Farm‘s animal citizenry, a micro-civilization on the brink of revolt. Dissatisfied with their treatment under whip of their fiefdom ruler Mr. Jones, the animals plot to take over the farm and re-write the virtues of agrarian economics.

Urged by the philosophies and charisma of Animal Farm’s fallen fore-hog Old Major (voice of Brian Rott), the remaining inner circle of pigs record a manifesto of “Animalism” to guide their machinations to achieve freedom. A struggle for power ensues between Snowball and Napoleon. Who’s vision will carry Animal Farm to the future prosperity?

Plow Runner

As events on the newly liberated “Animal Farm” bring new order to the beasts, the natural trappings of power and privilege lead the farm into and self-inflicted oppressive abyss. Animals clash with farmers for animals sake; a sake quickly forgotten,as animals raise hooves to their own kind and assert their will. Eventually, the audience is left to decide whether the animals are better off under Mr. Jones’s lash.

The Quasi-way

Quasimondo’s fiendish hands always find a way to twist something really bizarre and visually interesting out of whatever they touch. The characters of Animal Farm are largely portrayed by hand-mended puppets, angular, almost Gothic, almost disfigured. They interact with the human farmers neighboring Animal Farm, initially with hostility as they ward of Jones, Pilkington, Wymper and Frederick. In the course of farm-making, some animals become “more equal that others” and endeavor more  amicable relations with humans.

Damn, Critical, Acclaim

Animal Farm is set literally in a barn house, befitting a production that includes choreographed puppeteering, and short individual interpretive movement scenes capturing the ethos and pathos of personified animals. In fact, much of the play’s action relies more on interpretive movement than dialog.

At times the choreographed scenes featuring movements of the entire farm stock appear slightly off-kilter and overshadow individual efforts of the ensemble members’ to magnetize the audience. In other places, well-blocked vignettes transition and summarize parts of the plot without explicit telling of what’s going-on .

Quasimondo first-timers Danielle Levings and Jordan Moran both standout in this right. Leving’s extraordinarily focused stage presence provides a consistently driven character in Clover as she tries with all good intentions to keep the moral fabric of Animal Farm from tearing.

Similarly, Moran‘s portrayal of Benjamin, while limited in part by the tertiary importance of his character in the story, takes every opportunity to make a subtle impressions of quality on the audience. Emma Kate as Mollie also has moments of individual brilliance, tussling with the choice of creature comforts bestowed on a show horse and freedom.

A live music ensemble of upright bass, guitar, banjo, drums, and other noise making props accompanies the drama dutifully, providing original score and timely sound cues composed and performed by Ben Yela, Wylie Hefti, Eston Bennet, and Eddie Chapman.

Taking Grains

Animal Farm is basically a heavy-handed story by an author with one of the heaviest-hands in literature, George Orwell. Quasimondo succeeds overall in taking a literary mainstay with a direct and clear agenda, and drawing-out artistic awnings to shade the audience from some of the glaring political overtones deliberately charging the story.

In some places, Rott grinds his own axes at the risk of nicking his blade on some audience members. This is theater though, rarely put on stage to sooth nerves. The play runs just short of three hours so there is a lot to see and digest. Some acts get a little jumbled when the direction exceeds the execution of the cast. Despite this, Quasimondo represents itself well once again.

Technical credits go to Posey Knight and Andy Walsh (Scenic Design), Edward Winslow (Lighting Design) and Andrew Parchman (Puppet Design).

Quasimondo’s adaption of Animal Farm has a few performances left this week beofre closing. You can see the play tonight Thursday July10, or July 11, 12, 13 all at 8pm on Trimborn Farm 8881 W. Grange in Greenfield (just West of Sourthridge Mall) and is worth a nice evening out in a pastoral corner of the county, catching your mood for a night of experimental theater.


Correction: George Orwell is the author of Animal Farm. Must be secretly craving some hardcore alien Sci-Fi.

Regal Breed, Alchemist Theatre, King Lear


King Lear (Bo Johnson) gnashes his last words in anguish clinging to his dearest treasure, lost within his own mind. Life’s seasons delivered him one too many harsh political maelstroms, one too few kindred summer swoons, his will worn away. The life of a King.

We see him tangled, a heap strewn across the overgrowth of English hollows at Dover, symbolized by the gnarled trellis set pieces’ sturdy appendages, jutting in all directions, like a cruel wooden barricade dividing sides in a great war. A motley band of Lear’s devoted few, in a reverent moment, watch him fade away, but how did he meet his fate?

Daughter’s of the Lust

Veterans in the Alchemist’s ensemble, Anna Figlesthaler (Regan) and Libby Amato (Goneril) fittingly stand in leading roles as King Lear’s daughters, weaving their wiles around the players, their father the King finding no refuge in his begotten brood.

We get hints of Regan and Goneril’s perilous machinations in the open sequence, as the Duke of Cornwall (Jason Will) receives Regan’s dowry, and the Duke of Albany (Ken Williams) Goneril’s. Beneath the cover of ample doting, required to receive their father’s favor in tandem with the venerable nature of their suitors, the daughters’ obedience claims virtue although something lurks amiss.

Regan and Goneril’s righteously indignant sister, Cordelia (Grace DeWolfe), intervenes in France’s (Mack Folkert) prize, refusing to heave into words her gratitude for her father. Chastised, yet unyielding in her countenance, Cordelia accepts the wrath of her father, the King, his tongue and lips seething with venom expectant of a monitor lizard; She henceforth disowned.

King Lear’s rage blindly strikes his loyalist man Kent (Dylan Bolin), sending him from court in disgrace for questioning his highness’s judgement. King Lear filled with pride cannot see his flattering daughters conspire to usurp his authority as King. Few fetters remain of Lear’s royal fold after the opening scenes, the King has climbed atop his wall.

Cardinal Direction

Taking less prominent roles, Artistic Directors Aaron Kopec and Erica Case handed the keys, of the Oldsmobile 442 that the Alchemist Theater is, over to Leda Hoffman. Hoffman cut her teeth directing as an intern with the Milwaukee Repertory Theater. She goosed the Alchemist’s throttle plenty, driving King Lear into an exceptional production, delivering pace, atmosphere, suspense and affect, taking the crowd on a sidewinding joy ride without a wreck.

Hoffman’s production hugged the corners of the King Lear text, erring on the side of a traditional stage translation. The technical aspects of the players’ book-work and adherence to Hoffman’s vision rang through the audience’s response to punchy delivery of the script, which nailed Shakespeare’s wit meter after meter. Dramaturg Fly Steffens and text coaches Mark Corkins and Marcy Kearns deserve a nod for adding permeability to the impenetrable quality that Shakespeare’s rhetoric can pose for the layperson, their knack seen through the actors methods.

Looks to Percieve

The A.V. direction mimicked the overall polished manner of the production, wielding the power of an upgraded lighting system. To the credit of Stage Manger Erin Eggers and Sound/Music Designer Erin Paige, the overlay of cues on the players performances draped well. All elements of King Lear’s blocking added to the production’s readability, with hands lent from an extensive support crew including Mallory Metoxen (Assistant Director), Sydonia Lucchesi (Assistant Stage Manager), and Christopher Elst (Violence Design).

Visually, the costume design pressed by the fingertips of Caitlin Lux and Rachel Stenman tied the production neatly to the set design and stage performance. Without being distracting, medieval period looks infused with modern sensibilities kept the players in that magical place provided by Shakespeare’s literary settings.

The ensemble’s footwear captured the spotlight, as rugged leather riding boots signified the station of Albany, Cornwall, Edmund, Edgar and Oswalt (Tim Palecek) in particular, complimenting their English hunting field vests and durable breeches. France’s dandiness clung to his thigh-high cream colored equestrian boots, to match his two-tone white and pale blue admiral jacket with frilled epaulets.

Goneril and Regan, fit with versatile and well-tailored mini-one piece pleated dresses, exuded run way appeal enhancing their perceived ability to impress their privileges upon their subjects. Cordelia elegantly wore a chaste white gown through the hell and rising troubled waters of Dover.

Beneath the Velvet

The plotting and scheming in King Lear has few spectators, and a sporting chap Edmund (Matt Wickey) indeed brings his treachery to the fore with little ado. Edmund subtly impresses lies on his half-brother Edgar (Tim Linn) driving Edgar into exile. He foists his resentment on their sire, Lear’s most trusted noblemen Gloucester (Michael Pocaro), pushing him into disfavor with Regan’s Duke Cornwall. Edmund sadistically plays paramour to both of Lear’s daughters Regan and Goneril driving them to each others’ throats. Wickey channels something dim and sinister from his character, and almost comical in his portrayal of an archetypal super villain that really has no aim beside sowing chaos, knowing in the end he must be caught to fulfill his infamy.

Loon Farm

King Lear has its share of train wreck moments in the follies of the characters. Every character has some personal drama. Everyone goes crazy.

Edmund’s foil Edgar, looses touch with reality while banished, wondering the wilderness calling him self “Poor Tom”. Linn showed promising acting range in his earnest and noble portrayal Edgar, flipping a switch to enter Poor Tom by evoking the paranoid split-personality persona of J.R. Tolkien’s cast away Gollum, and it worked.

Poor Tom grovels around, spewing just as much wisdom as non-sense, stooped and erratic, as Linn’s sinewy body lurched under his wet stringy long hair until happenstance brings Poor Tom into Gloucester’s presence. His father, Gloucester blathers away too, sucked in the undertow of his guilt for falsely accusing his son Edgar of treachery, and stricken by Cornwall’s vicious wrath that extracted Gloucester’s eyes.

The Fool (David Flores) flits about Lear loyally, however sarcastic, mocking Lear in song, rehashing the troubles of Lear’s throne. Betraying the name of the character, Flores adds plenty of theatrical dressing to this character with his stage presence and singing voice. Hoffman really made a great choice in Flores, as this character easily could have been lost in the fray without his moxie. Although aided heavily by The Fool, King Lear needs no help in finding hysterical and inglorious madness.

Long Live the King

The character of King Lear contains complexity of a archetypal patriarch, a detached, caring, and long suffering parent, yet ornery and down right nasty when pushed. Johnson, a seasoned stage actor, conjured up a tremendously entertaining performance as King Lear. It was like seeing a possessed William F. Buckley cyborg crossed with Gary Oldman and Andrew Dice Clay, endlessly hitting all the pomp notes and vulgarities in the dialog.

King Lear incensed at his daughters’ defiance at every turn, spends much of the play in a blissful rage, stumbling about the countryside playful at times, but generally a hair-trigger pull away from verbal tirades that likely are the inspiration for the Shakespeare Insulter website.

A truly tortured man, Lear lasts longer than he intends, unaware that his loyal attendants guide him from peril, many to their own undoing. Even his own discarded daughter, Cordelia, attempting to restore her father’s glory with the help of France, is ensnared by the forces working against Lear. Imprisoned and defeated, life lets them free mercifully.

A Smashing Success

Rounding out the ensemble the presence of Mitch Weindorth (Corwall’s Servant), Harry Loeffler-Bell (Cornwall’s 2nd Servant), Margaret Casey (Gloucester’s Tenant), and Chris Goode (Lear’s Knight) did not go unfelt. Making their accomplishments on stage even sweeter, Figlesthaler and Amato are also credited as co-producers King Lear.

Unfortunately for those without passes, King Lear’s run has sold out going into its final week. The Alchemist Theatre’s King Lear opened July 11, 2013 and closes July 27.

What?! Beyond Awesome, Team Bayside High

The February 2013 term of Beyond Awesome featured lazer blazing Chicago duo Team Bayside High. If the Miramar Theatre was actually Bayside High these cats basically tied Mr. Belling up, put Zack in a full-nelson and made Screech punch him in the face at knife point, while blasting their stanking new refit of C+C Music Factory’s infamous hype-music era killing classic “Make You Sweat” over the PA. They bribed Slater to lug 10 barrels of PBR, by himself, into that super weak cafe they had called The Max, where Kelly, Lisa and Jessie were already covered in chocolate syrup and whip cream having a three-way tongue fight, forcing Slater to stuff that masochist Gimp leather gag-ball in his mouth if he wanted to stick around and watch… and he did. Yeah, pretty much like that.

Man… Gonna Make You Sweat Retake via

At some point in their fledgling careers mashing beats up and blasting them, Team Bayside High felt the apple drop on their head, realizing that people like that kind of nonsense. They are tearing scenes up like breakaway pro-wrestler tanks on their rag-tag Midwest tour that eventually hits Spring Awakening in Chicago this June at Soldier Field. Expecting any material to stay sacred around them is expecting to much, they are capable of mashing anything to smithereens, including the best Super Mario rendition I’ve heard yet. Maestros, for real…

Here we go… Super Mario via

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Miramar Theatre, Beyond Awesome