Lamps for My Family
Tenth Street Theater

Milwaukee’s In Tandem Theater, now in its 18th season, reminds us that local theater exists to allow creative people an outlet to exhibit their craft. This refers not just to local actors, but local playwrights, too. Milwaukee-born and raised Michael Nevile shares his semi-autobiographical play, Lamps for My Family, at In Tandem. Neville’s plays also have been seen at ACT Seattle, the Actors Theater of Louisville, and Denver’s Changing Scene, as well as at several theaters in Milwaukee.

Anne Siegel
Closer than Ever
Long Beach Performing Arts Center

Closer than Ever, an award-winning musical revue kicking off the new season at International City Theater, consists of 24 songs in two acts with no book or specific characters. With music by David Shire and lyrics by Richard Maltby, Jr., the show explores the joys and angst of professional-class, apartment-dwelling New Yorkers as they navigate the vicissitudes of life. The songs range from the exhilaration of youth to the ever-accelerating onset of age.

Paul Myrvold
Looking Over the President's Shoulder
The Greenhouse

They used to be called "domestic servants" (or, perhaps, "hired help") but nowadays most often appear on personnel rosters as "support staff." Before you dismiss those who make their living through the exercise of housekeeping skills, however, consider what your place of business would look like if the janitors quit for even one week. When President Franklin Roosevelt exhorted the stewards of the 107-room residence in our nation's capital to remember that they shared in making history, his were wise words.

Mary Shen Barnidge
Far from Heaven
Stage 773

For theatergoers of certain age, merely hearing that their play's setting is a middle-class Connecticut suburb in 1957 is enough to trigger expectations of secrets, shame, and illicit sex lurking beneath a veneer of privileged tranquility. The “Far from Heaven” screenplay by Todd Haynes providing source material for this song-cycle musical is not an authentic product of that repressive era, however, but a conscious replica thereof, steeped in hindsight.

Mary Shen Barnidge
Stupid Fucking Bird
Urbanite Theater

At the heart of Aaron Posner’s satiric view and review of modern theater beats Anton Chekhov’s prescription for his play The Seagull: It presents “a great deal of conversation about literature, little action, tons of love.” In it, the seagull is a being in the play’s real life setting but also a symbol of a character with whom it’s entwined. Urbanite uses a gull’s picture as a scenic-sans-symbolic backdrop. Its titular import is that it’s Posner’s successful attempt at shocking and commercial success.

Marie J. Kilker
Barcelona
Geffen Playhouse

In Bess Wohl’s Barcelona,, now in its West Coast premiere at the Geffen after a successful run in New York, Irene (Betty Gilpin), an American tourist, and Manuel (Carlos Leal), a native Spaniard, meet at a tapas bar in Barcelona and hit it off, strongly enough that she agrees to go back to his place with him. The two-character play begins when they step in the door, rip off their clothes and begin to make brief but frantic love.

Willard Manus
Act of God, An
Ahmanson Theater

Sean (“Will & Grace”) Hayes plays a campy, wise-cracking ruler of the universe in An Act of God, now drawing laughs after a successful run on Broadway (with Jim Parsons in the lead role). Written by David Javerbaum, head writer for “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” the solo comes off as a stand-up routine with a few show-biz accessories: two aide-de-camp angels sprouting ostrich-feather wings (David Josefsberg and James Gleason), plus a glitzy, stairway-to-heaven set by Scott Pask.

Willard Manus
Fiddler on the Roof
Broadway Theater

No matter how many times we’ve seen Fiddler on the Roof, both onstage and in the 1971 movie, it’s worth the price of admission to see Danny Burstein as Tevye, the milkman. He brings enough warmth to take the chill out of the worst winter days, and he connects with the audience because of his compassion and sincere emotion. Not to mention, this is a virile Tevye, in the prime of his manhood. We believe that he’s actually asking his abrasive wife Golde (Jessica Hecht) “Do You Love Me?” because with the world falling down around him, he needs her reassurance.

Michall Jeffers
American Buffalo
Mary-Arrchie Theater

With the wrecking ball looming on the horizon, Mary-Arrchie Theater returns to its roots for one last stand, and in doing so, demonstrates once again the blend of visceral and cerebral performance that launched its 30-year-career as one our city's foremost off-Loop companies.

Mary Shen Barnidge
Old Friends, The
Raven Theater

Romantic impulses are usually better indulged in early life, when the odds are greater that the perpetrators will emerge with minimal damage, but at an age where their peers were following their bliss, the Bordons and Ratliffs of Harrison, Texas, were following the money instead. This was 1921, the setting of the late Horton Foote's first of three plays chronicling the progress of these warring clans. This final chapter, The Old Friends, opens in 1965, with the various family members attempting to reverse the choices they made in a last grab for what they missed. It's not pretty.

Mary Shen Barnidge
Iliad, An
Geva Theater Center - Nextstage

Homer’s “Iliad” is here retold by a single actor accompanied by an onstage musician who plays mostly keyboard and percussion instruments to provide atmosphere and something like sound effects. Originally, one of the authors, Denis O’Hare, played the poet and recited the work. Here actor Kyle Hatley moves about the stage enacting all the roles and passionately telling the story speaking only to the audience. A large, white-haired man, musician Raymond Castrey also moves about but does not speak, and the two seldom regard one another.

Herbert M. Simpson
Flick The
The Playhouse at Overture Center for the Arts

A sparkling production of Annie Baker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning The Flick is being produced by Forward Theater Co., in the university town of Madison, Wisconsin. Barely two weeks after the Off-Broadway show closed in mid-January, The Flick had its Wisconsin debut in the Overture Center, a stunning multi-theater complex provided by the woman who founded the American Girl series of historic and contemporary dolls.

Anne Siegel
Outside Mullingar
Florida Studio Theater - Gompertz Theater

Deaths curiously make it possible for love to flourish ”Outside Mullingar” in rural Ireland. John Patrick Shanley’s poetric-prose play begins after Aoife Muldoon has buried her husband. She comes out of a dreary rain to the home of Tony Reilly whose friendship he lost. It was over the Muldoons owning an entry strip of land to Reilly’s property.

Marie J. Kilker
Snow White
Minetta Lane Theater

I must admit that the ad campaign for Company XIV’s production of Snow White at the Minetta Lane Theater inspired by the Brothers Grimm’s fairy tale that we all grew up knowing – it is being sold as an adult version of the folk tale – more than captured my attention. Like Whitney Houston’s singing, “I Will Always Love You,” and Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go One,” the imagery wrapped itself around my gonads and reeled me right in. Since I’m an unadulterated hedonist – what else is there besides reading, writing, and arithmetic?

Edward Rubin
Our Mother's Brief Affair
Samuel J. Friedman Theater

All that needs to be done is to look at Linda Lavin: Burberry trench coat, expensive silk scarf, high heels, perfectly coiffed hair, and what used to be called “great gams,” truly gorgeous legs. This is Anna, a woman of a certain age who is mother to twins Seth (Greg Keller) and Abby (Kate Arrington). She is self-involved and vain, but does have real affection for her kids. Add to the picture an accent Seth calls “Flatbush on the Thames,” and we learn that she’s pretentious. Anna craves not only attention, but worship. As a mother, she’s somewhere between Marmee and Joan Crawford.

Michall Jeffers
Mrs. Marx
Crocker Memorial Church

Mrs. Marx, about Karl Marx’s wife Jenny, reminds me of my late mentor Mordecai Gorelik’s prediction that we’d be getting more and more of theater that is “not to be understood or reasoned but inhaled.” Clara Francesca’s mime-dance-interaction exemplifies such a drama, to be found fascinating to a coterie audience determined to find it new and magnificent when it is actually magniloquent. To produce a suitable adumbration of a play which captures such an audience, present at the last SaraSolo manifestation of 2016, necessitates my rendering a sesquipedalian explication of it.

Marie J. Kilker
Another Word for Beauty
Goodman Theater

Bogata's Buen Pastor (“Good Shepherd”) Prison was, at one time, a convent serving as a women's shelter, before decades of Colombian civil unrest transformed it into a crowded, neglected, ill-supervised facility for the confinement of female criminals, dissidents, and other disruptive misfits. Ah, but once a year, during the festival of Our Virgin of Mercy, the detainees are granted relief from their misery through participation in a well-funded, heavily promoted, in-house beauty contest???

Mary Shen Barnidge
Man Who Murdered Sherlock Holmes, The
Mercury Theater

Three helpful pre-curtain facts: First, novelist Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was a real-life doctor and criminal-science buff who often assisted in solving actual cases (Victorian gentlemen of status being permitted to interfere in police business). Second, the father of internationally famous fictional detective Sherlock Holmes once tried to end the series by killing off his hero—until public pressure persuaded him to resurrect the popular supersleuth.

Mary Shen Barnidge
Lillian
Crocker Memorial Church

Using many of Lillian Hellman’s own words, Jenny Aldrich orally recreates a memoir by the American dramatist, screenwriter, sometime essayist, political activist, and autobiographer. As a woman, Hellman enjoyed unusual success for her writing, yet she was as well or even better known for being the lover of mystery writing novelist Dashiell Hammet. In Lillian, Aldrich assumes Hellman’s persona as if on an evening before she will be honored at an important committee dinner meeting.

Marie J. Kilker
Bashert
Crocker Memorial Church

“Bashert” is a traditional Jewish word whose meaning developed into the idea, according to Lynne Bernfield, of “mingling despite Fate.” Or maybe because of it, depending on the points of view of others as well as Lynne’s. In her new solo show, she mostly explores the bashert she has experienced in life but secondarily how it worked earlier in her family. Outlining its history on a white board, Lynne prepared for a story, based on religious belief, of a “marriage made in heaven.”

Marie J. Kilker
Excruciatingly Ordinary Toy Theater Show, An
Crocker Memorial Church

A tangle of cords, electronic and lighting equipment, and pictures on cardboard in two or four dimensions was perhaps as fascinating as the use of them by artist and story teller Zach Dorn. The title of his self-described “Performance Art” proved half true referring to his art (as toy and theater), but watching his harried work putting everything together (and not always succeeding) was often indeed excruciating.

Marie J. Kilker
Dream Catcher
Fountain Theater

In the world premiere of Dream Catcher by Stephen Sachs, two lovers go to war in a patch of the Mojave Desert (evocative sand-strewn set by Jeffrey McLaughlin). With the audience sitting in a tight circle around the intense, high-stakes action, Opal (Elizabeth Frances) and Roy (Brian Tichnell) battle ferociously for control of this turf—and each other’s hearts.

Willard Manus
Maurice Hines: Tappin' Thru Life
New World Stages

Wake up! Sherrie Maricle’s nine-piece Diva Jazz Orchestra ignites the party showcasing legendary dancer, Maurice Hines, who throws himself into the feel-good rhythms of the 40’s and ‘50’s in Tappin’ Thru Life. Tappin's back in town with fingers snapping, shoulders shaking, hips swaying. Riding on the energy of drummer Sherrie Maricle and her exceptional divas, Hines presents an ebullient program of songs and stories of his life and career.

Elizabeth Ahlfors
Regina Monologues, The
Crocker Memorial Church

The Regina Monologues grew out of Vanessa Webb’s thesis in theater and performance studies, and it certainly her earned an A in her solo performance for SaraSolo16. Because Vanessa dramatically combined her studies of the historical Queen Elizabeth I with those of interactive performance, she was able to draw in her audience actively, both mentally and physically.

Marie J. Kilker
Pearl in the Hogwaller, The
Crocker Memorial Church

Divided, like many a Shakespearian play (if we’re to believe editor T. W. Baldwin), into five acts, the clever story of Becca McCoy and her family’s move to a tiny Florida town, could have been a tragedy but turned into comedy. They went from bustling, big Chicago to Palatka, where Becca mentions in song that she found “Life Is So Peculiar.” She asks audiences to forget about why a chicken crosses the road and picture an alligator doing so in front of her family car and then in front of their house.

Marie J. Kilker
Poems of My Life, The
Crocker Memorial Church

There are two frames for Alan Brasington’s poetic biographical story, The Poem of My Life. One is Alice in Wonderland. Another is his education—from his mother’s reading to him through learning theater in a teacher’s college and finally a scholarship to RADA in London, from which he graduated and went forth to work on and off Broadway and at professional theaters throughout America.

Marie J. Kilker
Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992
Next Act Theater

Following what became known as the “L.A. Riots of 1992,” playwright Anna Deavere Smith interviewed more than 300 people associated with the event (or who witnessed it). From those interviews, Deavere created an intensely emotional and moving play. A vibrant and thrilling production of Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992 is currently being staged in Milwaukee at Next Act Theater.

Anne Siegel
New York States of Mind
Crocker Memorial Church

Despite his claims of a vast repertoire and great success in New York, Wayne Hosford begins his program envying the “organic” one of Stevie Coyle and seemingly wondering how to begin his own. He introduces his fiance in the audience, to whom he would make references to her paralegal status and implications that she ought to be a lawyer, as if to prove something. But what?

Marie J. Kilker
Mythos, Pathos, Nash & Jung
Crocker Memorial Church

A preview of Stevie Coyle’s talent given in a SaraSolo kick-off on Friday, January 22, 2016, showcased his ability to play his guitar but didn’t have half the kick of his full program two evenings later. It was no surprise after that to learn that he runs his own shop, Mighty Fine Guitars in Lafayette, CA, or that he writes as well as plays songs, because he proved to have an appealing way with words with and without music.

Marie J. Kilker
Women I have Loved
Crocker Memorial Church

For decades Carolyn Michel has brought women to light on national stages, but she’s been a special favorite shining the spotlight in Sarasota on individual women. We don’t have to take her word for the love she’s given to portraying some of them. The proof she brought onstage before a packed audience—many of whom have performed with her in larger cast plays—on the first night of SaraSolo 1016.

Marie J. Kilker
London Wall
The Den

The entrance of women into the clerical workforce properly dates to 1868 (when the first Remington typewriters featured casings decorated with flowers), but the shortage of men following World War One precipitated increased numbers of females hired to fill the vacancies. Victorian attitudes still lingered, however—among them, perception of the "office girls" as analogous to household servants. Presumed to reside with family members, and thus, not reliant on wages for their livelihood, they could be grossly underpaid.

Mary Shen Barnidge
Devil's Music, The
Milwaukee Repertory Theater - Stackner Cabaret

Biographical musical revues are a mainstay on the roster of the Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s Stackner Cabaret. The intimate space, dotted with tables and chairs that seat from two to eight people, is perfect for small-scale productions that feature from two to a half-dozen performers. Prior to show time, servers bustle about, delivering drink orders and desserts to the patrons. Other theatergoers spend their time chatting, scanning their theater programs or admiring the glazed brick walls, a restored remnant from the days when the space was part of Milwaukee’s old electric company.

Anne Siegel
Sunset Baby
United Church of Christ - Baird Hall

"There's nothing sentimental about a dead revolution!," snaps the heroine of Sunset Baby, thereby refuting our presumptions of youth as starry-eyed romantics. Her assessment arises from a childhood overshadowed by a father imprisoned for crimes committed in the name of Black-power separatism during the 1960s, and a mother whose grief drove her to addiction.

Mary Shen Barnidge
Fairytale Facts
Crocker Memorial Church

To piano music from behind a back curtain, Lisa Seldin Dontzin can be heard suffering: “I’m trapped in this f...ing dress!” When she appears out front, wrapped in strapless white organdy dotted with aqua leaves, she wears an astonished look. But short, curly-hair dusted with sparkle accent her neck surrounded by jeweled stones as spotlight-catching as her earrings. Quite a contrast with the predominantly chartreuse gym shoes under her billowing skirt. Fitting, though, for a person pointing out contrasts between her present status as actress and certified fashion stylist and her past.

Marie J. Kilker
Next
Crocker Memorial Church

Always ready to take a chance, Christine Alexander, Sarasota’s uncrowned but not unappreciated Improv Queen, launched SaraSolo 2016, two weekends of solo performances with a Betwixt Week of workshops, tutorials, and performance development. In this gig, Christine Alexander becomes a radio hostess taking a chance on (maybe) audience Twitter feeds, call ins, and call outs. Just in case she needs a script, she’s brought along her imaginary diary from age 18.

Marie J. Kilker
Agnes of God
Broadway Theater Center - Studio Theater

Milwaukee’s only women-run theater company, Renaissance Theaterworks, continues its 22nd year with Agnes of God . John Pielmeier’s searingly intense 1982 drama has attracted an all-star cast of local actors, under the direction of company co-founder Suzan Fete. The result falls into the “don’t-miss” category of the early spring theater season.

Anne Siegel
No Wake
The Greenhouse

Anyone wondering why white people are projected to become a minority in the United States need only look at the abundance of recent plays focusing on the impaired child-rearing capabilities of WASPs. Ineptitude doesn't mean that divorced parents of a suicidal runaway daughter are any less to be pitied, but for them to generate the level of sympathy that playwright William Donnelly strives to achieve in No Wake requires patience.

Mary Shen Barnidge
Noises Off
American Airlines Theater

Andrea Martin is an actor who can do no wrong. So it comes as no surprise that in Noises Off, she effortlessly leads the company to glorious comic heights, and the audience to a fevered pitch of laugh-out-loud delight. Noises Off is both a door-slamming French farce, and a behind-the-scenes glimpse of a play that starts out being not so great and ends up in shambles.

Michall Jeffers
Of Mice and Men
Milwaukee Repertory Theater - Quadracci Powerhouse

Man is not a solitary creature, as repeatedly emphasized in John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. The 1937 play is being produced by the Milwaukee Repertory Theatrer and the Arizona Theatre Company. After winning some local awards in Arizona (where it played first), the production already was causing local buzz before it opened here in January. Under the firm direction of the Rep’s artistic director, Mark Clements, the play takes a strong, linear path to its devastating conclusion.

Anne Siegel
Ah, Wilderness!
Florida State University Center for the Performing Arts - Mertz Theater

Ah, Wilderness! is the kind of classic play Asolo Rep does best and its present production even enhances that reputation. It’s Eugene O’Neill’s only comedy, an imagined 1906 family story that’s partly autobiographical. Mainly, though, it reveals the family he wished he had in a young, hopeful, rather innocent America. But just as Robert Lowell, another New Englander, created influential confessional poetry, O’Neill brought his always inventive genius here to establish coming-of-age drama.

Marie J. Kilker

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