For the week of March 14-20…
A bunch of great dramatic plays leads the St Pat’s parade of local arts events, so off we go!
Deconstructing the Beatles’ Revolver, March 15, Oriental Theater, 2230 N Farwell Ave (deconstructingthebeatles.com)
Following on the heels of filmed lectures about the making of The White Album and Sgt. Pepper, Beatlecologist Scott Freiman is back with another one-night-only presentation, this one featuring the Fab Four’s arguably greatest album, Revolver. Over the course of 90 minutes, Freiman skillfully blends multimedia elements to show how this 1966 classic came together. Whether you’re a diehard Beatlemaniac or novice, this presentation promises something for everybody. And you’ll leave the theater enjoying this album anew with a fresh perspective!
Time Stands Still, now-March 19, 10th Street Theater, 628 N 10th St (intandemtheatre.org)
Operation Enduring Freedom serves as the starting point for this intense, thought-provoking play at In Tandem Theater. The story focuses on war photographer Sarah (Kay Allmand), who has just returned to the States after being nearly mortally wounded while pursuing a story in the war zone. Waiting for her are longtime companion and writer James (David Sapiro), their editor Richard (Richard Ganoung), and his new, much younger girlfriend Mandy (Jordan Watson). While Richard intends to marry and start a family with Mandy, Sarah resists James’ desire for matrimony while desiring to return to the action, even after this close call. As you might expect, many issues are explored between the four characters, not the least of which is, When do you stop snapping pictures when your subject(s) are crying out for help? This very able cast pulls it off with great aplomb.
Grounded, now-April 2, Stiemke Studio, 108 E Wells St (milwaukeerep.com)
Another current local production that’s set during the war on terror is this gripping one-character play. Chicago actor Jessie Fisher makes a stunning Milwaukee Rep debut as a fighter pilot who truly relishes her job attacking terrorist targets from the skies in her “sky tiger,” until a pregnancy causes her to be “grounded.” She is relegated to the despised “Chair Force,” working out of a trailer in the Nevada desert, remotely directing drone attacks on the same targets that she recently attacked directly from her fighter plane. The dilemma that confronts her is how she reconciles being a warrior by day, returning home to be a wife and mother by night. Elements of both soon begin to blend into her life, which causes a mental breakdown. It’s a relatively short play, but so much is packed into its 90 minutes that one actually needs the release provided by the show’s conclusion. It’s an amazing performance, complemented by the stunning stage and video monitors. Both Grounded and Time Stands Still offer searing perspectives on how the war affects those who participate in it, both in country and at home.
The Few, now-March 19, Studio Theater, 158 N Broadway (milwaukeechambertheatre.com)
Set during the Internet’s infancy in 1999, this Chamber Theater production takes place in a northern Idaho outpost off I-90, where a trio publish a newsletter that helps truckers that travel along the freeway find relationships. As it turns out, QZ (Mary MacDonald Kerr), Bryan (James Ridge) and Matthew (Mitch Bultman, making his MCT debut) have issues of their own, notably feeling isolation and seeking to establish connections of their own. The action plays out on a very smart one-room set, and the scenes are interspersed with rock music from the era. It’s another highly effective current production that focuses on interpersonal relationships.
The Glass Menagerie, now-April 9, Quadracci Powerhouse Theater (milwaukeerep.com)
Following in the footsteps of productions of American classics To Kill a Mockingbird, Raisin in the Sun and Fences, The Rep now offers its take on Tennessee Williams’ iconic Glass Menagerie. Even if you saw In Tandem’s fine production several years ago, this is one play that’s well worth revisiting. Especially with a great cast like this one. It’s the story of Tom Wingfield (Ryan Imhoff), a low-paid, going nowhere warehouse worker who supports his family in their Depression-era St Louis tenement apartment and narrates the story from hindsight. But it’s the family matriarch Amanda (Hollis Resnik, who previously wowed audiences as Judy Garland in the Rep hit End of the Rainbow) who is the dominant figure in the story. She’s a fading Southern belle set in her old-fashioned ways who’s obsessed in finding a husband for her invalid daughter Laura (Kelsey Brennan). By the time the play ends, you’ll be as fed up hearing the phrases “rise and shine” and “gentleman caller” as much as Tom is. But there’s no denying Amanda’s love for her children, which compensates for the absent father who abandoned the family years before. In fact, her love is smothering to the point where Tom escapes by bingeing on booze and attending movies at the neighborhood theater. He does manage to bring home a “gentleman caller” to meet Laura, however. It turns out Jim O’Connor (Brandon Dahlquist) is Laura’s former high school classmate, a guy she admired from afar but felt was not up to his lofty standards. Their dinner get-together is the climax of the play, and the Rep has once again done itself proud with a memorable production of an American classic.
Beauty and the Beast, March 17-26, Cabot Theater, 158 N Broadway (skylightmusictheatre.org)
No, this is not the much-ballyhooed live-action remake of the Disney classic that also opens on Friday. This is Skylight’s take on Andre Gentry’s 17th century French opera that tells the “tale as old as time.” The Skylight production is in English and along with music features dance choreography and puppets designed by Obie winner James Ortiz. One of those puppets is the gigantic Beast of the story. Only seven performances are scheduled, so you may well want to put the movie on hold so you can take the opportunity to see this special theatrical treat!
The Mikado, March 17-26, Next Act Theater, 255 S Water St (milwaukeeoperatheatre.com)
If you were among the unfortunate that missed out on Milwaukee Opera Theatre’s rollicking production of the classic Gilbert & Sullivan operetta in 2015, take heart: an encore production is returning to Next Act Theater beginning on Friday! And the good news is the production team and cast is practically intact from the original production! And in G&S tradition, there will be tweaks in this updated show. Jimmy Fallon doesn’t have the market cornered on toy instruments, as once again the show will be performed almost entirely on toy instruments. And while not one kimono is to be seen, the satirical nature of WS Gilbert’s story is clearly on display. Not to be missed!!
Prometheus Trio, March 20-21, Bader Recital Hall, 1584 N Prospect Ave (wcmusic.org)
The Wisconsin Conservatory of Music’s resident piano trio’s postponed February program will now take place on the 20th and 21st! So come and welcome spring with this dandy lineup featuring music from Mozart and Shostakovich, along with a new piece from composer Pierre Jalbert!
And finally, since it’s St Patrick’s Week, if you were not lucky to get tickets for the sold-out run of McGuire that finishes on Sunday, you are indeed in luck: An unprecedented Encore Engagement of the sensational one-man Stackner Cabaret production about the legendary Marquette University basketball coach Al McGuire has been scheduled for June 1-18! Of course, Anthony Crivello will be back to reprise his fantastic portrayal, so a word to the wise is to order your tickets now, because these tickets are sure to sell out quickly!