Peggy Sue Dunigan

Next Act’s season opens quietly, poignantly and with a gentle smile

By - Sep 15th, 2010 10:24 am
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In a fall season of big musicals, Next Act Theatre will open quietly, says producing artistic director David Cecsarini. This Friday, Next Act will open Four Places, Joel Drake Johnson’s contemplative play about aging parents and their adult children. The show runs through Oct. 10.

Johnson’s four-character play premiered in 2007 at Chicago’s Victory Gardens Theater, where Johnson is resident playwright. Milwaukee’s production features three familiar actors, Mary MacDonald Kerr, Flora Coker and Mark Ulrich, and relative newcomer Laura Gray. The plot unfolds in a restaurant, where a sister and brother attempt to discuss their parents’ health and well being with their mother over lunch. The unseen father and husband becomes a focal point of their conversation and the intimate story of the moment where children exchange roles with those who raised them.

The very spare setting, Cecsarini says, aligns with Johnson’s vision of the play. “The actors create the reality.”

Cecsarini, who also directs Four Places, believes the show will have nearly universal appeal at a time when so many struggle with the cost of health care and with independent-living decisions for an aging population. No one wishes to be a continual caretaker,  nor to grow old. The script focuses on competing concerns with families when a loved one’s physical or mental capabilities begin to fail. And yet, Cecsarini says, the play is not gloomy. “Johnson’s humorous and witty dialogue creates a wonderfully moving and gentle piece,” he said.

Next Act will stage Four Places in its temporary home at The Tenth Street Theatre, 628 N. 10th St., which is the permanent home of In Tandem Theatre. In Tandem is helping out Next Act during a transitional year, as the company’s long-time home, the Off-Broadway Theatre, has been dismantled by the building’s owner. Next Act has raised nearly two thirds of the money needed for a new theater in the Fifth Ward. Next Act should move into that facility next fall.

Tickets are $25 and $35. Call 414-278-0765 or order online. Click here for more information, including reviews from earlier stagings.

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