Bullies bested in comedy at Windfall Theatre

By - Feb 20th, 2011 09:37 am
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Nurture’s Wonders: Amy Hansmann and, L-R: Ben George, Thomas Dillon, Robert WC Kennedy, Michael Gau.

George and Marti Parker care for their two sons. But they have grown distant from them to perhaps a dangerous degree. When the oldest son plans to strike out against those bullying him, his parents are nearly clueless about what to do – especially to protect their youngest son, Issac, from a similar pattern.

Friday night (Feb. 18), Windfall Theater introduced an original comedy, Nurture’s Wonders, by ensemble member Thomas Rosenthal, Friday night. Light comedy serves a more serious purpose in a play that explores guns, bullying (including cyber-bullying), and the challenges of parenting.

George Parker, a cop in this small town of South Fondy, is the stereotypical macho father, losing touch with his two teen-aged sons. His wife, Marti, seems barely qualified for her job as a practicing psychotherapist. She barely manages her therapy sessions, ignores privacy boundaries and launches the most improbable solution to her family’s and the community’s problems. And yet, her plan, however unusual, has community and audience pulling for her.

The lights flicker, nearly imperceptibly, at the end of scene one, an omen that the story is about to spin further out of control. Marshall, a wannabe rapper, shuffles into the Parker’s lives as an unlikely deus ex machina. Marshall keeps his character within his shell, but the Parkers and the audience grow to trust his instincts as he befriends young Issac.

Playwright Rosenthal takes on serious subjects in humorous sketches within the play. A send up of M-rated video games is a comic highlight, but some of the subthemes detract from the central focus. The show unfolds with many twists and surprises; I’ll leave it to the company to spring them on you.

Nurture’s Wonders, bottom line, is a play and not a lesson. It gives us a thoroughly enjoyable evening, but don’t expect solutions to real-life problems. Expect comedy.

Windfall Theatre has built a small ensemble company of professionally trained actors. They appear comfortable working together, and this is their fourth play by ensemble member Rosenthal. All the actors fill their roles well, but three stand out. Amy Hansmann, as Marti, the frustrated mother, sells the audience on the improbable solutions she has reached. Michael Gau, as Marshall, manages to be both a lost young adult and internally grounded. He conveys trustworthiness from the start. Carol Zippel, as Yvonne, moves her character from comic relief to an important role in the resolution of the play.

Small, intimate theater can come at a price in Milwaukee – often in grungy urban storefronts with poor sight-lines and cramped space – dark and claustrophobic. Not so with Windfall. The space in Village Church is wide and professionally lit. Comfortable chairs on risers just three deep seat about 50 people.

Nurture’s Wonders runs Feb. 18 – March 5 at Village Church Arts, 130 E. Juneau Ave., just east of the Milwaukee river. Call 414-332-3963 for reservations. Performances are all at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, with additional shows Feb. 28 and March 3. Nurture’s Wonders contains adult language and content and its message is best suited to those 17 and over. More information at the Windfall Theatre website.

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