Peggy Sue Dunigan

Boulevard closes 25th season with charmers by Shaw, Wilder

By - Apr 21st, 2011 02:59 pm
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Jamie Jastrab, Liv Mueller and Marion Araujo in Boulevard’s “Two to Go.” Troy Freund photo for Boulevard Theatre.

The bell rings, the class is seated, and the plays begin in Two to Go, the Shaw/Wilder double bill that opened Wednesday (April 20) at the Boulevard Theater.

Bucher’s schoolroom setting accommodates both George Bernard Shaw’s A Village Wooing and Thornton Wilder’s The Pullman Car Hiawatha. The device of the college class might be slightly contrived, kitschy; and rings with political undertones. The teacher invokes William Shakespeare’s bust to magically change community college students into professional actors. Yet the simple backdrop allows the wit and words from these timeless plays to illuminate the stage. Exceptional writing stands on its own in these two products of the 1930s. These plays don’t need expensive costumes, scenery or technicians.

Shaw’s comic word play delights the ear in repartee between an ill-humored travel writer (and would-be poet and English man of letters) and a rural shop girl. Thank Shaw for presenting a quirky woman with initiative and insight. She sets her mind to engage the heart of an eccentric man, and does it without guise or reserve. Perhaps Shaw remembered how his own wife proposed to him, although he refused at first.

A Village Wooing, in two brief acts, features only She and He, Liv Mueller and Michael Keiley, in their Boulevard debuts. They handle  Shaw’s quick, sharp dialogue deftly. Mueller uses a simple yellow scarf to great advantage. Their banter and humor ring as true today as in the ‘30s. (He: “It’s your privilege as a woman to have the last word. Take it.”) A dramatic verse in the end transforms the wooing into marriage. The charming play confirms that men and women must, in Shaw’s words, “Take the world as we find it, it is we who are not rightly arranged.”

The Wisconsin-born Wilder’s Pullman Car Hiawatha takes the audience on a more imaginative and metaphysical journey through the metaphor of a train ride from New York to Chicago late in the evening. Familiar Wilder themes resonate in this one act, with its bare stage, narrator/stage manager and mix of earthly and supernatural characters.

Six actors play multiple roles, including times of the day, planets and specific places. The action on stage and Wilder’s esoteric ideas on life and death require close attention. The characters rotate quickly. Rebecca Segal, as Harriet, and Brooke Wegner, as the Insane Woman, deliver their scenes with sensitivity. Even Bucher enhances the stage in this spiritual one-act, which infers every man’s worth. As Wilder puts it, “It takes a lot of people to make a world.”

The charming and enlightening Two to Go closes the Boulevard’s 25th season. Artistic director Mark Bucher’s black-box company remains controversial, educational, entertaining, inspiring, surprising and thought-provoking — and a company that returns considerable value for one’s theater dollar.

Boulevard Theatre, 2252 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.,  presents Two To Go through May 29. Tickets are $20 and $22. Call 414 744-5757 or visit the company’s website.

Categories: Theater

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