Matthew Reddin

Milwaukee Chamber brings a “bromance” to the Studio Theatre

Dan Katula and Ryan Schabach play two neighbors who forge an abruptly intimate bond in "Things Being What They Are," written by Wendy MacLoed and directed by Michael Cotey.

By - Nov 20th, 2013 10:00 am
"Things Being What They Are" unites two very different men who cross paths when one moves in next door to the other.

“Things Being What They Are” unites two very different men who cross paths when one moves in next door to the other.

Writers have played with the “odd couple” dynamic even before Neil Simon gave the trope its name. With “Things Being What They Are,” writer Wendy MacLoed has tapped into that same paradigm, tossing together two totally different guys united only by the big life developments that face them. And according to the men Milwaukee Chamber Theatre has tapped to fill those oddly coupled shoes, Dan Katula and Ryan Schabach, she’s done an excellent job of finding new ground to forge in that relationship.

“There’s an odd couple situation going on here,” Katula said, “so Jack (Katula’s character) is pretty much the polar opposite of [Bill, Schabach’s character] in a lot of ways. … But it’s the samenesses I’ve been noticing more as rehearsal goes on. We both have, especially at this time in our lives, a level of uncomfortableness with things going on that are shaking us up.”

Those shake-ups affect the two men very differently. Schabach plays Bill, a high-level Seagram’s marketing executive who opens the play moving into his new condo in a new city, waiting for his unreliable wife to arrive. Katula is Jack, Bill’s divorced neighbor, who barges into the condo uninvited with his own set of relationship crises tagging along behind.

Dan Katula (L) and Ryan Schabach play Jack and Bill, the two neighbors paired together during the span of "Things Being What They Are."

Dan Katula (L) and Ryan Schabach play Jack and Bill, the two neighbors paired together during the span of “Things Being What They Are.”

It’s a – sure, let’s call it a “meet-cute” – that Katula and Schabach say sets the tone for the play quickly: a “whirlwind state” of big life developments. But don’t come to Things Being What They Are expecting a tearjerker. Schabach says MacLoed’s play is securely framed by a comedic focus, and they and director Michael Cotey (making his MCT directorial debut) have preserved that.

“The fear is that if you just play to the comedy, it’ll lose its heart. And if you play just to the heart, then it’s too much, it’s too painful,” Schabach said. “So you use comedy as a tool – we do that in our own lives. If things are really bad right now, you make a funny joke. The joke isn’t that funny, but it’s anything to get rid of that energy that is about the situation.”

“This is,” Katula adds, “as they keep calling it, a ‘bromance.’ And it really is so much about how men relate, and humor is a huge part of that. … Guys can be a little bit more hesitant to talk about their emotions. They’ll either make a joke, or shove you.”

Because the play entirely focuses on the conversation between the duo, with no other actors present, both Katula and Schabach hesitate to elaborate on the issues that lie ahead for their characters. But Katula promises audiences won’t be disappointed, even if the show seems deceptively simplistic at the beginning. “On the surface, there’s nothing challenging about the show for an audience member. That’s not to demean it at all; I like the show a lot, and for that reason. But interestingly enough, I think there’s definitely some interesting discussions.”

Milwaukee Chamber Theatre will present Things Being What They Are starting Friday, Nov. 22, and running through Dec. 15. Tickets are $31, $36 on Fridays and Saturdays, with a $5 students and seniors discount. To order, visit the Chamber Theatre box office or call (414) 291-7800.

Categories: Theater

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