• Review

    Brooklyn Boy at Milwaukee Chamber Theatre

    Milwaukee Chamber Theatre closes its 34th season with playwright Donald Margulies’s semi-autobiographical play. It focuses on a novelist who, after two attempts at the great American novel, gets it right on the third try to critical acclaim and popularity by penning a semi-autobiographic novel called Brooklyn Boy. With the vague notion that this achievement may endear him to his dying father and save his withering marriage, the author attempts to re-draw his life as he thinks it should be. But new found fame and a re-discovered past proceed to pull him in opposite directions. James DeVita is understated and charming as Eric Weiss, the writer suffering through a mid-life crisis. As the character is quietly devastated to learns that success cannot alter the relationships with his father and soon to be ex-wife, actor DeVita expresses frustration and anger with a unique deft without resorting to simply yelling. The supporting cast members all neatly avoid playing into stereotypes. Robert Spencer as Eric’s father Manny Weiss is able to create a rich and complicated relationship with his son. Rebecca Rose Phillips gives depth as an enamored groupie and Tom Klubertanz is lovable as Ira, Eric’s childhood friend who forces him to reminisce and ultimately deal with his grief. Rounding out the cast is Darrel Cherney, Michelle Lopez-Rios and Julie Swenson in strong and multi-faceted performances. Although much of the play is a reflection on Weiss’s life growing up in a Jewish family and community, director and MCT Producing Artistic Director C. Michael Wright makes sure the play is not just a Jewish story. Brooklyn Boy is relatable to anyone, regardless of religious or ethnic background. Brooklyn Boy runs through May 3rd at the Broadway Theatre Center. For tickets call 414.291.7800 or visit MCT’s website.

  • Review

    ‘I Just Stopped to See the Man’ at Steimke Theater

    Whether an individual actually walks side by side with the Devil or only faces personal demons during his life, the human soul suffers — needing to sing “the blues”. In the Stiemke Theater’s final selection of the season, I Just Stopped By To See The Man, all three of its characters sidestep tragedy in order to gain greater self-understanding through songs played from the strings of a guitar named Angela. Striking chords of a story that blends both American music history and broken humanity, renowned British playwright Stephen Jeffreys concentrates on myths surrounding ‘the devil’s music’, or the blues. The Rep invited director Regge Life with his prestigious credentials and experience to develop these character studies together with the Milwaukee Repertory Theater actors by debuting Eric Hellman (Karl) and Cedric Young (Jesse). Resident Rep acting company member Lanise Antoine Shelley (Della) complements the small cast that reveals the complexity of certain personalities and circumstances on the stage. The premise of the play surrounds Jesse Davidson, an aging blues musician of legendary fame who faked his death in a devastating car accident to escape his former life. His only legitimate child, a daughter named Della, returns home after a long estrangement as a fugitive from her own mistakes at the age of 27 and the pair hide in seclusion. Then Karl, an English rock star on tour in Memphis, enters the quiet but sullen household searching for his musical blues hero and the inspiration to redeem himself from his own devils. This compelling and soul searching play challenges the audience assertions on what one considers to be the devil’s activities, especially in music, and the choices made in life when one might claim “the devil made me do it.” Simultaneously, the script confronts racial prejudices and religious conformity viewed from several time periods. Hellman, Young and Shelley provide emotionally nuanced performances integrating all these elements that makes the audience care for each character, especially bluesman and rock star who form an unexpected connection. Hellman and Young sing evocative rhythms on the guitar including Churchyard Blues lyrics that cry: where my body’s broken/and my soul is damned to hell /The devil has me right down/under his spell. Acted on a simple but beautifully constructed set with a skewed perspective, the stage lighting casts shadows through the slats of the humble home reinforcing the mindset that human lives are indeed shadowed by misfortune. Despite one’s belief in an actual ‘Devil’ or his ability to buy a person’s soul, the play celebrates through the power of a uniquely American music through the suffering of all humanity — but also the innate desire to survive deep pain by invoking compassion and understanding. I Just Stopped By To See the Man throws insight on life’s everyday woes when the only relief as Jesse believes is “to sing those blues, when the heart’s too sick to pray.” I Just Stopped By To See The Man until May 3. For information call: 414.224.9490 or

  • Review

    How I Became a Pirate at First Stage

    Each pirate on this ship, cleverly dressed for the sailing, sings and dances to rhythmic tropical tunes while young Jeremy learns pirate code and language enough to join the crew. When a midnight storm ensues, the mast lets loose over the stage before intermission. In the second act, pirates search the audience. Representing the Arrgh's cast, Austin Zdziarski as Jeremy Jacob ably handles this zest for sea life, and helps them bury their booty. But he still longs for soccer games and kisses goodnight.

  • Ain’t Misbehavin’s Trenyce Cobbins dishes on the show

    "It's amazing," says Cobbins. "Now it's like a well-oiled machine - but somehow it's a different show every day. [Players] keep adding to the show. The way you say a line, a harmony with more emotional investment in it."

  • Performance and Visual Art Openings April 22-29

    This Spring week's new offerings include a night of comedy and trivia at the Cedarburg Cultural Center, a play offering an unusual look at waitressing, the return of Insurgent, . Here are some openings and highlights.....

  • Review

    Social Security at Sunset Playhouse Theater

    Successful New York art dealers Barbara and David Kahn are about to have a problem. That problem comes in the form of a elderly, walker-using, bitter woman named Sophie. She is Barbara’s mother, and ever since Sophie’s husband died and children have grown up she has developed a penchant for creating arguments and difficulties with all those who surround her. Barbara’s sister Trudy and her husband Martin — who had been taking care of the aging mother — are flying off to Buffalo to end their college daughter’s involvement in a situation of extreme debauchery. This encompasses the first act of the low gravity comedy by playwright Andrew Bergman. From this point on, surprises of character, witty retorts, and twists of plot try to keep us engaged. Social Security, despite its unaffected title, is essentially a play about romantic lust:  from the initial exploration of it by someone in her later teens, to the nourishment or dissolution of it by couples in their mid-years, and finally in the inspiring rediscovery of it by someone in the winter of life. Dialogue exchanges are well-handled by the two different couples, but it does not support the script. It requires a more grounded and naturalistic acting approach, rather than the screwball ping-pong pace this staging undertakes. The energy and commitment by the actors is right, but the broad tone is off. As a result, the audience is set up for an uproarious heart attack of bawdy engagement but instead the verbal-based jokes flatline, producing only a modicum of laughter. There are moments of broad humor that bring gasps and guffaws, but overall they seem misplaced in this production. Actor Susan Dwyer Loveridge plays Barbara with sufficient talent but at times her emotional reactions are at such a high precipice that it leaves her nowhere to go. Donna Daniels (Trudy) and John Roberts (Martin) share equal talent in their roles as an overly worrisome and neurotic couple, however they approach the play with a reserved commitment and come across as caricatures. Bonnie Krah (Sophie) and Glenn Villa (David) are the standouts of the cast. Krah’s role as the mother is a bold, extreme, and yet genuine creation. Despite Sophie’s overboard behavior, Krah plays her with professionally trained honesty from moment to moment. We totally buy her both as the crotchety parent and into the transition of a romantic woman. As the cut-up, abrasive art dealer, and son-in-law, Villa shows how to make a sparsely written character come to life and play it without pretense. He treats the character as a real person. Douglas Smedbron rounds out the able cast as the love-swooned artist Maurice. The set looks amazingly posh, giving the illusion of an upscale Manhattan apartment. The general wash of lighting works for a comedic piece and the changes of mood are supported by invisible modifications to the illumination. A lengthy set/costume change between the scenes of act two felt long enough to break the story flow, though. Sunset’s production of Social Security […]

  • Review

    Cherry Orchard at the Milwaukee Rep

    The drama also fluently moves through comedy and sadness, although it would have been interesting to see if Chekhov felt enough of the maudlin -- which he hated -- was removed. The dual nature of this play has always haunted each staging, and this one has decided to end on the overly sentimental and tearful instead of farce.

  • Acacia Theatre seeks auditions for summer musical version of Little Women

    ACACIA THEATRE will be holding auditions on Monday and Tuesday, April 27 and 28 between 6:30 and 9:30 for its summer musical, Little Women.  This production will require 6 women and 4 Men (17 – 60).  Please prepare 12 – 16 bars of a song (accompaniment provided) Readings will be from script.   Auditions will be held by appointment only at Church in the City, 2648 N. Hackett, Milwaukee.  Performances (July 10 – 19) are at Concordia University. To make an appointment:  (414) 744-5995 or email Additional info:  Little Women: The Broadway Musical, book by Allan Knee, Lyrics by Mindi Dickstein, Music by Jason Howland, will be directed by Janet Bouman Peterson.  Music Director is Jane Foerster. A very few copies of the script are available at Acacia’s office.  They may be borrowed for 2 days for a $25 returnable deposit (our cost).  (Call office first to make arrangements).  Large portions of the script have been posted online at: Please be prepared to provide all “conflicts” from May 26 – July10.   If new to Acacia, please provide a photo. If needed: Callbacks will be Sunday, May 3rd at 2:00.  (If unable to attend, please still come to initial audition)  Rehearsals are at Church in the City.  For directions to Church in the City, go to: Ages:  Since the musical portrays the girls in the same way as the book, the youngest daughter is Amy who eventually gets married.  Even though she may still be a teen when she gets married, it is important that it isn’t a huge stretch for the modern eye to see that actress as both an impetuous early teen and a young married.  Beth is even older.  Therefore, we will not be able to see anyone who still looks like a younger teen.  If a girl is 16 or 17 and we could imagine them as married, they are welcome to audition.  If we cannot imagine that, then it is respectfully requested that they not audition.  Thank you so much for understanding. Song suggestions:  It would be wise to pick something short (which is why we are requesting only 12-16 bars), which shows your musical strengths and/or suggests the character you are auditioning for.  If your voice lends itself to two completely different styles, you may do two contrasting 12 bar selections (to show range or style differences).  Please … no longer.  We hope to provide accompanists for all auditions … remember they are sight-reading. A very ROUGH estimation of the roles and ranges: Marmee – alto, ballads Jo – gutsy, strong, wide range, but primarily alto Meg – legit soprano Beth – sweet soprano Amy – primarily alto Aunt March – wide range, character Laurie (Theodore Laurence III) – Energetic, wide range tenor Professor Baehr – Baritone John Brooke – Baritone – to II Tenor Mr. Laurence – Baritone, character

  • Special “pay what you can” for opening of Cherry Orchard

    The Milwaukee Repertory Theater indicates on its website that first two opening performances of “The Cherry Orchard” by Anton Chekhov will be “pay what you can” starting with a $5 minimum available just two hours before curtain. It’s a chance to see this Tuesday, Apr. 14 or Wednesday Apr. 15 evening for some great theater in Milwaukee by a good company of actors for possibly a fraction of the usual cost. Contact The Rep’s box office (414-224-9490)  for more information, and stayed tuned to TCD for a future review of this staging.

  • Openings and closings

    Art and performance, 4/9 – 4/14

    Visual Art Check back next week for our celebrated Gallery Night guide, with staff picks and a complete directory of local events! Music UWM Guitar Series, UWM Peck School of the Arts, 4/10. Classical guitarist René Izquierdo joins Elina Chekan in a benefit concert for UWM’s program for young guitarists. They will perform solo and duo works by Astor Piazzolla, Leo Brouwer, Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, Hector Villa-Lobos and others. Theatre I Just Stopped By To See The Man, Milwaukee Repertory Theatre, 4/8. This passionate and political ode to the power and truth of the blues tells the story of Jesse Davidson, the greatest living bluesman. Long believed dead, he lives his simple life with his activist daughter in a Mississippi Delta shack. Legend surrounds Jesse—like the story about him selling his soul to the devil so that he could play guitar. But when Karl, a famous English rocker, probes for the truth about Jesse, he triggers a confrontation of mythic proportions. Barney & Bee, Renaissance Theatre, 4/12. CLOSING. Barney & Bee tells the tale of Jo and Stephen, hosts of an ill-fated dinner party to which Stephen has asked Barney, the husband in a newly separated couple. Unbeknownst to Stephen, Jo has also invited the wife (Bee) and her new boyfriend – a recipe for social catastrophe! Two talented actors play all five comic characters in Frayn’s witty, fast-moving farce. Old Time Radio: Sherlock Holmes, Alchemist Theatre, 4/12-4/19. Wisconsin Hybrid Theater and Alchemist Productions bring a series of Sunday “Old Time Radio” Matinees to the Alchemist. Each month, a familiar classic will be adapted for your imagination by the wacky cast and crew of Vintage Radio Station WHT. Wild Honey, Off the Wall Theatre, 4/12. CLOSING. The Cherry Orchard, Milwaukee Repertory Theatre, 4/14. Set in 1904 on the edge of the Russian Revolution, this bittersweet and haunting comedy is Chekhov’s final play and masterpiece about a rapidly changing world and a way of life on the brink of destruction. With fortunes fading fast and the auction of their estate looming on the horizon, an impoverished Russian family is uncertain of what the future will bring. For venue, tickets, showtimes and more, visit Footlights Milwaukee online.

  • Milwaukee Rep Announces Latest Pay-What-You-Can Performances

    If you’re looking for an affordable way to see some great live theater, Milwaukee Repertory Theater offers Pay What You Can for select performances, you literally pay what you can afford for the ticket. (A minimum donation of $5.00 is suggested.) Tickets go on sale at 5:30 on the day of the Pay What You Can Performance. There is a limit of 10 tickets per person for the Quadracci Powerhouse performances and 4 tickets per person for the Stiemke Theater performances. Pay What You Can Performances for I JUST STOPPED BY TO SEE THE MAN are Wednesday, April 8th and Thursday, April 9th. Dates for THE CHERRY ORCHARD are Tuesday, April 14th and Wednesday, April 15th. I JUST STOPPED BY TO SEE THE MAN will be playing in The Rep’s Stiemke Theater, and THE CHERRY ORCHARD is in The Rep’s Quadracci Powerhouse Theater. All Pay What You Can Performances begin at 7:30. Both theaters are located at 108 E. Wells Street. For more information, please call The Rep’s Ticket Office at 414-224-9490. Enjoy!

  • Openings

    Art and Performance April 2-8, 2009

    Visual Art Art in Bloom, Milwaukee Art Museum. 4/2 through 4/5. Celebrating springtime, Art In Bloom showcases the talents of more than 40 renowned floral designers interpreting masterworks from the Museum’s Collection. This year’s expanded exhibition also includes lectures and workshops with celebrity floral designers and master gardeners, book signings, plein air painters, a multi-vendor indoor marketplace, a garden sculpture sale, and floral-inspired dining in the Café Calatrava Garden Room. Presenting lectures, demonstrations, and book signings will be Michael George—one of the most sought after floral designers in the United States; Milwaukee native Michael Weishan, former host of PBS television’s The Victory Garden; Portland-based vine expert Linda Beutler; landscape designer Craig Bergmann; Chicago Master Gardener and radio host Mike Nowak; local horticulture expert Melinda Myers; renowned children’s book author Lois Ehlert and many others. Awesome Art Sale, Racine Art Museum, 4/3 Due to overwhelming success, this awesome event is back with more artwork than ever! Many one-of-a-kind items priced as low as $20! Discover original, museum-quality artwork donated by collectors and nationally known artists from across the country. Purchase a great piece of art and know that you  are contributing to the sustaining growth of RAM’s exhibition and education programs. This is a fabulous time to add to your art collection or start one now!  For more info click here! Frankie Martin, Green Gallery West. 4/3 Get down with the (original) Green Gallery on their momentous fifth anniversary with an exhibition of new works by Frankie Martin,  whose work was a part of the very first Green Gallery show. In Life or Death?,  Martin will show new video work as well as paintings and video  stills. Who Died? is a five part, non-linear narrative video that reinterprets popular representations of death and the transcendence of the human body. Some light paintings will accompany this piece. Frankie will also present part of her series Left Behind which features paintings and mobiles based on the idea of what normally gets discarded. To do this she stretches her drop cloths as finished paintings that expose the materials and process of the work done in her studio. Frankie also incorporates objects from her neighborhood or from her own garbage into the work. In Frankie’s words “the idea is that these things become non-things, then become re-contextualized as things again.”  Frankie will also exhibit Born Again, a video in which Botticelli’s Birth of Venus is translated into the video format. Frankie Martin’s work has appeared in galleries all over the world, from Milwaukee to Oslo to Paris to San Francisco and New York, where she now lives. Bon anniversaire, Green Gallery! Marina Bychkova: Enchanted Doll, Villa Terrace, 4/8 Exploring the dark, dreamy side of folklore and fantasy, Bychokova transforms a children’s toy into an exploration and reinterpretation of femininity, tradition and fairy tales. Says the artist, ““Creating a visual narrative is the most intriguing way of articulating my ideas and a doll is a perfect medium because of its potential for such visual story. My […]