Retro Drama at Casablanca
Cabaret Milwaukee presents ‘Rise of the Apothecary’
The Casablanca restaurant is the venue for Cabaret Milwaukee’s Rise of the Apothecary, a brutal World War II-era drama set overseas. Thom Cauley plays a man suffering from addiction who sets out with his Women Airforce Service Pilot sister to enact revenge on the servicemen who raped her. Michelle M. Paura brings vivid strength to her performance as the emotionally destabilized pilot. Michael Keiley is charismatically weary as the military officer who investigates the matter with the aid of his mistress, Cheryl. Amanda J Hull plays Cheryl with a witty grasp of some of the best lines in the script.
Some of the edge is taken off the dramatic darkness by ’40s variety acts including a tap dancing Danni Webber, stand-up comedy in period style by Michael Palmisano II and the pitch-perfect swing-era harmony of The Howling Radio Hour Jinglers: Dora Diamond, Jen Cintrón and Sarah Ann Mellström.
Jason Hillman hosts the show in the role of live radio personality Richard Howling, kind of a strange mix of old time radio-era Jack Benny and contemporary Jon Stewart. Hillman delivers news of the era in a style that pairs the past well with the present. At one point news of Joseph McCarthy’s campaign for U.S. Senate echoes the unlikely rise of a certain contemporary Republican presidential nominee. Hillman does his best to keep it all rolling along smoothly. The transitions might not be perfect and the juggling of comedy and drama can feel a bit stiff in places, but the fusion is fun to be a part of when it all comes together.
Through Aug. 27 at Casablanca, 728 E. Brady St. For ticket reservations visit brownpapertickets.com.