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Performing Arts Weekly 9.28

Sep. 27, 2016
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Photo by Timothy Moder

The Taming

Next Act Theatre, Sept. 29-Oct. 23

Atlanta-born Lauren Gunderson was one of the top 20 most-often-produced playwrights in the U.S. last season. She has a penchant for writing plays with largely (or entirely) female casts that revolve around science or history and doff their proverbial caps to the comedies of William Shakespeare. Sounds like a potentially winning formula and, indeed, it is proving to be so. One play that epitomizes the Gunderson “formula” is The Taming, which will receive its regional premiere in Downtown Milwaukee thanks to Next Act Theatre.

Directed by David Cecsarini, The Taming’s cast includes Marti Gobel as Patricia/James Madison, Sara Zientek as Bianca/Charles Pinckney and Bree Beelow as Katherine/George Washington. That sounds like they’re portraying multiple characters, but actually they are contemporary female power-player takes on these three Founding Fathers. The fact that there are characters named Katherine and Bianca (not to mention the play’s very name) should tip off the theater historians to the Shakespeare connection: The Taming is inspired by The Taming of the Shrew.

Hard on the heels of the tremendous acclaim that the musical Hamilton has received, a production of Gunderson’s Taming seems very aptly timed. “What’s fun about telling the story this way is that we get to burst the mythological bubble of perfection and wisdom [regarding the] founders,” Gunderson explained in a recent interview, continuing, “They are politically intelligent but emotionally greedy and stupid—all while being, yes, visionary, proud patriots.” (John Jahn)

Music for the Birds

Festival City Symphony @ The Pabst Theater, Oct. 2

Virtually everything in nature has found its way into classical music—an example of this is most evident in the season’s first “Symphony Sundays” concert program of the Festival City Symphony, which pays homage to our fine feathered friends. Works on the avian agenda include a suite from Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s immortal ballet score to Swan Lake, Ottorino Respighi’s evocative suite, The Birds and two opera overtures that fairly take wing: Gioachino Rossini’s The Thieving Magpie and Johann Strauss Jr.’s Die Fledermaus (The Bat). (John Jahn)

The Romantic Era

Kettle Moraine Symphony @ Our Savior Lutheran Church, West Bend, Oct. 1

The Kettle Moraine Symphony’s first season under its new music director, Lindsay Riemer, consists of four concerts, each of which is dedicated to a historical era of classical music. The season opener, for example, consists of three pieces of full-blooded Romanticism: Felix Mendelssohn’s Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage Overture, Op. 27 (1828), Ludwig van Beethoven’s Leonore Overture No. 3, Op. 72b (1806) and Antonín Dvořák’s Symphony No. 8 in G Major, Op. 88 (1889). (John Jahn)

Blithe Spirit

Marquette Theater @ Helfaer Theatre, Sept. 29-Oct. 9

“Worlds Collide” is the overarching theme of Marquette Theatre’s five-play season, beginning with the comedy Blithe Spirit by the inimitable Noël Coward. The play’s success is legendary: It created a new long-running record upon its 1941 London debut, ran for 657 performances on Broadway later the same year, was adapted for the big screen in 1945 and as the musical play High Spirits in 1964, received televised and radio broadcasts and has essentially never entirely left the stages of the world’s theaters. The collision in this play’s case is that between the real world and the spirit world—the latter where deceased ex-wives exist. (John Jahn)

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