Coming to a (Live) Theater Near You
The 2017-18 season's LGBTQ offerings
Once again, there’s no dearth of LGBTQ-relevant theater on Milwaukee’s stages for the 2017-18 season. Actually, things are well underway. The Milwaukee Chamber Theatre just ran Ira Levin’s Deathtrap to open the season. The 1978 play-within-a-play murder mystery had a subliminal gay twist. Four decades later, the revival wasn’t quite as shocking for that but merely added an inclusive dimension. Speaking of twists, Dale Gutzman’s revived his own camp rework of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? at Off the Wall Theatre. Played in drag by Jeremy Welter and Mark Hagen, the gutsy homage brought crazy Jane and her invalid sister Blanche to a sublime and ridiculous theatrical high. If you missed it, maybe he’ll do it again.
Next on the marquee, opening Thursday, Sept. 21, is Mark Boucher’s Boulevard Theatre production of Small Things, a recent work by gay Canadian playwright, Daniel MacIvor. Topically timely, the brief two act follows the crossed paths of three women, one a retired teacher, the other her maid and the third, the maid’s daughter. The topically timely part is the maid’s grandson, Wolfgang, a grade schooler who decides he is, henceforth, Alice. Reality ensues.
Later in the season Bucher produces The Best Brothers by the same playwright. This one involves two brothers who must settle the estate of their suddenly (and tragically during a pride parade mishap involving a drag queen named Pina Colada) departed mother, Bunny. Bittersweet sibling rivalry ensues.
Also on Thursday, Sept. 21 is the Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s LGBT Pride Night for its production of the popular Broadway musical, Guys and Dolls. Although not gay per se…who am I kidding, it’s a Broadway musical, after all, and that spells gay with a capital “G.”
The Skylight Music Theatre’s LGBT “Be OUT” nights have yet to be announced, although presumably they will. Its season doesn’t have much gay-specific programming but Artistic Director Ray Jivoff assures us it will be “fun.” That shifts from the brief but memorable tenure of former Artistic Director Viswa Subbaraman during which we experienced daring and cerebral productions of rare pieces like the Philip Glass/Allen Ginsburg song cycle Hydrogen Jukebox, Somtow Sucharitkul’s Snow Dragon and Thomas Adès’ Powder Her Face. Still, titles like Hot Mikado, Zombies from the Beyond and Urinetown, plus the addition of Jill Anna Ponasik as artistic associate, promise an entertaining season nonetheless.
Meanwhile, back at the Chamber Theatre, we’ll have to wait until the spring for John Patrick Shanley’s Doubt. The play’s return after the Milwaukee Rep’s production a decade ago should revive the discussion of how we deal with perceptions of race, homosexuality and the mighty fortress of religion in light of all that has transpired in the interim.
And, speaking of spring awakenings, back at the Rep, Our Town by Madison-born playwright Thornton Wilder, lover of part-time Milwaukeean Sam Steward, the famed sexual renegade, opens in April. According to some, the play’s third act was inspired by Wilder’s affair with Steward. One way or the other, the work is considered one of the greatest plays ever written.
Unfortunately, there are apparently no lesbian-themed plays being staged. They’re rare anyway but maybe Renaissance Theaterworks will do something someday.