Year In Review pt. 2

Aug. 1, 2008
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Towards the end of last February, Spiral Theatre staged the single best romance of the year with Ruth Arnell and Ryan Dance in Butterflies Are Free It was a year with a unusually large number of monologue shows. The Boulevard Theatre followed-up one good production with another as it brought Liz Mistele, Anne Miller, Caitlin Kujawski and Maria Theresa Russo in the title roles of Catholic Schoolgirls. Kopper Bear artistic Director Howard Bashinski staged the best one of the year in the studio theatre of the Sunset Playhouse. Kopper Bear’s only production of the year, Jeffry Hatcher’s Three Viewings featured the talents of Amy Geyser, Bran Faracy and Elaine Wyler as three different characters who all have encounters with the same funeral home. This November, Next Act stags another trilogy of monologues by Hatcher asit brings Murderers! to the stage.

March saw a major Rep main stage production of a new play by Charles Randolph-Wright, but the company possibly turned more head with a staging of Beckett’s Endgame in its studio theatre. In Tandem staged a provocative production of a church-based drama in its new church-side space as Michael Duncan and Michael Perez starred in Bll C. Davis’ Mass Appeal.

April was a busy month with over a dozen openings. Sheer Madness pair John McGivern and Christopher Tarjan put on the quick-change act for a very successful production of The Mystery of Irma Vep: A Penny Dreadful with Next Act. Later on in the month, Alchemist Theatre staged its first indigenous production with 31—a crime drama starring Kirk Thomsen and Aaron Kopec which was presented in conjunction with an experimental piece by Insurgent Theatre starring Tim Chrapko and Tracy Doyle as brother and sister in Cracks In The Floor. Michael Patrick Cotey, whjo has emerged as a major talent out of UWM starred in his final production with the university in a highly entertaining and deeply sophisticated performance as the unlikely judge Azdak in its production of Caucsian Chalk Circle.

May ended up being a month featuring some really amazing ensemble casts. Alamo Basement and Insurgent Theatre hit the tenth street theatre with a large group of people and a crazy kind of energy this past May with the third annual 24 Hour Play which ended up being pleasantly uneven. In Tandem assembled a brilliant ensemble cast for its production of The Girl In The Frame. Also in May, Soulstice Theatre staged To Gllian on Her 37th Birthday--one of the most intimate dramas of the year in a tiny studio space at the Marian Center For Nonprofits that was made even more intimate by a particularly close seating arrangement. Like Kopper Bear, Soulstice consistently stages some of the best productions in greater Milwaukee on a very irregular basis.

The American Players Theatre opened its season this past June with a very modern A Midsummer Night’s Dream and an eerily cheery production of Ah Wilderness! Closer to home, a private production of a very uneven political piece entitled Small Pieces Fly To Heaven made it to its first public stage at the Off-Broadway Theatre. Local sketch comedy group Broadminded launched its second show of the year—this one In 3-D with some of the classiest tickets of the year: each ticket was an actual pair of 3-D glasses.

The theatre year ended with an oddly congested pile-up of openings the weekend of the 12th. Even during busy months in the regular season like September and November, there aren’t normally five shows opening in a single weekend. Actually, with Door Shakespeare opening its two shows that same weekend, there were some seven shows opening that weekend that I would end up covering in various capacities over the course of the month. It was busy . . . and now I have a week off before the first new shows of the new year . . . up next: a glance at what’s ahead in the new year.


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