Lobster Boy, Parachute Silk and Eva In Wonderland

Another Year In Replab

Jan. 14, 2012
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 N’Tasha Charmel Anders (L)  and Eva Balistrieri (R) in PARACHUTE SILK

The Milwaukee Rep’s interns return to the Stiemke this week with a series of shorts. From the relative intimacy of the Rep’s studio theatre, audiences are given eight shorts bisected into four short halves. Here are a few impressions on a show that ranged pretty wildly from the staggeringly brilliant to the truly, truly awful . . . 


Normal by Jeff Brandli. Luke Brotherhood plays the child of F. Tyler Burnet. Father is taking his sun to brunch with his grandparents . . . or rather he would if he could ever get out of the tree. Brandli and Brotherhood do a pretty good job of rendering the drama in what feels like kind of a simple script that offers little more than an opportunity to flesh out a moment between father, son and the memory of mother and wife.  


Bright. Apple. Crush. By Stephen Yockey. The show felt like an awful lot of actors speaking without speaking to each other. In other words, there was an inordinate amount of monologue. In places, the program felt like an extended open audition. Here we have three juxtaposed monologues about love, pain and  revenge. Melissa Graves is chillingly comic as a teacher with a strange fixation on apples. Nathaniel French palys a man who is beaten by the man he loves. Eric C. Lynch plays a man hurt by the woman he loves in an altogether different way. Kind of compelling . . .

The Can-Can by by Kelly Younger. Possibly the single most tedious thing to be put on a local stage in the past few years. N’Tasha Charmel Anders and Joe Kemper do the best the y can with this piece. Two people doing competing clichés with a pair of tin cans is not a short play…it’s a writing exercise. To stage this script as a reading might be fun, but to do a full staging is just cruel to actors and audience alike.


Land of the Dead by Neil Labute. This is weird. I never disliked anything by Labute until I saw this one. Maybe it was the fact that it was another instance of contrasting monologues…this between a man and a woman who are ex-lovers. . . which is to say that they don’t love each other anymore. They take turns talking about something that inevitably ends up being abortion . .  .but as I was listening to it, I wondered how much more compelling it would be to have these two people who don’t love each other anymore going through IVF instead…like they’re just going through the motions of having a baby through advanced medicine even though they don’t love each other anymore. To have the central conflict be abortion just feels too conceptually dull for me. That being said, both Melissa Graves and Alexander Pawlowski IV were remarkably engaging as man and woman. Graves in particular put in some pretty remarkable performances over the course of the program. She holds the stage with beauty and precision.


One For The Chipper by Adam Seidel. A weak and cheesy sitcom-style short about a down on his luck little league coach trying to give a pep talk to a team that hasn’t won a single game all season. Cute and inconsequential. Charmingly forgettable with impressively comic performances by many including F. Tyler Burnett and Eva Balistrieri

Then there’s intermission on January 16th and 17th, the program also lists a short called Letters from Quebec to Providence in the Rain by Don Nigro

Parachute Silk by Carson Kreitzer. The author of Freakshow, which Youngblood staged some time ago, brings this remarkably touching story of a couple of World War II-era women who will marry their future husbands in dresses made of silk from some rather significant parachutes. Starring in a crushingly endearing performances.

Lobster Boy by Dan Dietz. Okay . . . by this time, we’ve already seen three shorts that were essentially monologue-driven. And when Joe Kemper went up there behind the lectern alone . . . I have to admit to feeling more than a little apprehensive. But then the monologue started . . . and this is one of the most beautifully rendered dramatic monologues I’ve ever heard. It’s so compelling on so many levels . . . and Kemper does a really good job of bringing it to the stage. This isn’t just a good reason to see Replab this year . . . this is why everyone should see Replab this year. The Can-Can feels a million miles away when the lights fall on this one.

Original Short by the ensemble . . . Can’t remember what this one was titled—they’d announced the title at the beginning of the show . . . it’s sort of an Alice and Wonderland piece with Eva Balistrieri playing a woman on a journey into herself with a New York cabbie (Alexander Pawlowski IV) as her spirit guide/white rabbit guiding her within herself via an elevator . . . ok . . . not the most clever premise, but it was charmingly surreal. Pawlowski IV was a lot of fun in his role and Balistrieri is overwhelmingly irresistible as a lost person finding herself . . . she draws such a deep empathy onstage.

This Year’s Replab runs through January 17th. For ticket reservations, call 414-224-9490.





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