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Monday, March 29, 2010

Next Act, Boulevard Theatre Wrap Up Another Season

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It’s always a pleasure to see an actor paired with the perfect role. One of the season’s best potential matches graces the stage of the Off-Broadway Theatre this week, as Next Act Theatre closes its 20th season with Jeffrey Sweet’s The Value of Names.The contemporary drama stars Robert Spencer as Benny Silverman, a charismatic star of stage and screen who was blacklisted during the witch hunt for Communists during the Cold War. Set decades after Silverman appeared before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), the play focuses a good deal on Silverman’s relationship with his adult daughter, played by Kelsey Brennan.

In recent years, Spencer has had a number of memorable turns on various stages in Milwaukee’s theater district. Years ago, he gave a vivid, charming performance as an inspirational college professor in the Milwaukee Rep’s production of Tuesdays With Morrie. More recently, he added great depth to the role of a Russian delegate negotiating nuclear disarmament in Milwaukee Chamber Theatre’s production of A Walk in the Woods. Spencer’s charisma and unique stage presence form a natural match for a vaudeville-style, mid-20th-century comic TV personality.

Pairing Spencer with a talented actress like Brennan should make for a really interesting stage dynamic, with depth to match the humor. John Kishline rounds out the cast as Leo, the former friend who gave Silverman’s name to HUAC, effectively ending his career.

Next Act Theatre’s The Value of Names runs through May 2 at the Off-Broadway Theatre.

Boulevard Theatre closes its 24th season with the Midwest premiere of Patricia Durante and Betsy Tuxill’s It’s Your Mother. This comedy, directed by Mark Bucher, explores the relationship between mothers and daughters in a series of dialogues and monologues. The extensive cast includes many impressive talents from local theater, such as Marion Araujo, Nicole Gorski and Rachel Lewandowski, among others. Boulevard has announced that the cast is subject to change, as some actors will be rotating roles throughout the run of the show to keep things fresh.

Boulevard Theatre’s It’s Your Mother runs through May 9.