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Wednesday, April 9, 2008

East Side Romance

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Overthe course of the current theater season, actors on local stages have played such diverse roles as the devil, a fish, a ghost, an angel in the body of a human, a Hollywood producer, con men, hit men, royalty, lizards, prisoners, twins, a faith healer, a priest and a seminarian. This week, four Milwaukee actors in their late-20s and early-30s will tackle the challenge of … playing four people living in Milwaukee in their late-20s and early-30s, as the Boulevard Theatre launches the world premiere of local playwright Chad M. Rossi’s Eureka!, a contemporary coming-of-age romantic comedy set on the East Side.

Normally there’s a comfortable emotional distance between actors and the characters they are playing onstage. With Rossi’s Eureka!, two actors and two actresses play characters not unlike themselves, characters they were approached to play by director Mark Bucher. After talking with the cast members, one gets the impression that they feel as though Bucher chose them for a reason.

At 24, actress Rachel Lau feels she is about five years younger than Nancy, the successful young professional she portrays. (Nancy’s age is never specifically stated in the script.) Nancy has been working at the same marketing firm for seven years, a situation facing many young business people. “This character is like me,” Lau says. “I feel a little bit more vulnerable, like I’m really putting myself out there.”

Nancy is a strong, assertive character who tries to maintain a sense of control in her life. (Not surprisingly, then, she’s the only one of the four characters not to appear in her underwear at some point in the production.) Nancy has recently started dating a guy named Wayne, played by Cesar Gamino.

Wayne, who works a full-time day job, currently shares an apartment with Clyde, a friend he’s known since college. Something of a dreamer, Clyde (played by Jason Krukowski) has ambitious ideas, but isn’t terribly successful professionally. Wayne managed to get him an office job that he’s been struggling with for months. In addition to employment concerns, Clyde also has to contend with Wayne getting more and more distant as his relationship with Nancy progresses.

Clyde finds himself dating Teri, a woman he met at Wolski’s. Teri is played by relative newcomer Rachel Lewandowski. Though she’s appeared onstage before, this is the first time Lewandowski has performed in such a prominent role.

The ensemble has a very strong rapport, which is absolutely essential for this contemporary comedy. Their highly engaging social dynamic in casual conversations should translate well in the intimacy of the Boulevard Theatre. The first staging of a play like this is guaranteed to be a little rough around the edges, but Bucher and Rossi have developed a thoughtful production with substance and commercial appeal.

Eureka! runs through April 27.