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Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2011

Windfall Theatre Gathers Peculiar Souls

Milwaukee premiere of 'Omnium Gatherum'

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Omnium Gatherum is an intimate, intense political reflection, a voyeuristic social snapshot told through a five-course gourmet dinner party. Written by two New Yorkers, it reflects and records the days after Sept. 11, 2001. Windfall Theatre's production is the Milwaukee premiere of this Pulitzer-nominated play.

A Jewish pundit, feminist vegan, New York City fireman, black minister, Arab academic, espionage novelist and late-arriving surprise guest share course after course generously provided by their host. “We are omnium gatherum, a collection of peculiar souls,” one says. Ironically, the guest list shows diversity rarely found in a modern America that isolates itself with the like-minded.

Dialogue begins as discussion, rises to debate and crescendos as argument, with characters taking turns getting worked up. “A good argument is the heart of every dinner party,” the hostess says with a sigh, before new discussions begin concerning war and peace, poverty and world populations, consumerism and globalization, veganism, great sex and cheating, and opulence and obligation.

“You missed death, global annihilation, Gandhi and Hitler,” one character quips, “while you were in the bathroom.” Bottle after bottle of wine goes down, for better more than worse. “Is he getting clearer as we get drunker?” the fireman asks.

The party wrestles with Israel and Palestine, and settles on the Sept. 11 attacks, elucidating stances and ascertaining actions. “But how do we stop arguing long enough to find meaning?” Truth be told, they're all good arguments, stacked and juxtaposed and trimmed to simple, clear summaries. Like all dinner parties, this one works through slow stretches. But thankfully, unlike at real dinner parties, nobody repeats themselves.

Omnium Gatherum
isn't a timeless story, so much as a snapshot of a certain society at a specific point in time.

Windfall's production sticks to the voyeuristic script, removing you from where you are without quite dropping you at the table.

Performances continue through Oct. 8 at Village Church Arts, 130 E. Juneau Ave. To reserve tickets, call 414-332-3963.