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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Dark Double Feature

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Last week, Bay View’s Boulevard Theatre opened local playwright Chad M. Rossi’s comedy Eureka! Just a little further south, Alchemist Theatre and Insurgent Theatre open a pair of one-act dramas in a double feature that promises to be considerably darker than Eureka! Alchemist Theatre’s 31 is the story of a detective who finds himself consumed by the hunt for a serial murderer. Insurgent Theatre’s end of the double feature is an experimental piece, Cracks In The Floor,about a voyeur drawn into the lives of the people who live below him.

Kirk Thomsen and Aaron Kopec wrote and star in Alchemist’s 31. Thomsen plays Pete, a timid, by-the-book crime scene investigator who has been pulled out of a leave of absence to look into a series of murders. Kopec plays William, a consultant on the case who helps Pete in his quest to capture the murderer. Liz Shipe rounds out the cast in dual supporting roles.

The story explores the darker side of human thought. “If you could hear the thoughts of the guy in the check-out lane next to you in the supermarket…would you be scared?” Kopec asks. “What if he could hear your thoughts?”

Kopec concedes that the themes explored in 31 have been examined in a number of different novels and movies. “We simply wanted to write a one-act drama that got under your skin a little, had interesting characters and felt like a satisfying production under one hour in length,” he says.

Kopec adds that he is hoping to use the small space of the Alchemist Theatre to immerse the audience in the drama. Detailed sets and sophisticated theater equipment for a space this size should ensure that the sound design and lighting will be comparable to productions by big-name, big-budget theater companies.

Cracks In The Floor stars Tim Chrapko as Alan and Tracy Doyle as his sister Ann. Jason Hames plays the neighbor, Michael. The rest of the cast consists of do-it-yourself theater regulars playing book-club members and cultists.

“I consider this project to be more of a theatrical experiment than a cohesive play,” says director Wesley Tank. Developed in Insurgent Theatre’s workshop, Cracks In The Floor makes it to the stage after progressing through a sophisticated process. Tank first brainstormed general plotlines and character concepts, before working with individual actors to develop their characters. As actors became acquainted with their roles, the dramatic dynamics were further worked into the plot.

“Because we choose to work [in] a way that is radically different than traditional theater, we hope the finished product is something that hasn't been experienced before,” Tank says.

The double feature runs through May 4 at the Alchemist Theatre, 2569 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.