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Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2012

Milwaukee Chamber Captures Complexity of 'A Thousand Clowns'

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Milwaukee Chamber Theatre opened its season with a production of Herb Gardner's A Thousand Clowns. The 1960s classic offers an even mix of comedy and drama, featuring depth of emotion in characters that are all quite complex and sympathetically rendered.

Under the direction of Jonathan West, the cast deftly navigates the emotional complexity of the piece. Tom Klubertanz has a down-to-earth instability as Murray, an unemployed television writer going through an existential crisis—and trying to raise his 12-year-old nephew, Nick. Murray is looking to find life beyond routine, which doesn't create a terribly stable home for Nick. Nick is a genius played with a clever understanding of comic subtlety by child actor Thomas Kindler. Invariably, there are issues that arise when two social workers come by to check on Murray and Nick's home environment. Matt Daniels creates comically defined precision in the role of social worker Albert. His cold precision is tempered by the far more compassionate and far less stable psychologist Dr. Markowitz (Beth Mulkerron).

Klubertanz holds down the center of the play with a very thoughtful portrayal of a man trying to find inner emotional truth he can live with. Without such a careful depiction, the character would come across as a man desperately trying to remain a boy. There is some element of that in Murray, but it's part of a larger psychological picture that Klubertanz brings to the stage with striking clarity. Mulkerron ends up playing the love interest here. Her intimate portrayal of instability mirrors Klubertanz 's. Together, Klubertanz and Mulkerron share a sharp dynamic.

Milwaukee Chamber Theatre's production of A Thousand Clowns runs through Aug. 26 at the Broadway Theatre Center. For ticket reservations, call 414-291-7800.
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