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Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013

Warm Up with the Lumberjacks

Sunset Playhouse’s popular Wisconsin comedy

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As the temperature drops outside, a good way to stay warm and entertained indoors is a visit to Sunset Playhouse’s production of Lumberjacks in Love (LiL).

Developed in 1996 by American Folklore Theatre vets James Kaplan (music and story) and the late Fred Alley (book, lyrics and story), LiL takes place at the Haywire Lumber Camp in northern Wisconsin. Four bachelors enjoy their freedom from “the females of feminine persuasion” (at least for a while) in this hilarious comedy, which borrows freely from Shakespearean devices such as mistaken identities, cross-dressing and double entendre. The results are corny but still funny. When two of the bachelors get drunk in town one night, they send for a mail-order bride. A year later, guess what happens?

Director Jill Anna Ponasik keeps the slapstick and silliness moving amid Christopher Kurtz’s eye-catching, knick-knacky set. The atmosphere is one of mucho-macho bravado amid plenty of pine and plaid. The cast of six is uneven at times, but in some ways that actually adds to the performances. Who expects a lumberjack to hit all his notes perfectly? The vocal straining and clumsy attempts at dance enhance the rough-hewn charm. There are some wonderfully comic moments, especially when Matt Kuhnen’s big, bearded Dirty Bob prances about in women’s clothing when he thinks he’s alone in the cabin.

On a poignant note, Phil Stepanski provides a touching foil to the other guys as he reads romance novels and starts to realize he’s falling for The Kid (Sara Lessman, who plays a woman dressed as a man). The two share a touching moment in the duet, “It Would be Enough for Me.” The rest of the hard-working cast includes Maureen Smith, Glenn Villa and Matt Knudsen. Suffice to say (and borrow from the Bard), “All’s well that ends well” in LiL. And you can expect plenty of laughs along the way.

Lumberjacks in Love
runs through Feb. 17 at Sunset Playhouse, 800 Elm Grove Road. To reserve tickets, call 262-782-4430 or visit sunsetplayhouse.com.