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Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013

Alchemist Theatre’s ‘Burden of Being’

Puppets, monsters and musical comedy

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Robby McGhee’s The Burden of Being is a light, quick musical. Michael David Stoddard plays a high school valedictorian with great potential who finds his ambition mixed up in the plans of others. As a part of his small town’s minority monster population, he is manifest onstage as a puppet. There are several others. More representational than expressive, the puppets feel like suggestive visual mascots for the actors playing the roles of the monsters.

Stoddard’s performance is respectably endearing. There are a few other sparkling performances in the ensemble. Nevin Langhus’ comic instincts are as sharp here as they are in the improv comedy he’s become known for. Rachael Zientek makes subtlety look easy in the role of Aaron’s human girlfriend, Princess. Hayley San Fillippo is sweetly irresistible as an awkward monster kid named Stunner who delivers a few sketchy jokes during a couple of scene changes. The quirky jokes serve to further establish Stunner’s identity and illuminate a bit more of the cultural background of a town populated in part by monsters.

As it is a short, two-act musical, The Burden of Being doesn’t have the time to render any character or relationship in any great detail. There are, however, quite a few charming performances in the ensemble and the music is appealing enough to hold the show together. Director Jared Stepp seems to give everyone in the ensemble plenty of room to explore, but with so many different characters to juggle in such a limited amount of time, the story never has a chance to get very far below the surface. Thanks to McGhee, Stepp and company, that surface of The Burden of Being is a lot of fun anyway.

The Burden of Being runs through Aug. 31 at the Alchemist Theatre, 2569 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. For tickets, visit thealchemisttheatre.com.

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