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Friday, Jan. 17, 2014

Art, Celebrity and Corruption

Renaissance Theaterworks satirizes the state of the arts in 'The Understudy'

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Theresa Rebeck’s comedies have made for some very memorable theater in the past. Milwaukee Chamber’s staging of Mauritius was sharp, clever and engrossing. Windfall Theatre’s production of Omnium Gatherum was well modulated with a great cast. This month, Renaissance Theaterworks stages The Understudy, a comedy with a cast that could make for another thoroughly satisfying show.

Chicago actress Cassandra Bissell plays a stage manager running an understudy rehearsal of a lost work by Kafka making its Broadway debut. Local favorite Ken T. Williams plays her ex-fiancée—a journeyman actor who finds his career not quite what he had hoped. Matters are made all the worse as he is forced to work as an understudy to a guy named Jake. Philip Sletteland plays Jake, a Hollywood film star who makes some $2 million per film. The single most memorable line from Jake’s new movie? “Get in the truck!” He’s come to the stage looking for something a little more substantial.

With The Understudy, Rebeck takes satirical aim at the corruption of theater in this country and the public’s obsession with celebrity as it effects art. Rebeck’s satirical edge should feel fresh and emotionally immediate in the intimate space of a studio theater.

Renaissance Theaterworks’ production of The Understudy runs Jan. 17-Feb. 9, at the Broadway Theatre Center’s Studio Theatre, 158 N. Broadway. For tickets, call 414-291-7800 or visit r-t-w.com.

 Theatre Happenings

 Sunset Playhouse’s bug in a rug Children’s Theatre returns with a small stage adaptation of Cowboy Camp, Tammi Sauer’s story of a little cowboy who doesn’t fit in. The 2005 children’s book is great material for bug in a rug, with performances amidst a large group of parents and children sitting on the floor of a studio theater, Jan. 23-25. For tickets, call 262-782-4430 or visit sunsetplahouse.com.