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Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2008

Talk Among Friends, Goodnight Gracie

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In two weeks, Boulevard Theatre jumps into the new year with a production of Say Goodnight, Gracie, a comedy by Ralph Pape. The Boulevard continues its tradition of staging comfortably edgy shows from the recent past with a comedy that originally debuted with Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre Company in 1979. Gracie is the story of five 20-somethings getting together in an apartment in New York with intentions of going to a high-school reunion. The group includes a struggling actor, his girlfriend, a musician, a stewardess and a struggling writer.

There’s really no plot here—just a conversation between friends at a specific point in time as they soak their synapses in THC. Going to a small theater in Bay View to watch a group of young actors pretend to get stoned and eat junk food might not sound that appealing, but Pape’s story has proven to be much more durable than most conversations that occur over marijuana. The comedy has been produced a number of times over the years by companies all over the country. The Boulevard Theatre’s production, directed by Jon Beidleschies, opens Jan. 16 and runs through Feb. 3.



A few days before the Boulevard’s opening, Sunset Playhouse in Elm Grove enters the new year with playwright James DeVita’s Arthur, the Boy Who Would Be King. In addition to being exceedingly busy as an actor, DeVita is First Stage Children’s Theater’s playwright-in-residence.“Jim and I first met and worked together at the Milwaukee Rep in the early ’90s,” says Mark Salentine, Sunset’s artistic director. “I very much respect how he has established himself as a playwright.”



The story follows Arthur near the end of his reign, presumably not long before Camelot fell to King Mark of Cornwall, according to some versions of the legend. Uncertain of whether or not his rule actually accomplished anything, Merlin allows him to travel back in time to see everything he did accomplish. Billed as a family play, the Sunset’s first production of the year may soften some of the edges of the Arthurian legend, but the Sunset’s impressive production values could make Arthur a pleasure for anyone to watch. J. Michael Desper’s set design is far better than anything found at a Renaissance fair. If props and costuming meet with usual Sunset standards, Arthur could end up looking beautiful onstage. Arthur runs Jan. 11-27.