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Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2009

Theater Season in Swing

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After a post-holiday lull, Milwaukee's theater scene gathers steam with two openings on Friday, Jan. 16. At the Broadway Theatre Center's Studio Theatre, Renaissance Theaterworks opens The Dig, a new drama by Playwright-in-Residence Marie Kohler. And in Elm Grove, the Sunset Playhouse presents the musical comedy I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change.

At Renaissance, The Dig tells the story of Mattie and her brother Jamie, a brilliant archaeologist who succumbed to schizophrenia while on a dig in 1968. Years later, an inquiry into an ancient Phoenician pot draws Jamie back into the spotlight. Mattie is protective of her brother and his tenuous mental stability as she explores the story behind Jamie's illness in this promising drama from the playwright of the critically acclaimed Boswell's Dreams.

Catherine Lynn Davis makes her Renaissance debut as Mattie, and the captivating Brian Mani plays Jamie, Mattie's schizophrenic brother. Mani has shown considerable talent for delving into mental instability in the past, most notably in his performance in the title role of Timon of Athens with the American Players Theatre in 2007. If Mani nails his role, this could end up being one of the best performances in Milwaukee all year. The Dig runs Jan.16 through Feb. 8.

Things will be much lighter in the suburbs, when the Sunset Playhouse opens its production of the Joe DiPietro/Jimmy Roberts comedy I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change. It's a highly successful smattering of comic scenes held together by the overarching themes of love and romance. The play has been translated into 13 languages and performed all over the world since its off-Broadway debut in 1996.

Sunset Playhouse Artistic Director Mark Salentine says he feels "a certain sentimental devotion…and even a little ownership" over the show because of his long history with it. In the early part of this decade, Salentine starred in the show's Milwaukee premiere at Broadway Baby Dinner Theatre.

The Sunset production stars Cindy Zauner, Kyle Breitzman, Sarah Laak Hughes and Bill Rolon-an ensemble of four appearing in the roles of 67 different characters over the course of 20 scenes. Salentine assures audiences that the show remains fresh despite its long history. "Though maybe some of the gray in its 1996 roots is starting to show," he says, "the themes of the play are timeless."

The Sunset Playhouse's I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change runs Jan. 16 through Feb. 1.

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