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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Sex and Song

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It's another busy weekend in March for local theater. The fledgling Pink Banana Theatre Company opens a program of shorts this Friday, Chazz Palminteri comes to town for his one-man-show at the Marcus Center and UW-Milwaukee launches its production of Dario Fo's The Accidental Death of an Anarchist. However, nothing defines the crazy energy of spring theater in Milwaukee quite like the fact that Andre Lee Ellis'Sho' Nuff Gospel Music and Kevin Thornton'sSex, Dreams and Self Control are running in the same week.

Sho' Nuff is former Hansberry-Sands Artistic Director Andre Lee Ellis' energetic tribute to gospel. Though quite theatrical, the show is more of a concert, featuring songs such as "Oh Happy Day" and "Precious Lord." It isn't held together by a plot so much as it is by the history of gospel itself. Charting a story that goes back some 150 years, the show has been performed a number of times at various places around town over the years since Ellis formed his own theater company. It doesn't appear to be lacking in motivation. In Ellis' own estimation, this is the biggest show he's done in 15 years. He's hoping to sell out the performances here in Milwaukee, with ambitions of launching productions in Chicago and beyond.

Ellis' Sho' Nuff Gospel Music runs March 26 to 29 at the Mason Temple Church of God In Christ (6090 N. 35th St.).

Striking a remarkably different chord, underground new-wave pop musician Kevin Thornton comes to town this weekend with his touring one-man show Sex, Dreams and Self Control. It's a charismatic, autobiographical mix of Thornton's, music, comedy and spoken word. The disparate elements fuse together to form the story of a young Midwestern man learning to define himself in an often confusing world of sexuality, religion, family and other complexities. It takes a particularly ambitious artist to put on biographical performances that are still described as "dark" and "courageous" in our high-speed, blog- and Twitter-drenched social landscape. In the course of his U.S. tour thus far, Thornton has proven to possess the necessary attributes. Though firmly planted in his own genre, he has a wide-reaching appeal that could ultimately meet with the kind of success achieved by similar biographical artists like David Sedaris.

Thornton's Sex, Dreams and Self Control runs March 27 and 28 at the Milwaukee Gay Arts Center (703 S. Second St.).