Thursday, Nov. 6, 2008

Early November Openings

By Russ Bickerstaff
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With election season finally over (at least for Wisconsin for the time being) the Milwaukee theatre season is free to roll into its third full month. The first openings in November are a disparate mix.

Friday, Raymond Bradford’s RSVP Prductions opens the Milwaukee premiere of the modern/post modern comedy Show People—a play with a plot that reminds me of a novel I’ve never had the time to read entitled The Cards of Identity. I sincerely hope it lives up to expectations raised by one of the greatest books I’ve never read.

Also opening this weekend is The Milwaukee Rep Cabaret’s production of Greater Tuna—a comedy set in Texas’ “third smallest town.” The Jaston Williams, Joe Sears and Ed Howard comedy, which runs through much of the rest of the year, is a satire on small town America—what certain conservatives call the real America. It's a place where everyone goes to church and is identified by first name and occupation. Wasilla, Alaska may be a distant memory in the popular consciousness, but this is the kind of comedy that has a universal resilience. No matter how big the population gets, there will always be small towns and this show has been exceedingly succesful at finding the comedy in them. Personally, though, I’m not as impressed with the show as I am the cast. Greater Tuna is traditionally performed by two men playing many roles. This Milwaukee Rep production features two of the most popular actors in the Milwaukee Rep today—Lee Ernst and Gerard Neugent. Recently awarded a Lunt-Fontanne Fllowship,Ernst has been with the company for years and has turned out a number of great performances. Neugent has come into prominence only recently. Many will remember him in the title role of the Rep’s most recent production of The Nerd a couple of seasons ago—a huge success for the Rep. More recently, he starred as Norman in the Rep’s Norman Conquests just last season. On two separate and entirely different occasions, he’s played cats in First Stage Children’s Theatre shows. By far my favorite Neugent performance had to be his staggeringly effective comedic performance in Renaissance Theaterworks’ production of Burn This some time ago. With the comic talent of Ernst and Neugent, this should be a fun production.

Next week, the third ward scores two openings. Next Act opens a production of Murderers—a comedy by brilliant playwright Jeffrey Hatcher and Milwaukee Chamber Theatre opens the Milwaukee debut of Jonathan Gillard Daly’s musical tribute to family and wartime: The Daly News. Just West of the theatre district, Marquette University Theatre opens the first of two production of Chekov’s The Cherry Orchard to open in Milwaukee this season. This is Marquette’s first production of the play since the ‘70’s—that production featured Maureen Killmurry. The Milwaukee Rep’s production of the Chekov classic opens April 14th.

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