Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2008

Alchemist Theatre’s New Season (sort of)

By Russ Bickerstaff
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It’s been a while since I’ve been to the Bay View theatre/bar Alchemist Theatre. It’s been even longer since the last time I’ve checked their website. A bit weary over the prospect of a three-show weekend that’s suddenly turned into four, I was wondering what Aaron and Kirk might have planned for the near future. After what felt like a kind of lengthy lull in scheduling, the Alchemist has announced quite a few upcoming shows . . . so many that it feels like late summer all over again as Alchemist is announcing whatfeels like a whole new season with a number of new things scheduled for the next several months leading up through the first half of the 2009-2010 theatre season. I guess stealth scheduling like this as autumn turns to winter is just the type of thing one would expect from Milwaukee’s premiere iconoclastic theatre space. What follows are highlights from the new announcements. As it is currently too late to try to contact Kirk or Aaron, these are only first impressions. More information as these opening dates approach:



RUDOLPH THE PISSED-OFF REINDEER

This one I actually knew about from conversations with GENTLEMAN’S HOUR member Patrick Schmitz. Evidently he’s worked out some sort of anti-holiday parody of those old stop motion animation Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer musicals that have become such a staple of broadcast TV over the years. Cute idea, but I don’t know how Schmitz is going to get the distinctively cheesy visual feel of those old shows. Schmitz assures me that it’ll work. He’s also confident that it’s quite funny. Judging from his work with THE GENTLEMAN’S HOUR, I’m tempted o trust him. The holiday show runs December 5 through 20.

OOH LA LA CABARET SHOW STARING THE HANKY PANKY GIRLS
Uhh . . . no idea what this could be, but it could be good. Judging from the information on the website, it’s something like a classy night club style show as the Alchemist is “transformed into the velvety Ooh La Lounge” for the cabaret show. Migh be worth checking out. Runs February 13 – 21. Yes, there’s a show on Valentine’s Day Evening. (A Saturday.)

OLD TIME RADIO LIVE
This sounds partcularly interesting to me as I've been listening to a steady diet of old public domain episodes of X-Minus One off the internet lately. Wisconsin Hybrid Theater and Alchemist Productions are going to collaborate on a series of live staged performances of old radio scripts. In March, they’re doing Phantom of the Opera. In April they’re doing a Sherlock Holmes story. In May they’re doin a radio adaptation of The Wizard of Oz.

WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF?
Alchemist Theatre’s Kirk Thomsen directs a production of the Edward Albee classic. It occurs to me that this is probably one of the few times that Alchemist will have staged something that wasn’t written locally. The Theatre has proven that I can stage original stuff, this is going to be its first real test with a full staging of a classic. Kirk must have some kind of specific angle on this one or he wouldn’t be scheduling it. The show runs March 19 through April 4.

SEXUAL PERVERSITY IN CHICAGO
This is a classic all its own. Mamet’s unique look at being sex and human connection in the Windy City of the mid-1970’s as framed onstage with unique sets and video designed to lock-in the feeling of each location. Sounds like fun. This is one I’ve always been interested in seeing staged . . . run July 9 – 25.

INVADER? I HARDLY KNOW HER!
And then things get really weird next September with what the website refers to as, “the best Sci-Fi Spy-Thriller Romantic Comedy Musical you’ll see all year!” The real kicker here is that this one will be written and composed by THE SHOW’s Jason Powell, who many will remember from his years of writing the theatre column for the Shepherd. Good luck, Jason. Let’s hope you know what you’re doing with this one. Something like this either succeeds big time or crashes and burns into obscurity. (No pressure.) Should be fun for audiences either way. Runs September 10 – 27.

DRACULA: THE UNDEAD
With Halloween ’08 a recent memory, the Alchemist is looking ahead to Halloween ’09 with this production of the Dale Gutzman adaptation of Bram Stoker’s classic. The production of this I saw at Gutzman’s Off The Wall space some time ago came across a bit uneven. This one is directed by Alchemist’s Aaron Kopec. October 15 – November 7, 2009.

. . . which brings us to roughly one year from now. Looks like a pretty chaotic mix of events, but it’s exactly the type of thing that’s made Alchemist such an intriguing space since it opened . . .

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