Thursday, Sept. 24, 2009

Ulysses' Crewmen Return(s)

By Russ Bickerstaff
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Unlike so many other forms of narrative art, theatre has a tendency to reappear. As temporary as live theatre can be, it’s interesting to hear the echoes over time . . . certain scripts get produced multiple times in quick succession in the area with no apparent connection. Three productions of Noises Off! Happen in roughly the same number of months as three distinctly different productions of Rent . . .

Yes, it’s usually the more commercial shows that keep getting revisited for obvious reasons. But it’s nice to see that the more experimental stuff is capable of maintaining some kind of life, even if it is through the same two people at a venue that ends up being very familiar to them.

Next Wednesday, September 30th, Milwaukee-born traveling theatre company Insurgent Theatre  will be performing Ulyesses’ Crewmen in Milwaukee. The $7 show starts at 10 pm at Stonefly Brewery in Riverwest. It’s well worth the time if you’ve got Wednesday night free. Playwright Ben Turk plays a delegate to a G20 summit who is kidnapped by a revolutionary played by Kate Pleuss. Pleuss and Turk have been touring the country  with the show and have recently launched a  travel blog to chart their course. They return to Milwaukee for another performance of the show, which touches on a lot of different things . . . an extremely ambitious show.


Having had enough time to think about it, I’m struck by how close the play comes to what I’d love to see theatre become. In a way, this is theatre that strives to become more real than reality. It’s reaching for something beyond the stage. The politics in the show are so heavy that it can be easy to overlook that. Post-modern theatre has the ability immerse an audience in a transcendental kind of meta-reality. To a certain extent, this is happening every time someone is moved by a show of any kind, but fully dynamic reality shifting theatre is so very difficult to come by. Truly post-modern live audience-and-stage-theatre probably hasn’t actually happened yet, but Ulysses’ Crewmen is one of those plays that registers as a solid step in the right direction.


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