Saturday, Feb. 6, 2010

Dark Comedy On The Edge Of Milwaukee

Waukesha Civic Theatre’s Stylishly Dark Family Coemdy Worth The Journey

By Russ Bickerstaff
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The trip out to Waukesha is a bit further than I’m used to going for a show. I don’t make it out that far for a show, but as there was nothing else opening this weekend and there were people involved in this production who have done work I’ve seen elsewhere before, I was looking forward to the long journey west.

The Waukesha Civic Theatre rests in downtown Waukesha—a place that seems to have had sections of it perfectly preserved from every single decade of the 20th century. There’s an ‘80’s store in a ‘40’s building on a block that looks distinctly ‘50’s. Everything is so clearly defined . . .

The theatre itself reminds me of a Waukesha version of the Sunset Playhouse. Both are really nice, spacious suburban theatres run by charismatic gentleman. The audiences are very similar, too . . . which is why it’s always a bit strange to actually make it to the theatre and see that it’s actually a smaller, more intimate space than the Sunset. Delta blues play as everyone filters-in. A nice touch—somewhat tangential to the mood of the play set in Mississippi in the mid-70’s. The play opening last night was Beth Henley’s Crimes of the Heart

Director Mark Neufang introduced the showopening night. The initial feel of it is very reminiscent of the type of fare that wouldn’t be entirely out of place on stage in a suburban theatre with a generally older demographic than one might find attending studio theatres in town. Things progress and we meet playwright Beth Henley’s three Magrath Sisters—the first of three shows to open in then ext couple of weeks featuring three sisters.  Ruth Arnell, Donna Daniels and Jenny Kosek play the three sisters . . . a cast that has developed a really good rapport to connect-up with a very cleverly-paced Beth Henley dialogue. Between the three lead actresses and a really stylish Michael Talaska set, the production quickly becomes one of the best dark comedies to hit local stages this season. There’s Jenny Kosek at the end of the play dragging a lighting fixture behind her. And she’s contemplating the oven. And it’s a really funny, really darkly comic moment. Much of the action leading into that moment was executed really well. It’s not what I expected out of a trip to Waukesha. It’s well worth the trip.

Waukesha Civic Theatre’s
Crimes of the Heart runs through February 21st. A full review of the show runs in this week’s Shepherd-Express.

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