Saturday, July 10, 2010

Wolf, Princess, Revolver and Orange Soda

Sparkling Orange Soda Productions Opens Its First Show

By Russ Bickerstaff
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The second of two new Milwaukee theatre companies opened its debut show this week. Last night, Sparkling Orange Soda Productions opened its dark comedy The Wolf, The Princess and t he Revolver. More than a little rough around the edges, the production exhibits potential. 

 

A dark comedy written by Jackie Benka and Dominic Michael Lenz, The Wolf The Princess and the Revolver envisions a conversation between Cinderella , a wolf, Jack (of the beanstalk) and Rumpelstiltskin in a diner. The four characters compare stories, each one attempting to prove that he or she has it worse than the other three. All the other characters take turns exploring each story from the inside fractured fairytale-style.

The studio theatre space at Carte Blanche serves as a suitably diner-esque atmosphere. Michael Keiley’s set for Carte Blanche’s recent production of Out Of Order makes doubles as a pretty good diner with a black and white tile floor serving as the show’s physical platform. Though more than a bit uneven, costuming and make-up firmly establish each of the four main characters. The play’s vision of what these four characters are really like comes out pretty quickly. The new theatre company features a cast of actors who haven’t been featured in roles this prominent before. It’s nice to see new faces onstage:

Jackie Benka plays Cinderella—Co-scriptwriter Jackie Benka plays the perpetually oppressed Cinderella, constantly forced to clean-up after everyone else. Benka plays anger pretty convincingly, which goes a long way towards making the character likeable considering some of the rather vicious things she does in the second act.

Jim Donaldson plays Rumpelstiltskin—Donaldson has one of the more interesting comic characters to work with. The comedy of the character is amplified by a moustache and a big pair of ears. Donaldson is given a few of the comedy’s best lines and he shows really good comic instincts in places. Particularly with Donaldson, there’s a sense that the comedy in the first act was hampered by multiple scene changes. The rhythm of the comedy is hopelessly chopped-up as lights fade to black and everyone shuffles around to move furniture. It’s difficult to build-up much of a comic rhythm with so many scenic changes.

Nicholas Callan Haubner plays uhhm , . . . a lot of supporting roles including the guy who sold the beans to Jack  (who is never given much thought in the fairy tale . . .and isn’t given much here either.) He also plays the hunter who was added into the Red Riding Hood story years ago to give it a happy ending and the Prince from Cinderella’s story. Given how little he’s onstage, it is to Haubner’s credit that the characters don’t blur together.

Monica Katherine Kletti plays The Miller’s Daughter (from Rumplestiltskin) and The Fairy God Mother—Kletti plays an interesting dichotomy with the fiary godmother. She modulates remarkably well between an abrasively cheerful Disney princess-style magic fairy and a very serious maternal figure. Kletti’s ability to modulate between the extremes of comedy and drama was interesting to watch.

Dominic Michael Lentz plays The Wolf—In this particular circumstance, he plays the wolf from Little Red Riding Hood, but it would’ve been interesting to reveal him as also being the big, bad wolf from the three little pigs and any other European fairy tale. The character is pretty flat (he’s all about hunger,) but Lentz plays him with enough charisma to keep him pretty interesting.

Ryan H. Nelson plays Jack—Why would anyone in their right mind sell a cow for som magic beans? Perhaps he was a bit compromised by recreational pharmaceuticals at the time. The stoner Jack dressed entirely in black makes sense . . . but aside from that and the fact that Jack is perpetually preoccupied by his cell phone, Nelson isn’t given a whole lot to do in character here. The joke has a bit of charm, but it gets pretty old pretty quickly.

Briana Ziebell plays Red Riding Hood—The girl going to see grandma in the forest is a woman. As the character is treated as a supporting detail in the wolf’s story,Ziebell isn’t given much to do here.


As uneven as the production is, it’s nice to see a new company establishing itself for a one-weekend performance. With any luck, this is a warm-up to more accomplished Sparkling Orange Soda Productions in the future.   

 

Sparkling Orange Soda’s The Wolf, The Princess and the Revolver continues through July 12th at the Carte Blanche Studio Theatre on 1024 South 5th Street.  

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