Monday, Aug. 1, 2011

2010-2011 Rewound: Part One

A Look Back In August

By Russ Bickerstaff
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With Soulstice Theatre opening the first show of the new season last week, Milwaukee Theatre rolls into New Year's . . . the Milwaukee Theatre year starting in August with the first new shows of the new theatre season and closes at the end of the following July with the last openings of the summer theatre season. Here then is a look back at it all . . . 

 

AUGUST, 2010

The Milwaukee Comedy Fest usually serves as the beginning of a theatre year in town, but last year the annual fest was wrapping-up from an earlier than normal late July run. August of 2010 ended up having kind of a strange concentration of independently-formed projects opening the new year. There was an independent staging of Hula Hoop Sha-Boop at the Milwaukee Rep's Cabaret space. In Tandem staged a Neil Haven-developed comedy The Playdaters. One of my favorites of the month was the tightly-composed Milwaukee Chamber Theatre comedy Jeeves Intervenes--a show which had THE best flow and pacing of action of any production this year. Hands-down the single most memorable show of the month was Bite Theatre's August staging of My First Time. Some brilliantly executed monologues on the subject of human intimacy, which actually turned out to be nowhere near as repetitious as one might've expected.

 

SEPTEMBER, 2010


The Milwaukee Rep opened a thoroughly satisfying season with a couple of its best-received productions of the year: a big, flashy Cabaret and Gerard Neugent and Bill Theisen as Laurel And Hardy.


Off-center, there was a staged reading of Rising Tide in an old, historic space just North of downtown. The Ed Morgan/John Kishline retelling of the story of the Lady Elgin was surprisingly gripping for what was essentially a parade of monologues.

 

By far, one of the best dramas of the year was Next Act's season opener Four Places, which featured a brilliant cast including Flora Coker, Laura Gray, Mark Ulrich and Mary MacDonald Kerr. One of the best casts of the year was directed by David Cecsarini.

 

The single more memorable show of September for me personally had to be Windfall Theatre'™s The President . . . David Flores played a brilliant manipulator of people and situations put to the test in a remarkably precise performance.

 

OCTOBER, 2010

 

 

One of the more ambitious projects of the season had to be Off The Wall's production of Around The World In 80 Days-- two-part musical juggled together with a degree of skill by Off The Wall'™s Dale Gutzman. It was interesting to have room to breathe in an exhaustive adventure story between two parts,

 

October was dominated, as it usually is, by darker fare. Nate Press, Liz Whitford and Grace DeWolff put in staggeringly haunting performances in Alchemist Theatre'™s Murder Castle. And as sinister as Press was as serial killer H. H. Holmes, Rich Gillard was every bit as sinister as Mr. Flip in Youngblood'™s production of Freakshow.


Oddly enough, the more obvious side of darkness was a bit less memorable than its more subtly convoluted. As enjoyable a month as this past October was, it'™s hard to choose, but if I had to pick one show that had more of an impact on me than any other, it was probably In Tandem'™s Art of Murder. Joe DiPietro's comedy is a very tightly-woven murder plot that works as a meticulously well-balanced dark comedy that featured a four-part cast including T. Stacy Hicks in a particularly fun role as an art agent and Liz Shipe with a minty Irish accent backing-up a husband and wife played with Tiffany Vance and Steve Kohler. There wasn'™t the slightest bit of dead weight here. Even the trivial bits of the plot had a place. Even the most insignificant bits of stage decoration seemed to be conspiring in some way. A really, really fun show.

 

Next: The 2011-2012 Year In Review Part Two (of four)

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