Saturday, May 5, 2012

Depth Woven into Comedy Woven Into Drama

Soulstice Theatre stages the Milwaukee premiere of GOLDFISH

By Russ Bickerstaff
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John Kolvenbach's Goldfish is a cleverly constructed 4-person story the clever balances comedy against drama in a love story resting within conflicting family tensions. The play makes its Milwaukee premiere with a production by Soulstice Theatre

 

Josh Perkins directs a talented cast. Fresh Page Productions co-founder Kyle Queenan stars as Albert--a young man who aspires to college. Chance and circumstance have required that he be absolutely rigidly organized and focussed on his work in order to be successful. To this end, he sets-up a very organized life for his father prior to going off to college. His father Leo (David Ferrie) is a retiree suffering from serious psychological issues that will make life very difficult for him once Albert moves out to go off to college. The drama between father and son is played in subtle shades of broad strokes. The rapport between Ferrie and Queenan feels very simple on the surface, but that simplicity hides a very complex dynamic between the two of them. 

 

The serious dramatic end of the play represented by father and son is offset by the more lighthearted comic end of the play represented by the other half of the ensemble. At college, Albert meets a nice, beautiful, young woman who seems interested in him. Her name is Lucy and she's played with irresistible intellectual charm by Liz Mistele. Lucy and Albert hit it off after a fairly shaky start and before long, Lucy is asking her mother about the romance. Lucy's mother Margaret is played by Renaissance Theaterworks Producing Director Julie Swenson. Swenson holds a resilient charisma as Lucy's mother. Swenson and Mistele are a lot of fun in an extended mother/daughter conversation about a past the daughter doesn't know about. 

 

Kolvenbach never allows more than one character onstage at the same time. Mistele and Swenson seem to get a bit less time onstage as this is largely about the father/son dynamic and what happens when family doesn't work the way it should. Queenan is ta freakishly organized perio to tThe drama is really uncomfortable here, but Perkins and company keep the darkness from ever completely overcoming the play. 

 

Queenan and Mistele are deeply enjoyable in the romantic comedy end of the play. It's so satisfying and rare to see Mistele do romantic drama like this that it's actually kind of a disappointment that the play doesn't spend a great deal of time on the romance. Beyond that romance, we see Julie Swenson bringing an off-kilter wisdom to the role of the mother who has been through too much. It's deeply enjoyable to see her taking a role interacting with two of Milwaukee's most promising young actors. 

 

For his part, Ferrie is given the challenge of being solitary onstage in a way no one else gets to over the course of the play. His struggles play out in solitary moments when he is most himself. It's a very affecting sense of humanity that he brings to the production and it just wouldn't be there without those lonely moments shared between Ferrie and the audience. . 

 

Soulstice Theatre's production of Goldfish runs through May 19th at the Keith Tamsett Theater on 3770 South Pennsylvania Avenue in St. Francis. For ticket reservations, call 414-481-2800 or visit Soulstice online. 

 

 

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