Sunday, June 10, 2012

Free Theatre In An East Side Home With the Author's Voice

An East Side apartment plays host to Richard Greenberg's THE AUTHOR'S VOICE.

By Russ Bickerstaff
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The Milwaukee Theatre community is inundated with genuine talent. The talented actor-to-production ratio is disappointing, but this is a very sluggish economy. And so its really nice to see actors getting together and performing work for its own sake. To t his end, Jason A. Waszak and company have cleared out a tiny East Side apartment just beyond Brady Street and are performing a really interesting free one-act drama there this month.

 

The lights dim, an after a opening speech by David Rothrock, the show starts. Waszak plays Todd--a man in the process of selling a novel to a publisher. That Waszak actually looks like a man who would appear in a Calvin Klein ad aids the production immeasurably as he is playing a physically beautiful man who has attached himself to beautiful words. The problem is that they're not his. And he's passing them off as  his own. Waszak puts in a fun and subtly nuanced performance as a man who wants to create a persona for himself and slip into it like an expensive suit.

 

The would-be author is  being pursued in a few different ways by his editor Portia, played by Brittany Lee McDonald. The would-be author is concerned that she may be on to the fact that he hasn't written what he claims to have written. McDonald's performance is cleverly free of apparent suspicion, but the editor she's playing likely did not get to be where she was through being completely honest, so there is some level of suspicion, but she's also quite openly infatuated with the would-be author. 

 

That Brtittany McDonald also wouldn't look out of place on the glossy page of a fashion magazine advertisement also adds to the production. Would-be author and editor are both very beautiful people . . on the surface. Below that, these are very plain and somewhat petty people. Quite plain on the inside. Waszak and McDonald are clearly having a lot of fun playing that and the fun is delivered to the audience quite effectively. (McDonald delivers my favorite line in the play, referring to the emerging novel at one point as a "mousse of despair.") What really makes this worth seeing is the fact that they're not overemphasizing the vapidness of these characters. More than anything, these characters are simply guilty of not paying attention to the beauty in everything around them, which is a criticism that could be leveled at nearly everyone in the modern world. 

 

Adrian F. Feliciano plays the deformed troll of a man who actually wrote the book. He lives in the would-be author's closet. Actually quite good-looking himself, Feliciano wears a mask in the performance. And he is doing one hell of a job here . . . he's playing the earnest emotion at the center of the play . . . this is a man who spends his life locked-up in a closet, so he revels in the pleasure of anything at all, but he's tormented by the fact that he can't really enjoy any of it in any substantial way because he's hideous . . . and that hideousness is only in the latex mask--a mask which makes delivering emotion very, very difficult, even in the tiny space of an east side apartment. Feliciano has to walk a tightrope between physically exaggerated emotionality and what could come across as a comically exaggerated ugliness. Between a very earnest voice and very emotionally expressive eyes, Feliciano is bringing the character across quite well. Boris Karloff would have been proud to have done a performance like the one Feliciano is delivering here. 

 

The show was generously directed by Milwaukee theatre icon Bo Johnson. As always, it's impossible to tell precisely what kind of an effect an actor has on a production of this scale. It's all character work with three talented actors, but the action flows really well from between scenes in brief play and Johnson is likely responsible in part for that and so many other intangibles. 

 

The Author's Voice continues through June 16th on1713 Marshall Street.

Remaining performances are on the 11th, the 12th, the 15th an the 16th. 

(After that, life presumably goes back to normal for the apartment space.)

All performances are free. All performances are at 8pm. The doors open at 7pm. 

As you can imagine, seating is limited. It's an apartment. It's residential. The space the piece is being performed in is an upper of a duplex. No elevator. 26 stairs to the performance.

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