Year In Review Part Three: April through July
The 2011-2012 Milwaukee theatre Year In Review
Being a theatre critic who attends 100+ shows annually, my year is defined a bit differently than a standard calendar will allow for. My year starts in August with the first shows of the new theatre season, continues through May as regular season switches gears for the summer shows and finally ends in July as the new theatre season gets underway the following month . . . and so each year I like to take a moment to look back at the previous year . . .
A few minor difficulties aside, The Milwaukee Rep's Othello just might have been their best of the season. Gerard Neugent was a very sharp Iago. With the contemporary biker rang setting for the production, Deborah Staples and a few others were able to make the female roles in the script stand out quite a bit. Kind a of a refreshing look at an old tale. . .
Project Empty Space staged a really sharp classroom drama this past April with Outliers. . . Grace DeWolff's story of a rilliant boy falling through the cracks of the educational system is interesting . . . with elements that linger for me even a couple of months and a couple of dozen productions later. High school kid Sebastian Weigman put in a really good performance as the child in question with Luke Erickson making a heartbreakingly sympathetic performance as the student's teacher . . . matched by a heartbreakingly bureaucratic Jazmin Vollmar as the administrator in charge of the school administrator.
Jason Powell opened up his love life to scrutiny in a un, little musical dissection of his dating history with In Love . . . Yet Again. It may not have been entirely brilliant throughout, but the overall feel of the show was very, very difficult to forget . . . even if the image of himself has been made for the stage for the purposes of the production, it's difficult to remember a production that was quite this fearless on the part of the playwright, composer and male lead.
In Tandem Theatre continued a stellar season with its production of Veronica's Position. Tiffany Vance and Steve Koehler were a great deal of fun as a bickering old acting couple getting onstage again for the for the first time in a long time . . . thinking back to remember that this show also featured prominent performances by T. Stacy Hicks, Libby Amato AND Joe Fransee make me wish I could've seen this one again.
Affectivity Theatre Company staged its premiere production in Milwaukee before its founder moved out of town . . . and it was a really good drama featuring a whole bunch of people who still ARE in town including Andrew Parchman and Grace DeWolff. The working class midwestern drama was one of the more memorable parts of this past May.
I've been waiting for another opportunity to see Allison Mary Forbes in a major role for what feels like kind of al one time. This past may I got that opportunity as she starred in the Skylight Music Theatre's production of Sunday in the Park With George.Forbes not only made a production of Sondheim fun for me, she also managed to put in a really nuanced portrayal in one of the largest theaters in the city.
Boulevard Theatre's best of the season just might have been Cowboy Vs. Samurai. David Lee and Veronica Soto played two of the three Asians living in a small Wyoming town in a really interesting romance that touched on various elements of cultural identity.
June was kind of a big month for outdoor Shakespeare. Optimist Theatre's Macbeth was an enjoyable journey into the classic work, but I was far more impressed by some of the work behind Riotous Shakespeare's Two Gentlemen of Verona. The tour of Milwaukee parks by a group of young actors had a kind of vitality to it that felt really refreshing including particularly good performances by Mark Puchinsky and Brittany McDonald. McDonald also appeared in a free staging of The Actor's Voice at an apartment on the east side. She played an agent working with an author (Jason Waszak,) completely unaware that a twisted homunculus of a man played brilliantly by Adrian Feliciano was actually the one writing the book. It was remarkably clever and a lot of fun to see in a residential apartment space.
This past month has seen Christopher Elst returning to a central role onstage at the Alchemist in Bad Example Theatre's Shakespeare mutation Juliet and Romeo. He played A Romeo-turned-Juliet opposite an admirably strong Shannon Tyburski as Juliet in the role of Romeo. This was a fun drama. And with any luck there will be another Bad Example production at some point down the line, but theatre founder/producer David Kaye has stated in the program that t could be a while before he produces anything more . . .
Also of note this past month was World's Stage's Project Working Title, which was a fascinating study in how a cast can work with a playwright through a director in a project that harnesses the vitality of the moment for something truly interesting . . . and with any luck it's a harbinger of experimentation to come in the 2012-2013 season.
Tomorrow; The 2012-2013 Milwaukee Theatre Year begins with the 2012 Milwaukee Comedy Fest.