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06.19.2010 | | Posted at 07:51 AM

The Challenge of APT's Second Show of the Season

By Russ Bickerstaff
The American Players’ Theatre's second Shakespeare show to open this summer is one of ShakespeareÂ’s problem plays. Not only is it a rather unseemly mix of comedy and tragedy, itÂ’s also get kind of a strange ending that feels a bit less than resolved even as the mechanics of the plot seemed to be making a valiant effort to wrap everything up in the end. The only way this play can feel ...
01.23.2010 | | Posted at 07:15 PM

Refreshingly Complex Children’s Play Makes Its World Premiere

By Russ Bickerstaff
First Stage Children’s Theatre continues its season with an accessibly complex show. The play opens with a chase. A pair of orphan brothers—Prosper and Bonafice are on the run from the police. Directed by Jeff Frank, the action takes the audience straight into the play, rushing through the Marcus Center’s Todd Wehr Theatre—in and around a beautifully iconic set by designer Sarah Hunt-Frank. The overall feel of the opening action sets the stage for the rest of the play—it’s stylishly shadowy without actually developing the kind of darkness that would be frightening to children. Prosper and Bonafice are quickly taken-in from the chase by a group of orphan thieves led by the title character—a kid with more than a few secrets. As the play opens, we are introduced to a particularly well-realized wardrobe by costume designer Pamela Rehberg. The costume design is sharp and simple without looking stagy. The Thief Lord’s birdlike mask and flowing robe could’ve had more detail, but it would’ve taken away from the costume’s overall impact. His friends were all classily dressed as well—most notably the look Rehberg designed for the girl who calls herself Hornet. Adapted from a book by Cornelia Funke, The Thief Lord is a relatively fast-paced adventure adapted for the stage by actor/playwright James DeVita. The story follows the two orphan brothers as they get caught-up in potentially dangerous events with a group of kids who work for the thief lord. Funke’s plot allows for a refreshing amount of dramatic complexity in the show. The Thief Lord are only stealing for practical reasons. Prosper and Boniface are only working with them because it keeps them fed and protected. They are only on the run from the police because their mother has passed away and only one of them is being adopted. They have run away in the interest of staying together as a family. Every questionable, evidently immoral decision in the story is part of a larger, more complex situation. DeVtia’s script does a brilliant job of crystallizing this complexity for the stage in such a way that makes it ultimately quite accessible, even for the younger kids in the audience. The clever balance of this, developed by Funke and brilliantly framed for the stage by DeVita As a whole, the play is almost sophisticated enough to entertain adults as much as it does children, which is the real measure of classic children’s fare. The story is interesting enough for everyone and there are quite a few twists in the plot, but it all ultimately heads in a very predictable direction. The Thief Lord’s failure to completely entertain adult audiences isn’t a huge problem. Performances are, by and large, very entertaining. The production rotates between two different children’s casts. Opening night’s “Guardian Angel“ cast put in a really dynamic performance that interacted well with the professional adult actors in the cast. Joe Foust is charming as Victor Getz

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12.31.1969 | | Posted at 06:00 PM

James DeVita’s Latest Adaptation Opens This Month With First Stage

By Russ Bickerstaff
German author Cornelia Funke isn’t nearly as well known internationally as more successful children’s authors like J.K. Rowling and Stephenie Meyer. The author of the Inkheart trilogy is far better known in Europe than she is in the rest of the world. Far from being any kind of fantasy visionary, Funke has a love of storytelling not all that visible in the work of Meyer and a literate sense o...
04.18.2009 | | Posted at 12:00 AM
By Russ Bickerstaff
Somewhere in the midst of things, my wife and I had forgotten that last night was Gallery Night. We ended up parking a bit farther from the Broadway Theatre Complex than we might’ve expected. We had dinner at the public market and milled about a bit before going in. It’s a bit strange seeing the marquee over the Studio Theatre completely blank. The season is ending. I’m told the final perfor...
04.02.2009 | | Posted at 12:00 AM
By Russ Bickerstaff
Looking ahead beyond the next two months, you can almost see the summer theatre season approaching. One of the best things about summer theatre in Wisconsin is the opening of the American Players Theatre season. Though the snow is still melting on the ground and it’s still a bit chilly outside, the upcoming summer outdoor APT season feels that much closer, as APT core company member James DeVita...
12.12.2008 | | Posted at 12:00 AM
By Russ Bickerstaff
I and a number of other people recently received an email from local actor Cesar Gamino. There wasn’t much in it. He’d mentioned recently completing work on the following short promo for the United Adworkers 208—the local end of a marketing communications union: Clever. Evidently, he’s also recently finished work on a short film called The Violinist,which apparently filmed ...