Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Hot Ice, and Wondrous Strange Snow...


by Marcella Kearns

STRANGE SNOW. When I hear the title of Stephen Metcalfe’s play, I think of war. And comedy. An odd juxtaposition on the surface, but other than the surface reasons — that the play features veterans of war and verbal wit — here’s why: The same phrase appears near the end of William Shakespeare’s comedy A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM, a play packed with juxtapositions of opposites and extremes. 

Metcalfe draws his inspiration for the title, he says, from the possibilities and gentleness of snow. (See Michael Wright’s director’s notes when you come to the performance!) Nevertheless, the connection to MIDSUMMER is undeniable and, to me, endlessly evocative.

A tenderer take on Theseus and Hippolyta, as they,
like our protagonists, forge their path through strange snow...
War and comedy. Both SNOW and DREAM open after a conflict and dip into the potential for love. At the opening of DREAM, Theseus, Duke of Athens, addresses his intended, the Amazon queen Hippolyta, with a stark acknowledgment of what has transpired prior to the action of the play: “I woo’d thee with my sword,/ And won thy love doing thee injuries...” (1.1.16-17) He has taken her to Athens without her consent, but plans to wed her “in another key,” shifting the tenor of their initial encounters to “pomp” and “reveling.”

Hippolyta doesn’t have much to say in the first scene. Indeed, some productions of the play have introduced her as a prisoner, clearly unwilling—caged, cuffed, or at the very least staring daggers. Others have from the start softened Theseus’ words and her portrayal to imply that history is history, her assent is assured, and their conflict now is only how to interact with each other in this new “key,” as spouses. 

The beginning of this play, for Theseus and Hippolyta, is aftermath, an attempt at a different path. An extreme shift, like many others: deep young love and passion flipped to disgust and hate, and vice versa, due to fairy mischief. Artisans trying their hands as artists. Fairies altering the very seasons of the earth with their own ferocious conflict. (Anyone recently encountered a 65-degree temperature swing in a day?) 

Most notably in this vein, when Theseus calls for entertainment at his wedding, the piece he chooses is one performed by men of Athens — the tragic story of lovers Pyramus and Thisbe. Why does it catch his attention? The company of performers’ description promises “very tragical mirth.” How can those two things coexist? “Merry and tragical?...” he exclaims. “That is hot ice, and wondrous strange snow!” (5.1.58-59)

There’s that phrase. Hot ice, strange snow. What apparent opposites can coexist.

Listening to rehearsal for STRANGE SNOW across the hall tonight, I hear it. Actor Marques Causey seems to be developing Davey, a Vietnam veteran, as generally soft-spoken (in part, perhaps, due to the character’s constant nursing of a hangover), while Ken Williams’ Megs, fellow veteran, roars with life and urgency. (I even hear him singing as he strides down the hall to his rehearsal call.) 

Within each of these characters a paradox exists: Megs, pouncing voraciously on any joy, welcoming word, kindness, or company, is prone both to utter gentleness and sudden, almost unconscious violence upon himself. Davey pushes company away in one second and runs headlong towards it in the next. 

As Krystal Drake plays her, Davey’s sister Martha, rounding out the cast of characters, defies expectation by accepting a beer for breakfast when she appears to be the most buttoned-down of all. She chooses to embrace rather than shrink from possibility, even as she calls herself a coward. And she sometimes unaccountably, but courageously, stays present for Megs and Davey rather than walking away.

All of them, both within themselves and in relation to one another, are walking paradoxes. Frozen and thawing both.

Martha (Krystal Drake), Megs (Ken T. Williams) and Davey (Marques Causey)
each grapple with the paradoxes of their lives in STRANGE SNOW.
Listening, curious, I find myself this rehearsal night considering what else they share. For some, common ground lies in their history with one another. Megs and Davey claim membership in a fraternity which only those who have been to war can ever know. They share, moreover, a specific wound and loss from their tour in Vietnam. Siblings Martha and Davey, on the other hand, have known the same steep family expectations, pain, and alliances. No surprise on those counts.

For Megs and Martha, however, and the renewed acquaintance of Megs and Davey, this story offers what Shakespeare’s comedy offers: that history has the potential to be history

Not something to forget — on that note I wish to be very clear. I refer to history that can be held in memory without forever freezing the character who’s traversed it. Not unlike Theseus’ wish for his marriage to Hippolyta, however flawed or hopeful any production paints the portrait of that relationship, life for these three in STRANGE SNOW continues. And with it, the potential, at the very least, for something new.

Here’s to the seasons altering.

STRANGE SNOW runs Feb. 22 to Mar. 17 at the Broadway Theatre Center's Studio Theatre, 158 N. Broadway. Now through Feb. 23, you can take advantage of our Hot Ice Presale and SAVE 25%! Use the code "Hot Ice" in person, via phone at 414.291.7800, or through our online box office.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Meet the Cast of STRANGE SNOW!

compiled by Matthew Reddin

In STRANGE SNOW, by Stephen Metcalfe, a single spring day changes the lives of three lonely individuals -- each isolated from the world by their own personal traumas. Right now, director C. Michael Wright and our cast are working hard in the rehearsal hall to bring these characters to life -- but we're going to take a moment to remind you where you might have seen these three actors before!

Marques Causey as Elegba in THE BROTHERS SIZE.
Photo by Paul Ruffolo.
MARQUES CAUSEY (Davey)

Marques Causey is returning to the MCT stage after appearing in THE BROTHERS SIZE last season as Elegba, and in 2009's PICNIC as Bomber. A native of Milwaukee, Marques received his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Acting from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He has since worked with many theater companies in the area including Renaissance Theaterworks, Forward Theater, First Stage, In Tandem Theatre, Children's Theater of Madison and Door Shakespeare.

In STRANGE SNOW, Marques will play Davey, a Vietnam vet who's struggling to put his memories of the war behind him.

Krystal Drake as Leading Player in PIPPIN at Skylight
Music Theatre. Photo by Ross Zentner.
KRYSTAL DRAKE (Martha)

Krystal Drake is making her MCT debut in STRANGE SNOW! Her most recent appearance in the Broadway Theatre Center was in PIPPIN at Skylight Music Theatre, where she was the Leading Player. Additional credits include: NUBIAN STORIES (Nuba) at Renaissance Theaterworks, THE MIRACULOUS JOURNEY OF EDWARD TULANE (Ensemble) at Children’s Theatre of Madison, THE BED (Ensemble) at Theatre Lila, and BLACK NATIVITY (Mary, Ensemble) at Black Arts MKE & Marcus Center for the Performing Arts. Krystal cultivated her craft at UW-Milwaukee where she earned a degree in Theatre, and has also studied acting in Los Angeles at the renowned Ivana Chubbuck Studio.

In STRANGE SNOW, Krystal plays Martha, a high school teacher who tries to care for her brother Davey and finds herself surprised by an instant connection with Megs.



Ken T. Williams as Houston in OCTOBER,
BEFORE I WAS BORN. Photo by MarkFrohna.
KEN T. WILLIAMS (Megs)

Ken returns to MCT after previously appearing in both the staged reading and mainstage production of OCTOBER, BEFORE I WAS BORN, in the role of Houston. He's also acted in MCT's Young Playwrights Festival Showcase. In addition, Ken has worked with some wonderful local companies including Renaissance Theaterworks, First Stage, Optimist Theatre, In Tandem, Windfall Theatre, Summer Stage, Alchemist Theatre, Cornerstone and Bunny Gumbo Productions.

In STRANGE SNOW, Ken kicks the story off as Megs (aka Joseph Megessey), Davey's fellow veteran who knocks on his and Martha's door to take them out for the first day of fishing season.

STRANGE SNOW runs Feb. 22 to March 17 at the Broadway Theatre Center's Studio Theatre. For tickets, call 414.291.7800 or visit milwaukeechambertheatre.com.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Dissecting Directing: Thoughts from YPF 2018-2019

by George Marn & Marie Tredway, compiled by Matthew Reddin

One of the things we love most about our Young Playwrights Festival Showcase is the opportunity we’re able to give to emerging local artists. It’s not just Milwaukee actors who benefit – our directing and design teams are also packed full of talented theatre artists.

Two of those artists are Marie Tredway and George Marn, the director and assistant director (respectively) of THE DIVINE KOMEDY, one of the three plays featured in the Showcase. As they went into tech rehearsals this week, we asked them to share a bit of what they’ve been thinking in the rehearsal room, and what they’ve learned about this piece and about directing. We’ve condensed their responses below – George’s thoughts in blue, and Marie’s in red – to give you a brief fly-on-the-wall glimpse behind the scenes.

These past few rehearsals have been both eye-opening and rewarding, as we've gotten the chance to really fine tune the character moments and tone of DIVINE KOMEDY. I'm always so grateful that we have the cast that we do, and that they've already put in so much work with memorization and character choices. We've added fight choreography, sound cues, and further refined the work we've done at the beginning. Normally I'm not used to having this much time to polish a piece that I'm working on.

I agree with you, George, about our stage of polish versus preparation. Even with such a short allotted rehearsal period, the DIVINE KOMEDY cast is in a great place because of their work put in outside of rehearsals. Their memorization and character intentions are so solid that we can usually fine-tune in rehearsals: fleshing out multi-dimensional characters and working on giving important moments levels. 

That's where some of my questions have come from in the past few rehearsals. Since we're long past working on blocking or memorization, Marie and I having been giving notes on full runs for a while now. I've noticed that I take lots of notes and sometimes I think I'm being too "nitpicky" when I give notes. Do you think being overly specific in notes can be a problem? And when giving notes is it possible to give too many? Sometimes I worry that I might overload our cast. 

I personally don't think specificity is a hindrance. Some people may see it as nitpicky, but the more detailed and thorough a note is, I think it helps an actor. Too many notes at once is a little overwhelming so what I try to do is focus on specific things during a working (start/stop) rehearsal. 

For example, last week I wanted to focus on intentions and objectives. “What is your character trying to change in the other person?” “What's your tactic?” “How does it switch?” So most of our work and notes focused on that. 

Last night we worked on integrating our sound cues helping fill in the different circles of our world – how does Hell differ in Circle Two than in Circle Seven? So my notes included: “How do we use the cues to help visualize and what does that mean for the actors?” We also worked on specific moments in the play – playing up comedic bits, finding the peaks and swells of monologues. 

How far in advance do you plan out your challenges and goals for your actors versus responding to issues in the moment? I really enjoyed the specific rehearsals we had for fight choreography and intimacy.

I try to have a rough outline in my head. For example, I wanted to get blocking out of the way the first session. Then within the first week, I wanted to choreograph all our movement phrases. So I think it's important to have a general plan but because theatre is such a fluid process that's always in flux, plans have to be flexible, depending on what you feel the show needs. Is it missing nuance? Do we need to work on objectives? Do we need to finesse one moment? Gauging how a rehearsal went for the night and utilizing it for planning the next couple of rehearsals is what I usually do. 

Intimacy exercises in particular is something that I like to do a little later on in the process, once the actors are more comfortable with each other and we can focus solely on relationship as opposed to filling out the general framework of first rehearsals. 

MCT’s Young Playwrights Festival Showcase runs this week only: January 10 to 13 at the Broadway Theatre Center, 158 N. Broadway. Tickets are available now at 414.291.7800 or our online box office.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Review Roundup: CHRISTMAS IN BABYLON

compiled by Carson Roufus

For the last month, we've been talking up the McShanes and the O'Rourkes -- two families hailing from Babylon, Long Island who have finally taken the Studio Theatre stage for the world premiere of CHRISTMAS IN BABYLON. We've felt for a long time that this was a holiday hit in the making... and now that we're out of our first week, we've learned that critics and audience members both agree!

Terry, Denise and daughter Abby McShane are a typical family in North Babylon, Long Island: blue-collar, lower-middle-class, and prone to sarcastic banter as their chief form of communication. Out of the blue, Terry is contacted by his ex-fiancee, Kathleen, a former Babylonian with a booming self-help empire. It's a collision more than 25 years in the making. And the holidays have only just begun…

We've compiled many of our great critical reviews below, so you can get a glimpse of what you're in for if you join us at the Studio Theatre. To get your tickets, visit us in person at 158 N Broadway, call 414.291.7800, or visit our online box office. Happy holidays!


Jim Higgins, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Terry McShane (Tom Klubertanz) and Kelly O'Rourke
(Eva Nimmer) meet in a Babylon coffeeshop.
Photos by Paul Ruffolo.
A surprising visitor fuels the anxious comedy of 'Christmas in Babylon'"

"Like the Great Bambino, Tom Klubertanz is fascinating to watch as Terry, whether he's flailing or homering."

"Underneath the sarcastic banter (and in MacDonald Kerr's case, facial expressions so good that words aren't needed), playwright DeVita, director C. Michael Wright and the cast are dealing with a painfully touchy subject in American life."

Tea Krulos, Shepherd Express

Mary MacDonald Kerr, Tom Klubertanz,
and Sara Zientek as Denise, Terry, and Abby McShane
 in CHRISTMAS IN BABYLON.
"Milwaukee Chamber Theatre's World Premiere 'Christmas in Babylon'"

"It’s a nice mix of comedy and some tender sarcastic but sweet family moments. Christmas in Babylon delivers a solid and funny performance from the entire cast. It shows that family should stick together through thick and thin, even (and maybe especially) if you drive each other up a wall."

Kelsey Lawler, Broadway World Milwaukee

"CHRISTMAS IN BABYLON Unpacks Family Dynamics With Comedy At The Milwaukee Chamber Theatre"

"While the McShanes can be abrasive and crass, the O'Rourkes swoop in as couple of calm, accomplished, well-spoken women; though, not surprisingly, even these two have their own baggage - and lots of it. Luckily for audiences, all that baggage is unpacked with humor aplenty."

"Zientek has the audience chortling in anticipation of her antics the moment she bursts upon the scene."

Matthew Perta, ShowBiz Chicago

Terry (Tom Klubertanz) confronts Kelly (Eva Nimmer, L)
and Kathleen O'Rourke (Laura Gray).
"Milwaukee Chamber Theatre's 'Christmas in Babylon' is a Yuletide gem'

"DeVita’s brilliant observations on the fragilities of family are vividly brought to life by a first-rate cast that makes us laugh, cry and think."

"Christmas in Babylon is uproarious and heartwarming, a delicious treat for the holidays, ready to be unwrapped and enjoyed."

Dominique Paul Noth, Urban Milwaukee
"'Babylon' Is Funny As Hell"

"This is truly an actors’ play – and each has several moments to prove that accolade."

"Eva Nimmer, as the accidental cause of all the confusion, is stunningly whole and unflappable in a first act that requires perfect control and response, something quite difficult for an actress but executed well here. Sara Zientek plays the counter-weight, a foul-mouthed eternal adolescent always on the verge of hysteria."

Adam Rogan, Milwaukee Magazine

"World Premiere Review: 'Christmas in Babylon' Isn't Your Typical Holiday Play"

"Like all good fiction, Christmas in Babylon makes its audience look at the things we see every day but never notice — like how sometimes it’s best to talk it out in the car, or how absurdly difficult it is to make small talk in a coffee shop."

Monday, November 12, 2018

Meet the McShanes and O'Rourkes!

compiled by Bridget Erangey

In CHRISTMAS IN BABYLON, our world premiere holiday comedy by James DeVita, we meet two families originating from North Babylon, Long Island: The McShanes, and the O'Rourkes. Over the course of the story, we get to know the five members of these families pretty well -- but it can't hurt to make introductions early!

Below, we've presented condensed character descriptions taken straight from DeVita's script, along with headshots of the actors portraying them and costume renderings by Kimberly O'Callaghan. Enjoy this sneak peek at these two families -- and get ready to learn a whole lot more about them in the show itself!


TERRY McSHANE (Tom Klubertanz) 
Late-40s to early 50s, living in a lower middle-class home, and fluent in sarcastic banter. Terry is a born storyteller, whose humor is that of the slightly oppressed Everyman: nervous, insecure -- a sort of  blue-collar Woody Allen. Married to Denise McShane.



DENISE McSHANE (Mary MacDonald Kerr)
Mid-40s to early 50s, blunt and unsentimental, Denise is the kind of person who would give her literal last dime to someone in need, but would never let them know it. Over the years, Denise has gone from tolerating Terry, to being his straight man.



ABBY McSHANE (Sara Zientek)
Mid-20s, slightly awkward, and is consistently overwhelmed -- mostly self-generated. She has suffered from varying degrees of anxiety issues much of her adult life and, at her best, manages it with an ironic and self-deprecating humor. At her worst, it can get the best of her and she needs to either figuratively or literally escape from wherever she is.


KELLY O'ROURKE (Eva Nimmer)
Late-20s, very polite, and quite charming. She is finishing up her residency to become a doctor. She is very at home in the world of medical-speak, not so much in small talk. A child of two divorces, Kelly did not have an easy childhood. Perhaps she's overcompensated as an adult.


KATHLEEN O'ROURKE (Laura Gray)
Late-40s, an educated and classy woman who has left the streets of her youth far behind and spent a lifetime denying she ever walked them. She is an author and inspirational speaker in the world of 'self-help'. When speaking at her seminars, we can sense that perhaps she is working on her own life publicly, coaching herself through the medium of her audience.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

DeVita and Wright Reunite for CHRISTMAS IN BABYLON


by Matthew Reddin

Milwaukee Chamber Theatre’s upcoming production of the holiday comedy CHRISTMAS IN BABYLON isn’t just a world premiere. It’s also a reunion for the creative partnership of MCT artistic director C. Michael Wright and James DeVita, a Spring Green-based writer, actor and director.

For more than 25 years, Michael and Jim have been friends and colleagues in the Wisconsin theatre community, dating all the way back to the 90s, when Michael directed WAITING FOR VERN, a one-man show starring Jim that was the playwright’s first produced work for the stage. Michael returns to the director’s chair again for BABYLON, and both artists are excited to work together once again on this project more than four years in the making.

As the duo prepared for their first day of rehearsals, I sat down to chat with them about their history together, and what audiences can expect from this world premiere production. This interview has been edited and condensed.

CHRISTMAS IN BABYLON playwright
James DeVita.
MCT: Can you tell me a little bit about how you met, and how you ended up working on WAITING FOR VERN together?

Michael Wright: I can’t remember how we met. Can you?

James DeVita: I had heard that this actor from New York had come to town. I saw you and I remember saying “Who is that guy?” I don’t know how we got to be friends after that.

M: I think it was bonding during MOOT – a production we did at Milwaukee Rep in ’92. We already knew each other, but the two of us shared a dressing room at the Rep. That’s where we really bonded.

J: It’s funny because – I had been a closet writer for years, since I think sixth grade, and I’d never showed anybody anything I’d ever written. But I had been working on a one-person show quietly by myself. I knew Michael was a director too, and I trusted his aesthetic as an actor and as a person.

I was scared, ‘cause the first time you show somebody something you write – even new plays like BABYLON, it’s still tough. And Michael took a look at WAITING FOR VERN and he just tore it apart. We met in a little bar and he started giving me notes, and he had all these red marks on the script.

M: Because I loved it! I saw the potential.

J: It actually made me feel really good. You were the first person that actually – you thought there was merit in it, therefore it deserves criticism. It gave me a lot of confidence.

And here we are, 26 years later. And since then, I’ve written three novels and 16 plays and it all started in a dressing room.

MCT: Can you tell me a little about the play itself?

J: It was called WAITING FOR VERN, and not only did he help me develop it, but then directed me in it, and we formed a little theatre company for a very short-lived time, as young actors in town do. Collision Theatre Ensemble. Which is a great name.

M: We did it at a theatre festival at the Todd Wehr for one night only, and then it was really well-received so we kept working on it. Then we formed the company and this was our inaugural production. I stage managed it both times because we were so low-budget.

J: I toured it to Oshkosh, Mount Pleasant – it’s the sort of play you can just do with a stage and a chair.

M: He was waiting for Vern, but Vern never showed up.

J: That’s the conceit. I’m waiting for the other actor to do a two-person show, and he never shows up.

M: We did two productions. WAITING FOR VERN and then we did THE LONELY PLANET by Steven Dietz, that I was in and John Kishline directed. There was another play that you were working on...

J: AFTER HOURS.

M: We did a reading of that in the Stiemke, I remember. So that was our short-lived two years as a theatre company.

MCT: Talk a little about your history with MCT, before you met Michael.

J: I cut my teeth at the Chamber Theatre. My first show out of school was with the Shaw Festival. I got to work with these great actors – Bill Leech and Dewey McDonald and Ruth Schudson. I graduated in ’87 and Monty put me to work right out of school. I got to do three or four shows a year [with MCT] sometimes.

M: It’s so funny, because here I am at Chamber now, but we never crossed paths back then.

J: Not at Chamber, no.

C. Michael Wright directed Jim Ridge (above)
in James DeVita's DICKENS IN AMERICA
in 2006. They reunited for a production at
American Players Theatre in 2013.
MCT: When was the next time you crossed paths?

M: DICKENS IN AMERICA was the big one. DICKENS IN AMERICA started with – remember, we did it for one night only at American Players Theatre? It was a benefit. And Jim Ridge was still on book, because it was only one night. It was the big theatre outdoors. And it rained. He kept hiding underneath the bridge trying to keep the pages dry.

That was kind of an experiment that blossomed from there. It was so well-received that I decided to mount it in my second season at MCT (in 2006) – the first one where I chose the plays.

Then, years later, we ended up doing it again at APT, in the Touchstone. We kept working on it then too; it was a whole different version.

MCT: What was that experience like – to revisit a play again after years of growing as a writer and director?

M: It was fun.

J: I’ve always felt like... We don’t work together for a long time, but then when we do it’s like old friends from home. There’s no getting re-acquainted, we just dig right in again. I’ve always felt comfortable with Michael as my “editor-director-developer.”

M: You’ve always been so good about taking criticism. You’re one of the few people I know who relishes feedback.

J: Yeah, I kind of need it. My best work blossoms when I have really good feedback.

M: The one wonderful thing I remember about doing DICKENS IN AMERICA the third time, back at APT, was that Jim Ridge and I did a lot of sitting around and talking about who we are now, because we were really comfortable with the piece itself. And then I would write to Jim (DeVita) saying “What if we added, or elaborated on Dickens’ thoughts at that age – feeling like he’s at the end of his career?” Because the stakes are higher, suddenly. And that was kind of fun. To keep going “Who are we now? What’s changed for us?”

J: It’s funny: I find the things I’m writing now are changing, because of where I am now in my life. I’m revisiting my youth, I’m trying to find things from my past.

That’s fuel for every kind of writer and artist: the youth that you left behind if you left to go somewhere else. The life I left behind to do the life I have now has always fascinated me. It’s not a judgment. They’re just very different.

MCT: CHRISTMAS IN BABYLON is set in Long Island, where you grew up. Can you tell me a little bit about that show, and how you came to write it?

M: This is by far the funniest thing you’ve written, I think. Don’t you?

J: Yeah, definitely. I mean, there’s always been humor in the other stuff, but as I started working on it, I definitely decided “I’m going to write a comedy.”

Part of it is – I read tons of plays and see tons of plays, and there’s not a lot of comedies being written. And understandably so. The world is on fire, and I am not negating that at all.

But I miss comedies. I miss laughing. And without being dismissive of anything in the world – how can we laugh at some of this stuff again?

James DeVita (back left) and C. Michael
Wright (back right) with the cast of
CHRISTMAS IN BABYLON.
MCT: How did you and Michael decide to collaborate on this production? I know you presented the play at Forward Theater Company in a different form first.

J: Yeah, I started working on the play in Milwaukee when I was doing AN ILIAD here with Milwaukee Rep, and then I submitted it to Forward Theater’s new play development series, with the title BABYLON. We had a reading for about 200 people and it was really nice.

It was quite different in the beginning – very, very different. I wasn’t even sure, to be honest with you, if anyone else was going to find this funny. Because I consider it kind of New York humor. But it was such a relief to hear laughter.

Two of the women were quite underdeveloped in that draft. I worked a lot to develop Denise a little bit more, and Kathleen changed a lot too. And then I submitted it to Michael, and he said he was interested in it for MCT’s Montgomery Davis Play Development Series [in 2017].

M: We worked on it for a good year before that too.

J: Yeah, we kept on going back and forth. I changed quite a bit; lots of cuts. Even with the actors in the room, there was a lot we learned.

And that reading went very well. We got a lot of good feedback, a lot of laughter. I did a revision after that – not as major, which was nice – and then here we are, walking into rehearsal.

MCT: What are you most excited about, as the rehearsal process begins?

J: I’m really interested to see what the cast does with it. I trust actors implicitly. They’re really smart, and actors invariably find things I don’t know are in the play right now. There’s stuff you unconsciously put in the play, but they’ll mine it.

M: We feel pretty confident that what we’ve got is solid. I’m excited about putting it on its feet and giving it physical life. Clothes and music and...

J: Yeah, for me it’s exciting when you start to see something actually move and then it gets off the page.

M: The thing I love about the piece in particular is that it’s funny, but it also deals with a lot of issues we deal with today. Like forgiveness, and acceptance. And the fact that we’re all part of a larger family. You had really started to write a play about the class distinction – once Kathleen leaves, she really wants to be of an upper eschelon. But it ultimately becomes much more about – we are all pretty much the same.

J: Yeah, what you start out writing doesn’t always turn out that way in the end. In this play, Terry’s being challenged to think differently. And he resists it for a long time, or dismisses it, or makes fun of it, or this and that.

I think the world today is being challenged to think differently about everything. And it’s a lot for some people. It gets overwhelming. But if you can allow yourself to think differently about something, you might be able to accept it.

It’d be a great world if we could all figure out how to do that. Myself included.

CHRISTMAS IN BABYLON runs Nov. 21 to Dec. 23 at the Broadway Theatre Center’s Studio Theatre. For tickets, call 414.291.7800 or visit milwaukeechambertheatre.com.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Review Roundup: CHAPATTI

compiled by Carson Roufus

Christian O'Reilly's CHAPATTI tells a poignant, gentle tale of rediscovering the importance of human connection. Over its first week, critics have come to love this powerful story, and the way it's been told by actors James Tasse and Jenny Wanasek, and director Michelle Lopez-Rios.

We've compiled those great reviews below, so you can get a glimpse of what you're in for if you join us at the Studio Theatre. To get your tickets, visit us in person at 158 N Broadway, call 414.291.7800, or visit our online box office.

Jenny Wanasek and James Tasse as Betty and Dan in CHAPATTI.
Anne Siegel, Shepherd Express
"'Chapatti's' Intimate Look at Love and Loneliness"

"The intimate Studio Theatre is an ideal environment for this type of play, since the audience becomes riveted by the characters’ every move."

"Director Michelle Lopez-Rios brings the two characters together slowly, as if in a slow waltz, and each moment they are together charms more than the next."


Dominique Paul Noth, Urban Milwaukee
"Dogs, Cats and the Humans Who Love Them"

"one of the finest acting performances of the season"

"Tasse and Wanasek ... are consummate Milwaukee professionals whose knowledgeable physical and vocal skills are here at their pinnacle under the guidance of director/dialect coach Michelle Lopez-Rios."

"both the playwright and the actors merit your attendance"


Gwen Rice, OnMilwaukee
"Chamber's 'Chapatti' is a warm, heartfelt charmer -- even without its leading dog"

"at the end of this vignette, the audience feels his loss keenly, even though there is no dog ... There is only Dan, played by the remarkable James Tasse"

"Director Lopez-Rios sets a nice pace for the 90-minute show and lets the seriousness of the story seep in, while never allowing the characters to wallow in despair."

"a lovely production of a surprising and heartfelt play which should appeal equally to cat and dog people"

Jim Higgins, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
"In Milwaukee Chamber Theatre's 'Chapatti', a lonely man and woman muster courage to connect"

"This show depends on their ability to believably deliver O'Reilly's words, an Irish blend of the lyrical and the blunt, which they do."