Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Review Roundup 2.0: LOBBY HERO

by Matthew Reddin, marketing director

It's been two weeks since we opened LOBBY HERO, and we've been thrilled to see such a positive response to the show from our audiences. We've also been fortunate enough to receive a second wave of critical reviews, each praising C. Michael Wright's production of this fantastic Kenneth Lonergan piece.

If you didn't catch our first Review Roundup, featuring press from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Shepherd Express, OnMilwaukee and more, you can find it here. For the rest ... keep on reading! And don't forget to pick up your tickets to LOBBY HERO! We close Dec. 18!

Chris Klopatek and Sara Zientek in
LOBBY HERO. Photos by Paul Ruffolo.
Paul Kosidowski,
Milwaukee Magazine
"Culture Club Review: Milwaukee Chamber Theatre's 'Lobby Hero'"

"Watch Henning project his confidence in the first scene, pacing the room in a crisp blue blazer as if he’s giving a Ted Talk to an audience of one. And watch those confident, studied gestures disappear as he learns more about his troubled brother."

"It’s no surprise that Lobby Hero is one of director C. Michael Wright’s favorite plays–every scene shows his skill in shaping dialogue to reveal the things going on beneath the surface."

"Lonergan lets the action evolve slowly, flavoring the events with smart dialogue that gradually reveals the knotty and very human struggles within each character."

Sara Zientek, Andrew Edwin Voss (C) and
Di'Monte Henning in LOBBY HERO.
Anne Siegel,
"Review: 'Lobby Hero'"

"In Henning’s strong performance, we see William struggle with telling the truth while at the same time fearing that his brother won’t get a fair trial – just because he’s black and too poor to hire a 'good lawyer.'"

"In this delicately woven performance, Zientek both shuns and accepts her femininity."

"Director C. Michael Wright, the company’s producing director, keeps the audience so tightly focused on the progress of the characters’ difficult scenarios that the audience almost feels cheated when the play ends without any resolution. That’s the mark of a good play, and it’s one reason this production is a not-to-be-missed event."

Peggy Sue Dunigan,
"MCT's LOBBY HERO pursues relevant ethical questions through bright comedy"

"Chris Klopatek's rhythm for comic timing fits perfectly into his character Jeff's gift of gab-or making jokes."

"A refreshing change while immensely thought provoking, MCT and Wright once again challenge audiences."

Friday, December 2, 2016

Review Roundup: LOBBY HERO

by Kaitlyn Martin, marketing and development assistant

After a successful opening week, LOBBY HERO has been receiving positive feedback from audiences and critics as we enter our second weekend. We hope you can join us for Kenneth Lonergan's play featuring a strong ensemble cast whose embodiment of the word "hero" evolves with the twists and turns of the play. Don't miss your chance to see it before we close on December 18!

Chris Klopatek (L) and Di'Monte Henning in
LOBBY HERO. Photos by Paul Ruffolo.

Mike Fischer,
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Theatre Review: Misfits search for answers in 'Lobby Hero'
Takeaways: 'Lobby Hero'

"With his impish grin and comedic instincts, actor Chris Klopatek has been playing cast clown on stage for as long as I can remember. But what happens to such characters when they must face the music and begin to grow up? And would a now-older Klopatek grow with them, building on hints he’s given over the years of something darker and deeper?"

"Stephen Hudson-Mairet’s set, accented by Madelyn Yee’s props, creates an apartment lobby that looks tired – not because it’s shabby, but because it’s sterile."

"Di’Monte Henning gives us a William whose surface certainties cover a world of doubt, much of it connected to his status as a black man in a white world."

"Conveying characters’ consequent struggle to find their own way, Lonergan’s dialogue rings true to life; it’s fractured and overlaps (handled well, here)."

Russ Bickerstaff,

Sara Zientek (L) and Andrew Edwin Voss
Shepherd Express
Milwaukee Chamber Theatre's 'Lobby Hero'

"In Milwaukee Chamber Theatre’s staging, Chris Klopatek maintains a casually organic intensity as Jeff."

"Di’Monte Henning commands considerable gravitas in the role of Jeff’s boss, William, a man preoccupied by a family drama that threatens to compromise his altruistic respect for honesty and integrity."

"Andrew Edwin Voss delivers a dark edge to the mix as a police officer looking for promotion who runs into some drama with Dawn, a probationary police officer played by a charmingly poised Sara Zientek."

"Avoiding the peripheral clutter, director C. Michael Wright allows the power of the drama between four people to weave a crazy web across the stage in a provocative, tightly woven drama about dizzying human convolution of honesty and duty."

Dave Begel,
Chris Klopatek (L) and Sara Zientek

"Under the careful and comprehensive direction of C. Michael Wright, we then see the evolution of each character, moving well clear of who we thought they were when we first met them."

"Helping this play come life is a quartet young actors who have in the past, continue now, and will in the future leave serious marks on the theater world in Milwaukee."

"As Jeff, Klopatek is a marvel of both language and physical movement. His posture, gesture and glance all serve to both support and lead his dialogue, and he suffers agitation much as he enjoys poking fun at the world."

"(Zientek) finds in her character depths of personal development that only an actor in touch with life could do."

"Henning is an actor who is proving to be as versatile as any young actor in the city."

"(Voss) is a bit of a gypsy actor, ranging far and wide for work, but his power and skills are something I wish were a regular feature on stages. This is a man with all the chops, and it's no wonder he's in demand around the country."

Julie McHale,

Di'monte Henning (L) and Andrew Edwin Voss
Waukesha Freeman
'Lobby Hero' adds depth to comedic characters

"(Lonergan's) present work, “Lobby Hero,” is a sterling drama, one with humor, depth, complex characters and a hint of romance."

"This is one of the best scripts I’ve ever encountered, and with a flawless cast and the gifted director, C. Michael Wright, at the helm, you are sure to enjoy your encounter with a 'Lobby Hero.'"

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Kenneth Lonergan, beyond LOBBY HERO

by Matthew Reddin, MCT marketing director

When LOBBY HERO premiered Off-Broadway in 2001, New York magazine reviewer John Simon opened his critique of the play by describing playwright Kenneth Lonergan first and foremost as the man who wrote the year's best movie

It's fitting, though. Over his career, Lonergan has doled out his work sparingly, but evenly, between the screen and the stage, with each medium informing the other. In Milwaukee, the comparison will be easier than ever this fall, with MCT's production of LOBBY HERO overlapping with the limited release of Manchester by the Sea, written and directed by Lonergan. 

If full Lonergan immersion's your game -- or if you just want to know a little more about the guy before you come and see the show -- here's a breakdown of the most significant works he's written, for both film and the stage.


Lonergan's big breakthrough, THIS IS OUR YOUTH is set in the early '80s, tracking 48 hours in the lives of three lost young souls who've gotten their hands on $15,000 (stolen from a tycoon daddy, of course). As the first example of Lonergan's trademark balance of the dramatic and the comedic, with a focus on issues of materialism and adolescent maturity, the show was a quick success, receiving acclaim, a second Off-Broadway staging in 1998, and a series of productions in London's West End in quick succession.

The original production featured Mark Ruffalo in one of his first-ever professional roles, launching his career and a longtime partnership with Lonergan. Its recent revival -- on Broadway for the first time, in 2014 -- featured Michael Cera in Ruffalo's role, alongside Kieran Culkin and Tavi Gevinson.


A memory play in more ways than one, THE WAVERLY GALLERY depicts Gladys Green, an elderly woman slowly dying of Alzheimer's, seen through the eyes of her narrator grandson. Again displaying Lonergan's skill in comic drama, the play was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Drama, and picked up four major awards for the performance of Eileen Heckart, the actor portraying Gladys. 

You Can Count On Me (2000)

After co-writing the film Analyze This with Harold Ramis and Peter Tolan in 1999, Lonergan's next project was as big a breakthrough in the world of film as THIS IS OUR YOUTH had been on the stage. Reuniting Lonergan with Mark Ruffalo, the film follows an estranged brother and sister (Ruffalo and Laura Linney). They reunite when he returns to the Catskills community where they grew up, but his arrival subtly throws her life into disarray, slowly forcing them into conflict.

Lonergan directed the film, as well as wrote the screenplay, and critics took note. Many placed the film on their best-of lists for 2000, specifically citing Lonergan's "bottomless dialogue" and the film's emphasis on making everyday problems as compelling as high drama. Before the awards season was over, You Can Count On Me would pick up dozens of wins and nominations, including two Oscar noms and two awards at Sundance including the Grand Jury Prize.


The '00s marked a creative drought for Lonergan (partly for reasons discussed in the next entry), but he would finally return to the stage in 2009 with THE STARRY MESSENGER, his first fully produced play since LOBBY HERO opened in 2001 and his debut as a director of his own work. A star vehicle -- pun only slightly intended -- for Matthew Broderick, MESSENGER orbits around a 40-something married man who works at the Hayden Planetarium and unexpectedly connects with a single mother.

MESSENGER didn't receive the same adulation as Lonergan's earlier works for the stage, but his ear for dialogue and unique mix of comedy and drama was once again highlighted even in mixed reviews (a fate shared by Lonergan's most recent play, HOLD ON TO ME DARLING, which opened earlier this year at Atlantic Theater Company).

Margaret (2011)

After the success of You Can Count On Me, Lonergan had a number of writing and co-writing gigs in Hollywood, including the screenplays for the sequel to Analyze This and Scorsese's Gangs of New York. But his most anticipated film was Margaret, a drama starring Anna Paquin about a teenage girl who believes she helped cause a traffic accident that killed a woman.

Filmed in 2005, Margaret was intended for release in 2007, but Lonergan and the film's studio, Fox Searchlight Pictures, disagreed on the film's runtime. Fox insisted on a tight 150 minutes or less, while Lonergan's own edit was closer to three hours. The legal battle ate up years, and ultimately concluded with two versions of the film being released -- a 150-minute edit, which hit theaters in limited release in 2011 and was commercially unsuccessful, and an extended cut released on DVD in 2012 completed by Lonergan. Despite all the drama, the final release of the film received raves from many critics, and Lonergan himself says he's happy with the final cut.

Manchester by the Sea (2016)

No such disputes marred the development of Lonergan's latest film, his third as a writer/director. Manchester by the Sea, set to be released in select theaters on Nov. 18 before a wider release in December, tells the story of a self-isolated man (Casey Affleck) who must unexpectedly return to his hometown to care for his nephew when his brother dies, and in the process revisits his greatest personal tragedy.

Originally, Lonergan was only booked to write the script -- the original idea came from producer Matt Damon, who had planned to direct himself and recruited Lonergan for the screenplay. But scheduling conflicts shifted Lonergan into the director's chair as well, and he would shape the film with his own vision.

Buoyed by strong advance reviews, early acclaim (a Hollywood Screenwriter Award for Lonergan and five Gotham Award nominations) and lots of Oscar buzz, Manchester looks poised to make this Lonergan's year. All the more reason to catch MCT's LOBBY HERO now -- before all the hype kicks in.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Heroes in Search of a Code

by Deanie Vallone

Think of the word “hero” and what is conjured? Marvel superheroes? Historical movers and shakers? Fanciful characters from literary epics? Regardless, heroism usually requires one to shed the weight of humanity, excel above and beyond the ordinary citizen to make a lasting, positive impact on the world.

The characters in Kenneth Lonergan’s play, LOBBY HERO, do nothing of the sort. And yet, as the story unfolds, these four characters — an ensemble, each protagonists in their own right — find themselves touching the shiny veneer of the word “hero” and grappling with its meanings and implications.

Chris Klopatek plays Jeff in MCT's production
of LOBBY HERO. Photo: John Neinhuis. 
When we open on the titular character of the play — lobby security guard, Jeff, a wise-cracking man-child with no sense of decorum or filter — it is difficult to see how he could be labeled a hero, even if only a “lobby hero.” With the appearance of the play’s three other characters — by-the-books supervisor, William; on-the-rise cop, Bill; and his on-probation rookie, Dawn — the question of heroism becomes inextricably linked with modes of power and performance. 

Though there is clearly a hierarchy, in which Jeff occupies the bottom rung, and the cops see the security guards as “doormen,” all four characters, by the virtue of their work as protectors, grapple with the complexities of power, authority, and the law. But Lonergan’s skill with LOBBY HERO is extrapolating the reality of their humanness, the painful limitations that restrict these potential heroes not necessarily physically, but morally and ethically.

Morality is understanding the distinction between right and wrong, while ethics is the philosophy of how that morality shapes and guides individual and group behavior. While some critics have called LOBBY HERO a melodrama — what with its murder investigation and sexual politics — Lonergan says the play is “a bit like a fable, a tangled morality play.”[1] Like his previous plays, THIS IS OUR YOUTH (1996) and THE WAVERLEY GALLERY (2000), he infuses LOBBY HERO with naturalism, but this play distinguishes itself with “something more theatrical, […] a bit more heightened.”[2] It is clear from the beginning that all four characters are playing at heroism—Bill as the “Supercop;” Dawn, whose brash attack on a civilian is just one act of many meant to prove her worth in the police force; William, struggling to run a smooth ship, despite personal and professional obstacles; and Jeff, who, despite his goofball personality, is sincere in his desire to be a better version of himself. 

This concept of performance is key because when faced head-on with issues of morality and ethics, these characters become embroiled in “a restless search for a new moral code in response to the failure of the old codes.”[3] In searching for this new moral code, they must be the ones to define it.

Lonergan’s quartet occupies a gray area — in their struggle for goodness, they make plenty of mistakes. At odds with themselves, these are people who see and appreciate heroism, but lack the ability to achieve it. Jeff encapsulates this perfectly when recalling his Naval officer father’s own heroic actions. “It’s actually a really amazing story,” Jeff begins. After listening to how Jeff’s father saved the lives of twenty-three of his fellow Naval men, William remarks, “That’s very impressive,” to which Jeff replies, “Yeah: I know it is impressive.” With a childhood marked by his father’s re-performing of heroism through the act of storytelling, Jeff’s own retelling of the event is imbibed with awe and a deep-seated animosity for a heroism he longs for but struggles to emulate.

Lonergan’s characters tap into the “theatricality” of heroism, if not the actuality of it. For a play about murder, blackmail, and sexual harassment, LOBBY HERO lacks a police drama’s heightened action. Instead, the play encloses the characters in an environmental crucible — a high-rise lobby in Manhattan — where they perform heroism through the myth-building act of conversation and storytelling. We rarely see physical action being taken; instead, we listen to the characters attempt to shape and define their personal narratives, and thus themselves, through the versions of the stories they tell.

"I was interested in people’s personal behavior versus what they expect of themselves,” Lonergan says of this play.[4] This conflict of interior and exterior selves, of expectation and reality, is key to the characters’ interactions with each other. Dawn, for example, plays tough around other cops — ”You make them respect you” — but her partner still sees her as “a little girl wearin’ a police uniform.” William and Jeff argue about responsibility to one’s family while Dawn argues for lawfulness. “[I]t’s still your responsibility to tell the truth and obey the law. You can’t just make it up when there’s some part of it that you don’t like,” she says, to which Jeff counters, “But somebody made up the law, didn’t they? Some people made up the law, a bunch of people like you and me literally sat down and wrote it up[...]” Jeff’s statement notes the inherent myth-building within the old moral codes, inherently flawed because they were created by people. 

Lonergan has mentioned that many characters in his plays are based on real people. The reality of humanness at work here remains central to the characters’ moral and ethical struggle to define themselves and the world around them. Unable to shake their humanity, their quest for heroism is weighed down with real flaws, moral quandaries, biases, and fears.

The world of LOBBY HERO is morally muddy. It’s not surprising then that Lonergan’s characters have difficulty navigating this quagmire, and don’t always come out with the correct answer. The play asks a lot of tough questions of its “heroes” and audiences: What does it mean if you’re doing the wrong thing for the right reasons? What if doing the right thing means hurting or betraying someone? When are we allowed to decide if the law is right or wrong? Are you still a hero if no else else thinks you are or if you’re maligned for your actions? 

While the play doesn’t easily answer all of the questions, heroism, it seems to say, does not come as simply as donning a cape.

[1]    Kushner, Rachel. “Interview with Kenneth Lonergan,” BOMB Magazine, 2001.
[2]    Ibid.
[3]    Siegel, Ed. “You can count on 'Lobby Hero' for craft, cleverness,” Boston Globe, 2001.
[4]    Renner, Pamela. “Talking Shop (Which Takes In the World),” New York Times, 2001. 

Monday, October 31, 2016

MCT Board Member Profile: Maureen Chavez-Kruger

by Max Siegle


I was born in Wisconsin and grew up on the northwest side of Milwaukee. I attended Mount Mary University and studied interior design and art. During my senior year at Mount Mary, I participated in an internship at the Milwaukee Repertory Theatre and that marked the beginning of my career in theatre. I continued my studies at Boston University and received my Master’s in Fine Arts in Scenic Design. 

After some time in Boston and New York City working in the field, I returned to Milwaukee and landed a job back at The Rep. Turns out, the supervisor who I worked for during my internship, Richard Rogers, hired me as a scenic painter. I spent five seasons painting scenery, designing productions, and growing as a theatre artisan.


I first met Michael Wright in the late '9
0s. I was working at The Rep and Michael was at Next Act Theatre. He came to one of my shows and we talked in the cabaret afterwards about designing a show for Next Act called HAUPTMANN (the story surrounding the kidnapping and murder of the son of aviation hero Charles Lindbergh). I accepted Michael’s offer to design and paint the production. 
Maureen Chavez-Kruger.

We reconnected more recently through my work at Carthage College where I currently teach in the art and theatre departments. Michael came to see one of our shows and we talked afterwards about getting together for lunch to reconnect. At our lunch date, we caught up on each other’s personal and professional lives and then he inquired about my interest in designing for MCT and if I would be interested in being a part of the MCT Board of Directors. He told me it would beneficial to have someone on the board who could bring the voice of the professional theatre artist to the table. I was flattered to be asked and happily accepted the offer. 

Since Milwaukee is my home, I wanted to be part of supporting and giving back to the artistic community and just making sure that theatre gets its recognition. I also love the educational aspect of theatre. Since joining the board, I’ve had the chance to participate in MCT’s Young Playwrights Festival by reading some of the student submissions. I loved that experience and hope to do more things like that ahead.


I enjoyed creating the scenic design for Noel Coward’s FALLEN ANGELS. It was my first time working in the Cabot. The Cabot Theatre is such a beautiful space to work in and it presents exciting sightline challenges for the designer. You don’t want the audience to miss out on the action, so you must work hard to secure good views from all of the angles. We also pulled in some of the colors from the Cabot into the scenic design so they could complement each other. Michael and I were happy with the final outcome of the design and felt as if it supported the words of the the playwright and created a wonderful space for the actors to perform. The process was delightful and I look forward to another opportunity to design for MCT.


Jenny Wanasek, who recently played Sonia in VANYA AND SONIA AND MASHA AND SPIKE. I thought she played her character with a lot of dimension and was very real. I’ve also seen her perform around Milwaukee. It’s nice to see a familiar face on the stage. 

I also loved everything Marcella Kearns brought to her character, Berthe, in MCT’S production of BOEING BOEING.

The cast of FALLEN ANGELS were a strong and well-balanced ensemble who worked well together and honored the show.


I have spent 25 years working in arts and theatre education at the college level. I started at Cardinal Stritch University, teaching in the art department and designing for their theatre department. I’ve worked at Carthage College since 2006 in the art and theatre departments. My husband, Herschel Kruger, also teaches at Carthage, and every other year, we take a group of students on a J-Term trip to New York City. It’s a complete immersion in the study of the Modern Art and Theatre Movements and how they have influenced contemporary art and theatre. We have also traveled overseas with students to study art and theatre: Greece, Scotland, and Berlin. I enjoy the chance to not only broaden the students' education but mine as well, and bring back the knowledge to the classroom and to our professional work within the Milwaukee area.

My teaching also enables me to be a part of original theatre productions. Carthage College developed a New Play Initiative series and I will be designing our next show from playwright Regina Taylor. THE REGINA TAYLOR PROJECT focuses on the life of voting rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer, from her beginnings in abject poverty to the halls of power in Washington, where she testified before Congress with the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. The production will utilize iconic songs immortalized during the struggle for civil rights and span Fannie Lou Hamer’s life while still connecting to contemporary struggles regarding race. The show will be timely, with connections to the current Black Lives Matter movement. The production runs from March 3-11, 2017.

I love spending time outdoors. Yoga, bicycling, golf and sailing are some of my favorite activities. I also like to draw and love traveling. My husband and I will be heading to Peru and Mexico in the spring of next year.

Conejitos in Walker’s Point. It is a quick and simple dining experience with the best tostadas and margaritas. To top off the evening, we head to The Purple Door for the most innovative ice cream flavors in town! Favorite flavor: chai tea.

Milwaukee’s lakefront. I live in Shorewood and can take a walk to the lake at Atwater Beach or grab my bike and jump onto Oak Leaf River Trail which takes me to Bradford Beach in 15 minutes. The presence of it… it just feeds you, listening to it, the energy, it is such a gift we have here. 

I also enjoy visiting Devil’s Lake State Park in Baraboo. My family and I enjoy hiking, swimming, camping and rock climbing. The landscape of the park sweeps you away to a whole new world. Favorite spot: Parfrey’s Glen.

Mexican Fiesta. I love the food and the music, and a lot of my family attends the festival. Part of my heritage is Mexican and it’s important for me to maintain the cultural ties that are available in Milwaukee. My grandparents were actually part of the first wave of Mexican immigrants to settle in the city and establish the Mexican community here (arriving between 1910 and 1940). They are known as “Los Primeros." At Mexican Fiesta, there are photographs and signage where my grandparents are recognized for their contributions. This year, my father (Raul Chavez) and his brothers (Rudolph Chavez and Carlos Chavez) who served in the military forces were included in a special display that honored their service to our country. This November my Uncle Carlo will receive the National Order of the Legion of Honour from France for his military merits in WWII.


I am a big supporter of the United Community Center in Milwaukee and its celebrations of Mexican culture. I am currently working on a project there to mark Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, this fall. The organization invites local artists to create ofrendas for someone who has passed away in their life. It’s an important project for me because it allows me to honor and celebrate the lives of my family members and my Mexican heritage.

I also enjoy my work with the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival. This national program allows student artists to showcase their work and receive constructive feedback from professional theatre educators. I participate as a scenic design respondent for the Region III division of this program.

I think MCT does a great job revisiting the classics that people are comfortable with and then drawing them in for innovative, new works. Having a smaller and larger theatre venue is a big plus in terms of offering different theatre experiences for patrons. Many smaller companies don’t always have that feature. 

You will also see familiar faces on the stage, and most importantly, Milwaukee actors. MCT hires a lot of local artists (actors and technical artisans), so it keeps them here and they can make a living in their craft. I think that’s an important thing to say. A lot of my students are getting out in the world and looking for work, and I think MCT also keeps an eye out for emerging talent and nurturing their careers. 

Finally, I think MCT is working to bring a variety of voices and a more diverse audience base to their productions. Our community is so diverse, so rich in culture, that we have to make sure that we share stories for everyone, and try to bring people together. Theatre is the ultimate artistic means to educate, entertain, heal, and connect the world together.

Thursday, September 29, 2016


compiled by Matthew Reddin

It's official: A LOVELY SUNDAY FOR CREVE COEUR has stolen the hearts of critics and audience members alike! The late-period, rarely produced Tennessee Williams play has earned rave reviews in its first weekend, and we're excited for more people to see the play in the next three weeks (we close October 16).

But don't just take our word for it. Here's our collection of what several of Milwaukee's theatre critics had to say about the show. Don't forget to pick up your tickets at the MCT box office!

Molly Rhode (L) and Kelly Doherty in LOVELY SUNDAY.
Photos by Paul Ruffolo.
Mike Fischer, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
"Powerful quartet delivers 'A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur'"
"Takeaways: 'A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur'"

"an exceptionally well-acted production ... under Leda Hoffmann’s direction. Alternately funny and poignant, it’s another welcome reminder that late Williams deserves much more attention."

"Kelly Doherty gives her latest nuanced, supremely intelligent performance in sketching a woman who is both wistfully wise to life’s disappointments and determined to make the best of the hand she’s been dealt."

"Doing battle with Bodey for Dorothea’s soul, Molly Rhode adeptly straddles the line between snobby, deliciously snarky comments on Bodey’s life and pathos regarding her own profound loneliness."

"Disheveled and frequently in tears, the reliably comic Karen Estrada captures the unintended humor in Sophie’s plight, while still letting us feel Sophie’s pain."

The full cast of LOVELY SUNDAY, from left: Karen
Estrada, Kelly Doherty, Kay Allmand, Molly Rhode.
Dave Begel, OnMilwaukee
"'A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur' is an unbridled joy at Chamber Theatre" 

"For a play that is so riotously funny, the laughs easily give way to the famed Tennessee Williams sorrow in 'A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur.' The perfect production, which opened Friday night at Milwaukee Chamber Theatre, is one of the less frequently produced Williams plays, but the character portraits are familiar to anyone who knows Williams."

"The torrent of a variety of colors is an assault on the eyes ... set design by Courtney O'Neill captures all of the crampiness of this dwelling with a marvelous sense of space."

"The one thing this play needs is a special sense of clarity for each character. It only works with four distinct personalities that cross only briefly. And (director Leda) Hoffmann makes that happen."

"This play may be one that is rarely seen, but the production at Chamber makes it both valuable and vital."

Kay Allmand (L) and Kelly Doherty in LOVELY SUNDAY.
Selena Milewski, Shepherd Express
"A Light-handed Exploration of Loneliness"

"Milwaukee Chamber Theatre’s production of a little-known late work by Tennessee Williams, A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur, is a masterful study of loneliness, unlikely companionship and 'going on' after dreams are shattered."

"As the heart-and-soul character of the play, Bodey, Kelly Doherty is a force of nature. ... it’s fascinating to watch Doherty react in different ways and build gradually toward revelation of her character’s own unfulfilled desires and refusal to take any more verbal abuse."

"Andrea Bouck’s costume design offers a charming glimpse into the period and effectively evokes each character’s slight variations in class, ethnic background, temperament and even shifting emotions."

Julie McHale, Waukesha Freeman
"'Lovely Sunday' shows Tennessee Williams' humorous side"

"Dorothea is an unhappy civics teacher ... spinning her fantasies around an imagined life with a man of some social consequence. Kay Allmand vividly brings her personality to life."

"Masterfully directed by Leda Hoffman, this talented group of actors captures the dichotomy of a lovely Sunday amidst a quartet of broken hearts."

Anne Siegel,
'"A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur" Review'

"Although 'creve coeur' is the French word for heartache, one discovers more humor than anguish in this sweet, funny play."

"Without her family or a solid grasp of English, Estrada demonstrates that Sophie is particularly isolated from the world around her ... (she) shines in this role."

Peggy Sue Dunigan, BroadwayWorld Milwaukee
'Gifted Women Define Tennessee Williams' Tender Heartbreak at MCT'

"Allmand's Dorothea and Doherty's Brodey discover an uncommon sisterhood onstage ... Doherty offering warmth to Brodey's boldness, and Allmand giving strength to Dorothea when confronted with disappointment."

"There's more feminine prowess on the Broadway Center Studio Theatre stage than imaginable despite the levels of continual heartbreak."

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Daydreaming Within Reason: A Lesson from Tennesee Williams

by Logan Peaslee, marketing and development assistant

“One wakes up in the morning and reaches for eyeglasses, coffee, and a myth. You can see that one needs vision, energy, and that myth. Otherwise, the day is simply impossible to face, endure, survive.” –Tennessee Williams

Tennessee Williams, photographed in 1965, about
10 years before he wrote CREVE COEUR.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons.
But what is the myth that Williams believes we reach for in the morning? The answer lies in his play, A LOVELY SUNDAY FOR CREVE COEUR, which follows a group of women as they hope their way through a Sunday. Dorothea, a 30-something schoolteacher, hopes for love. Bodey, her kind-hearted German roommate, hopes to pair Dorothea with Bodey’s twin brother. Helena, the local art teacher, hopes to feign class. And Miss Gluck, Dorothea and Bodey’s neighbor, hopes to survive the loss of her mother. 

Bodey reaches for the myth that her twin brother, Buddy, and Dorothea should be together. Bodey believes that, if Dorothea were to focus her attention on Buddy, she could see Buddy romantically. In turn, Bodey reaches for the myth that two people can be meant for each other and that she is capable of recognizing and facilitating that.

Helena reaches for the myth that one’s success is reflected in one’s wealth. More specifically, she believes that she can elevate herself socially by securing nicer housing. The myth that Helena reaches for is not an uncommon one; people often occupy their presents by working towards obtaining things, material things that they think will bring them mental ease.

Dorothea reaches for the myth that what she feels for her principal, Ralph Ellis, is love. Dorothea mistakes her admiration of Ralph Ellis’ class for adoration of Ralph Ellis as a person. She also perceives her sexual encounter with him as proof of his commitment to her. Believing there is a mutual commitment between herself and someone she adores, Dorothea—and, consequently, the audience—assumes she is in love. But if her hope goes unfulfilled, can the audience assume she is experiencing true heartbreak? Or is Dorothea just experiencing disappointment and loneliness as she hopes? 

One character is without a doubt experiencing true heartbreak—Miss Gluck. Miss Gluck is being torn apart by the loss of her mother, yet her heartbreak is on the periphery of the play, emerging only as a comical inconvenience. With this structure, Williams criticizes people’s tendency to name disappointment heartbreak and shows that doing so discredits a supremely real and supremely difficult experience. It’s much like people who are late to eat their lunch describing themselves as starving. Frustratingly, Dorothea even equates her situation to Miss Gluck’s when she says, “Now Miss Gluck, now Sophie, we must pull ourselves together and go on.” 

Moreover, this play serves to criticize how personal myths, like Dorothea’s “romantic illusions” (as Helena describes them), can waste a day; they can waste a lovely Sunday. Williams implies that relying on unfounded hope and waiting for unpromised outcomes may tend to lead to disappointment, disappointment that may be falsely named heartbreak. Myths can plunder the present. But he also claims that myths help us face, endure, and survive the day. Williams would likely suggest that we daydream within reason.

The myth we reach for is that one’s life—its possibilities and its experiences and its relationships—is more magical, more romantic than it is. Life is beautiful and heartbreaking, absolutely. It’s just beautiful and heartbreaking less often than in our daydreams. Some days are nothing more than a lovely Sunday for a picnic in a park.

Milwaukee Chamber Theatre's production of A LOVELY SUNDAY FOR CREVE COEUR runs Sept. 21 to Oct. 16 at the Broadway Theatre Center's Studio Theatre, 158 N. Broadway. Click here for tickets or call 414.291.7800.

Grissom, James. Follies of God: Tennessee Williams and the Women of the Fog. New York, NY: Knopf, 2015.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Taking a Trip to LOVELY SUNDAY's Real Creve Coeur Lake

by Logan Peaslee, MCT marketing and development assistant

Although mentioned frequently throughout Tennessee Williams' A LOVELY SUNDAY FOR CREVE COEUR and even used as the title, Creve Coeur is never actually seen by audience members; the play's action takes place entirely in the home of its protagonist Dorothea. But the destination’s history, current status, and name itself are too interesting to leave offstage.

Photo: St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Creve Coeur Lake, which is the largest natural lake in Missouri (320 acres!), has a history of hosting boating events. In the 1880s, the lake hosted the Mississippi Valley Regatta and the Creve Coeur Regatta. Perhaps most interestingly, the rowing competition for the 1904 Summer Olympics was held at Creve Coeur Lake, with the United States earning five gold medals for rowing that year. By the 1930s, when Williams' play takes place, the lake had become a popular picnic spot for residents of St. Louis. In A LOVELY SUNDAY FOR CREVE COEUR, several of the characters are preparing for one such picnic.

Creve Coeur’s interesting history did not end with the 1904 Summer Olympics. As recently as June of 2015, the park found itself in the news. A rising in the Missouri River pushed Creve Coeur Lake out of its banks and flooded the entire park. With the picnic areas, trails, and parking lots completely under water, there was likely little prospect of a lovely Sunday at Creve Coeur. Fortunately, the park's facilities had been designed to withstand flooding after a similarly large flood two decades prior (the Great Flood of 1993) destroyed the park’s amenities, and the park has since recovered

The name of the lake and park is French, and it means “broken heart” or "heartbreak." Legend has it that a Native American princess fell in love with a French fur trapper when the area was being settled. When her love was not returned, she jumped from a ledge overlooking the lake. From then on, the French settlers referred to the lake as broken heart lake, Creve Coeur Lake. 

Boating is a part of Creve Coeur Lake's history
as well as its present. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.
Since A LOVELY SUNDAY FOR CREVE COEUR explores the concept of heartbreak, it is fitting that Tennessee Williams included this particular lake in his play. The meaning of “creve coeur” also raises an evocative question: why a location never even visited in the play is worthy of the title.

In 1945, Creve Coeur Lake and the area surrounding it became a county park. Visiting the park today, you can return to the lake’s boating roots and sail, as well as canoe, kayak, and paddleboard. The park has Missouri’s first and only treetop adventure course. At fifty feet in the air, the course offers zip lines, swings, and an obstacle course. For those who prefer dry land and who are afraid of heights, Creve Coeur Park has gorgeous hiking and biking trails. Aside from the many exciting activities mentioned, the park remains a popular picnic spot. So if you’re ever in the St. Louis area and want to have a LOVELY SUNDAY afternoon, head to Creve Coeur Park!


Barr, Diana. “Missouri Declares State of Emergency Amid Flooding.” St. Louis Business Journal. St. Louis Business Journal, 19 June 2015. Web. 24 Aug. 2016.

“Contests at the Oars.” Archives. The New York Times, n.d. Web. 24 Aug. 2016.

“Creve Coeur.” St. Louis County. St. Louis County Government, n.d. Web. 24 Aug. 2016.

“Creve Coeur Lake Memorial Park.” St. Louis Audubon Society. Wild Bird Center of South County, n.d. Web. 24 Aug. 2016.

Dalton, Gloria. “History.” The Heart of Community and Commerce. City of Creve Coeur, n.d. Web. 24 Aug. 2016

“History of Creve Coeur.” St. Louis County. St. Louis County Government, n.d. Web. 24 Aug. 2016.

“Sporting Affairs.” Archives. Chicago Tribune, n.d. Web. 24 Aug. 2016.

Sullivan, James. Spalding’s Official Athletic Almanac for 1905. New York, NY: The American Publishing Company, 1905. 

Monday, August 22, 2016


compiled by Matthew Reddin

Still haven't made it to our summer show, VANYA AND SONIA AND MASHA AND SPIKE? Good thing there's still one week of shows left for the hilarious comedy at the Cabot Theatre!

Tickets are still available at the MCT box office, but if you need a push, here's what several of Milwaukee's theatre critics had to say about the production:

Mike Fischer, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
"Chamber's 'Vanya and Sonia' whips human loneliness into a frappe"
"Takeaways: 'Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike'"

"As is also true here of (C.Michael) Wright and (Jenny) Wanasek, (Carrie) Hitchcock rescues her character from all-out caricature, overcoming the script’s weaker moments to channel the combination of insecurity and longing afflicting characters true to both Chekhov and 21st-century life, in which we feel more alone than ever, despite all the ways we’re ostensibly connected."

"(In) the best moment in the play, as we watch Sonia take a phone call from a man she met at a party ... Wanasek suggests a woman desperate to claw free of the protection in which she’s long swaddled herself, even as she clings to it like a security blanket."

"Wright is poignant in conveying the underlying angst of an aging man, longing for a vanished sense of community and shared experience in a world where those connections we make frequently sacrifice depth for breadth."

Dave Begel, OnMilwaukee
"Misery with laughs on the menu as Chamber Theatre opens season"

"Under the feathery touch of director Marcella Kearns, this Christopher Durang play takes isolation, desolation and disappointment, and stands them on their ear, filling the Cabot Theatre with chuckles, laughters and outright roars of fun."

"(Kearns) has a clear understanding that these roles are big roles, needing big performances. Even as shy and reticent as Vanya is, it still takes an actor with Wright's skills to make it seem as funny as it can be without overdoing it.

Peggy Sue Dunigan, Broadway World
MCT channels a crazy Chekhov in Durang's 'Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike'

"Associate Artistic Director Marcella Kearns directs the production succinctly and with comic success. By adding her own intuition about timing into the play. Kearns often opens up opportunities for more humor to happen on stage."

"MCT's hilarious Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike awakens the possibilities in the audience, wherever and whenever they are in life as well."

Anne Seigel, TotalTheatre
Review: 'Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike'

"Well-known Milwaukee actress Carrie Hitchcock is more than up to the challenge of playing Masha. Her every gesture and syllable reeks with the dramatic flair so important to this character."

"Although the play ends on a note that seems to restore family relationships (at least for a while), Durang doesn’t pretend that everyone will get what they want out of life. Real life often fails to end that way, and this reality is more satisfying than a sugar-coated finale."

Russ Bickerstaff, Shepherd Express
Vanya and Sonia meet Masha and Spike

"The script whimsically plays heavy family drama like a light sitcom—it’s Anton Chekhov by way of Neil Simon."

Monday, August 8, 2016

Nostalgia: Both Curse and Comfort

by Marcella Kearns

Ray Bradbury (top), John
Hodgman (center) and
Vanya (C. Michael Wright, bottom)
each have their own
takes on the benefits and
disadvantages of nostalgia.
“I learned to let my senses and my Past tell me all that was somehow true.” In an introduction to semi-autobiographical novel DANDELION WINE, Ray Bradbury rhapsodizes about the creative soil of memory. His fictionalized portrait of Waukegan, Illinois in the 1920s centers on young boys encountering firsthand the delights of capturing a summer’s spirit in their grandfather’s wine and a summer’s events in their reflection and writing. Even the darkest moments—and there are dark moments—remind his characters to capture and fully embrace the richness of simply living and the sweetness of remembering the past.

In VANYA AND SONIA AND MASHA AND SPIKE, playwright Christopher Durang too dips into nostalgia. Siblings Vanya and Sonia look back on the past and find comfort, along, perhaps, with a trace of wistfulness or longing for what once was. That past wasn’t perfect, but its recollection has the effect of soothing them in need. Though their sister Masha declares “I can’t remember dates or decades. I just live!”, listen for what follows—even she finds herself recalling what was and what might have been.

No harm, right?

Exactly, according to Southampton professors Constantine Sedikides and Tim Wildschut, who have revolutionized thinking about this potent force and experience.

Nostalgia has been typically characterized as a useless or potentially dangerous impulse, a sense of “living in the past” without regard for present needs. Certainly, for all humans who perceive our lives unfolding along a linear timeline, idealizing the past without taking into consideration the changing circumstances of the present in order to build a healthy collective future is irrational. Writer and comedian John Hodgman often and eloquently warns of this very risky aspect of nostalgia. In an interview with Josh Jackson, he says,

Everyone who enjoyed a stable and relatively happy childhood will look back on their childhood and think that it’s the best. That’s the parlor trick of nostalgia, and it’s why nostalgia is the worst. It is a toxic impulse that leads to nothing good, honestly. The idea that things were better once and are terrible now and getting worse every minute is what fuels the worst, in my opinion, movements in contemporary culture…

Sedikides and Wildschut’s study over the course of the last decade asks us to re-frame our thinking, however. They attest that instead of vilifying nostalgia, we can and should actively employ its effects to counteract depression, anxiety, or pain. As they’ve discovered so far, nostalgia is a universal human experience and powerful for healing across cultures. This kind of thinking about the past, Sedikides explains, “is always related to intimacy maintenance: I want to remind myself of the people who are no longer here and what they meant for me. It serves to remind you of what intimacy you have achieved and therefore what you are most capable of… Nostalgia stands out as adaptive.” Indeed, historical-based research and current studies indicate that the mind, through nostalgia, actually temporarily alters the body’s perception of the condition of a room.

With this framework in hand, they have been developing nostalgia-based therapies for depression and are even beginning to explore the potential for its active use in easing the effects of Alzheimer’s. The key seems to be mindfulness of nostalgia as a tool—a calming agent, fuel for resilience in difficult periods. By connecting to the past and what we loved, we flood ourselves with warmth. Ever hear a song that “takes you back”? Smell a smell that recalls holiday meals, a loved one’s perfume, a campfire? Memory, along with that sweet tinge of longing for what’s past, buoys us.

The conclusion may seem simple, but its application is tricky. Sedikides speaks of nostalgia as the “perfect internal politician, connecting the past with the present, pointing optimistically to the future.” The trick is not to try to re-create any perceived notion of the past, but to draw on that, in Sedikides’ words, “inexhaustible bank account” to move forward. Durang’s characters certainly find an anchor in memory, but their nostalgia also serves as a platform from which to speak. Nostalgia, that anchor in the past, becomes a general reminder that warmth, love, and true connection with others in the present is possible.


Adams, Tim. “Look Back in Joy: The Power of Nostalgia.” The Guardian. The Guardian, 9 Nov. 2014. Web. 1 Aug. 2016.

Jackson, Josh. “The Real John Hodgman: We’re Not Making This Up!” Paste. Paste Magazine, 17 Nov. 2012. Web. 1 Aug. 2016.

Ward, Baldwin H., ed. Nostalgia: Our Heritage in Pictures and Words. Petaluma, CA: News Front/Year, Inc., 1975.

To continue the conversation on the topic: Charles (Chuck) Bryant and Josh Clark of STUFF YOU SHOULD KNOW fame explore nostalgia (and John Hodgman’s perspective!) in an episode of their podcast. Check it out at