"Microcrisis" finds humor in financial upheaval
If you are in the audience for "Microcrisis," what you want is Barack Obama sitting on your left and Mitt Romney on your right.
Then, as the play comes to an end, you want to be able to turn to each of them, hold out your palms, put a quizzical expression on your face and say, "Well? How 'bout that?"
Perhaps if you are head of the Federal Reserve or the Dean of the Economics Department at Harvard you might get everything they talk about in this play.
It was doubtful, however, if either of them were in the audience over the weekend when "Microcrisis" opened at Next Act Theatre.
Talk about a play with modest goals. In just a little over an hour let's explain the entire banking meltdown and financial crisis that has rocked the United States. Easy, huh?
Well, the version of the play mounted at Next Act is so funny, so clear and so meaningful that it's easy to tell Mike Lew, who wrote it, "Job well done."
The play starts when a cell phone businessman in Ghana is loaned 200 cedi, which is a little more than a penny in United States currency, to expand his business by one phone.
That starts the ball rolling both up and downhill, gaining speed and momentum as each step brings us closer and closer to a collapse that spins millions of people into its web.
Veteran Milwaukee actor David Cecsarini is Bennett, the hustler who drives this Doubloon Ferrari as if it had no brakes. He's got enough sleaze to make you want to reach for the Purell. He manipulates people and dollars and cell phone apps as he blows hot wind into the balloon that keeps climbing higher and higher.
John Kishline, another Milwaukee veteran, does a turn as the befuddled Frankfurt, who is the head of the New York Fed and a man given to pleasure in all things. You could say he has a mouth like a truck driver, but that would be unfair to truck drivers. Kishline and Cecsarini have done many plays together, and it shows with a kind of comic timing you used to see with Art Carney and Jackie Gleason.
Special nods have to go to two newcomers to the Next Act family.
Michael Cotey, who is the artistic director at the upstart Youngblood Theatre, proves his acting chops have a rare range. He was outstanding as Malcolm in "Macbeth" during the summer. As Randy in "Microcrisis" he unleashes a taste for comedy that is as subtle as it is surprising. When his romantic advances are spurned, his reaction makes you gasp and then laugh like crazy.
And then there is Alexandra Bonesho, who just graduated from Marquette. She's a newcomer who plays a nice girl caught up in the spiral to the top of the financial pyramid. She is sexy, funny, pathetic, naïve, determined, idealistic and cute, all rolled into one. And let's not forget to mention sexy. Again.
She is the object of affection for Randy, but sells her body to Bennett as she tries to keep a little bit of her soul away from the growing disaster. She has the charity of Mother Teresa and the innocent sexiness of Marilyn Monroe, all wrapped up into one great package.
She is a clear symbol of what happened in this country. She is caught up in a maelstrom of false numbers, false promises and, perhaps most troubling of all, false hopes.
With hindsight as a guide, you want to reach out, grab her by the shoulders and shout "Wake up! Can't you see what's going on?"
The answer of course, is "No" – she (or we) can't see what's going on. And boy, did we get slapped around for our blindness.
There's a message of warning and caution to "Microcrisis," but this is no boring lecture. Instead, it does what humor does best – it makes you laugh through the tears.
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