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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Thursday, Nov. 27, 2014

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From left to right, Marcus Truchinski, Chase Stoeger, Chris Klopatek and Rick Pendzich deliver Shakespeare.
From left to right, Marcus Truchinski, Chase Stoeger, Chris Klopatek and Rick Pendzich deliver Shakespeare. (Photo: Mark Frohna)

Chamber stages all 37 Shakespeare plays in just under two laugh-filled hours

The only things missing were star struck clusters of freshmen girls, Greek togas with crowns of thorns and a big bowl of punch spiked with gin, vodka, brandy and any other kind of booze that somebody brought along to the party.

Other than that Milwaukee Chamber Theatre is staging a frat party complete with loud music, dancing, costumes galore, speeches, arguments, bys singing at the top of their lungs and mugging trying to wring laughs out of places where you don’t really expect laughs.

The occasion is a rollicking production of "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) (revised)."

This madcap sendup of the Bard is predicated, as we are told in the prologue, is "a feat unprecedented in the history of civilization." All of Shakespeare’s 37 plays in under 90 minutes.

This is, I think, the fourth production of this play in the last five years, but this one hits the stage with a twist.  Four college chums and graduates from the highly respected theater program at UW-Whitewater, gather onstage together to act like, well, boys.

The four -- Marcus Truchinski, Chase Stoeger, Chris Klopatek and Rick Pendzich -- leave nothing to the imagination in this two hour event. All four of them have gone on to distinguished careers in theater.

This the kind of humor when they say "stand up and let me slap you in the face and then, let’s do it again, and again, and again. And we’re gonna keep on doing it until you laugh."

Laughing was never in doubt.

Thing sword fights with croquet mallets and those noodles you swim with, a garish cooking show to tell the bloody story of Titus Andronicus, both Romeo and Juliet drinking their fatal poison from a Green Bay Packers cup, a spotlight that won’t stay still during the famous "To be or not to be" speech.

 These boys may well put up a sign that says "No Adults Needed."  Watching these boys at play I couldn’t help but think of the Three Stooges and their version of slapstick to tell a story or many stories.


The Tin Man, Dorothy, The Scarecrow and Cowardly Lion hit the stage at the Skylight Music Theatre.
The Tin Man, Dorothy, The Scarecrow and Cowardly Lion hit the stage at the Skylight Music Theatre. (Photo: Mark Frohna)

Skylight's "Wizard" takes a wonderfully imaginative trip to Oz

Here’s all you need to know about "The Wizard of Oz" that opened over the weekend at Skylight Theatre.

After two and a half hours, Dorothy picked up a pail filled with sparkling paper and threw it onto the Wicked Witch of the West, who melted away, sank into the ground and disappeared.

Molly Flynn Smoko, my 6-year-old granddaughter applauded. So did a majority of the adults in the theater. They clapped, even though I’d be willing to bet that each and every one of them knew this moment was coming. Still, they clapped.

The story of the little girl from Kansas who, with her faithful companion Toto, swirls into a world filled with wonder is an old story. Who hasn’t seen this movie? Still, everything was there, and nothing was scrapped from the story. We had the tornado and the Tin Man, the Scarecrow and the Cowardly Lion. We had the Wizard and the munchkins and the songs.

"Somewhere Over the Rainbow" is a wonderful song when you hear it on the radio or see someone sing it at a concert. But when this little girl sings it in the context of her life pre-tornado, full of hope, promise and determination to soar like an eagle, the song gives you chills.

Part of the wonder of this production rested in the hands of a woman who may well be one of the most creative and imaginative women working in Milwaukee theater, Pam Kriger.

Kriger is a director and choreographer and took care of the dancing in this show. It was some of the most unexpected and smile-inducing dancing I’ve ever seen.

A major issue for "The Wizard of Oz" on stage is how do you portray the munchkins without hiring dozens of real little people. There have been any number of solutions but nothing like you will see in this production.

Kriger, along with costume designer Kristy Leigh Hall, put the munchkins on rolling stools, clad them in tent-like costumes and let them roll around the floor, dancing and singing. It’s a moment of theatrical magic that exemplifies the brilliance Kriger brings to any sho…

Nathan Danzer (rear) and his monster, Jeremy C. Welter
Nathan Danzer (rear) and his monster, Jeremy C. Welter

"Frankenstein" is constantly intense but could use a break or two

Sometimes too much of a good thing is, well, too much of a good thing.

That’s the reaction I had Saturday night at the staging of "Frankenstein" by Dale Gutzman’s Off The Wall Theatre. The play was written by Nick Dear and enjoyed tremendous critical acclaim in the United Kingdom. There are reasons aplenty for the applause.

It’s an interesting adaptation of the novel by Mary Shelley, with the focus much more on the monster and much less on Victor Frankenstein who created him. The pace of this production, however, was so frantic that it was hard to develop a relationship with any of the characters. Just too constantly intense.

This production opens with the monster, played to the hilt by Jeremy Welter, staggering to life as a human being. He can’t talk, can barely move and slides around, discovering his latent humanity.

He meets a blind man who has been exiled and learns to talk, walk, reason and act exactly like a human being, with some very rough edges. He has a violent streak, and revenge for real or imagined slights is never far below his surface.

Eventually we meet Victor, played by Nathan Danzer, and we are confronted by his obsession with what he has wrought. He leaves his betrothed at home while he takes off to continue with his experiments. He meets with his monster in his lab, and the monster threatens Victor unless he creates a woman for him.

I don’t want to give away each and every development of this play, but it is a series of short scenes that Gutzman described as being like the panels you might find in a comic book.

There is a certain eerie charm to this play, but it is so melodramatic that I hardly had time to take a breath as one dire moment followed another dire moment, accompanied by super dramatic lighting and music that made the hair on my neck stand on end.

There is abundant drama in this story. The issue of humanity versus science is an age-old story and fraught with tension. The idea of obsession taking over whatever judgeme…

Lift with your legs, not with your back.
Lift with your legs, not with your back. (Photo:

From the TV weatherman's handbook of unsurprising advice

If you are like most people in Milwaukee, you turn to your local news for a variety of reasons, including sports scores, some news and, of course, the weather forecast.

Common to all those reasons is that you expect to hear something you don’t know. There was a murder somewhere or a politician was indicted or a shopping sale was underway or one of your favorite players was injured or there’s a big storm coming.

But sometimes the local news is a disappointment, telling you stuff you already know and wasting valuable airtime to do it. As we approach winter, I write this in the hopes that every station in town will read it and save the time it normally takes to tell this story.

The news says: "When driving in the snow, make sure you slow down, stay well back of the car in front of you and allow yourself more time to get where you are going."

Really? This is Wisconsin. 99.9 percent of us know about this. As a matter of fact, most of us not only know it, but we do it.

The news says: "If you have to go out and shovel, make sure you bend at your knees and not your back. If you try to shovel without using your knees, you could cause back strain."

Really? We’ve gotten this advice during your newscast from doctors, weathermen, news anchors, news reporters, physical therapists, kinesiologists, masseurs and guys who run hardware stores.

The news says: "Be careful of letting your pets out in this cold. It could be harmful."

Really? Most of us who have pets think of them as members of the family. We’d no more let our pets languish in freezing temperatures than we would let our kids out.

The news says: "There’s a big one coming. It might pay to get to the grocery store and stock up for a couple of days."

Really? This is Milwaukee. There are grocery stores all over the place. Most of us could walk to a store if we needed to."

The news says: "Those good men who drive the trucks are working like dogs to clear the streets. Make sure your car isn’t in the way so th…