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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Monday, Sept. 15, 2014

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Theatre Unchained presents "The Addams Family" musical, through Sept. 28.
Theatre Unchained presents "The Addams Family" musical, through Sept. 28.

Theatre Unchained's "Addams Family" musical is frighteningly funny

Sometimes stepping off the beaten path or outside of the mainstream can be fraught with peril, but on occasion, it can turn into a wonderful surprise, and you pat yourself on the back for taking the big step.

Such was my reaction after stepping into Theatre Unchained's deliciously tiny space in order to see the production of "The Addams Family" musical, which runs through Sept. 28. This was a play I had seen before, and despite the 700-performance run on Broadway, I wasn’t totally in love with it.

Maybe it was because I was never really a regular watcher and fan of the Addams Family television show. I also recall the previous performance I had seen to be an effort to make the audience feel creepy and full of wonder about how eerie and disturbed this family was.

Much to their credit, the performance Saturday night, under the direction of John Baiocchi, left the creepiness outside and settled on making the audience laugh. And it was a smashingly successful effort.

Oh, there were things to pick at, of course. This was a cast of 16 actors, none of whom I have ever seen on stage, and I’ve seen a lot of Milwaukee theater. There was a live orchestra of seven musicians under the music direction of AJ Stibbe that was on occasion a little too loud, drowning out some of the lyrics. And there was not much of the slick polish you see around town in the bigger, mainstream theaters.

But those are all minor points that should not detract from a cast and orchestra that knew where the laughs were and mugged and timed all of them just right for maximum effect on a full house.

For those who don’t know, the Addams family is made up of Gomez (Timothy J. Barnes), his wife Morticia (a delectably sexy Kassandra Novell), his brother Fester (Marty Graffenius), their daughter Wednesday (Jamie Nyland), their son Pugsley (Jessica Hoof) and the grandmother (Danielle Gamsky). Lurch (a delightfully droll Matthew Northey) is the houseman.

The story is plain and simple.

The crazy girl W…

Kringle is easily one of Wisconsin's finest - or at least tastiest - exports.
Kringle is easily one of Wisconsin's finest - or at least tastiest - exports.

13 best things "Made in Wisconsin"

We may not have movie stars like California, oranges like Florida or corn like Iowa, but Wisconsin has a long list of excellent stuff we've given to the rest of the world. Here are the top 13 things that carry the "Made in Wisconsin" tag.

1. Cheese – Any list for our state has to start with cheese. Over 600 cheesemakers produce over 2.8 billion pounds of cheese each year. That’s a quarter of all the production in the country. Plus, we win most of the prizes in every cheese contest held around the world. And Wisconsin is the only place in the country where limburger cheese is made. It’s not for everyone, but put a thin slice on top of Usinger’s liver sausage and add a slice of raw onion between two pieces of caraway rye and you have one heck of a sandwich. It’s best eaten leaning over your kitchen sink.

2. Kringle – It comes from Denmark, but the American monopoly is in Racine, a center of Danish culture. Thirty-two layers of flaky dough are shaped into an oval and then filled with fruit, nut or other flavors. It makes a fantastic gift and is guaranteed to get a "holy cow" response when you send one to somebody in, say, Arizona. Side note: The Nordic Distillery in Middleton makes a kringle liqueur, created out of Wisconsin cream, rum, sugar and kringle flavoring. I had a shot in Cross Plains recently. Amazing!

3. Yachts – Don’t laugh. Rich people from around the world, from sheiks to barons of industry, know that we build wonderfully luxurious yachts. Palmer Johnson, Carver, Burger and KCS International build the watercraft from stem to stern, complete with hand-crafted fine wood details throughout the state rooms and cabins. Some of these are a sight to behold. I’ve never been on a yacht, but it looks like a lot of fun.

4. Cranberries – How in the world could we ever have Thanksgiving without cranberries? We are the largest cranberry producer by far, harvesting almost five billion bushels. That is enough for approximately 62.5 million turke…

A scene from one of the many screwy sketches in "Destiny, Deviltry & Dentistry" at the Alchemist Theatre.
A scene from one of the many screwy sketches in "Destiny, Deviltry & Dentistry" at the Alchemist Theatre.

Raucous sketches light up Alchemist Theatre with hilarious laughter

Two Milwaukee guys walk into a bar.

Guy one: "Hey, you want to write some plays?"

Guy two: "I don’t care."

Guy one: "Okay. Me too. I don’t care either."

Guy two: "I got a pencil. Let’s go then."

Guy one is Jason Powell and Guy two is Doug Jarecki, and it may or may not have happened like that as they created "Destiny, Deviltry & Dentistry," a series of seven sketches currently on display at Alchemist Theatre through Sept. 20.

But whatever kind of thing got these two local guys to sit down and develop this show, it was more than worth it, as it’s about 90 minutes of some of the funniest original stuff I’ve seen in Milwaukee in a long, long time.

The evening opens with Jarecki and Powell on stage trying to explain the different approach each took toward creating an opening to the show, one that would set the stage, so to speak, for what was coming down the pike.

Complete with some music from Powell’s guitar, they are gradually joined on stage by a cast of eight co-conspirators to sing about "Destiny, Deviltry & Dentistry." Even after watching the whole thing, I still have no idea what the title means. But that’s probably fitting.

Katie Cummings directs this cast, which includes Jarecki, Powell, Brittany Boeche, Lindsey Gagliano, Andi Jaspersen, Michael Keiley, Matthew Konkel, Mara McGhee, April Paul and Mitch Weindorf.

Among the characters we're treated to in these sketches are: a female Union soldier whose husband is cheating on her by fighting with the Confederate army; a pair of TSA agents who have been dating for a long time and the influence on them from an array of whacky airline passengers who pass through their checkpoint; Quasimodo, his wife and her sister, who also is a hunchback; the daughter of a couple in Amsterdam who angers her parents because she won’t take the drugs they give to her; and a dentist at a privately owned movie studio emergency dental clinic who is trying to avoid the romantic advances from his receptionist.


Milwaukee Brewers manager Ron Roenicke's club is in a tailspin.
Milwaukee Brewers manager Ron Roenicke's club is in a tailspin. (Photo: David Bernacchi)

Roenicke deserves major blame for Brewers crash to earth

There is almost nothing as ominous as when a professional sports team has a "players-only" meeting in their clubhouse.

What that normally means is that things are rapidly spinning out of control and nobody has any idea how to stop the slide, and it rarely cures anything.

That’s our Milwaukee Brewers, a team that seems destined to break our hearts and spend the fall fishing or playing golf or sitting at home watching playoff baseball on television.

How do you explain a team that had played so well now playing so poorly that they barely contested a whole bunch of games? Have their skills all eroded to minor league level?

I have no real idea how to explain it, but I think I know where the majority of the blame should be placed.

These players can still run and hit and pitch and throw and catch as well as they ever could, but they aren’t doing any of those things even decently now.

And I honestly think it’s the fault of the manager.

The role of a manager is a critical one in baseball, as in all sports. The manager or coach doesn’t make specific decisions. They generally endorse the decisions made by assistants.

What a manager does is create a climate that allows for players to be successful.

During a losing streak great coaches and managers find a way to get players moving in the same direction. They know that sitting back and waiting for things to happen is exactly the wrong thing to do.

Ron Roenicke seems like a very nice guy. But he has presided over this unbelievable job of massive choking and he needs to be held responsible.

And make no mistake, I think this is a case of organizational choking.

You choke when the finish line is in sight and everybody else in the race is behind you and suddenly, without adequate explanation, you begin to do the bad things you have avoided all season long.

Nobody is immune from this indictment. There is plenty of blame to go around here. But things being equal it’s the manager or coach in every case I’ve ever seen…