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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014

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The cast of Windfall Theatre's "Identita," which runs through Oct. 11.
The cast of Windfall Theatre's "Identita," which runs through Oct. 11.

"Identita" is a troubling mess from start to finish and in between

Any local theater company that tries to produce plays by local playwrights deserves a great deal of credit.

Carol Zippel at Windfall Theatre has been committed more than most to giving local writers a chance to get their works staged. She should stand tall and proud over this effort.

The latest example of this philosophy is the production of "Identita," which opened Friday night and runs through Oct. 11. The show comes written by Louise Zamparutti, a Ph.D. student in the english department at UW-Milwaukee where she also teaches professional writing.

I hardly know where to begin with this production, which takes an idea that hardly anybody has ever heard of, wraps it in a confusing collection of ever increasingly incredible ideas and casts it with some of serious overacting.

Let me try to boil down the story, just to get this task out of the way.

Josh, 25, lives in America. He travels to a small Italian village where his father was killed in a car accident. There he meets a girl named either Yulia (or Julia) who runs a small cafe and bar. She won’t tell him why she has two names. He also meets his great aunt Vida, who is married to Aldo, and his great uncle Fabio, who is married to Paola.

Roughly in order of appearance, the following things happen.

Josh finds out his dad left him land. He believes he must decide what to do with the land in a day and a half or else the local village government will confiscate it. He thought his dad was a geologist invited to Italy every summer to work as a geologist, but in reality, an American university sent him so he could write poetry. Josh is very surprised. There is a mystery about the car accident, just as there is a mystery about an almost identical accident that killed Josh’s grandfather.

We then find out that Vida and Fabio may have been on different sides as resistance fighters during World War II. She was a Yugoslavian, he was an Italian.   

Here are some of the elements that raise their ugly heads in this s…

John Glowacki stars in In Tandem's production of "The Glass Menagerie."
John Glowacki stars in In Tandem's production of "The Glass Menagerie." (Photo: Mark Frohna Photography)

In Tandem produces spectacular and intriguing staging of "The Glass Menagerie"

Sometimes you think you know everything there is to know about something. It’s just about that time that you become fodder for a surprise that just about knocks you off your perch.

That’s the experience I got when I saw a spectacular production of "The Glass Menagerie," the fabled Tennessee Williams play that opened over the weekend at In Tandem Theatre and runs through Oct. 19.

Under the brave and creative direction of Mary MacDonald Kerr, a spectacular cast of actors took one of the icons of American theater and stood it on its ear. In the course of that adventure, Kerr made sure that one of the most storied characters in this country’s theatrical library developed new and fascinating layers.

Everyone who has gone through high school is almost certainly familiar with Williams and the Southern belles he has created: Stella in "A Streetcar Named Desire," Maggie in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" and Amanda Wingfield in "Menagerie."

Critics and experts for years have talked about the lusty sexiness of the first two, as well as the fantasy world and rigid, mean controlling nature of Amanda. She has been painted as the counterpoint to Stella and Maggie.

Well counterpoint no more.

Angela Iannone creates an Amanda who has all of the fantasy and wistfulness from earlier productions. But this Amanda also is clear that she has been a woman of deep passions and that she is nothing if not a survivor in a world turned topsy-turvy. In contrast to most interpretations, this Amanda doesn’t have an ounce of cruelty in her, but is a mother bear who stands fierce guard over her little cubs. She has a clear vision of what it will take to maker her two children happy and who will go to any length to make that happen.

The story is one that hardly needs to be detailed.

The Wingfield family is crowded into a small apartment in St. Louis. Amanda has two children: Tom, who doubles as the narrator of this play, and Laura, who today may well have been placed on the autism spectrum …

Carl Clemons Hopkins (center) belts out a number in "The Color Purple."
Carl Clemons Hopkins (center) belts out a number in "The Color Purple." (Photo: Michael Brosilow)

"The Color Purple" opens Rep season with powerhouse performances

There are at least two ways to watch "The Color Purple," the musical adaptation of Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel that opened the Powerhouse season at the Milwaukee Rep Saturday night and runs through Nov. 2.

One is to sit on the edge of your seat and pay close attention to all the plot twists and turns of the 40-year journey that is the life of Celie, a Southern black woman subjected to unimaginable horrors before triumphing at the end of the almost three hour long production.

The other way is to relax, sit back in your seat and let the spectacle of music, costume and dance overwhelm you into an awfully enjoyable night of musical theater.

I heartily recommend the second approach.

Walker's book is a very frank and very moving story of a young woman who is brutalized for much of her life, beginning as a 14-year-old mother of two, with her father being the suspected culprit. Celie is then sold into marriage to a man called "Mister" who furthers her degradation. When asked why he beat her, he explains, "Because you my wife." Enough said.

Walker’s book is immense, filled with dozens of stories – many of them told by Celie through letters to God. There is a power in this book as we are move at an excruciatingly slow speed to a climax that has Celie freed from her bonds of poverty, color and fear.

There is nothing slow about the musical version of the play, adapted by the outstanding playwright Marsha Norman. The story careens ahead at full speed, often interrupted by music that reminds us of what just happened and paves the way for what’s going to happen next.

You could easily go dizzy trying to keep straight all the things that happen to Celie, from the separation from her sister Nettie; to her introduction to fleshly pleasure by Shug Avery, a glamorous torch singer; and to her increasing self-reliance as she is left alone looking for the fighter inside. She refuses to buckle under and instead finds things in herself she never knew were there…

If you're going to return to the game of golf, there are few better places to do it than Brown Deer in Milwaukee.
If you're going to return to the game of golf, there are few better places to do it than Brown Deer in Milwaukee. (Photo: Jim Owczarski)

After a three year hiatus I'm going to hit the links again

I gave up a lifetime of playing golf three years ago for a number of reasons, not the least of which was the surprise and sudden death of my closest golf partner.

I used to be a good golfer, a single digit handicap. But I had lost a lot of skill, wasn’t able to hit clubs the yardage I always had and my hands kind of shook when I putted. The worse I got, the more aggravated I got.

I had enough of all that so I gave it up and didn’t miss it.

Friday I am going to play golf again. Why? I’m not sure. But I’m going to Brown Deer and teeing it up with friend and club pro Scott Evans and’s sports editor Jim Owczarski, who can probably hit it twice as far as me.

I’m a little apprehensive about it. I’ve had some health issues and it’s hard for me to walk very far. My legs hurt, my back hurts, hell, just about everything hurts.

But I have cleaned my clubs, found my shoes and freshened my golf glove and I’m ready to give it another test.

Like they say, no fool like an old fool.