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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2014

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Ryan Braun did not address specifics about his use of performance enhancing drugs.
Ryan Braun did not address specifics about his use of performance enhancing drugs. (Photo: FOX6now.com)

Questions remain about Braun's PED use

I just finished reading the transcript of Ryan Braun’s news conference at Miller Park today, and I have some advice for him.

Do not, under any circumstances listen to lawyers, public relations people, crisis managers or anyone else who provides you with talking points.

During this whole news conference Braun talked about how he wasn’t going to get into specifics about what had happened and that he was only focused on moving forward.

The problem with that answer to questions from reporters is that it makes Braun continue to look like he’s a liar.

Everybody seemed to agree, months ago, that it was important for Braun to be frank and open in his explanation of this situation. Fans and experts all said that the lying he did was worse than the fact that he took the drugs.

If you read what he said he just sounded, once again, like he’d been programmed before he even stepped up to the plate.

If Jeffrey Dahmer had a news conference and said he was just moving forward and wasn’t going to talk about what had happened in the past, we’d have all gone crazy.

Now what Braun did is not even close to Dahmer’s crimes, but the principle of the thing is the same.

I really think that it would be nice to put this whole thing behind us, both for us and for Braun, but it seems like every time he opens his mouth, we end up with just as many questions as we had before.

I’ve mentioned this before, but Braun and his people, should take a look at Andy Pettite’s news conference when he got caught using PED’s. He sat there and took each and every question and answered all of them with candor. After that, nobody even talked about it anymore.

Gerard Neugent and Sara Zientek star in the Rep's production of "Noises Off."
Gerard Neugent and Sara Zientek star in the Rep's production of "Noises Off." (Photo: Michael Brosilow)

Rep's "Noises Off" is a first-rate farce

There are a lot of different things you can expect when you go to the Milwaukee Repertory Theatre, but you would never expect this.

A ballet. Right on the stage of the Quadracci Powerhouse. And with "Noises Off," a farce written by Michael Frayn and directed by KJ Sanchez, the Rep has staged a show that has everything that a great ballet has, except the music.

First, you need the actors/dancers. They must know their steps. They must be able to dance/act alone and dance/act with their partners. You need wonderful soaring scenery that helps to tell the story. You need a story that will hold your interest. You need to know what it is you want out of your audience.

And, like any great ballet, you need to ask a lot of  your actors/dancers, and they need to have wonderous physical strength and impeccable timing. I mean down to the last nanosecond. If you're off in a ballet, you may as well drop your partner. If you were off in this show, the jokes, one-liner and brilliant physical comedy could fall flat, as if the audience had gone deaf.

There are several things that you need for a great farce. You need doors – the more the better – and they must be able to be slammed. You need sex, both pretty overt and of the double entendre variety. You need props that go boom in the night and allow actors to fall, juggle, drop and steal. You need love affairs, triangles, quadrangles, almost any permutation of angles. You need a sense of sympathy for the fools who are caught in the maelstrom of farcical behavior and circumstance.

"Noises Off" has all of that and more. Much more.

The conceit of the play is simple: A downtrodden second or third level theater troupe is producing a play called "Nothing On." There are three distinct performances of the play, one in a final dress rehearsal, one performance seen from the back of the stage and finally one near the end of their national tour when all semblance of a play has been lost to chaos.

The story in any great farce – and this…

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Dan Katula and Ryan Schabach star in "Things Being What They Are."
Dan Katula and Ryan Schabach star in "Things Being What They Are." (Photo: Mark Frohna)

Chamber's "Things Being What They Are" is a comedic delight

A frequent pitfall for playwrights that write comedies is a temptation to wind things up at the end with some meaningful reform for the comics that turns them into serious human beings.

Most often those attempts end up being sappy and sending an audience home with decidedly mixed feelings wondering whether they were supposed to be laughing all that time.

Nothing like that plagues "Things Being What They Are," the Wendy MacLeod play that opened over the weekend at the Milwaukee Chamber Theatre.

The play is about two men: Bill, a moderately nerdy, very responsible married man who has just moved into a new condo, and Jack, his neighbor who makes John Belushi look positively civilized. The not-so-delicate dance these two strangers perform on their way to friendship is filled with seriously funny stuff, as well as a meaningful nugget or two.

Along the way, Jack – who is divorced and more than slightly melancholy about the whole thing – shows that macho wisecracks help him cope with the unfilled moments of his life. He arrives in a flurry of funny on the day Bill is moving in. He helps himself to beer and spends a big part of his evening commenting on every facet of the life of the man he has just met.

Bill is initially both flustered and more than a bit put off by Jack’s assault, and he tries to find a way to extricate himself from what has become an uncomfortable situation. Eventually, like all good relationship plays, Jack lures Bill into his world. Bill promises to pick Jack up from the hospital when he goes for a biopsy.

Bill forgets and Jack’s extended monologue explaining how he got home by calling his ex-wife at Home Depot and then riding back in the brand new truck belonging to her boyfriend, who is in the back with the new $1,000 set of patio furniture while Jack sits next to his wife in the cab, hoping for some contact between their knees and how everything is going smoothly until Jack takes a corner too fast and the boyfriend ("his name is Ralph bu…

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Young Gavroche (Luke Brotherhood) cheers on a revolution in "Les Miserables."
Young Gavroche (Luke Brotherhood) cheers on a revolution in "Les Miserables." (Photo: Mark Frohna)

Skylight's "Les Misérables" is a blessing for the audience

Blessed.

Go ahead and pick any adjective you want. Not one of them – or all of them – can possibly do justice to the glorious production of "Les Misérables" that opened Friday night at the Skylight Music Theatre.

But blessed may come close for those lucky enough to see it. After it was over, I felt blessed.

It’s hard to describe the magnificence of this production. Let us begin with director Molly Rhode, who last year gave us all a memorable rendition of "The Sound of Music" at Skylight.

With "Les Misérables," she has scaled new heights of excellence and set a standard for plays with music in Milwaukee. She is a musician and an actor, and she directs with a foot in every camp, a careful understanding of a story and how best to tell it.

Viswa Subbaraman, the Skylight’s new artistic director, gets huge props for turning such a well-known and difficult piece over to Rhode.

The musical, based on the novel by Victor Hugo, tells the story of Jean Valjean, imprisoned for 19 years for stealing bread, and his search for redemption in 19th century France.

But it is, in reality, a story of pursuit. It is Valjean’s pursuit of redemption. Javert’s furious pursuit of Valjean to bring him to justice. The beautiful and doomed Fantine’s pursuit of a better life. Eponine’s unrequited love for Marius and her pursuit of him. Thenardier’s pursuit of lucre in any form, including the sale of a child. The mutual pursuit of Marius for Cosette and she for him.

And above all, the pursuit of the downtrodden for a life of freedom and justice, a battle fought to win at any cost.

At one point in its history, Skylight was known as the Skylight Opera Theatre. That name is long since gone, but though some may call "Les Mis" musical theatre, it had every element of a great, unforgettable opera. The greatest operas in the world – "Don Giovanni," "La Traviata," "Le nozze di Figaro" – all have something in common. They all have great music, a great story and a strong sense …

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