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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014

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Brian Mani, Tom Klubertanz and C. Michael Wright in Yasmina Reza's "Art."
Brian Mani, Tom Klubertanz and C. Michael Wright in Yasmina Reza's "Art."

"Art" sets the bar high for the rest of theater season

After all the histrionics and after all the name-calling, and even some tears, the two friends faced each other across the width of the living room.

Fifteen years they had been friends and now it seemed to be ending in bitterness and some confusion. Nobody seemed sure why this was happening. But one of the men, Marc, at least knew what had brought and kept them together.

"I loved the way you saw me," he said to Serge as the third man, Ivan, looked on, dumbfounded by the actions of the other two.

And that phrase, "I loved the way you saw me," is at the heart of "Art," the play by Yasmina Reza that opened the Milwaukee theater season Friday night at the Milwaukee Chamber Theatre, 158 N. Broadway.

"Art" is almost 20 years old and has been performed all over the world, and it’s easy to see why. This is the perfect play to open a season, a moderate amount of message and a huge helping of rollicking fun.

And the full house at the Broadway Theater Center laughed from start to finish as this story unfolded. It’s about a piece of modern art that Serge purchased. The painting is all white. Marc can’t stand it and lets Serge know in no uncertain times.

And the friendship begins to unravel from there, the friendship between Marc and Serge and the joint friendship with the hapless Ivan, who is a third wheel, but a heartwarming third wheel.

The friends drift away, but like all good stories, they get back together in the end. And it’s the journey that we love to watch. With three great actors, they had the audience in their collective hands all night long.

C. Michael Wright, who is also the artistic director of MCT, takes his turn on the stage as the buttoned-up Serge. Wright has a million-watt smile that hints at the devilish monster churning inside him.

Brian Mani, who is as good as it gets in Wisconsin, plays Marc, the friend who has his own view of life and isn’t afraid to share it with anyone. Mani has such grace onstage that it’s hard to take your eyes off h…

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Marti Gobel surrounded by her students in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.
Marti Gobel surrounded by her students in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.

Milwaukee actress' African performance a life-changing experience

Anyone who has ever worked in the theater knows this truth: The theater may leave you with empty pockets but your heart will always be full.

A full heart is what belongs to Marti Gobel, the spectacular actor from Milwaukee who has graced stages for years.

She just returned from what she describes as a "life changing" tour in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.

Gobel, along with Suzan Fete and Brandy Kline of Renaissance Theatreworks, traveled to South Africa to conduct workshops, perform the play "Neat" which was produced at Renaissance, and to teach. For Renaissance it was a chance to reach out with its mission of female-oriented theatrical excellence.

But for Gobel it was a sojourn to the land of her ancestral birth and the kind of thing that touched every part of her being.

She was the first black person to perform in the Port Elizabeth Opera House, the oldest theater on the African continent. To help understand the magnitude of her experience it can be noted that the opera house is located on Whites Road Central in Port Elizabeth.

"I understand discrimination and I know about the end of apartheid," she said recently over coffee at the lakefront Colectivo. "But to see this firsthand was and experience that just about knocked me off my feet. Most of the time, in restaurants and such, I was the only African-American person being served. All the others were serving or cooking. It was an amazing feeling. I think what elevated me above the others was the fact that I am an American and an artist."

"Neat" is a one-woman play, with Gobel playing 24 different parts. It’s an emotional roller coaster that tells the story of a young girl who grows from a child into a smart-mouthed teenager and ends up as a feminine force for black pride.

"The first night I did the play they had to hold the curtain," she said. "They brought in busloads of people and it was a very diverse audience. I’ve never seen an audience like that. They were on the front edge of their chairs, talking…

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"Mystery Man" Chad and blogger Sarah Kooiman's son Isaiah at Miller Park on Sunday.
"Mystery Man" Chad and blogger Sarah Kooiman's son Isaiah at Miller Park on Sunday. (Photo: http://networkedblogs.com/NPe6X)

Local mom's blog makes us believe in baseball again

Sometimes the crap of life gets to be so high that it’s virtually impossible to see the sun anymore.

This can be especially true in the world of sports.

Ryan Braun gets suspended. Then Alex Rodriguez gets what amounts to a ban for the rest of his life. A dozen other players get hit. Brian Bulaga, the new experiment at left tackle, tears his ACL.

The Brewers are a dismal failure. You’ve been loyal to Rickie Weeks throughout his career but holy cow, maybe we should give up.

More and more the crap piles high and we have trouble catching our breath.

And then there comes a moment. Mine came yesterday when I read the blog from a woman about her experience at Miller Park.

I cried when I read it, sure. But more than that I smiled at the wonder of it all. We may turn our fingers raw writing about all the horrible stuff, but maybe we should spend a little more time on stories like this.

Here’s the link to the original blog. If you haven’t read it, do so. See how it makes you feel. This thing has taken on a life of its own and it deserves every round of applause we can give it.

Also, here’s a link about the way the Brewers are reacting to the story. Good for them and for John Steinmiller, their manager of media relations.