With a title like "Packer Fans from Outer Space," it would be logical to expect an evening of frivolous fun, much like watching Saturday morning cartoons.
Who would think that a play like this would feature an important message and a tender love story between awfully different young people? Under the deft and gentle hand of Milwaukeeâ€™s Molly Rhode, the play pulls you into unusual places, all under the guise of the perennial battle between the Packers and the Chicago Bears.
"Packer Fans" gets a remounting by the American Folklore Theatre in their cozy outdoor space in Peninsula State Park in Door County. The show, written by the team of Frederick Heide and Lee Becker, was last produced over a decade ago.
This team has created such outrageously funny plays like "Belgians in Heaven" and "Guys and Does." "Packer Fans" could well be expected to follow in that same slapstick kind of vein, but it doesnâ€™t, as Rhode finds a heart in this play and puts it on full display with a marvelous cast of actors.
The story focuses on the Kiester family: Harvey, his wife Marge and their teenage daughter Peg. Peg wants to be a scientist, studying intergalactic phenomena and using her knowledge to bring about world peace. Her mom wants her to "find a nice guy and settle down."
Well Peg, who believes the sightings of flying saucers in Door County are true, does meet a man, although whether heâ€™s nice or not is open to question.
The man is "39," one of two Packers from outer space. He, his partner "24" and "Coach" â€“ who wears a coat a lot like Vince Lombardi â€“ have come to earth to take Harvey back so that he can rid the world of the horrible Space Bears. Harvey, you see, is an incredibly devout Packer fans, trapped in a marriage to a Bear fan.
The story focuses on Harvey, a character brought to life by Bill Theisen, the longtime artistic director at Skylight and a man who clearly needs to be on stage in Wisconsin a lot more.
Theisen, who is built kind of like a pear on steroids, brings hilarity wherever he goes and with whatever he says. The moment he put on a Packer colored bra â€“ complete with large green and gold breasts â€“ and managed a frightful shimmy on stage brought the house down.
He is also a marvelous singer who understands that in musical theater the words of a song are incredibly important, and he makes sure each word is sung just as it should be.
But this play is not all about laughs, even though they come frequently and easily.
Somewhere in this script, Rhode found a story about how different people have all kinds of Â mistaken impressions of people who arenâ€™t like them. Itâ€™s about how those mistaken impressions can make people act in ways that are self-protective and sometimes painful.
The journey of these characters toward something resembling peace and friendship is a halting one, but each obstacle â€“ from language to values â€“ is brushed aside in the Â unrecognized desire to be something other than enemies.
The main love story is between Peg, gracefully and earnestly played by a lovely Eva Nimmer, and "39," played by Chase Stoeger (who is married to Rhode). Stoeger is marvelous as an alien who not only doesnâ€™t understand anything about Peg, but is determined to avoid any contact with women of any stripe. The lovely song "Life on Earth" is a joyful collision of two worlds, both enlightened to the other.
The production helps to solidify Rhode as even more than the triple threat she had been at one point. She can act, dance, sing, play instruments, choreograph and direct with incredible depth and sensitivity. A cast in Rhodeâ€™s hands can be sure that they are going to find new places to explore, and the audience is the clear winner.
No Talkbacks for this article.
Post your comment/review now
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.
Recent Articles & Blogs by Dave Begel
Published Oct. 13, 2015
Soccer is called "the beautiful game" by the millions of fans who follow it like a religion, both in America and around the world.I've never understood the phrase until Saturday night when a remarkable confluence of events gave me a kind of clarity about soccer I never had before.
Published Oct. 10, 2015
Next weekend the respected Florentine Opera opens "Madama Butterfly," the last of Puccini's trio of great works, for a two performance run Oct. 16 and 18 in Uihlein Hall at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts.
Published Oct. 8, 2015
Back when I was a millennial, well before the millennium, dining out was not nearly the adventure it is now. There are so many more options now, so much food that is healthier, such a variety of cost points and so many different ethnic offerings that it sometimes makes it difficult to consider where you want to eat. But half a century ago, when I was but a callow youth, there were places where I was part of the devoted following. Here are nine of those places.
Published Oct. 7, 2015
This cozy spot offers a plethora of Indian dishes - from mild curry to red-hot pepper, curry and ginger flavored items.
Published Oct. 7, 2015
Thud! As hard as it may be to believe, that is the exact sound delivered by the stage musical version of "Dirty Dancing" that opened Tuesday night at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts. If there was ever a stage adaptation of a movie that ought to just fly off the stage, this one sat there like a hopeless drunk trying to tap dance on a giant exercise ball.
Published Oct. 6, 2015
Recently, the Milwaukee Bucks extended the contract of General Manager John Hammond. The agreement keeps Hammond in his position with the Bucks through the 2016-17 season. I was wrong on this one. In July I had written that the Bucks were on the verge of appointing Coach Jason Kidd to be the head of basketball operations and either parting ways with Hammond or finding another position for him in the organization.
Published Oct. 4, 2015
Sometimes it takes a little tap on your noggin to get the point across and sometimes it takes a blow from a sledge hammer. The sledge hammer gets a total workout in "Back of the Throat," the over-the-top horror show running at Next Act's Third Ward theater.
Published Oct. 4, 2015
One of the worst things that can happen to anybody walking into a theater is to know all about the twists and turns and surprises that are in store. If you know, then it's not a surprise. Following my intense belief in not having the shout "spoiler alert" every time I see a play, I fully intend to say almost nothing about what happens in "Any Given Monday," an hilarious if slightly off-kilter comedy that opened over the weekend at In Tandem's Tenth Street Theatre.
Published Oct. 3, 2015
If at some point in your life you decide that you want to write your autobiography there are a couple of very important items to consider. One is that you can write. The other is that your life better have something interesting about it. Both of the requirements are met, gloriously, in "The Lion," the one man show that opened Friday night at the Stiemke Studio of the Milwaukee Rep.
Published Oct. 1, 2015
Over the last several months Dave Begel has seen a steady parade of fear mongers show up and convince a Common Council committee to turn down applications for a strip club in Downtown Milwaukee.