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 May 6, 2015
The trend in both the NBA and Major League Baseball is to hire managers and coaches without any previous experience, And in most cases the trend has been a successful one. Craig Counsell is the latest in the line of new managers who have never managed before. He and Jason Kidd share a number of qualities.
Published May 5, 2015
A Fisher House provides free lodging for family members of service men and women who are being treated at a VA Hospital. Dan Buttery is being honored for his volunteer efforts to spearhead the drive to build one in Milwaukee.
Published May 4, 2015
Mark Attanasio has a baseball team that is the worst in the league and it feels like the pressure is building on him to do something. He's faced with a couple of alternatives and the one that should not even be considered is "do nothing."
Published May 3, 2015
"City of Angels" is a complicated story, made even though by three hours of singing and acting that doesn't shed much light on the stories. More than anything, this production needed cutting.
Published May 2, 2015
"Little by Little" is free of dialogue, but it's a story we have all heard before: three friends and the love that intrudes on that friendship. The wonderful songs and music carry the audience into a cloud of warmth and joy.
Published May 1, 2015
The Chicago Bulls had their way as the Bucks' season came to an end Thursday night. But the future looks bright for the Bucks, who have young stars, a new arena on the horizon and a coach who is among the best in the league.
Published May 1, 2015
The banh mi sandwich is a Vietnamese staple but restaurants through the city are offering their own take on this specialty. Buddha Lounge, a relatively new restaurant on the East Side, offers a truly traditional style and it's worth a taste.
Published April 30, 2015
The NFL draft gets underway Thursday night and the Packers have needs at cornerback and inside linebacker. But predicting what Ted Thompson will do is tough. He is full of surprises, but his record of success says that school of thought is perfect for the NFL
Published April 29, 2015
The riots in Baltimore were frightening in their wanton violence. Officials in Baltimore said that things would be better if the media focused on the good things. That kind of head in the sand behavior is the same thing we have in Milwaukee.
Published April 29, 2015
The Kentucky Derby is known as the "most exciting two minutes in sport." And Potawatomi Casino pulls out all the stops to make its derby party just as exciting. Paul Lurenz Jr., runs the OTB parlor and is spearheading the party.