The past weekend was one about growing older and the memory of lives together in Milwaukee theater, themes that lit up two poignant productions.
The first example – Next Act's "Three Views of the Same Object" – was a courageous and moving production about the end of our lives and how we face that time.
I followed that with "Skin Tight," the remounting of the hour-long play by Gary Henderson at Renaissance Theaterworks. Ten years ago, I saw the Renaissance production, and this time the company brought back the original cast and its original director, Laura Gordon.
This new version, running through April 27, is even richer and more nuanced than the original. It’s as if Gordon and stars Leah Dutchin and Braden Moran have lived these roles each day for the last decade and have just decided to show us how very much they have learned about life in that time.
The story is about love, but it is even more about life, the life that Tom and Elizabeth had in a New Zealand hamlet.
They bring to life the memory of their courtship, their first time, the war that interrupted their lives, the affair that almost did, the child they had who drifted so far away she seemed like a stranger, the love for the land and the loss of the farm they loved so much.
And while they revel in the vibrancy and vitality of the days of their youth, filled with sensuality and passions, they also hold each other close in order to share the disintegration and inevitable end of their lives.
At one point, while Tom is washing her hair, she asks, "Will you wash my body when I die?" He is frozen and struck mute with the very thought.
There is a turbulence to love and life, and Dutchin and Moran ride those waves with both an unyielding force and an enviable grace. Their performances drip with passion and with the kind of fears and regrets that mark all of our lives.
There is a significant amount of joyful abandon in "Skin Tight" as the young people slide willingly into their lives together. Laughs come easily. But underlying the humor is the incessant drumbeat of the tears and sorrows that wait for all of us.
Gordon steers the play into almost as much dance as drama. The choreography by Maria Gillespie and the additional fight choreography by Ryan Schabach is alive with the kind of power that commands your focus and attention.
Both Dutchin and Moran have an incredible chemistry and a kind of maturity that lets us see the places they have been and the places they are going. Their affection for each other is palpable, and they are brave enough to create some memorable moments before they move on to other matters.
Nothing about their lives has been clear or without some kind of regret.
"I thought love would be easy," Elizabeth says at one point.
She may have been talking about love, but in reality she was talking about life, from beginning until the end.
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 April 16, 2015
Nobody expected the Milwaukee Bucks to be in the playoffs this year, but they surprised the world by being the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference. The Bucks open the playoffs against the Chicago Bulls Saturday night.
Published April 16, 2015
Sheriff David Clarke is the darling of the far right and he is a favorite of the Fox News Network. But amidst all the bluster there are some truths to be discovered when he talks about the epidemic of black violence in Milwaukee.
Published April 15, 2015
I recently began walking with a cane. And I had to park near the Milwaukee Public Market. I parked at one end of the block and had to drag myself all the way to the other end.
Published April 14, 2015
Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy are set to take over the big rivalry that the PGA Tour needs to keep interest up. The two are likely to become the next Tiger vs, Phil or the next Jack vs. Arnie. And it will be god for golf.
Published April 13, 2015
"Luchadora" is a production commissioned by First Stage, and it's an amazing production - full of joys and important messages to young women. Written by UWM professor Alvaro Saar Rios, it's a production that every young woman, aunt, uncle and parent should see.
Published April 12, 2015
A frothy comedy by Peter Schaffer is a delight at Renaissance Theaterworks. For two hours it's a great character study filled with laughs. But a contrived ending makes the evening end on a note that is far less funny.
Published April 11, 2015
The question of evolution versus creationism is at the heart of "Ten Questions to Ask Your Biology Teacher About Evolution" at Next Act. The most refreshing part of this production is that it values each side of the argument.
Published April 9, 2015
Just one string of shootings last weekend raises a whole bunch of questions about what's happening in the black community in Milwaukee. It also raises questions about what the rest of the city thinks about the violence.
Published April 7, 2015
In the overwhelming joy about the Badgers victory over Kentucky, there were a few threads that claimed it was silly to root while so much serious stuff was going on in the world. The people filling social media with such thoughts totally missed the point.
Published April 4, 2015
Dale Gutzman has staged a version of the "Odyssey," a poem that is 30 centuries old and has made it totally relevant to our world today. It's the story of all our warriors who carry out hopes and return home to struggle.