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 â€“ Next Act's "Three Views of the Same Object"Â â€“Â was a courageous and moving production about the end of our lives and how we face that time.Â
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. Itâ€™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.Â 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 30, 2016
Playwright August Wilson is famous for his 10-play cycle examining the experience of black people in the United States, and none of his plays stands as revered as "Fences," which The Rep opened Friday night
Published April 29, 2016
A play about life in the theater, a life full of ups and downs and in betweens, is sometimes a shaky thing, trying to connect with an audience that may or may not have the inside knowledge that you need to get all the jokes.
Published April 28, 2016
In our lust to keep Milwaukee a happy place for millions of millennials, are we going to get stuck with a bunch of buildings that look like they belong in a Saturday morning cartoon?
Published April 26, 2016
Several Milwaukee theaters - from The Rep to First Stage to Next Act and more - have become crusaders for the world around them, staging productions and activities that try to shed light on a wide variety of social issues.
Published April 23, 2016
Place. Play. Performance. When all three P's are there, a night at the theater can turn into magic, and that's what you get at "Ernest in Love" that opened at In Tandem Theatre Friday night.
Published April 21, 2016
Everybody in Wisconsin was all worked up about the presidential primary races a couple of weeks ago but the race between Sen. Ron Johnson and former Sen. Russ Feingold could have a lasting impact on the balance of power in Washington.
Published April 19, 2016
The recent staging of the touching hit musical "Once" that played a week at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts raised an issue that some people think is important to the quality of a production.
Published April 16, 2016
For a master class on how to put a drunk scene on stage, let me recommend "Fallen Angels," the Noel Coward drawing room comedy that opened Friday night at Milwaukee Chamber Theatre.
Published April 16, 2016
Hotel rooms are expanding with openings imminent or on the drawing board for the near future. Perhaps the one drawing the most attention is the Klimpton Journeyman Hotel, scheduled to open in the Historic Third Ward in June.
Published April 14, 2016
A hero has to step forward to save the city somewhere around $2 million after the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the city in its battle with Silk Exotic over opening a strip club Downtown.