By Dave Begel Contributing Writer Published Feb 28, 2017 at 3:16 PM

I saw four plays over the weekend – one, "Robin Hood" at First Stage, for the second time just because it was such a wonderful and joyful production. And when my weekend was done, I looked for the nearest bottle of Wild Turkey to help drown the sorrows from the three other plays.

Not that they were bad. In fact, all three were outstanding productions.

Out of the eight characters across the three plays, not one of them was a happy person. All were varying degrees of miserable, anti-social, dysfunctional or sad. In order, here’s the parade of misery.

"Grounded" at The Rep

The Pilot (she doesn’t have a name) is a bundle of contradictions. She has no idea who she really is. Part of her is the cocksure, swaggering fighter pilot. Part of her is the maiden giving in to seduction for the first time in her life. Part of her is a mother and wife. Part of her is an airwoman trapped by technology, suddenly without her wings. In the end, she goes crazy.

"Time Stands Still" at In Tandem

Sarah is a photojournalist who's addicted to the dangers of wartime challenges. She has nearly been killed by a roadside bomb and can’t wait to get back to the combat zone. She lies to herself and her boyfriend of eight years, promising to love, honor and cherish in marriage. But the wanderlust makes her leave.

James is her lover, a writer wracked with guilt over leaving his girlfriend behind, rendering himself useless when she was faced with a near-death situation. He wants to find something resembling a normal life and is ecstatic when Sarah agrees to settle down. But his misery flares up when Sarah decides the married life isn’t for her.

Richard is the friend of both of them and a kind of mentor, as well. He’s had lots of relationships, none of which have worked out. He is now courting – and being courted by – an empty head decades younger and he tries valiantly to justify this relationship as something more than a midlife crisis.

Mandy is the empty head – and she seems to know it. She is very uncomfortable being around these accomplished and erudite friends. She brings "Get Well" balloons to the first visit with Sarah and James. Everybody is embarrassed.

"The Few" at Chamber Theatre

QZ is a woman who was left in the lurch when her lover and co-worker departed suddenly and without explanation four years earlier. She lives in a trailer and has a ramshackle office in another trailer. Stuck in a small town, she's never been more than 30 miles away. She is staring middle age in the face – and doesn’t like what she sees.

Bryan is the lover who left. The four years have not been kind to him, drinking, smoking and wearing the sorrows of his life on his face. He’s bitter and unforgiving, almost totally confused about where his life has gone. He is as unhappy as you can get without facing the real reasons for his misery.

Matthew is a 19-year old boy who works in the newspaper office. He harbors dreams of being a poet, but is beset by his confused sexuality, the absence of a drug addicted mother and the brutality of his vicious stepfather. Poor kid.

I’m not sure what it is, but it’s obvious that miserable people make for outstanding theater. All three of these plays are well worth seeing – with "The Few" being the best play I’ve seen this year so far. I'm very happy about our current theatrical offerings, despite the dismay of all the people in these productions. 

Milwaukee Ballet's next season

Milwaukee Ballet has announced its 2017-18 season, and it’s a mix of some new works as well as a couple of classics.

Here’s the schedule from the ballet press release:

  • "La Bohème," Nov 2-5

One of the world’s most famous romantic operas is reimagined as a ballet. Set in 1950s Paris to Puccini’s iconic score, this is a story that reminds us that art matters most when times are dark.

  • "The Nutcracker," Dec 9–26

The magic, mayhem and music of Milwaukee’s most popular holiday tradition continues to delight and inspire new generations of dance lovers. Milwaukee Ballet will host a Sensory Friendly Performance of "The Nutcracker" on Dec. 20 following its success in 2016.

  • "MOMENTUM: MBII," Feb 10, 2018

The dancers of Milwaukee Ballet II will perform new work by world-class choreographers. For the first time, the MBIIs will perform at The Pabst in conjunction with MXE: Milwaukee Mixed.

  • "MXE: Milwaukee Mixed," Feb 8 – 11, 2018

Five dancers/choreographers from Milwaukee Ballet Company create new work to music curated by 88Nine Radio Milwaukee’s Jordan Lee. This unique performance will fuse athletic dance with diverse local music.

  • "Beauty and the Beast," Apr 12–15, 2018

Michael Pink tells the classic fairy tale anew in this world premiere performance. This production features new music by Philip Feeney ("Peter Pan," "Mirror Mirror"), costumes by Paul Daigle ("La Bohème") and set by Todd Edward Ivins ("Mirror Mirror," "Dorian Gray").

  • "Swan Lake," May 31–June 3, 2018

This famous romantic tragedy returns to the Milwaukee stage. The powerful story of love and deception continues to inspire a love of ballet for all generations.

Dave Begel Contributing Writer

With a history in Milwaukee stretching back decades, Dave tries to bring a unique perspective to his writing, whether it's sports, politics, theater or any other issue.

He's seen Milwaukee grow, suffer pangs of growth, strive for success and has been involved in many efforts to both shape and re-shape the city. He's a happy man, now that he's quit playing golf, and enjoys music, his children and grandchildren and the myriad of sports in this state. He loves great food and hates bullies and people who think they are smarter than everyone else.

This whole Internet thing continues to baffle him, but he's willing to play the game as long as keeps lending him a helping hand. He is constantly amazed that just a few dedicated people can provide so much news and information to a hungry public.

Despite some opinions to the contrary, Dave likes most stuff. But he is a skeptic who constantly wonders about the world around him. So many questions, so few answers.