By Dave Begel Contributing Writer Published Mar 29, 2016 at 9:16 AM

The release of plans for upcoming Milwaukee theater seasons is always an exciting and interesting time, and waiting for what David Cecsarini has planned for his Next Act Theatre is always among the most anticipated releases.

Cecsarini has built a successful theater with brave and courageous mountings of plays that throw a bright light on issues facing America and the world.

This year is no different, but the most anticipated show is, for me, "The Other Place," by Sharr White.

Last season, Madison’s Forward Theater Company produced the play with the magnetic Tracy Michelle Arnold in the starring role and American Players Theater artistic director Brenda DeVita directing.

Next Act’s production will star Deborah Staples, who stands shoulder to shoulder with Arnold as one of the very best actors in the state, and the production will be directed by Staples’ husband, Cecsarini himself.

The play is a moving one. Juliana is a high powered medical researcher who has discovered a new drug and is now engaged full-time in peddling it for the company, which expects to make billions of dollars on it.

She is at a convention of doctors in St. Thomas, extolling the virtues of the new pill, when she is distracted by the appearance of a young woman in a yellow bikini sitting in the audience. The sight of the woman throws her off her speech, and she rushes from the convention to return home to her husband, Ian, to whom she describes her "episode" at the convention.

"Brain cancer," she says. "I have brain cancer."

That pronouncement to her oncologist husband, who Juliana believes has been cheating on her, sets us off on a journey to "The Other Place."

It will be a wonderful treat to see this play again. It’s reminiscent of the two productions of "The Iliad" starring James DeVita just 15 months apart at the Rep and APT.

Cecsarini has also scheduled "The Taming," a spirited political comedy by Lauren Gunderson that puts a beauty queen in a hotel room with the manager of a Tea Party senator and a far left wing blogger. It’s a biting satire on the doctrinaire governing in these days of locked-in beliefs.

Next Act will also finally stage "unSilent Night," a Christmas show written by Cecsarini and John Kishline. The show was originally scheduled to open last year, but the two writers felt it wasn’t ready, so they waited until next season.

Come and go

The Milwaukee theater landscape is pretty unchanging, with the number of companies staying relatively stable.

But there is a change on the horizon as one company takes a hiatus and another grows into theatrical maturity.

Splinter Group, run by Jim Farrell and his wife, the actor Nifer Clark, is going to take next season off. The company is being forced out of its home at the Marian Center for Nonprofits, as the building is closing because of unmanageable maintenance costs.

Splinter has staged some memorable productions since it was born in 2013 with a sparkling production of "Kimberly Akimbo." Other outstanding productions were "Dog Sees God" and the Tracy Letts fascination, "Bug."

I hope the rest reinvigorates Farrell and his company.

Meanwhile, coming to maturity is the group of kids who run All In Productions.

They have just opened their second season with a sweet and emotional chamber musical called "Ordinary Days." They are giving work to underutilized actors in this city and apparently have no fear digging deep into the world of plays that don’t always follow a formula of contemporary theater.

So one leaves our attention and another begins to demand more. The joys of theater, for certain.

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.