One of the worst things that can happen to anybody walking into a theater is to know all about the twists and turns and surprises that are in store.
If you know, then it’s not a surprise.
Living up to my devout belief in not having the shout "spoiler alert" every time I see a play, I fully intend to say almost nothing about what happens in "Any Given Monday," an hilarious if slightly off-kilter comedy that opened over the weekend at In Tandem’s Tenth Street Theatre.
The only way I can urge you to see this show is to give you a broad outline of some of the themes and a description of the players.
Let’s start with the incredible variety of themes and subjects and stuff that comes up in the play.
We have, marriage, infidelity, murder, forgiveness, tolerance, "Schindler’s List," Rolling Rock beer, more Rolling Rock beer, an empty pizza box, a .32 caliber handgun, racism, a cocaine pipe, a S550 Mercedes luxury sedan, a subway platform, suicide, parent-teacher conferences, Philadelphia’s Main Line, philosophy, an aggrandizing self-portrait over a fireplace, MBAs, the holocaust, "To Kill a Mockingbird," friendship, lust, potent screwdrivers and a single purple suitcase on wheels.
I’m sure I left something out, but you’ll figure it out when you go.
Let’s look at the characters.
The play takes place in the den of Lenny and Risa.
Lenny (Doug Jarecki) is a gentle Jew. He knows that the best part of him is his wife, and that’s how he behaves. He is quiet and obedient and almost totally without any sense of excitement or danger. Lenny watches Monday Night Football in a pullover and a baggy pair of gray sweatpants. He teaches at a public elementary school. If there was a word to describe Lenny, it would be "civilized." Lenny is an open book.
Risa (Tiersa Ferraro) is the stereotypical Jewish maven. She is perfectly coiffed and works as a wedding planner. She has a cynical streak a mile wide, pontificating how she can tell which marriages are going to make it and which aren’t. "Why bother," she wants to tell some of the couples. Risa has been married to Lenny for 24 years. She goes through all the trappings of being Jewish but scoffs at her daughter’s curiosity. "If people ever seriously questioned their religion, we’d all be atheists," she says. Risa has secrets.
Sarah (Leeanna Rubin) is their child. She is a philosophy major in college, close to graduation. For her, life is just one big question after another. She is especially concerned about her Jewishness.
"I date Jewish boys," she says. "But I don’t have sex with them until we see 'Schindler’s List.' They ask me if it’s all in black and white. I tell them it’s like 'The Wizard of Oz,' and it turns into color when we come to the Holocaust."
Mick (Todd Denning) is Lenny’s best friend. He works in a subway. He has an incredibly skewed view of life. He worships Monday Night Football, jumping and complaining at the merest provocation. "Cowboys versus the Giants," he moans. "Who can you root for?"
Mick has no filter. Whatever pops into his mind pops out of his mouth just a moment later. Life for Mick is one long complaint about the injustices of the world. And he is determined to get Lenny to loosen up.
"For God’s sake Lenny," he says. "You are the only guy I know who steps out of the shower to take a leak."
Much of this play is Lenny and Mick together. With Jarecki and Denning at their absolute best, it’s like the Odd Couple sitting in the middle of the stage. Denning is over the top as the boisterous and raucous Mick. I have rarely seen him funnier, and I’ve been watching him for years.
Jarecki has got his Felix Unger down pat. Not as fastidious but just as nebbish. He has a range that is vital to the story and impressive to watch.
In Tandem artistic director Chris Flieller directed the play with the kind of wanton sense of wonder that let the story tell itself with four wonderful actors giving it to all of us. It’s hard to accurately capture how utterly profane and funny this show is. I can safely say that I heard the F-bomb more in this play than ever before, and it was funny every single time.
"Any Given Monday" runs through Oct. 25 and information on tickets and showtimes is available here.
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 OnMilwaukee.com 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.