Randall T. Anderson

Twelve Angry Men at Sunset Playhouse


Last week I attended First Call for Sunset Playhouse‘s upcoming production of Twelve Angry Men.

A Reader’s Guide to the Above Statement:

  • I attended: I had Friday night free, and when I walked into the theatre and sat down nobody kicked me out…
  • First Call: The actors’ first on-set rehearsal. At Sunset the show’s volunteers are invited to watch this rehearsal to get an idea for the sort of help needed backstage, etc. for the production.
  • Sunset Playhouse: A vibrant community of theatre lovers working together successfully to create a fun story-telling experience.
  • (A few past Sunset posts here on Locutus of Blog: Sunset Playhouse Q&ATwerpshire Hathaway, a defense of community theatre;  and “I got a river of life flowin’ outta me” wherein yours truly bloodied her own nose.)

The man behind the curtain is one Mr. Matt Daniels, the same dude behind Sunset’s heart-cockle-warming production of Tuesdays With Morrie, and its spooky dram-rom-com Prelude To A Kiss. An actor, director, and teacher he is busy all over the place here in Milwaukee. Click those links to check him out! I got to see his Assistant Director, Katherine Duffy, as the lead in Sunset’s Sweet Charity this past summer and I mean to tell you that girl is an absolute riot. Her delivery, her timing– loved it! It’s exciting to see such a talented pair teaming up to work on this powerful drama.

It was great seeing a few familiar faces in the production team when I arrived. Since what I saw was a rehearsal I didn’t get to experience anything in the way of lighting, sound, or costumes, though I am very much looking forward to seeing what their respective designers have got cooked up for this one. Alan Piotrowicz’s and Jan Pritzl’s award winning lighting and sound design (respectively) in previous Sunset productions assure me the twinkly and tinkly details I missed last week are ones I can very much look forward to when I finally see the whole thing put together. And I didn’t know Jennifer Allen even did costume design, so that was really a special treat to see her listed in that role!

Exploring Koren Black and John Hemingway’s set before the First Call run.

The stage management team on the other hand… Oh where to begin?! Antoinette Stikl and Debi Mumford are rascals, and can only be described as mad as a couple of March hares, and probably flammable. They’ll lure you in with a hug hello, a few jokes, and boundless patience. But don’t be fooled! It’s all just part of their plan. And when I know what that plan is I’ll be sure to pass it along. Unless it’s just a plan to give hugs, tell jokes, and be patient, in which case: *points upward a few lines* You’re welcome. Also, props mistress Erica Ziino and I may or may not have become engaged, and planned out a road trip honeymoon, after First Call. I just hope fellow props mistress, Beth Bland, isn’t jealous. (We promise not to hit the road ’til after the show closes, Beth!)

The real draw for me on this show, though, is the cast. What a group this is. I could try to tell you how sorry I am that I can’t be up there acting alongside this group of lovely fellas, but you couldn’t believe how much I would mean it. What a fun group, this is. What a cast!

Foreman- Dustin J. Martin: Dustin and I go way back, and I’ve always known him mostly as a director. He introduced me to theatre proper, encouraged my love of acting, and taught me again and again the value of professionalism in every aspect of the craft; so of course whenever I get to see Mr. Director trod the boards it’s especially fun for me. One of the things that was particularly cool about seeing Dustin in this show was seeing him apply his own direction to himself. It was a bit like spending years listening to your parents describe how they used to hold you and rock you when you were a baby, and then finally getting to see them cradling some other child in their arms. You always believed their stories, but watching them live those stories is a different experience altogether. It adds so many adverbs to the tale that you never knew were missing.

Juror 2- Scott Jaeger: I knew Scott from his backstage work for show after show at Sunset, but it wasn’t until their production of The Underpants a few years back that dude finally auditioned to work on the lit side of the stage. Happily for all of us he seemed to enjoy the experience, because he has hit the stage several times since then, and frankly he’s just as charming on stage as he is off stage. There’s this pleasant, affable realism to his performance as Juror 2. It provides such a welcome island of contrast to some of the other jurors’ sound and fury, and I think that is exactly what this role requires.

Juror 3- Dan Esposito: It had been years since I’d last seen or read this show, so I forgot how abrasive this character is. This man’s noisome vitriol is that of a sad old man faced with the prospect that his anger at others is unfounded, his opinion unwanted, and his pain unmourned. Like all bullies he demands control and attention, yet deserves neither. For most of Dan’s scenes I found myself cringing at such a realistic portrayal of a heartless, broken man descending into uselessness, but at the end I cringed only that there are really people out there who could treat others this way. This is truly the saddest role in the show, and Dan does a remarkable job inhabiting it. I’d never seen him perform before, but I can absolutely see why he was cast here. Mr. Daniels has a clear eye.

Juror 4- Michael Chobanoff: I first met Michael in December of 2006 when we performed in Sunset comedy Jake’s Women together. Of every actor I’ve ever worked with, Michael seems to jump most consistently from comedy to drama, comedy to drama, comedy to drama. If I had my druthers I’d stick to thoughtfully chuckle-inducing pieces time after time, but this guy just really owns his own comfort with walking both sides of the fence. There is a strong, grounded air to his performance in this show, balanced with the kind of approachable reason Juror 4 cannot do without.

Juror 5- Jared Kuehn: What else can I say? I like this guy. He’s sweet, he doesn’t upstage, he doesn’t steal laugh lines, he’s memorized on time, his choices are clear and believable, and here on this stage of larger than life personalities his low-on-the-totem-pole character holds his own in every one of his scenes. We’ve only worked together once so far (Sunset’s 6 Degrees of Separation last season), but I hope to do so again. I just really like this guy.

Juror 6- John Roberts: I first saw John in Sunset’s Social Security a couple of years ago and oh! Oh! I died! Every time he appeared on stage I sat up in my seat, not wanting to miss a single twitch or sigh. This role here was quite a departure from that one. John brought a thoughtful intelligence to his portrayal of Juror 6, layering him in a detached toughness as a guard against all the poverty and hard work he’s lived through so far. He’s no threat until he threatens – – and I like that, because that is life.

Juror 7- Matthew J. Patten: I’ve been saying it for years and I’ll say it again: This guy is my favorite character actor both to work with, and to watch on stage. He has a tremendous gift for making real people interesting, and interesting people real. He also has a preference for comedies so I was initially surprised he was trying out for this show, but now that I’ve seen what he had in mind for Juror 7 I can’t picture anyone else in that role. Dude knows what he’s doing, doesn’t mug, doesn’t upstage, doesn’t horn in on other people’s time to shine, and makes memorable moments out of lines and activity that could easily have been missed entirely. Plus he walks and chews gum at the same time repeatedly throughout the show, so, you know, hats off to that.

Juror 8- Randall T. Anderson: I trust any stage that has this guy on it. This role must ground the entire piece, must set it in motion, keep it rolling, and catch it on its final descent. You don’t have to like Juror 8- though that helps- but you do have to believe him, and Randall gives the audience the opportunity to do both. I’ve watched this actor shine in comedies, dramas, and musicals, and from the other side of a shared microphone with Radio WHT (much to my own delight). He is ever the gentleman, ever the professional, and ever The Guy you want on your team to keep things afloat with you when the waters get choppy, and to enjoy the ride with you when the waters are smooth.

Juror 9- Doug Smedbron: He’s a sweetheart, Doug is. And somewhere out of all that he pulled up real force, a real “growl” for Juror 9. When he speaks he is standing even when he is sitting down, with a portrayal that commands respect from the other jurors in the room. I found his speech after his first “not guilty” vote particularly compelling.

Juror 10- Gene Schuldt: Juror 10 is a despicable, racist, loud-mouthed jerk. Gene, on the other hand, is an amiable, open-hearted, loud-mouthed actor, fight choreographer, Chicagoan, and professional Santa Claus. Hearing 10’s ugly words in Gene’s voice, and seeing 10’s quaking rage on Gene’s face was unsettling to say the least. As an audience member I felt sick hearing 10’s racism boil down farther and farther into a general “fear of otherness,” and as a friend I had to keep fighting the impulse to interrupt Gene’s rant to tell him he should be ashamed of himself! Good thing I remembered it was all just an act before jumping up and ruining the show. ;)

Juror 11- Ralph Frattura: Ralph’s was the only name on the cast list I didn’t know. I’d never met the guy, never seen him perform, but I figured if he was up there with the rest of these lugs then he must be the right man for the job. And wouldn’t you know it: He was. His behavior was real, his choices made sense, and– God love him for this– his accent was neither hokey nor inconsistent. I don’t attend shows like this one to see cartoons, to see caricatures. I attend them to see what Ralph did in his portrayal of Juror 11: He created a man with a unique perspective which he supported fully and which I bought entirely. Thanks Ralph.

Juror 12- Spencer Mather: This guy… Let me tell ya’ something: This guy is all right. I am so glad he and his wife decided to get involved at Sunset a few years back, and that they both loved it enough to keep on coming back. There’s not much they haven’t been a part of there, from working in the office to acting in shows to serving on the board. Watching Spencer is great, working with Spencer is great, talking shop with Spencer is great. But I digress. *ahem* Watching Juror 12 is great, working with Juror 12 sounds great, and talking shop with Juror 12 is also probably pretty darn great. Spencer’s 12 is easy-going but distracted, and while he cares enough about the case to have opinions about it,  the ad man in him seems intent on going with whichever vote sells to the biggest audience of his 11 peers. When he finally took a stand I cheered inside because this was a guy I couldn’t help but like, so I wanted to see him on the right side of justice.

The show previews this Thursday, October 25, at 7:30 pm. Show dates, times, and ticket* prices are all available by clicking here to view the production’s page on the Playhouse website. From there you can also get the goods on other upcoming Sunset fare, like next week’s 3 Cheers for the Red, White, and Blue Musical Mainstage show, or their mainstage Christmas production of A Christmas Story.

If you make it out to Twelve Angry Men at Sunset Playhouse I’d love to hear what you thought in the comments below. Until then, happy theatre-ing!

_______________________
*A quick note before you buy your tickets: Due to the nature of the set- trying to fit twelve grown men around a long table, the bottom of which is four feet up in the air on a stage- visibility is poor in the first four rows or so of the center and side sections. So don’t you go reading this post and then buying tickets in those rows, now. Not after I took the trouble to warn ya’! ;)

Resting Before I Get Tired


I need to ease into this entry, much the way I need to ease into my chair for the next few days, so I’m going to start with the lighter fare…

Part I: Life Outside the Theatre, or: Life’s OUTSIDE the Theatre?!

Half Price Books comes through once again

Stopped by HPB this past Saturday before heading to Sunset for my weekly two-show workout. I’ve got a nice little routine in place for every time I visit. First I hit up the clearance section, then head over to the children’s books, then Plays and Poetry, non-fiction end caps, and a then the CD bargain racks. To each their own, but this system’s the one that keeps me going.

I picked up six neat-o music selections the other day, and because I know you’re just as interested in hearing what they were as I am in hearing how they sound…

  1. Mrs. Fun: “They Are Not A Trio,” feat. kd lang and Milwaukee’s own Flora Coker
    It’s been a while since I’ve been to Summerfest, so I imagine/hope Mrs. Fun is still part of the lineup there. Acid jazz isn’t generally my genre of choice, but I have to say I do always enjoy watching and listening to these women perform. And they draw the best audiences! I see from their website they were involved somehow in Phranc‘s “I Enjoy Being a Girl” (’89) but does anyone know in what capacity they worked together? Phranc. Can you imagine? Gosh– how fun! How– how Mrs. Fun… She’s a life lover too, you know.
  2. Loreena McKennitt: “Live in San Francisco at the Palace of Fine Arts” (05/94)
    Every time I listen to McKennitt I think of this family I babysat for when I was in high school as every time I went over I’d pop in the mom’s “Book of Secrets” cd. The oldest boy was friends with my brother and he and his siblings were all geniuses, the children of creative genius parents. The mother covered about 40% of their home’s floor space in extravagantly luscious trompe l’oeil paintings that made you want to stick to the carpet to ensure her work would last longer. That family made me happy, just knowing people like them were around.
  3. Jem: “Finally Woken”
    I figure I’ve got to see what she’s all about, and I assume a better way to start is with the older stuff before fame entered the picture in quite such a potentially influential way.
  4. k.d. lang and the reclines: “Angel With A Lariat”
    Don’t know a darn thing about this one, just know I enjoyed “All You Can Eat” an awful lot and this disc was only a buck.
  5. Luscious Jackson: “Natural Ingredients”
    With cover art that screams1994!” I can only imagine this album will chuck (Taylor) me back into a desire to pair a small print floral dress with Docs and a cardigan. That was such a comfier time. Can we go back to that? Please?
  6. Nelly Furtado: “Whoa, Nelly!”
    This is an absolutely fantastic and fun album. Every track is at the very least enjoyable, and at the most downright super great. Too bad she got all trashy when the money started rolling in. *shrugs* At least we’ll always have “Whoa, Nelly!”

I also picked up a book of Spanish literature of the 1700s – 1900s. It’s great because the intros and biographies are in English, but the texts are in their original Spanish, and I’ve been looking (casually) for something like this for a while now. So yay for that.

*nom nom nom*

Okay– but have you tried the California Topper? OMG, fellows. Oh. Em. Gee.

Sun and Stars

I’m re-reading the first four A Song of Ice and Fire books in preparation for the eventual release of A Dance with Dragons. (No rush, George. Didn’t mean anything pressing by “eventual.” You take your time. Do it right. Release it around my birthday in March and I totally owe you a Coke.) It’s amazing to catch all these tiny details, these character subtleties, this second time around. I love- or hate- every character even more upon re-reading their stories, and am even more excited than I was before about book 5 coming out. If you are even remotely a sci-fi fan, a fantasy fan, a historical fiction fan, a regular fiction fan, or able to string letters together to form words: Read George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. Amazing books. You will not be disappointed.

Matthew, James, and Joel: You have to live the life of a ASoIaF character for a year. Who do you choose and why?

Part II: The Remaining 94% of Last Weekend

JanethePhoolePhoolish Liaisons

Jane the Phoole came to the show on Friday night and let me tell you: I was ecstatic. I heard from a fellow actor that she was in the audience that night and I was instantly aflutter with nerves and excitement and– well and worry! You’ve got to be at the top of your game when Milwaukee’s official jester is present!

I look forward to seeing her every year at the Bristol Ren Faire, so it was a real treat to see her at Sunset– sans the usual regalia, no less. She said she enjoyed the show, which is either a wonderful review for us, or a moment of great acting from a great actress, because she was entirely believable when she said it. So good for us or kudos to her. Either way somebody still wins.

Bore me once, shame on you. Bore me twice…

“It is a hopeless endeavour to attract people to a theatre unless they can be first brought to believe that they will never get in.” Charles Dickens in “Nicholas Nickelby”

An interesting quote, that, given the fact that the four people in Sunday’s 2pm front row LEFT after the first intermission. I guess when people realize they can get into a theatre they may be faced with the prospect that they have no desire to remain there. Actually, I had no desire for three of those four to remain either so perhaps it’s just as well.

First there was an older couple on the end of the row, featuring a grumpy looking woman with an expression that’d curdle gasoline, and a man who kept sprawling out to find the best position in which to GO TO SLEEP during the performance. If you don’t like comedies. folks, don’t waste your time or money on attending them. No one will mind if you’re not there. In fact, most would probably prefer it that way, yourselves included.

Then there was a couple in their early 20s in the middle of the row. The girl was smiling and laughing throughout the first act, but her boyfriend could barely bring himself to remove his chin from his hand as boredom with our antics ate away at his soul. I know none of you ladies would ever leave something you’d already paid for and were enjoying just because your boyfriend was a humorless Philistine, but this poor young woman did exactly that. Take care, sister. This promises to be one pointless sacrifice among many, I fear…

“Ruth Arnell sat on a wall…”

Because people leaving at intermission should not be an event in itself but rather a hirbinger of greater ills to come, I proceed with caution as I dive into the rest of Saturday’s rather distressing 5pm show.

So first the light board reboots itself at the top of Act II just as the intermission music fades and the curtain opens. No lights, no sound, no action. Just… darkness. Darkness and actors stranded on stage in that darkness with no clue what’s going on, forced to stay in character and improvise as nothing continues to happen. That, ladies and gentlemen is what we call the “joy of live theatre.” It is also what we call “a real drag.” No matter– these things happen. The show must go on! And eventually– it did.

And then Act III hit.

All in all it was fine, and to tell you the truth I don’t think a darn thing happened for most of the act that anyone not involved in the show would’ve noticed. A key prop malfunctioned, cutting short a rather involved and quite comical bit, but again: who’d know?

Things are moving along just fine from then on until about 5 minutes before the end of the show when I’m on the upper mezzanine of the set and I accidentally catch my earring on my finger and hurl it down onto the stage floor below. An annoying, and clearly unintentional, attention grabber from the action in front of me, but again: these things happen.

fallingImmediately thereafter I’m supposed to run down a flight of stairs in 3 1/2″ heels to talk to another character. This is something I’ve been doing for a month down these same stairs, with this same actor, in these same shoes. But for some reason… For some reason this one time my right foot- my dominant foot for crying out loud!- slips in my shoe and I crash onto the stairs, landing hard on a rear end not nearly as padded as I’d thought, before sliding down four stairs to the sound of gasps from the little old ladies in the audience.

And let me tell ya, folks: That fall hurt more than my pride. I finished the scene and then burst into tears as soon as the set door closed behind me. Ain’t no pain like a pain in the ass. Luckily Jenny was there to literally *run* to me, throw her arms around my shoulders, and offer the kind of sweet, tender encouragement that only the awesomest among us can offer. She’s a gem, that Jenny Ko. A diamond in the rough.

The tears eventually subsided, the 8pm show came and went (awesomely, I might add), and much to my delight there doesn’t appear to be any swelling. (Leave it alone…) Still quite a lot of pain, though, as it’s tough for something to heal when you keep sitting on it. Work especially is a real bear as every time I go to get up from my desk I end up spending about a minute wincing and rising at odd angles a few degrees at a time, hoping that either no one is noticing or that they’re all doing me the embarrassed courtesy of pretending not to see. I’ll take what I can get.

Vlog Update

Finally! Geez louise. You know– I’d intended to make this video a good month ago but just never got around to it. I wanted to make a couple, make them kind of informative, include pictures from rehearsals, get footage of people involved with the show talking about why in the world they’d voluntarily get involved with something like this. Yeah. You see how that didn’t happen?

Video homework: What play should I get people together to read this summer?

“Laziness is nothing more than the habit of resting before you get tired.” Edgar Bergen

“The best audience is intelligent, well-educated, and a little drunk.”


“The best audience is intelligent, well-educated, and a little drunk.”
Alvin Barkley

Opening weekend of Noises Off is officially over and now the worry can set in. Review worry, that is. If you are prepared for an entry devoted entirely to typical actor neuroses, read on. If not, may I recommend this page as a fun alternative? All right– on with the show…

The thing about reviews is that they’re written by one person. You’re getting one person’s opinion and even if it’s an educated opinion from a person who genuinely knows what they’re talking about and who you may’ve agreed with in previous theatre considerations, you can’t ignore the fact that it is still, ultimately and always, One Person’s Opinion of One Performance of the production in question. That said, the only time you really want to dismiss this Singluar Opinion is when it’s bad, or merely mediocre. Figures, right? So there’s:

You thought our production was only “all right”? *feh* Your review is only all right. How d’y’like that? Yeah? Yeah? Yeah, that’s right. Your review is only all right… Yeah.

vs.

You thought our performances were a riot and loved our work? Cleeeeearly you are above average in all respects and your review is Gospel!

And it happens that way every time. Without fail. Do you or don’t you trust the review? It all depends. All depends and never matters.

*hee hee hee*

*hee hee hee*

The other thing you’ve got to sit and chew on for a while ’til the review actually comes out is: What performance did the reviewer see? Was it Friday evening when the laughter flowed freely from a crowd eager to leave the work week behind them? Was it Saturday night when the audience applauded individual bits as well as act breaks? Was it Sunday afternoon when entrances were missed, lines were dropped, props were mishandled and– and so forth?

It’s maddening not knowing. It really is. And only slightly less maddening is the fact that the performance that was taped for the theatre’s records of this particular production was this afternoon’s performance in which everything that could go wrong did. I mean– that’s unfortunate, right?

And then there’s the focus of the review. Will it concentrate on those bits you feel are the show’s strongest selling points? Or will the reviewer become so hung up on a costume choice they didn’t agree with that a pair of socks or a necktie will end up getting more mention in the review than the acting or the directing? Will all but one actor get mentioned, leaving them feeling absurd and forgotten? Will the entire review take no more than a paragraph because the writer was so uninterested in your work that they couldn’t come up with anything more to say?!

Or will the review be a book report? You know the type: 90% synopsis, 5% “what, where, when, how much,” and 5% actual review. Because come on: What the heck is even the point in writing something like that?

Luckily the audience feedback has been truly exciting this weekend so the review that actually matters regardless of all the above conditions- the audience’s review- has been a very happy one to receive. It’d still be a drag to get a mention in the local whatever and have it be poor when I really think there’s some wonderfully funny work going on in this production, but the things audience members are saying so far are just– well gosh. Gosh gosh gosh. I mean it really is just such an uplifting and fulfilling feeling to put in so much hard work, so much time, so much creativity and energy and everything, and have it met with this kind of laughter and positivity. It’s fabulous. Makes you want to not do anything else with your life but this.

Hot Toddy

Two, please...

Except for the fact that “this” happens to be so exceptionally draining that all you want to do after the curtain call is whip off your shoes, strip down to baggy shorts and an enormous, ill-fitting tee, and down as much of a hot toddy as you possibly can between the kitchen and BED.

I don’t know how people can run this show for any longer than the four weekends we’re running it; it’s exhausting. All that up and down on one flight of stairs after another in suits and ties, corsets and heels— Egad! Even just our three remaining weekends have got me wondering how we’ll manage. Especially as roughed up as we are. Never in my life have I worked on a show that’s provided opportunities for quite so many injuries as this one has. I wish I had a picture of my latest addition. It’s rather a beauty, really. A 1″ wide by 3″ high scraped bruise on my right bicep. Watch for it this weekend if you stop out. Made it all by myself with a piece of arm and a bit of door frame.

There’s not a one of us that doesn’t have a scratch or a scrape somewhere, and some of the injuries sustained are definitely more major than others, but the average Wound Roster for each of us includes a body full of oddly shaped bruises of indeterminate origin; bright red scrapes from running aground of backstage corners; scuffs and splinters from brutal railings; and flaps of angry skin hanging precariously from knees, shins, fingers, feet, and elbows as reminders that doors and door frames, windows and window frames, buckets, mops, plates, mallets, and staircases are not items to be trusted nor trifled with. Ever.

It’s nearly midnight and I begin fulfilling my meager addition to the department-wide mandatory overtime at work tomorrow. Best head off to bed and save these worries for daylight. Nighty night, all, and may your neuroses not be as ridiculous as these.

************

ETA: The first review- the only review?- is in, and it’s a good one. Very solid, very positive. Keyed in on a few folks whose work I am so happy to see recognized in print. (Extra big hoorays for my buddy Matthew who is super awesomely funny in this show!! :D)

From “Noises Off Delves Behind the Scenes” from the Waukesha Freeman

Director Mark Salentine bravely took on this challenging play but was greatly aided by a very talented, competent cast, which made the difficult look relatively easy. Matt Patten, the consummate comic actor, led the way with his singular antics as Garry Lejuene. Randall Anderson was quite engaging as the insecure hemophiliac Frederick, and David Kaye as the stagehand who filled in for any missing person was quite funny with his deadpan style. I liked the way Cindy Zauner, always reliable in any role, played the dumb housekeeper Dotty Otley, too.

The other competent actors included Nathan Berish, who played Lloyd, the harried director; Ruth Arnell, always good at the dumb blonde roles; Jenny Kosek, who’s convincing as the overwhelmed stage manager; Belinda Blair, who tries to keep everyone happy and focused, an impossible task; and the well-meaning Robert A. Zimmerman as the unreliable burglar.

Kind of hoping there’s another review in the works so there’s an additional outside written opinion that paints the rest of us as perhaps a bit more than “competent.” Yikes! If anything else does come around I’ll post a link here, but until then… um… Yeah I got nothin’.

************

ETA: Review Numero Dos, From “Noises Off! at the Sunset Playhouse is great summer fluff” from Vital Source Magazine

This exuberant and fast paced farce requires the ablest of actor bodies for as it is intense physical comedy, along with synchronized timing to complete in rapid succession while appearing effortless. Each member of the cast successfully provides this, including the lanky Matthew J. Patten (Garry Lejeune), who falls down a flight of stairs and integrates a most appealing hand dialogue with coordinating dialect into his role. Ruth Arnell (Brooke Ashton) pertly gives her character, both the ‘on’ and ‘off’ stage persona, a delightful pout. The returning Sarah Laak Hughes (Belinda Blair) remains a charming addition while Nathan Berish (Lloyd Dallas) directs this entire on stage house of fun with proper British arrogance. The production indeed takes an entire team effort to perform this complicated play, and does so with a confidence that deserves applause.

Yay! Pretty nice, huh? Yeah, I thought so too. :)

“Noises Off” at Sunset Playhouse in Elm Grove


NOISES OFF opens this Friday, May 29, 2009 at Sunset Playhouse in Elm Grove, WI!

"Noises Off!" Read Thru at Sunset Playhouse

"Noises Off!" Read Thru at Sunset Playhouse

Michael Frayn’s Noises Off, widely regarded as the granddaddy of all farce comedy, follows a troupe of British actors as they put on a touring production of the fictitious sex farce Nothing On. Act I, seen from the front of the stage, features the gang struggling through their final dress rehearsal before opening night as one thing after another goes mildly awry. The true comedy, however, begins in Act II, seen from back stage, when the gloves must come off as the show must go on amidst feuding actors, jealous love triangles, and the agony of being forced to rely on the unreliable. Act III, seen once again from the front of the stage, continues the mayhem and hilarity when all-things-bad become all-things-worse as the production gives Coarse Acting a run for its money.

This has been a delightful show to work on– from the week+ of auditions and callbacks, to the Saturday morning dialect sessions, to the Saturday afternoon pizza bribery, to the all day tech rehearsals. I attribute this in great part not only to the fact that it really is just a fantastically fun and funny script, but also to the tremendous asset this production enjoys in being put together by a group of folks who work so well as a team. A truly enjoyable experience through and through.

An added bonus for me personally is that through this show I got to work with a few folks I haven’t worked with in a while- Mark Salentine (director), Amy Macali (Stage Manager), and Cindy Zauner (Dotty Otley/ Mrs. Clacket)– as well as a few folks I love working with and with whom I’ve shared the stage fairly recently- Jenny Kosek (Poppy Norton-Taylor), Matthew J. Patten (Gary Lejeune/Roger Tramplemain), and Randall T. Anderson (Frederick Fellowes/ Philip Brent). Got to work with some new faces in this one, too, which has been a lot of fun given that they’re such cool folks- Jennifer Allen (Stage Manager), Sarah Laak Hughes (Belinda Blair/ Flavia Brent), Bob Zimmerman (Selsdon Mowbray/ Burglar), David Kaye (Tim Allgood), and Nathan Berish (Lloyd Dallas).

If you’re looking for a fun night out I cannot recommend this show highly enough! It really is a great, laugh-out-loud comedy, and with 19 performances (including Preview) there is sure to be a showing that fits your schedule. Sunset also features great discount options on tickets (details below) making it that much easier to head on over.

Here’s the full scoop, featuring info from the Sunset Playhouse website:

Noises Off SunsetNOISES OFF!
A side-splitting farce by Michael Frayn
May 29-31, June 4-7, 11-14, 18-20, 2009

“Called the funniest farce ever written, Noises Off returned to Broadway in the 2002 season and sent reviewers searching for new accolades. This extremely popular play-within-a- play by Tony Award-winner Frayn has the same act of a fictitious play performed at different times in different theatres, showing the onstage and backstage antics at ever growing levels of madness. “As side-splitting a farce as I have seen. Ever? Ever.” – New York Magazine (Samuel French, Inc.)”

Days and Times:
Thursdays at 7:30pm
Fridays at 8:00pm
Saturday, May 30 at 8:00pm only
Saturdays at 5:00pm & 8:00pm
Sunday, May 31 at 2:00pm & 7:00pm
Sunday, June 7 at 2:00pm
Sunday, June 14 at 2:00pm

There is also a preview performance on Thursday, May 28th at 7:30 pm. Tickets for this performance are $9 (cash only) for General Admission seating and are available one hour before curtain on a first-come basis. This preview performance tends to sell out very quickly so if you plan on attending I would strongly encourage you to arrive early to ensure you’re able to get a seat.

Tickets: $18, $16 for seniors, $10 for students, plus $10 Rush Tickets available one hour prior to each performance. A $2.50 per ticket processing fee applies for tickets ordered online. Tickets are available online until two days before the performance. After that, please call the box office at 262.782.4430.

Hope to see you there!

Want to keep tabs on other great projects Sunset has coming up? You can follow them on FacebookTwitter, Flickr, and blip.tv for details on upcoming mainstage and studio theatre shows, classes, musicals, and more!

*grinning from ear to ear*


Got an email the other day from a fellow Spiraler with a link to a blog review by Russ Bickerstaff of “Wait Until Dark.” It came too late to help the show, but we sold well and got some awesome feedback anyway, even in spite of a weird review in the Freeman, so who the heck cares? ;D

I’m just really encouraged by the fact that the writer of this blog/review still saw the show even though it’d be too late to post anything about it before we closed. I mean– that’s pretty cool, right?

Anyway- here’s a link to the blog, and here’s a big chunk from it:

…the space at Bucketworks was reasonably accommodating for the final performance of Wait Until Dark. It was a hot night and the heat carried into the crowded space as Giffin appeared to give the curtain speech. After a brief and congenial introduction, the show started. The opening of the play faded in slowly, allowing for a cursory evaluation of the set, which was solidly constructed for a theatre company with limited funds. The space almost looked lived-in–very impressive for a show that had only been running for a couple of weekends. The story seeped-in around the edges of the set as Brian Richard and Randal T. Anderson began to set the tone in the role of a pair of ex-cons ho had broken into an apartment in Greenwich Village. Anderson was the rougher-sounding of the two, speaking in a voice that reminded me of a Brooklyn I’d never been to. Richards is a distinctively familiar face, having appeared in a number of shows between Spiral and RSVP over the course of the past few years. Here Richards is the tragic “nice guy” criminal who probably would’ve ended up in a more honest profession had things gone differently for him. Richards and Anderson have a natural rhythm for their dialogue that fits the familiarity of the characters well. It isn’t easy to construct familiarity between two actors onstage in a way that seems entirely natural, but Anderson and Richards pull it off quite nicely.

With the early elements of the plot established between Richards and Anderson, Matthew J. Patten appears onstage in the role of their employer. Patten towers over everyone else onstage as usual, but here his height really adds something–here he’s playing a savvy, sinister criminal and the height adds a physical dimension to a commanding stage presence. Patten’s mastermind outlines a job for the other two: they must find a doll filled with narcotics that one of the apartment’s residents unwittingly brought with him from a trip out of town.

Of course, the three men don’t find the doll right away and the couple who live in the apartment return home quit unaware of the three men or their interest in the apartment. The couple in question are Sam and Susy Hendrix. Sam (Nate Press) is a professional photographer. Susy (Ruth Arnell) is recovering from an accident that has left her blind. Press and Arnell have a palpable chemistry together that establishes itself early, which is good because it has to. Sam doesn’t end up in much of the play, so he has to make enough of an impression early on that we feel his effect on Susy for the rest of the play. Press does an excellent job of doing this without making his character seem too unduly charming or superhuman. In the role of the heroine, Arnell is probably onstage for longer than any other person. Arnell carries the center of the play with casual, well-executed grace. The plot that rushes over the stage seems a bit awkward and artificial, but Arnell does a breathtaking job of grounding the production in a very sympathetic emotional center.

Gloria Loeding rounds out the cast in the role of the girl from the apartment upstairs, also named Gloria. Loeding is playing a girl far younger than she is, but she’s carrying the role pretty well considering the character comes harrowingly close to being little more than a plot device. Her role in the central conflict of the story comes as little surprise, which probably has more to do with the script than the production.

The only major flaw in Spiral’s final production at Bucketworks was the title noun. The climax of the play is slowly bathed in darkness as Susy confronts the villains on her own terms. Though Hooker did an admirable job with the production’s lighting design, the space at Bucketworks spilled too much light … rendering messy, imperfect shades of darkness that felt relatively uncomfortable in the summer heat. …

Isn’t that cool?! :D

I know Brian, Randall and Gloria are in something together that opens in a couple months, and Matthew’s in something that opens around the same time. Don’t know what Doug and Nate are up to, but when I find out, and when I get the details on B, R, G and M I’ll definitely post it here so you can check these people out. They’re great. :D

And then today- or was it yesterday?- I also received an email with a link to Russ’s Year In Review pt. 2 blog post and man: I just can’t stop smiling. :D Part two starts off with: “Towards the end of last February, Spiral Theatre staged the single best romance of the year with Ruth Arnell and Ryan Dance in Butterflies Are Free…”

*grins*

Too cool, man.

And to Mr. Bickerstaff: Thanks. Really. Thank you so much. You’ve made my mom ‘n’ pop ‘n’ me smile very much this season with your reviews, and we’ve needed that. Thank you.