Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A Christmas Carol – or something

A Chirstmas Carol program cropped This past week’s second theater outing was a non-traditional Christmas Carol with Munchkinhead put on by Milwaukee Entertainment Group at the Brumder mansion.

We took our seats in the small basement theater, nice high chairs in the back, and quickly learned that it was going to be an interactive evening.  Oh dear.

The small cast, well two of the three members, were bustling around the room handing out props and parts.  We each received a small square plastic wrapper of some sort.  Open, empty and with a suspicious expiration date on it.  This was our “fire” noise.  It did sound remarkably like a crackling fire. 

I was handed a small handbell, A6, and just as I was about to offer katrina in hat (1)it to Munchkinhead, who acutally plays handbells at church, Lori Minnetti – lottery girl, and everybody-but-Scrooge in this production, approached with a script part.  “I have a bell!” I declared.  “Well then, it will have to be you,” she said turning to Munchkinhead.  “You’ll be the plump sister.”  Lori warned Munchkinhead that she’d be chased, put a fun red bonnet on her head, left her the script and went off to find a dog.

The production began with an introduction by the third actor, James P. Iaquinta – who I’ve apparently seen as Santa aside The Great Ecclestone’s Rudolph.  He explained the history of A Christmas Carol, announced the story’s 170th birthday and then went into a spectacularly inaccurate account of 19th century copyright law that bothered me for the rest of the evening.  Mr. Iaquinta narrated the story by reading Dickens’ own abbreviated-for-public-performance version and interspersed it with a wonderful rendition of Scrooge and occasionally a bit of another character.

Overall, the production came off well.  Many of the impromptu audience-cum-cast members  had some difficulties coming in on cue, saying the right lines, or remembering which part they had, but several were good.  There was an amazingly good dog and the prop lady could really dance.  Munchkinhead managed to blush on cue, did her lines well and gave the third actor, Ted Tyson, a good run for it when he chased the plump sister all over the room.  She was in and out of the rows of chairs so quick.  Scrooge had an off-cuff remark about her being to spry for the old man.  I wondered if he was supposed to have caught her.  Out running him in heels, that’s my little sister!

It’s definitely a different way to do A Christmas Carol, but it’s the right play to do differently.  If your up for a little adventure, some silly hats and spending your evening blowing to make wind sounds, this is your show.

A Christmas Carol at Milwaukee Entertainment Group runs one more show this weekend.  Tickets are available here: http://www.milwaukeeentertainmentgroup.com/.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Noises Off, Actors On

Noises Off cover This weekend turned out to be quite the theater weekend for little old me.  On Friday, my good friend, The Great Ecclestone, invited me to join him at The Milwaukee Rep’s opening night of Noises Off.

If you’re looking for a fun and easy-going show that will fill your evening with enjoyment, take your mind away from your problems and leave you giggling, Noises Off  isn’t a bad way to spend your time.  If you know an actor, take one with you.

Noises Off is a British farce written in the early 1980s.  It’s about a touring theater crew and their adventures.  Or a bit more accurately, a small, low-budget touring crew and their mishaps.  Scene one sees them doing their final rehearsal midnight before opening night.  Scene two gives us a backstage view to happenings mid-way through the tour, and scene three gives us an audience’s perspective of the end of their tour and their sanity.

It was cute.  I’ll start there.  It was very cute.  One character, Brooke, played by Kellley Faulkner, has the most adorable bustier set and purple shoes. 

It was also quite funny though I got the impression that is much, much funnier if you’re actually in the theater.  Sitting between two actors, I found myself glancing back and forth between them wondering why they were laughing at many instances.  And some of the intended humor – like when a character is seeing walking across a back platform across many doors that are supposed to go to different rooms – just wasn’t funny to me.  Also, the cast of the production, backstage, warming up to go on by flinging their limbs all over the place, also not funny to non-theater folks.  It reminded me of that Big Bang episode where Penny tries to teach Sheldon to act.  But I suppose it’s good that actors can laugh at themselves, even if no one else is laughing with them.

The cast is phenomenal.  My favorite was Lloyd, played by Joe Dempsey.  He had two very distinct UK accents, one for when he was in his character-character and for his actor-character.  That was delightful.  I was especially impressed with the actors’ ability to make carefully scripted and rehearsed bits look like improv.

Costuming – I already mentioned those fabulous shoes, and set were well done.  I actually found myself forgetting that the same set had simply rotated around.  And I wasn’t distracted by the costuming – aside from wanting those shoes – like I have been in other productions.

Noises Off is running at the Rep until December 22nd in the Quadracci Powerhouse theater.  Tickets and more information here.