playwright

Post Script

Thoughts on theater from page to stage.

APT's "The Book of Will" is a Pale Valentine to Shakespeare

How would you compose a valentine to William Shakespeare? 

Would you write a sonnet? Sing a love song? Perhaps carve a bust that presented the bard in a slightly more flattering light? If you were currently the most produced living playwright in the U.S., you would write a play of course, so that’s what Lauren Gunderson did. Fulfilling a commission for the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, she wrote The Book of Will, an unabashed love-fest honoring Shakespeare’s plays, the company that first brought them to life and the actors from The King’s Men who gathered and published the scripts after the playwright’s death. Seizing on a historical footnote, the play illustrates how close the world came to losing the complete works altogether and gives props to both the tenacity and the foresight of Shakespeare’s original superfans, whose efforts made the first folio a cornerstone of Western literature.

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Gwen Rice
APT's "A Doll's House" Is Riveting and Relevant

Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen shocked European audiences at the end of the 19th century with his play, “A Doll’s House.” In this classic domestic drama, Ibsen vividly portrays the limited legal, professional and personal options available to women at the time. He also introduces viewers to a completely new kind of heroine — one who (spoiler alert) declares her independence and defies societal expectations by leaving her husband and family to pursue her own goals. 

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Gwen Rice
MTM's "Hephaestus Continues its Development Journey

Similar to the epic journey of the titular Greek god — from Mount Olympus to the mortal world and back — Music Theater of Madison has traveled a long ways with Hephaestus. Nathan Fosbinder’s original musical was work-shopped by the company last summer, revised and retooled with audience input over the winter, previewed at area public libraries at the end of July, and received its official world premiere this weekend at the Memorial Union Play Circle. Directed by MTM Executive Director Meghan Randolph, the fully produced show continues to feel like a work in progress — one that will benefit from further editing, strengthening the book and refining the journeys of many of the characters so the narrative is more focused and compelling.

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Gwen Rice
APT's Affecting Production of "Fences" Brings an American Classic to LIfe

There are many emotionally wrenching moments in American Players Theatre’s excellent production of August Wilson’s Pulitzer- and Tony Award-winning Fences, the story of a black family in 1950s Pittsburgh struggling toward, and failing to achieve their version of the American Dream. The uniformly impressive cast, led by David Alan Anderson and Karen Aldridge, brings passion, love and misery to this American classic in equal measure.

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Gwen Rice
MCT's "Unnecessary Farce" is Sweet But Unsubstantial

Milwaukee Chamber Theatre kicked off its 2019-2020 season last weekend with a light and silly comedy designed to fit the mood of audiences in the last balmy weeks of summer. Directed by Ryan Schabach and filled with small town Wisco kitsch and familiar Milwaukee faces, this production of “Unnecessary Farce” is the Wisconsin State Fair cream puff of drama. 

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Gwen Rice
Renaissance Theaterworks Returns to The Samuel French Off- Off-Broadway Short Play Festival

Every theater company dreams of extending performance runs due to overwhelming demand, or remounting a show for a command performance. Renaissance Theaterworks is actually taking its second show on the road later this month, producing a “short” at the Samuel French’s Off- Off-Broadway Short Play Festival (OOB). After a positive OOB experience in 2015, the company returns to a NYC stage with the recent Br!NK Briefs offering, “All of the Everything,” by Minneapolis-based playwright Alayna Jacqueline.

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Gwen Rice
The Merry Wives … of Florida? Madison Shakespeare Company Presents Comedy with a Twist

Most of us know how to see Shakespeare in Spring Green, but another way to experience the Bard outdoors —  right here in the city — is Madison Shakespeare Company’s production of the classic Merry Wives of Windsor, which the troupe presents July 26 – Aug. 3 at Edgewood College’s The Stream Amphitheater.

Adapted by director Francisco C. Torres and Madison Shakespeare veteran Sam D. White, the story revolves around the rotund knave Falstaff and his schemes to seduce two wealthy married women, Mistress Ford and Mistress Page, so he can gain access to their husbands’ money. Meanwhile, three suitors seek the hand of Anne Page, Mistress Page’s daughter. The comedy is full of jealousy and revenge, with themes of class disparity. It ends with a definite comeuppance for the rascal Falstaff.

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Gwen Rice
The Women of APT Talk About Why Ibsen’s "A Doll’s House" and its Sequel Matter

Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen shocked European audiences at the end of the 19th century with his play, A Doll’s House. In this classic domestic drama, Ibsen vividly portrays the limited legal and personal options available to women at the time. He also introduces viewers to a completely new kind of heroine — one who defies societal expectations by leaving her family to pursue her own goals. 

Since that time, many other writers have speculated about what happened to Nora after she slammed the door at the end of the play. But none captured the audience’s imagination like Lucas Hnath’s 2017 A Doll’s House, Part 2. Set 15 years after Nora declared her independence from the men in her life, it’s a reckoning that allows each of the characters in the original to explore the consequences and results of her actions. After a successful run on Broadway and eight Tony nominations, the play has swept through regional theaters. This summer, it finally arrives on a Wisconsin stage.

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Gwen Rice
"Anastasia" is a Hodge Podge of Other Stories, Better Musicals

According to historians, members of Russia’s last royal family, the Romanovs, were executed by their Bolshevik captors in 1918 as revolution gripped the country. But beginning in 1920, more than 20 different women came forward, claiming to be the Grand Duchess Anastasia, who had miraculously escaped the fate of the rest of her family. Although the theories of a surviving Romanov were officially debunked with DNA testing in the 1990s, the Anastasia fantasy lives on. It was the subject of a musical animated film by Don Bluth (“An American Tail,” “The Land Before Time”), with a score by Stephen Flaherty and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens (“Ragtime,” “Once on this Island”). And, like many popular cartoons, “Anastasia” was retooled for the stage with 16 new musical numbers, added by the original composition team. It ran for two years on Broadway. Now Milwaukee audiences can see the “what if” story of a missing princess, a heartbroken grandmother, an amnesiac orphan, two charming con men, and a ruthless Soviet officer, set against the backdrop of the last days of the Russian Empire and the roaring 1920s in Paris.

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Gwen Rice
"Errors" Aplenty at Shakespeare in the Park

There are three distinct productions of “The Comedy of Errors” appearing through July 13 as part of Optimist Theatre’s Shakespeare in the Park performances, in the outdoor Peck Pavilion adjacent to the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts. Individually they are incomplete and together they are incomprehensible. 

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Gwen Rice