playwright

Post Script

Thoughts on theater from page to stage.

Growing Up with the Mafia in "A Bronx Tale"

A whole crew of “wise guys” from New York City has recently arrived in Madison via the national Equity tour of the award-winning musical A Bronx Tale, and they’ll be shooting craps, protecting the neighborhood and crooning doo wop songs at Overture Center through May 19. You’ll know them by their signature hats, sharp suits, slicked back dark hair, penchant for all things Italian and their thick accents. And over the course of the two-hour show, peppered with high-energy uptempo musical numbers, you’ll get to know all of them -- Rudy the Voice, Eddie Mush, Jo Jo the Whale, Frankie Coffeecake and Tony 10 to 2 -- along with the mob boss Sonny, who is the ultimate guardian of Belmont Avenue and the unlikely father figure for our hero Calogero, also known as “C.”

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Gwen Rice
"A Curious Incident" Well Worth Investigating

Christopher is honest to a fault. Not because he’s virtuous, but rather because he doesn’t know how to lie.  He also doesn’t understand metaphors and he absolutely doesn’t like to be touched, even by his parents. Profoundly affected by his environment, Christopher hates brown and yellow. But when he sees four red cars in a row, that’s a very good day. A gifted math student, when he’s feeling anxious he recites the squares of cardinal numbers.

Christopher is the main character in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, the final play of Strollers’ season, onstage at the Bartell through May 25.  Although it’s not explicitly stated in either the book by Mark Haddon or the play adaptation by Simon Stephens, Christopher is neuro-atypical, and would probably be diagnosed on the autism spectrum. Deftly played by teenager Payton Cardella, he is also the heart and soul of the production, directed by Kathleen Tissot.

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Gwen Rice
Get Swept Away by the Stunning Musical "Come From Away"

Introduced by the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, The Honourable Elizabeth Dowdeswell, (and accompanied by an actual member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police!) the national tour of the award-winning musical “Come from Away” opened at the Marcus Center on Tuesday, to the sounds of a bodhran, a fiddle, an “ugly stick” and a mighty islander “screech.” The exuberant, touching and beautifully executed show continues in Uihlein Hall through May 12, so audiences have only a few more chances to be personally “Welcomed to the Rock,” at the intersection of American and Canadian spirit in the aftermath of 9/11.

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Gwen Rice
CTM's "Willy Wonka" Could be Sweeter

Ever since Roald Dahl came out with his fudge-topped, lollipop-filled, taffy-packed book, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, generations of kids have fantasized about winning a golden ticket and touring the magical headquarters of Willy Wonka’s candy bar empire -- and maybe even becoming the factory’s next owner.

Right now young people and families can see that wish come true for the kind hearted kid Charlie Bucket (a terrific Walker Stephenson), whose family’s meager income sends him to bed with a lot more bowls of cabbage stew than chocolatey treats. Helmed by Children’s Theater of Madison’s Artistic Associate and Director of Education Erica Berman, CTM’s 90-minute musical, Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka, has a few sugar plums in store for audiences in the Overture’s Playhouse Theater, running through May 12.

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Gwen Rice
"Twilight Bowl" Shines a Light on Midwestern Women's Lives

Rebecca Gilman’s new play Twilight Bowl, onstage in the Hemsley Theatre at UW-Madison through April 28, is probably going to look familiar to area audiences. That’s because the play is about us.

Set in the fictional small town of Reynolds, Wisconsin, somewhere in Green County, it feels like many communities of less than 5,000 in the state. Bars, schools, churches and bowling alleys separate “town” from the surrounding farmland. There are struggling, family-owned businesses here, as well as families trying to cope with the changing economy and a lack of job opportunities. There are also “big city problems” — alcoholism, poverty, drug abuse, domestic violence and homelessness — that need to be addressed, even in this rural hamlet.

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Gwen Rice
Visual Magic Carries "Tinker Bell" at First Stage

Like other literary classics, J.M. Barrie’s creation “Peter Pan” has been revisited by a lot of contemporary authors, spinning new stories inspired by the original. “Lost Girl,” “Peter and the Starcatcher,” and “Finding Neverland” have all graced Milwaukee stages in the past few years, examining the tale of “the boy who wouldn’t grow up” in new and illuminating ways. And now, after staging the OG “Peter Pan” and “Peter Pan and Wendy,” First Stage is venturing into the world of alternate interpretations again with “Tinker Bell,” a play for young audiences, adapted by Patrick Flynn and directed by First Stage Artistic Director Jeff Frank. Focusing on the glowing sprite that befriends Peter in Neverland, “Tinker Bell” includes most of the audience’s favorite characters and memorable moments from the original story, while examining the relationship between Tink and Peter and exploring the meaning of friendship.

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Gwen Rice
"The Fabulous Lipitones" Creates Nice Harmonies at In Tandem

Shortly after announcing that In Tandem Theatre would move out of their space in the lower level of the Calvary Church and discontinue offering full seasons, the company opened its final show of the 2018-19 year, and the last piece they will produce in the foreseeable future. Fortunately, the production of “The Fabulous Lipitones,” running through May 19, ensures that the company will go out on a high note.

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Gwen Rice
When Words Fail -- Resorting to "Small Mouth Sounds"

What if the true path to inner calm and enlightenment was through silence? This is the question that faces six troubled souls who have signed up for an intense meditation and healing session in a rural retreat in Bess Wohl’s play Small Mouth Sounds, running through May 4th on the Drury Stage. At this New nAge seminar in the woods, the participants will hear lectures from a slightly unbalanced self-actualizing guru. There will be question and answer periods. And there will be swimming in the nearby lake. But there will be no talking. How will they cope for five days without saying a word?

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Gwen Rice
"The King and I," etc.

An aesthetically and musically beautiful production of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic, “The King and I” opened at the Marcus Center on April 9, to an appreciative audience that delighted in the King’s first use of his signature phrase “etcetera, etcetera” and gasped in awe as the King and his English governess-turned-confidant Anna twirled across the stage to the familiar “one two three and” rhythm of “Shall We Dance?” The tour is based on director Bartlett Sher’s highly acclaimed revival, which opened at Lincoln Center in 2015 and garnered four Tony Awards. Filled with grand scenes from the King’s court in 19th century Siam; opulent, richly detailed costumes in jewel tones and gold; and a gorgeous ballet sequence illustrating “The Small House of Uncle Thomas,” the show is part fairy tale, part spectacle and part resurrection of a true chestnut of musical theater.  

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Gwen Rice
"How to Write a New Book of the Bible," a Touching Family Story at Next Act

There are quite a few playwrights I’d like to meet. Shakespeare is definitely invited to my “amazing authors throughout the ages” dinner party, but I’m actually taking Bill Cain off the list. Not because I don’t think his work is smart, funny and intriguing, but because I already met him, through his transparently autobiographical work, “How to Write a New Book of the Bible,” on stage at Next Act Theatre through April 28th.

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Gwen Rice