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The Friday Five for April 26
A play exploring war-torn Congo, a "curious" resurrection of 1920s dance and a trip back to the Sixties in Milwaukee.

Lynn Nottage

"Ruined" at the UWM Mainstage Theatre

Friday and Saturday 7:30 p.m., Sunday 2:00 p.m., 2400 E. Kenwood Blvd.

Because Lynn Nottage is one of the most compelling playwrights working today, steadily exploring the nuances of the contemporary world with play after play—stories of tragedy and triumph. Her 2009 play, Ruined, won the Pulitzer Prize for its clear-eyed exploration of women’s lives as they are lived in the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo. Ben Brantley wrote in the New York Times of the “raw and genuine agony” that pulses within the play, and bursts through in an ending that is nonetheless “a clear-eyed celebration of endurance.” Bill Watson directs this UW-Milwaukee Theater Department production.

Frank Ferrante

"Frank Ferrante: An Evening with Groucho" at the South Milwaukee Performing Arts Center

Friday 7:30 p.m., 901 15th Ave., South Milwaukee

Because you really would love to know—finally and definitively—how that elephant did get in to Groucho Marx’s pajamas. And whether you remember Marx as Captain Spalding (Hooray! Hooray! Hooray!), Rufus T. Flywheel, or as the host of  You Bet Your Life, you are sure to make new discoveries in Ferrante’s acclaimed one-person show that puts Groucho front and center. There will be music—a visit from that “tattooed lady,” of course—stories from Groucho’s Hollywood life, and, of course, a healthy helping of his famous one-liners.

"Catch Me If You Can" at the Marcus Center

Various times on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, 929 N. Water St.

Because Steven Spielberg’s 2002 movie about a Walter Mitty-ish con-man was a choice role for Leonardo DiCaprio. But the 2011 musical based on it sinks or swims on its story (based on the autobiography of Frank Abagnale, Jr.) and the 1960s mise en scene. With songs by the team that brought Broadway Hairspray (Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman), it is bound to have that hep-cat “Come Fly with Me” vibe. And a fascinating look at the idea of the American Dream.

On stage at the Avant Garde Coffeehouse in 1964 (photo by Gordon Simons)

The Avant Garde Coffeehouse Project at UW-Milwaukee’s Peck School of the Arts

Friday and Saturday 7:30 p.m., Sunday at 2:00 p.m., 2400 E. Kenwood Blvd.

Why? Because the ‘60s happened in Milwaukee, and one of the cultural centers of the city’s aesthetic and musical free-thinking was the Avant Garde Coffeehouse. For the Starbucks generation, it’s hard to think of a “coffee house” without caramel macchiatos, but the Avant Garde was more about art and ideas than the perfectly pulled espresso. UWM’s Peck School celebrates this Milwaukee institution with a full menu of events, including an exhibition at the INOVA Gallery, and a theater production celebrating the music and history of the Avant Garde. Meet Me at the Avant-Garde is written by Peck School alumnus Fly Steffans and directed by Rebecca Holderness. And features performances by musicians and other artsy types.

drum roll ...

Danceworks' Façade (photo by Mark Frohna)

"Façade" at the Milwaukee Theatre

Various times on Friday and Saturday, 500 W. Kilbourn Ave.

Because it's a piece of Modernist archeology, of sorts. Milwaukee Opera Theatre, Danceworks Performance Company and the Milwaukee Chamber Orchestra unite to recreate and reinterpret a curious and delightful piece of 1920s music theater from poet Edith Sitwell and composer William Walton. Created by the people who brought you 2011’s wonderful Maria de Buenos Aires, Façade is sure to be imaginative and inventive, a heady dose of old-school British wit paired with some 21st –Century American “can do.”  Performed in the balconied lobby of the Milwaukee Theatre, it should be what the Brits used to call a “jolly good romp.”

Also see Paul Kosidowski's review of "Façade."

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