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Triple Play: Symphony concerts typically have a musical centerpiece accompanied by a few “B-Side” offerings, and this weekend’s Mozart, Beethoven, John Adams concert by the Milwaukee Symphonyoffers a potent trifecta. I’ve been waiting to hear clarinetist Todd Levy play more Mozart since his elegant performance of the A-major Clarinet Quintet with the Fine Arts Quartet […]

Triple Play: Symphony concerts typically have a musical centerpiece accompanied by a few “B-Side” offerings, and this weekend’s Mozart, Beethoven, John Adams concert by the Milwaukee Symphonyoffers a potent trifecta. I’ve been waiting to hear clarinetist Todd Levy play more Mozart since his elegant performance of the A-major Clarinet Quintet with the Fine Arts Quartet more than a year ago. And conductor Nicholas McGegan should bring a skittering energy to Beethoven’s First Symphony and John Adams contemporary, Looney-Tunes-inspired Chamber Symphony.

Local Stories: Danceworks continues its season by giving some of the organization’s other programs some deserved stage time. “Tall Tales from the Wide Sky”draws on stories created in the Danceworks Intergenerational Multi-Arts Project, a collaboration between grade-school students and seniors. Created by the company and Artistic Director Dani Kuepper, the evening shows the company’s continued interest in collaboration. A good thing.

Go West Young Man…er Woman: Milwaukee Shakespeare takes its troupe out to Brookfield to serve up a Shakespeare confection that sticks to your ribs. Twelfth Night features a platter-full of the Bard’s best characters, played by some of the area’s finest: Robert Spencer, Molly Rohde, Tami Workentin and Kevin Rich. Don’t let it slip by – the large venue means the show will run only two weekends.



Looking Back:
They say that film is the art form of the director, and theater is the art form of the actor. In that case, Renaissance Theatreworks’ Red Pepper Jelly 3is the art of sheer personality. The material is so personal that the three actors, Raeleen McMillion, Ericka Kreutz and Jennifer Rupp, have nothing to hide behind, and any “technique” on view is just a little push here or there to make their stories land just right. Watch the way Kreutz stills herself and opens a clenched fist into a wide-spread hand to describe the opening of her heart, damaged by a bad breakup. Listen to the rolling-hill rhythms in McMillion’s voice as she spins the earthy, epic poem-story of Idella, whose sensual life blooms before you in five short chapters. And hear the been-there wryness in Jennifer Rupp’s voice as she spins familiar tales that can be found in any parents’ memory bank. Director Pam Kriger keeps the staging effectively simple and John and Susan Nicholson supply warm-blooded music to keep it all together. The title of this review suggests something naughty and secretive, an in-joke just right for a girls’ night out. Red Pepper Jelly 3 certainly has a lot to say to women (though do we really need another “menopause song”?), but it’s also brimming with pure humanity. At a time when so much comedy is rooted in condescension and mockery, it brings warmth and understanding along with its sassy heat.

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Somewhere between Easy Rider and The Big Chill sits Ralph Pape’s Say Goodnight, Gracie, an examination of 20-something ennui at the dawn of the “Me-Decade.” Written in 1978, it’s best known as an early Steppenwolf Theatre success starring Joan Allen, Glenne Headley and John Malkovich. Because its formula has been reproduced so often since the baby boomers made generational self-examination an art form – think “thirtysomething,” “Friends,” Richard Linklater’s films, even “Seinfeld” – the writing doesn’t seem particularly fresh or ground breaking, but it has a strong sense of character, and the young cast in Boulevard Ensemble Theatre’s production does a fine job of making it sing. Director Jon Beidelschies was able to keep things orderly in the small Boulevard space (for a while, it was in danger of becoming a “five-stoners-on-a-couch play), and Jason Will has a great natural energy as Bobby, the slightly dim Jersey boy who finds happiness in sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll.


I had only a spare 90 minutes to wander the galleries last weekend, but it was still enough to make some discoveries. The new show at MIAD’s Layton Gallery, “This Land Is My Land,” is a curious blend of identity politics and landscape. In an age of Google Earth and GPS, Amy Chaloupka’s sculpture – a vast, diaphanous web of rivers cut from topographic maps – evokes both the fragility of the landscape and the ease from which we distance ourselves from it. And Douglas Rosenberg’s projected videos of dancers in fields and forests envelope you in the textures of nuanced human emotion and the natural environment. At Walker’s Point Center for the Arts, “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly,” a show curated by Della Wells and Sonji Hunt, features Felandus Thames’ serigraphs of iconic blues imagery, and Reginald Baylor’s pop-art-inspired exploration of the meaning of family and identity.

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Just down the street on National Ave., two new-ish galleries run by artist’s collectives were positively fizzy with energy and interesting new work. The White Whale, featured work by recent MIAD graduates, including Emily Belknap’s delicate watercolor horizons. And Borg Ward, ensconced in the old Borgwardt Funeral Home, offered “Collected Selves,” its first “collaborative show” (“Our minds are open and the walls are free”). Keep these venues on your radar.


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