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Friday Five highlights a blooming bunch of theater openings for the weekend--and more.

Oni Dance

Maria Gillespie

Many, many arts offerings this weekend, including contemporary dance (Maria Gilespie’s fine Oni Dance group offers Palimpsest, featuring some of the area’s finest dancers and choreographers); classical music (Edo de Waart and the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra perform Mozart and Robert Schumann); opera (the Florentine’s “After Dark” concert features its Studio Artists performing cabaret); jazz (the great singer Jackie Allen at the Wilson Center); contemporary music (composer Jerome Kitzke hosts an evening of original works with texts by Aeschylus, Harold Pinter and Allen Ginsberg); and pop music (Alverno Presents stages Jordan Lee’s tribute to Quincy Jones, featuring a host of great local musicians). But we’ll reserve the Friday Five for five great theater productions that hit the stages this weekend.

 

#5: The Odyssey at Off the Wall Theatre

Why? Because there is never a lack of theatrical ambition in Dale Gutzman’s productions, and here he takes a crack at one of the foundations of Western literature by adapting Homer’s epic story about Odysseus’s journey home. Adaptator’s Gutzman and John Angelos incorporate ancient songs and modern pop, along with Asian theater traditions, masks and a weather balloon to tell the story, and a large cast create the Sirens, Circe, the Cyclops and assorted creatures that stand in Odysseus’s way home.

 

#4: The Rep Lab at the Milwaukee Repertory Theater

Why? Because it’s not just a showcase for the terrific actors that make up The Rep’s Intern Ensemble. It’s also a showcase for short plays that you probably haven’t seen anywhere else. This year’s lineup includes plays by Milwaukeeans (James Fletcher), former Milwaukeeans (Patrick Holland), as well as national figures such as Rich Orloff, Jose Rivera and Sarah Hammond. One weekend (six shows) only. Don’t miss it.

Luchadora

Photo by Adam Ryan Morris

#3: First Stage’s Luchadora at the Marcus Center

Why? Because theater sometimes wrestles with some complicated ideas. But this world premiere play by Milwaukeean Alvaro Saar Rios just plain wrestles. Sure, there is no shortage or interesting ideas, stories and characters here. But it all takes place in a real wrestling ring, right in the middle of the theater! Rios’s play is about a girl who secretly competes in the male-dominated sport of Lucha Libre, Mexican masked wrestling. Read my story about the play here.

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#2: Ten Questions at Next Act Theatre

Why? Because Stephen Massicotte’s Ten Questions to Ask Your Biology Teacher about Evolution goes beyond the usual knee-jerk reactions to the debate around belief and evolution. Since the play is a world premiere, we can’t say much more than that. But Massicotte’s track record with Next Act—the excellent and thoughtful productions of Mary’s Wedding and The Clockmaker. Here, an excellent cast tells the story of a student who challenges a biology teachers orderly ideas about faith and science. Deborah Staples is the teacher, Mary MacDonald Kerr is the student’s mother.

Laura-Gordon

Laura Gordon

 

#1: Renaissance Theatreworks’ Lettice and Lovage at the Broadway Theatre Center

Why? Because Laura Gordon has already wowed Milwaukee theater goers with her great performance in The Rep’s Good People. Now she moves from South Boston to jolly old England, and adds the requisite flutter and folly to her performance as Lettice Douffet, an eccentric tour guide who finds the history of Fustian House in need of a little embellishment. Director Jenny Wanasek has tapped Carrie Hitchcock to play her nemesis, the director of the Preservation Trust who feels the need to keep history historical. Bryce Lord and Emily Vitrano also star.

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