8 Milwaukee productions I’m really looking forward to this season

Jill Anna Ponasik continues to redefine what opera means.

The 2017-18 theater season is underway in Milwaukee and I’ve been looking at my schedule with great anticipation.

And I confess that there are some plays that jump to the top of my list, anxious to see them and to hope that they create magic. Here, in no particular order, are 8 plays I can hardly wait to see this season.

Ana Sokolovic is a unique composer

“Svadba-Wedding” by Ana Sokolovic´
Milwaukee Opera Theatre and Wild Space Dance Company
May, 2018

The last time these two companies got together in 2016, they created absolute magic with “Song of the Uproar.” It was a blending of theater, dance and music that you rarely see on stage in Milwaukee. Unique and creative don’t begin to describe that night of theater. This time around the little known a capella piece featuring six women holds promise for the kind of special night out that makes the theater scene so good in this town. It’s also another step in Jill Anna Ponasik’s campaign to redefine what opera is. Daring doesn’t begin to describe her vision.






Nick Narcisi and Marti Gobel will heat things up at Renaissance

“Sex with Strangers” by Laura Eason
Renaissance Theaterworks
October 20-November 12

Two of my favorite women in Milwaukee theater team up for this story. Mallory Metoxen directs the always spectacular Marti Gobel and Nick Narcisi. When frustrated forty-ish novelist, Olivia, meets fast-talking, twenty-something, blogger and memoirist, Ethan – known more for his sexual prowess than his prose – she worries that she will become just another chapter in his little black book. Their funny and passionate union blurs the lines between rewrites, romance and royalties – proving you can’t judge a book by its author. Metoxen is one of the most talented and spirited women directors in the city.




Deborah Staples heads a sparkling cast at Next Act

“Silent Sky” and “I and You,” both by Laura Gunderson
Next Act Theatre
September28-October 22 and April 5029

Gunderson is one of the most popular young playwrights in the country and last season Next Act killed her show “The taming.” This year the company stages two very different works from her. And Sky has an absolutely killer cast of women actors, including Deborah Staples, Karen Estrada, Kelly Doherty and Carrie Hitchcock. Reese Madison holds up the male end of the spectrum.



The young boy at the heart of Antartica, WI at First Stage

“Antartica, WI” by Finegan Kruckemeyer
First Stage
April 6-April 22

Two years ago, the Australian playwright delivered “The Snow” under a commission from First Stage, and it was absolutely brilliant. Now he’s back with another commissioned work. From the First Stage description: “In Milwaukee there lives a very special young man. One who sees more deeply than others. He sees so much that he loves in his city, but he also sees the fractures. And when this special boy begins to see icebergs floating into Milwaukee, he alone must find a way to help his community navigate through the dangerous waters. From internationally recognized playwright This contemporary folk tale is inspired by conversations with our community.”



Dale Gutzman brings Shakespeare together with Cole Porter

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” by William Shakespeare and Cole Porter
Off the Wall Theatre
October 19-29

Every year Dale Gutzman swings for the fences with a couple of productions and marrying Dream with songs from Cole Porter seems like it has the potential to clear the bases. As he describres it: “In the Still of the Night,” fairies fight, lovers love and Man makes an ass of himself.” Plus, the show features the creative and tantalizing David Flores as Puck.




Laura Gordon will play the Stage Manager in Our Town at The Rep

“Our Town” by Thornton Wildler
The Rep
April 10-May 13

This one is a classic, one of the greatest of all American plays. It marks the Quadracci debut of Brent Hazelton as director and he deserves the step up. It will also feature the uber-remarkable Laura Gordon in the role of the Stage Manager, a role normally played by a man.




Andrew Varela dazzled as Sweeney Todd and will play The Narrator at In Tandem

“The Fantasticks” by Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt
In Tandem Theatre
April 26-May 20

I’m torn here about a play I’ve seen over 100 times, easily. It’s dated, but still a wonderful romantic story with great songs. It’s also going to be a chance to see Andrew Varela in the role of the Narrator. He was dazzling in “Sweeney Todd” at Skylight last year. But the show may be reaching the end of its appeal, even to me. I honestly think that In Tandem shines brilliantly when it doesn’t get wrapped up in silliness. “The Glass Menagerie,” “Any Given Monday,” “Burying the Bones” and “The Nightmare Room” have always made it on to my best plays of the year lists.




2 thoughts on “8 Milwaukee productions I’m really looking forward to this season

  1. Why don’t you venture out of downtown Milwaukee, go a little farther north, and catch a show or two at Memories?


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