Marti Gobel holds master class in Renaissance’s “Neat”

The ladies are on a roll and there’s no stopping them.

With “Neat,” the Charlayne Woodword play just that opened at Renaissance Theaterworks, we are once again treated to a one-woman play that is just as thrilling as it is important.

“Neat” stars Marti Gobel in yet another towering performance that sets a standard in MIlwaukee that is virtually unmatched. This show follows on the theheels of the opening of Milwaukee Chamber Theatre’s “The Way She Spoke,” starring Michelle Lopez-Rios. So we now have two glorious one-woman shows playing at the same time.

And the thrills aren’t over yet. Seven years ago Chamber staged “Under the Lintel” with James Ridge playing the role of the Dutch librarian. Chamber is about to stage the play again, this time with the brilliant Elyse Edelman in the role, under the direction of Brent Hazelton. I can hardly wait.

But enough about the parade of wonderful women. Let’s get back to “Neat.”

Ms.Woodard wrote this autobiographical piece in the 90’s. It tells the story of her growth and the ties between her and her developmentally disabled aunt, called Neat.

The story opens with a touching and emotional tale of Neat as an infant. She is accidentally poisoned by a grandmother who is illiterate and unable to tell the difference between medicinal bottles. Neat is turned away at a white hospital, and by the time they arrive at a black hospital, the brain damage has been done. And she will forever be marked by this racism. 

With dozens of characters encountered on her journey, Ms.Gobel weaves a fascinating tapestry of the passage of a young girl in Savannah, GA, to being a grown up. From her little girl to her school days, settled into a Jewish community and school in Albany, NY, we watch the people and events that shaped Ms. Woodard’s life.

There are heart wrenching moments in this well-told tale, and moments of high humor, like when she becomes the high school boy, Charlie Bowman, who has all the right moves and decides to make Charlayne his high school girlfriend. 

We travel along as this girl also tracks her changes through her relationship with Neat. In the early going she is delighted in her aunt, but is put off later as she grows and Neat arrives to take up residence. 

Under the direction of Suzanne Fete, Ms. Gobel conducts a master class in acting. There is not a moment that is too much,nor a moment that is too little. She clearly understands how this story needs to be told and he gifts that understanding to the audience. 

“Neat” runs through April 11 and tickets are available at

Production credits: Director, Suzanne Fete; Stage Manager, BaileyWegner; Technical Director, Tony Lyons; Lighting Designer Noelle Stollmack; Scenic Designer, Lisa Schlenker; Sound Designer, Chris Guse; CostumeDesigner, Amy Horst; Choreographer and Movement Director, Jayne Pink;Studio Gear Production Services, Kimberlee Beegs.

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