Entries in Marcus Truschinski (4)



Family and their Fortunes Deftly Define APT’s All My Sons

Who becomes a person’s family---sons and daughters, fathers and mothers in today’s world? Pulitzer Prize winner Arthur Miller’s first successful play All My Sons resonates with these contemporary questions at the American Players Theatre Up the Hill stage this season.   

Set in the summer of 1947 in the aftermath of World War II,  the script’s three families meet in the backyards of their Wisconsin homes, an ordinary neighborhood, after a night’s thunderstorm. However, Miller’s play based on a true story unleashes the storms of life that are only beginning on this August morning and become deftly directed by William Brown. 

In this very private setting, the Kellers, Bayliss and Lubey families tend the ground between their perceived lives and realities. And Annie Deever, a former resident, has returned to visit at Chris Keller’s request. While Annie was “going with” Chris’s brother, Larry, Larry has been reported missing in action for three years. And though Chris served in the war and returned, he now wishes to propose to Annie although his mother Kate waits for Larry’s return. In her mind, Larry is only lost instead of killed from a flying mission. 

Annie’s father Steve and Joe Keller worked in a business together, making parts for war planes, when an entire shipment cracked. The defects were covered up in hopes of being discovered after more were manufactured and could be resent. This opportunity failed, and so did the parts, causing 21 pilots to crash on flight missions.While Joe and Annie’s father were arrested and put on trial,  Joe was exonerated, although Steve remains in prison, which caused Annie and her brother, George, and their mother to move away, perhaps to discover the real truth. 

And so from these multiple losses, each member in this community wrestles with social responsibility, covering up what they believe they know, the ravages of war, protecting their families and the price of a monetary fortune won or lost.

“Money, money, money, money,” Jim Bayliss repeats. He’s a physician who really wishes to do research, yet research pays very little compared to an individual practice. Bayliss continues, “If you say it enough, it doesn’t mean anything.. Wish I would be around when that doesn’t matter anymore.”

Chris Keller struggles with the large amounts of money his father, Joe, still makes from the mechanical parts business. Fortunes were made and lost during World War II, in currency and lives. Chris lremembers he ost his entire battalion in several missives and feels the weight of this responsibility, his idealistic notions, where everyone is their brother’s keeper. A principle in the new world to come, where  “our” brother as Chris says, “Is s a love another man has for a man.”

On opening night, what made Miller’s story come alive again with these timeless questions was a riveting APT cast centered by Jonathan Smoots and Sarah Day in the roles of Joe and Kate Keller. Smoots’ talented egacy at APT crystallized his affection for his son and love for his wife, emotions poignantly heartbreaking in the final scenes.

Marcus Truschinski radiates goodness from son Chris, so the words are believable when he says, “the wars should make us better,” whether spoken father to son, son to mother, or neighbor to neighbor. His lovely bride in waiting, the beautiful Kelsey Brennan, adds spunk to Annie Deever, the woman caught in the middle of the Deever tragedies. And while only supporting roles, the rest of the cast admirably fills in the neighborhood with characters that enlighten Miller’s action further. 

Kevin Depinet’s lush, green set design envisions a picture perfect American life exactly as the trellis covered in red roses does on his stage. Life unexpectedly blooms like roses while uncovering the thorns on the vines underneath without trying to destroy the beauty in the petals A beauty seen in costumes designed by Rachel Anne Healy. 

That’s what a war, and sometimes daily living, does, when Keller admits, “I had two sons and now there’s one, war changed all the tallies.”

And yes, Miller ends his play similar to a Greek tragedy where another human person dies to right a wrong, to change the tallies in his family's history again. This reviewer shamelessly shed a few tears at the conclusion, for the tallies changed or invested in war, fathers, sons, and now daughters, fortunes, lovers and their lives, often lost. Miller’s characters grieved, survived, went forward, and so will the audience while they ponder who in the world constitutes their own fathers and sons, mothers and daughters? What events and persons will make them better people in spite of life’s tragedies.  

American Players Theatre presents Arthur Miller's All My Sons through the remaining 2013 season at the Up the Hill Theatre. For further information or tickets, please call 608.588.2361 or click the APT link to the left.   By Peggy Sue Dunigan



Play in the Woods at APT’s Two Gentlemen of Verona

“In the Woods” can be that place where during William Shakespeare’s stories characters often discover their very personal transformations. In the woods and Up the Hill, American Players Theatre presents another version of characters that find themselves living in the woods during tough times in Shakespeare’s Two Gentlemen of Verona. An opportunity to view this early play from the master’s dramatic legacy produced far less often than many others.

Shakespeare’s tale recounts the constancy of friendship and love as these best friends, two young gentlemen, Proteus and Valentine, seek their fortunes in Italy. Proteus first falls in love with the dark haired Julia, pledging his faith with a gold ring. Then the other gentleman Valentine swears his heart to the fairer Sylvia, already betrothed to a wealthy friend of her father the Duke of Milan. That is, until Proteus visits Valentine, meets Sylvia, and then struggles with the value of friendship, faithfulness, and his own wanton inclinations. 

In Two Gentlemen, the servants of Proteus and Valentine, Speed and Launce, provide some great laughs, narrate the story and give the audience clues to their masters’ ensuing actions. Will Mobley’s Speed and Steve Haggard’s Launce exude Shakespeare’s ability for bawdy, clever rhyme while mocking the constancy of human friendship. Launce would sacrifice more for his canine friend, Crab, a real life German Shepherd named Tim, than his human master. Hence, a dog might actually be man’s best friend, for these animals indeed prove loyal in the best sense. 

Director Tim Ocel appears to give Shakespeare’s Two Gentlemen a modern edge, with Marcus Truschinski playing Proteus and Travis A. Knight, Valentine. This seems to strip some of the lyricism from Shakespeare’s lines, a lyricism more necessary in this earlier play where Shakespeare might be developing as a young playwright.  On stage APT further strips down Shakespeare’s script with little embellishment in scenery, a pier like, wooden scaffolding for the set, a more modern, bare bones interpretation by Scenic Designer Nathan Stuber.

Opposite the male leads, Shakespeare begins to place his focus on strong women, the petite Susan Shunk in the role of the forlorn Julia, and in her maid Lucetta, a great cameo performance by Kelsey Brennan. The debuting Abbey Siegworth plays the fiery Silvia. This fair-haired beauty committed to her love for Valentine in spite of her father’s intended wishes, or whatever Proteus attempts to whisper in her ears.

While all four leads can command a stage, on this humid night there might have been more romantic heat between the two couples. More affection was perceived between Proteus and Valentine than for either of their female loves, perhaps something that will develop completely over the summer season.

In a fateful twist, Shakespeare’s poetry in Two Gentlemen provides the audience with the famous line “Love is blind " to poignantly contrast with their Touchstone Theatre production, Molly Sweeney, where actually “seeing” proves to be less valuable in discerning matters of the heart. Lovers wish to be in the darkness, oblivious to their partner’s shortcomings, where friends can often see truths. This inherent loyalty to friendship and love dominate the themes in Two Gentlemen.

Proteus proves himself false to Julia and Valentine, yet he makes amends, and then discovers forgiveness offered from Valentine, who knew Proteus was blind to the truth. Walking down the hill through the woods, one heard after the performance, “How unrealistic the ending was, for Valentine to forgive Proteus.” In the woods is where all the final action in this play unfolds, and one might consider that women were only property in Shakespeare’s era, when Proteus’s crime might be seen as less repulsive than today. Still, Ocel used more force in his seemingly contemporary interpretation of that scene than usually noted. Although, Shakespeare consistently inhabits his women with assurance and confidence to rival the male ego, as he did here.

Yet, without Shakespeare adding the redemptive “one feast, one house, one mutual happiness,” the forgiveness Valentine offers to his dear friend Proteus at the play's conclusion, despite Valentine being betrayed, the audience would be left with destruction. Only forgiveness restores the love of Valentine and Silvia, given also by and to the Duke of Milan, and then from Julia for Proteus.

While each of APT’s plays can be singularly dynamic entertainment for the evening, considering this fascinating trio, the two Shakespeare plays in contrast to Brian Friel’s Molly Sweeney, invites compelling discussion. There was spare forgiveness, given too late, in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, while APT’s Molly Sweeney powerfully uncovers what “blind” and “seeing” can actually mean. Encounter a personal transformation while playing in the APT woods this summer, all the while enjoying every minute of the company’s entertaining and intellectually fascinating theater season.  

American Players Theatre presents William Shakespeare's Two Gentlemen of Verona through their summer season in repertoire with Shakespeare's Hamlet and Brain Friel's Molly Sweeney, along with two other fascinating plays. To "play in the woods" with APT, for further information on schedules, special events or tickets please call   608.588.2361 or click the APT link to the left.                         by Peggy Sue Dunigan



American Players Theatre stages a lavish revival in their Up the Hill Amphitheater of Edna Ferber’s and George S. Kaufman’s The Royal Family. Written in the late 1920’s, the production might appear grand. comedic “fluff” in this century, even though a 1975 revival won a Drama Desk Award for Best Revival of a Play. Director Laura Gordon delivers the dramatic undertones in this script with three strong women characters that symbolize not only a matriarchal lineage, but also a connection to contemporary women and their career dilemmas. Dilemmas that might elude the audience amid this delightfully crazy family, a humorous parody to the acting legacy left behind by the real life Barrymores. 

Actor Sarah Day rules as Fanny Cavendish, a fading stage star that denies the demise of her career because of of physical ills. Her understudy to the family legacy, daughter Julie comes to life in Tracy Michelle Arnold, the middle layer in this “sandwich” generation. Trying to decide if she needs to care for an ailing mother or be the acting coach for her own daughter Gwen, a sassy Ally Carey. Underneath all these comical antics with the men surrounding their lives, it’s these three women who have held the family bonds together. And together they wonder if there’s any meaning to the celebrity they’ve achieved, or might be trying to achieve for the future. How much do they need to sacrifice for the family profession, the theater? After all, Gwen pouts, “When it’s all over, name me two 17th century stockbrokers you remember.” 

There’s truth in Gwen’s words, celebrity breeds continual adulation, perhaps a place in history. A truth illustrated by Anthony Cavendish, their black sheep brother constantly in the media spotlight and asking for money. His petulant, self-absorbed temperament consistently breaks his movie contracts or carouses with women off screen in true celebrity style. Marcus Truschinski throws himself into this role with devilish delight, a master at the royal family's overly indulged actor and son. 

The family’s long-term manager Oscar Wolfe played by a warm David Daniel puts this into modern perspective when he admits to Fanny that she was a one of kind. No stage diva who asked for outlandish requests before signing to do a show or when appearing on stage. What has the 20th century wrought with the Kardashians and Britney Spears? Would Tony Cavendish or any of these women exist without society’s craving for celebrity? 

Gordon deftly delves into these timely issues, when her characters ask the tough questions with nuanced, serious performances that linger on these moments and their elusive answers. Is a celebrity’s life worth the sacrifices? What does Gwen want…marriage and a baby or a life on the stage? Can she have both and do them well? Neither Julie or Gwen will be completely satisfied, because a dependable life symbolized by their rich, business minded fiancés might leave them wanting for the excitement of the stage. Any woman might question these choices necessary to make in life, or debate when does she need to care for a parent or child instead of her own career: Either on the stage or in any 21st century career?  

Or perhaps ask these questions about the present day Drew Barrymore, who mid-thirties and after two dissolved marriages weds the financial wizard Will dressed in a Chanel designer gown, already pregnant with their first child. Is marriage only an incident instead of a career as Fanny claims? In an oddly prophetic take, what has Drew suffered for this celebrity legacy and her late attempt at personal contentment, life alongside a “dependable” husband? 

Appreciate and adore APT’s elegant The Royal Family, a performance full of laughter that underscores all women's hard won decisions. Decisions still considered relevant that will add dimension to the celebrity comedy of this entertaining production filled with great supporting performances. Gordon’s Director Notes in the playbill admit she has gratefully chosen a theatrical life and marriage, a decision her audiences applaud. APT’s royal Cavendish family portrays those heartfelt if ambivalent relationships between three generations of women, grandmother, mother and daughter. Women who care for themselves and each other, together with the reliable men they might love to piece together a wonderful if eccentric life from the remnants of their choices.  

American Players Theatre presents The Royal Family directed by The Rep's Laura Gordon through September at the Up the Hill Theatre in Spring Green, Wisconsin. For further information, please click the APT Plays in the Woods link to the left or call: 608.588.2361  by Peggy Sue Dunigan







An old story first told in 1906, O. Henry’s The Gift of the Magi  follows on the pages of an ancient story: Three kings bearing gifts after sighting a star that hovers over a humble manger in Bethlehem. Either story continually refreshes the soul in this century because the words speak gratitude and love instead of dissent and isolation. 

The accomplished James DeVita’s adaptation of the short story The Gift of the Magi begins on the Touchstone Theatre Stage at American Players Theatre  (APT) with these thoughts in mind. The cast’s initial moments and memories envision holidays overflowing with presents, sweets and toys. Yet, James and Della Dillingham Young struggle in 1908 with Jim’s reduced pay similar to many individual’s circumstances this very year. How does one survive when you’re “one in a million, living on New York’s streets” in a three stair tenement apartment in the center of Clothesline Alley?” 

In APT's perfect casting, the sophisticated Brian Mani acting as O. Henry narrates the powerful tale through multiple roles accompanied by 24 original melodies. Josh Schmidt (At Milwaukee’s Skylight Opera Theatre this spring for a performance of his The Adding Machine) composed the haunting score together with the lyrics alongside DeVita. Their rhythmic book and measures ring from Nick Ertinger’s violin and  Eric Miller’s cello. On stage for the entire performance, these musicians' strings evoke those in the heart. The “sobs, sniffles and smiles” that O. Henry speaks about in Della’s life. 

Tracy Michelle Arnold plays opposite her real life husband Marcus Truschinski in Della and Jim’s rich tale that devotedly unwraps their gratitude for each other instead of expensive presents. With the production’s added compositions and streamlined revisions, the evening reveals a treasure in music, song and storytelling perhaps reflecting the three gifts brought by those earthly kings from afar when following the star. A surprising regal production arises from this dedicated humility portrayed on the Touchstone stage while the five cast members eloquently capture the two old stories that persuasively offers the audience the most luxurious gift of all.

APT’s The Gift of the Magi appreciates the eternal truth to every holiday season. That gratitude for those who appear in one’s life can be more essential than any purchased package. O. Henry believes love without lavish possessions, despite the monetary value one tries to attach to the emotion, can never be wasted, at the holidays in December or into the New Year. May those in the audience make the APT's seasonal production a tradition to attend with those they dearly cherish. These Magi’s gifts, along with those of Della’s and Jim’s, remind the audiences to love one another wastefully, whatever the cost to the heart. Genuine love and concern for others might be the wisest investment for all.  

American Players Theatre presents The Gift of the Magi based on the classic story by O. Henry through December 18. The drive to Spring Green can be serenely beautiful, a restful afternoon before enjoying this timeless theater treasure. For information or tickets call: 608.588.2361 or click the link to the left.  by Peggy Sue Dunigan