In Tandem Theatre closes an exceptional season with a marvelous production of Veronica’s Position at their Tenth Street Theatre this month. Rich Orloff’s 1995 award winning play consistently delivers fast paced humor with his deliciously idiosyncratic characters supposedly based on real life personalities.

Orloff was previously produced at In Tandem last season with his timely farce on corporate business, Big Boys. Veronica’s Position turns a perceptive eye on the National Endowment for the Arts. President John F. Kennedy founded the controversial organization in 1963, although President Ronald Reagan tried to dismantle the NEA during his tenure in 1980. Questions still persist in 2012 as to who should fund art, what art will be deemed appropriate, what determines obscenity and how does morality affect the right to freedom of expression.

Veronica’s Position puts the focus on two aging stage and screen stars brought together in Washington, D.C. to recreate Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler produced under a young and very beautiful female director. The indulgent celebrity Veronica Fairchild, based on Elizabeth Taylor, comes to life through a vivacious Tiffany Vance. Her co-star Philip, and could be twice husband Richard Burton, walks on stage with unwilling and witty sobriety by Richard Ganoung. The intelligent and stunning director Mallory, so winningly played by Libby Amato, tries to ignite a fire between the two actors, if only to bring Ibsen to Broadway in her future. 

However, Veronica’s been recently engaged to Senator Harvey, and the audience will remember Taylor’s engagement to Virginia Senator John Warner. Harvey is also promoting a bill that censored an exhibition in Washington by a famous photographer named  Zeke, who displays homoerotic photos. Which is notoriously close to what happened to photographer Robert Mapplethorpe in 1989 with his exhibition The Perfect Moment.

Steve Koehler brings a righteous indignation and sincere affection for Veronica to his Senatorial presence while Joe Fransee opposes Harvey’s position with rebellious flair. And the audience eagerly anticipates the political clash. Throw in Veronica’s afraid to love personal assistant Alan along with his neurosis to all these relationships courtesy of the accomplished actor T. Stacy Hicks and the troupe of comedians will be complete. 

In typical political style, the antics in Veronica’s upscale hotel suite, decorated all pink and perfect, become a satirical circus. Where the laughter runs rampant over the jabs at Washington’s morality under Jane Flieller’s finely tuned direction. A play highly comic and complex accompanied by luxurious costumes, the script addresses issues more critical now than in 1989. Veronica becomes a self-possessed actress, counting calories and husbands, trying to appease her director, ex-husband, personal assistant and her fiance vying for national recognition as a presidential candidate. What is Veronica’s position after all that happens in her hotel room when she seriously discusses an artistic protest with Harvey: “Love is the only issue in her life.” 

Time and truth proved the Taylor-Warner partnership (the starlet’s sixth marriage) lasted only a few years and the audience will delight in what position Orloff’s Veronica embraces.  Be sure to catch In Tandem's hilarious finale that proves this company is indeed Milwaukee's tour de force for comedy by staging this incredibly entertaining and provocative Veronica’s Position. 

In Tandem Theatre presents Veronica’s Position at the Tenth Street Theatre through May 20. For tickets or information, please call 414.271.1371 or click the link to the left.    by Peggy Sue Dunigan






The years is 1944: In a few more years, World War II will end. An entire world kept a silence that will be deafening to the pain eventually felt in the war’s aftermath. Set amid this turbulent background and history, In Tandem Theatre at Tenth Street Theatre presents an intimate tale of two Jewish boys in a stage adaptation based on Chaim Potok’s 1967 novel The Chosen.

Aaron Posner (who also adapted My Name is Asher Lev and just directed To Kill A Mockingbird at The Milwaukee Rep) along with Potok unfold a tale about two teenage Jewish boys, Reuven Malter (Eric Shabla) and Daniel Saunders (Andrew Bosworth). Providence connects them when they meet unexpectedly on a Brooklyn, New York baseball field, despite Danny holding to Hasidic Jewish beliefs and Reuven practicing as an Orthodox Jew. The pair forms a lifelong friendship that brings rich rewards even though they ecounter personal pain in their separate lives.

In Tandem and experienced Director Chris Flieller chose a potent cast for this deeply profound production. Matt Daniels narrates as the older Reuven, explaining the details to Jewish law, Yiddish phrases and connecting the intricacies to finding one's way through uncomfortable silence and solitude. During the performance, Daniels inhabits several smaller roles, which add immeasurably to the story’s believability. 

The two fathers, Bill Watson playing Rabbi Reb Saunders and James Tasse acting as David Malter, fill the stage with a charismatic presence while deftly remaining true to their distinct personalities. Each completely displays his character’s passion for his faith and a son. Their absolute tenderness defines these relationships where Saunders expects a decisive silence from Daniel and Malter discusses with words his feeelings with Reuven. The difference pays emotional dividends for the audience. While the fathers learn to respect their sons’ ultimate decisions, all these experiences deliver an emotional impact that immediately captivates the audience. 

This impact carries over to the friendship expressed by exceptional acting from Shabla (a First Stage Theater Academy student) and Bosworth, who struggle with their chosen roles and paths in life. When World War II ends and the Holocaust stories prove that over 6 million Jew were murdered, returned to bones and ashes, while treasures in cities, culture and faith were lost, tensions between divergent Jewish viewpoints almost tear the boys apart. Their opinions colide as to the importance of a Jewish nation reasserting itself in Palestine, an attempt to become an independent state. 

Throughout the production, The Chosen shifts its particular meaning much as today’s current events shift, from the very individual to the universal. Who is ultimately chosen to carry on a family tradition, through a collective faith or as a nation resonates in this story. David Malter describes the problem when he says, “A fly also lives. Life does not automatically have meaning. We must choose to fill our life with meaning.”

To choose to fill life with meaning despite personal cost, to learn compassion from the pain of others and to respect another viewpoint become powerful messages present throughout In Tandem’s incredibly moving production of The Chosen. With genocide, political polarization, father and son relationships and acts of true friendship all relevant to contemporary society, the play demands one’s full attention. This coming of age story intersects for two youths uncovering the meaning in their life, two fathers dealing with their sons becoming men, the world discovering the evil possibilities waiting for humanity, and a Jewish nation struggling to find its place in the world. Stunning performances by this In Tandem cast will linger in the mind and heart of the audience when they find the time to listen in their own silences. 

In Tandem Theatre presents The Chosen written by Chaim Potok and Aaron Posner at Tenth Street Theater through March 25. For further information or tickets: 414.271.1371 or click the link to the left.   by Peggy Sue Dunigan




In their final seasonal presentation of the musical revue Scrooge in Rouge, In Tandem Theatre at Tenth Street Theatre opened the returning comedy this past weekend. When the crazy yuletide shopping and sentiment stifles one’s holiday joy, Scrooge In Rouge will definitely revive it with hilarity. 

The production’s British turn of the 20th century setting recalls the era’s raucous Variety or Vaudeville humor that eventually developed the later half's popular music culture. Which can be a worthwhile gift to an audience when done well. In Tandem's three actors Matt Daniels (Lottie), Chris Flieller (Charlie) and Marcella Kearns (Vesta) present A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens in satirical song and dance while playing all the characters in the story with decided panache. 

While Dickens’ story remains recognizable in the supposedly English Royal Music Hall’s three-actor rendition, the production offers Christmas spirit with a dose of schmaltz. Kathleen Smith’s quick costume changes add substantially to the production’s success, as does David Bonofiglio’s musical direction and accompaniment on piano. The audience then forgives the company misplacing jokes in lines such as, “What ghost up must come down.”

The performance also involves Daniel’s cross-dressed Lottie fumbling with her dialogue and trying to remember Bob Cratchit’s real name: Is it Bob Crabcakes or Bob Cranberry? Additional clever songs and lyrics by Ricky Graham and Jefferson Turner will bring a smile when combined with material from Jefferson Roberson and Yvette Hargis. Daniels, Flieller and Kearns were cast together with infinite affection for the book, lyrics and each other that deftly displays an irrepressible talent in this irreverent comedy. 

An especially funny number begins the second act, which as Charlie claims has nothing to do with the plot: Beside the Shiny, Briny Sea. Thoroughly enjoyable, at this point the audience barely notices and might be relaxing in their seats after an intermission when they purchased “the intoxication that will pay for the cast’s vacations.” 

Scrooge in Rouge entertains all evening with informal touches that also involves audience participation. An affable and willing member participated at the Saturday matinee. The dry English humor that may seem silly and a bit depraved at times will engage those audiences that define December by the phrase “Bah, Humbug!” (Incidentally, in this production another well done song and dance number.) 

Even if one believes that the traditional holiday performances are touching, try this Scrooge for one evening. Diehard Christmas fans may discover Scrooge in Rouge can lighten the holiday load with a definitely decadent charm, primarily because of these three gifted actors. Catch the production before its performance ghost disappears into the Christmas past forever. 

In Tandem Theatre presents Scrooge in Rouge at Tenth Street Theatre through December 31, with a special New Year’s Eve reception after the last performance. In Tandem recommends the performances for those over 13 years of age.  For information or tickets call: 414.271.1371 or click the link to the left.    by Peggy Sue Dunigan





Jeffrey Hatcher’s childhood memories come to light when In Tandem Theatre presented the Milwaukee premiere of his engaging comedy Mrs. Mannerly this past weekend. Last heard from at The Rep’s Quadracci Powerhouse Theater for writing the play Ten Chimneys, in this October production Hatcher reminisces about growing up in Steubenville, Ohio. When he was nine years old he enrolled in an etiquette class so he could prove his worth to his family, wishing to be the only student in its 36-year history to earn a perfect score of 100 points. 

Mrs. Mannerly (Jacque Troy) is really Helen Anderson Quirk, a woman with a secret past who fearlessly teaches in the local YMCA’s second floor rumpus room. Her nemesis, and then later in the play her compadre, to completing the demanding manners class remains Jeffrey Hatcher (Chris Flieller). This mischievous boy learns to appreciate his exacting teacher who claims throughout the Wednesday night course, “If you live by the butter knife, you die by the butter knife.”

By displaying Mrs. Mannerly's funny quirks, the performance offers a relaxing two hours filled with humorous and poignant moments. Flieller and Troy acquire a genuine affection for their characters and one another throughout the play. Each actor discovers the comedy in growing to be a young man but also understanding a person from another generation and the following life lessons. Delightfully seen when Hatcher desperately wants to win those silver spoon awards from Mrs. Mannerly to inflate his floundering ego because he’s terrible at Little League.

Flieller plays the grown and nine year old Hatcher, family, and all the children in the class with disarming charm, especially the girls. Troy’s comic Mrs. Mannerly changes costumes multiple times to display her tenacious personality, a great device Costume Designer Kathleen T. Smith used to advantage. Smith, Troy and Director Jane Flieller give this character a sparkling edge without resorting to matronly qualities that immediately resonates with the audience. Thoughout the evening, Hatcher’s script shines on the intimate Tenth Street Stage, another perfect match similar to the casting.

The playwright and little boy Hatcher remind the audience of the importance in being yourself, despite what others in life attempt to mold one into, especially when failure persists. Whether that appears as what people see on the outside or what one deeply feels on the inside. He recalls why saying please and thank you still matter in the contemporary world when knowing which butter knife to use may not. Thoroughly enjoy these two accomplished Milwaukee actors in Hatcher’s little gem of a play that reflects on why performing less than perfectly might actually be more meaningful and mysterious.

In Tandem Theatre presents Mrs. Mannerly at Tenth Street Theatre through October 23. Afterwards, enjoy the brief engagement of Door County’s AFT (American Folklore Theatre) smash hit musical, Guys and Does, on October 25 –November 6. For information or tickets, call 414.271.1371 or click the theater's link on the left 

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