Entries in Tom Klubertanz (2)



Milwaukee Chamber Theatre’s Art: A Whiter Shade of Pale

Set against a backdrop of what might be a monumental Piet Mondrian painting and primary colors…blue, red and yellow…Milwaukee Chamber Theatre’s season opening production Art resonates with modern abstraction in its design and themes. Even the pale Barcelona chairs designed by Mies van der Rohe flank the stark, white leather sofa front and center on the Cabot Theatre Stage. And speak to a sophistication that echoes the ideas on contemporary art and friendship French playwright Yasmina Reza’s award winning script addresses.

First produced in Paris during the mid 1990’s, Reza’s Art places three old friends, Marc, (Brian Mani), Serge (C. Michael Wright), and Ivan (Tom Klubertanz), in one of their classically fashionable apartments. Serge, a well to do dermatologist, recently purchased a “white” painting for an absurd amount of money, which infuriates his best friend Marc. However, the cultural renegade Ivan places himself between the two warring friends and the resulting backlash from Serge making such an expensive decision without consulting Marc.

While the three friends argue over the artist's importance, an 'Andrios' painting, even to what color the canvas might be, for there are numerous shades of white, they all struggle with what ties, experiences and feelings, bind them together. Because very similar to the diagonal lines dividing the white background in the Andrios painting, the three friends, like the three musketeers, are divided by what emotions the painting unleashes in each of them. Which can be equally absurd and conflicting.

Director Tyler Merchant adds a strident, hyper-realistic quality to the production, a play without any intermission, perhaps to generate more tension between the three men on the set. So do the flashing lights designed by Jason Fassl which gently stobe between the changing action against Scenic Designer Keith Pitt’s Mondrian inspired back wall. Theatrical techniques reinforcing how the serenity in these three men’s lives was definitively disturbed by the painting and then consequently each other.

Mani and Wright demonstrate their astute acting abilities by letting the audience visibly wrestle with these character's emotions. Perhaps the French might be more philosophical and less rigorously argumentative in regard to these dilemmas while being equally as passionate. Klubertanz acutely develops the play's humor with a genuine neurosis, his Ivan less debonair than Marc and Serge. Ivan has his own problems to contend with, an upcoming wedding, correct wording on invitations, and a life working with mundane stationery. His frustration daringly expressed in an exhilarating tirade about the minute details that complicate a wedding.

Throughout this almost two-hour play, art and friendship can be observed as the very idea of abstract expressionism. Where what a person feels can be more significant than what one sees, especially in a painting. The emotions are more critical to acceptance than the colors or lines drawn on the canvas, and how one discovers the words to open up those ambiguous sentiments to another person when describing art or a friendship. Whether the painting is indeed white-white, white shit as Marc believes, or that indefinable whiter shade of pale, the color matters less than what Marc, Serge and Ivan “sense” about the painting. Which comes to the forefront at the script’s conclusion when they process what actually binds the three of them together as human beings. 

The final scene in Reza’s play closes by questioning what “art,” a painting, evokes in the collective soul, what that is worth, culturally and moentarily, and then how this pales in comparison to the friendships these men have forged over 15 years. Because then the value of art rest in how the audience and these three men understand their humanity more fully. Perhaps another French philosopher and poet, Antoine de Saint-Exupery said this more succinctly when he wrote, “Words are the source of misunderstanding…Eyes are blind. You have to look with the heart.”

This August, Milwaukee audiences should indeed look keenly, observe with open eyes and heart MCT’s intriguing production of Art.

Milwaukee Chamber Theatre presents Art at the Broadway Theatre Center in the Cabot Theatre through August 25. Several special events are planned, so for information or tickets, please call: 414.291.7800 or click the Milwaukee Chamber Theatre link to the left.    by Peggy Sue Dunigan




A splendid cast currently occupies the Cabot Theatre for Milwaukee Chamber Theatre’s 2012-2013 season opening selection One Thousand Clowns. Written by the award winning Herb Gardner, the play inaugurates the company’s “Exploring Jewish Voices” series in collaboration with the Jewish Museum Milwaukee and the Jewish Community Center.

Set in the year 1962, Gardner’s play speaks from the heart of New York Jewish culture that celebrates delicatessens and pastrami sandwiches. However, Gardner’s very sophisticated humor reaches far beyond merely a passion for pastrami, whether one loves delicatessen’s or not. A culinary preference the main character Murray Burns uses to asses an individual’s personal worth.

Jonathan West debuts as a MCT director in a primarily delicatessen loving cast that deliciously keeps the comic timing on a fast course. Murray Burns, the delightfully irreverent Tom Klubertanz, embraces the philosophy of an imaginative man, more intent on experiencing life than working in life. He reluctantly becomes the unintended guardian of his 12-year-old nephew Nick Burns. A character professionally played by Thomas Kindler from First Stage Children’s Theater Academy in this far beyond his years accomplished role as Nick.

Nick landed on Murray's doorstep when he was only six because Murray's sister dropped him there "temporarily" after her several divorces, although she never married Nick’s father. While spending the next six years with his uncle, the grown boy genius attracts the attention of the New York City Bureau of Child Welfare through his exclusive school where Murray's unorthodox parenting skills come into question which sets the scenes for the play's action. Many scenes then set in Murray’s one room apartment with a rumpled, rummage sale décor that includes a female statuette with a blinking light chest, courtesy of Scenic Designer Brandon Kirkham.

Acting for the NYC Bureau of Child Welfare, Matt Daniels as Albert Amundson and Beth Mulkerron as Dr. Sandra Markowitz present the intellectual, rational side of life, which prefers studying hard to success. They inquisitively interview Murray and Nick to the suitability of Murray’s home life while they curiously examine their own motivations and romantic inclinations that climax at the welfare interview. The play somehow slyly ponders what parenting style could better motivate a child during these formative years? 

Gardner then adds Murray’s brother Arnold to the mix, the affable Patrick Lawlor, who contrasts the eccentric and exuberant Murray playing a sibling proud that he works diligently to support his own home. When Murray desperately needs a job to appease the Bureau of Child Welfare at a court hearing, Albert reinstates Murray’s old job of writing for Leo "Chuckles the Chipmunk" Herman, an actor on a children's show that advertises for potato chips bearing the animal’s name. Stephan Roselin deftly steps into the slightly derelict Herman's shoes.

Within the span of two acts over two plus hours, Gardner delivers a rare rebel for the 1960’s: A single man substituting for a parent played by a creative character like Murray. Someone infinitely worried as much about conforming and losing his own identity in the world as he is about losing the nephew he loves. A wacky but warmhearted father/son relationship often ignored in the 60's as it might be in 2012. This poignant play also depicts brothers, who although polar opposites in personality, deeply care for each other. A chance encounter with demonstrations of unlikely and intimate male bonding portrayed on stage without sentimentality or violence only realistic sincerity and struggle. 

This outstanding six-member cast feeds the evening with uncanny humor, a not to be missed summer treat that offers a buffet of talent. Including a touching ukulele duet of  “Yes, Sir, That’s My Baby” and a surprise finale that Milwaukee audiences will treasure. This August, be a lover of delicatessens and laughter that feasts on life affirming affection at Chamber Theatre’s entertaining One Thousand Clowns.   

Milwaukee Chamber Theatre presents One Thousand Clowns in the Cabot Theatre at the Broadway Theatre Center through August 26, with several special programs planned in collaboration with the Jewish Museum Milwaukee and the Jewish Community Center. For further information and tickets call: 414.291.7800 or click the link to the left.                                                                                                     by Peggy Sue Dunigan