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A sensual and surreal evening arrives at Next Act Theatre in their first production for 2013 titled The Clockmaker. This mystical play presents Heinrich Mann as a son who inherits his father’s clock shop in some bygone era, although Mann believes he will forever be a failure to his father's artistic legacy. When a woman in need named Frieda walks through his shop door one rainy afternoon to have a very important timepiece repaired, this one moment in time changes the course of the couple’s lives.

The dimension of time literally rearranges the following scenes throughout Stephen Massicotte’s intriguing play directed by Mary McDonald Kerr. Audiences need some patience in the first half so they can fully appreciate the unusual staging of the action. The rearrangement of unknown places and time reflects a nonlinear storytelling and changes at the playwright’s whim. Only afterwards, in the final scenes, will the audience actually realize what has supposedly occurred. 

Somehow Massicotte’s (author of the company’s 2009 Mary’s Wedding) coherently pieces this haunting love story written with a fairy tale sensibility while using sparse poetic dialogue that holds the audience's attention. Massicotte delves into the sensuality of fragrance, the smell of bread and rain and you, which Mann and Frieda represent. Drew Brehl and Molly Rhode characterize Mann and Frieda by displaying delightful innocent charm through these insecure personas. 

Richard Halverson appears to play “an inquisitor” as Monsieur Pierre and gives the audience an actor who will eternally (to rephrase the play’s language) be welcome on a Milwaukee stage. Dan Katula’s Aldolphus adds an impressive turn as Frieda’s destructive husband, who tires to the thwart the kind affection between Mann and Frieda.

Without revealing too much of the mystery in this production, The Clockmaker entertains on several visual and intellectual levels. Rick Graham’s scenic design, Jason Fassl’s lighting and Aria Thornton’s simple costumes add to the performance’s unique enchantment. While one wishes the pace moved slightly quicker (a one hour, forty minutes without intermission), the deliberate delivery and direction allows the surprise ending to fascinate the audience even more.

At the end of the evening, the audience might remember that when one person desires to make a difference, even in only one person’s life, they can by showing love and reap magnificent rewards. How wonderful to see this proven in McDonald Kerr’s and Rhode’s personal careers, professionals who have enriched Milwaukee theater as actors, choreographers and directors as distinctive women in the theatre, a pleasure to continually see develop over the years The entire cast in Next Act's appealing The Clockmaker defines how passion for one’s career or a particular person transforms events and time for good even into eternity.

Next Act Theatre at 255 South Water Street presents The Clockmaker through February 24. For information or tickets, please call 414.278.0765 or click the Next Act link to the left to visit the company’s website.   by Peggy Sue Dunigan


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