Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Some theaters play hardball in midst of COVID-19 pandemic
GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – COVID-19 has had an impact on some of the plays in Northeastern Wisconsin.A hard edge has surfaced.Theater that plays hardball always is part of our scene, but recent productions came to be because of the pandemic.Manitowoc resident Kevin James Sievert created a one-man autobiography that explores everything from “A” for adoption to “Z” for zeal for fighting the odds.In “The Untitled Kevin Sievert Project,”(my review) this all was fresh, live and in-person at The Forst Inn in Tisch Mills.The price of activism was explosively explored by Milwaukee director Malkia Stampley and actors in and online production for Third Avenue Playhouse in Sturgeon Bay.Themes normally not in play in Door County gained access by way of the fiery “Sunset Baby”(review).Stunning in another way for Third Avenue Playhouse was a brilliant I-Phone performance of “Natural Shocks”(review) by Lauren Gunderson.The phrase was never used, but a key topic was gun control.University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Theatre captured the intensity of smoldering anger with “Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992”(review).Its multimedia presentation brought a past violent protest to today.UWGB, Sheboygan Campus, Prof. Thomas Michael Campbell’s world premiere of “Faithfall”(review) included online discussion and resources.Explored were the complexities of the suicidal.April 29-May 2, UWGB Theatre will kick over another stone when it presents “The Laramie Project.” Info: uwgb.edu/theatre/.Relived online will be the probing and haunting story of Matthew Shepard.These productions wouldn’t have been done in the same way – if at all – were it not for creative answers to COVID-19 restrictions.***From my review for “Faithfall,” here is an example of the hardball ballpark:A nun commits suicide. The nun has a checkered past. The nun has an admired recent present.Her estranged biological sister and her colleague/priest try to sort out the nun and themselves as they bob roughly in her wake.That’s the gist of “Faithfall,” a tightly-wrapped play that is in its world-premiere presentation by way of the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Theatre and Dance and COVID-19.Without the coronavirus, Thomas Michael Campbell’s play would not have been forced into a situation where valuable additional accesses are gained online. A preview segment introduces the players, the playwright and informational background materials. A post-show segment contains four experts speaking about the complexities of the suicidal, with the playwright noting his motivation:“Let’s use theater to talk about things we don’t want to talk about.” The play is theater with a purpose.