Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Play reading festival starts Friday in Sturgeon Bay

Third Avenue Playhouse

STURGEON BAY, Wis. - Third Avenue Playhouse this week offers the first three plays of its second annual Winter Play Reading Festival.

Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Feb. 16-17, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 18.

According to a press release: Admission is by a pay-what-you-can donation.  

An audience discussion of the play with cast and director will follow each reading.

Here is an overview of the first weekend:

Friday, Feb. 16 at 7:30 p.m.

“Dead Man’s Cell Phone” by Sarah Ruhl.

Directed by Amy Ensign.

Cast: Mark Moede, Pam Welter, Mary White, Alan Kopischke, Teresa Aportela Sergott.

While finishing her lobster bisque, mild mannered and often over-looked Jean discovers her voice as she adopts the cell phone of a gentleman who passes away at the table next to her in the otherwise empty cafe. Jean begins answering his calls, relaying the sad news and even stepping in to help at the deceased man’s place of work. She soon gets more than she bargained for as she mends relationships, falls in love, travels to Johannesburg, South Africa, and spends a few minutes with Gordon in the after-life.

Sarah Ruhl, originally from Chicago, won a MacArthur Fellowship in 2006 and, most recently, the Steinberg Distinguished Playwright Award. Ruhl’s Her plays have been produced on Broadway at the Lyceum by Lincoln Center Theater, Off-Broadway at Playwrights’ Horizons, Second Stage and at Lincoln Center’s Mitzi Newhouse Theater. Her plays have been produced regionally, with premieres at Yale Repertory Theater, the Goodman Theater, Berkeley Repertory Theater and the Piven Theatre Workshop in Chicago. Ruhl served on the executive council of the Dramatist’s Guild for three years, and she is currently on the faculty at Yale School of Drama. She lives in Brooklyn with her family.

Saturday, Feb. 17 at 7:30 p.m.

“And a Nightingale Sang” by C.P. Taylor.

Directed by Robert Boles.

Cast: Amy Ensign, Mark Moede, Mary White, LakerAnne Thrasher, Brandon Bogenschutz, James Valcq, Kole Mallien.

The play follows the course of World War II as experienced by a working-class family in Newcastle-on-Tyne, England. In wartime, there are no public worries, only private worries, and this story of the family’s personal relationships, preoccupations, troubles and joys suggests, perhaps, the reason why with all the perils and troubles besieging it the human race will continue to survive.

Cecil Philip Taylor (1929-81) was a Glasgow-born playwright who wrote nearly 80 plays during his16 years as a professional playwright. His plays largely drew on his Jewish background and socialist viewpoint. Taylor worked throughout his career with both the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, and the Live Theatre Company, Newcastle.

Sunday, Feb. 18 at 2 p.m.

“Venus in Fur” by David Ives.

Directed by Alan Kopischke.

Cast: Neil Brookshire, LakerAnne Thrasher.

This is described as mysterious, funny and erotic drama. Thomas is desperate to find an actress to play Vanda in his adaptation of the classic sadomasochistic tale, “Venus in Fur.” Into his empty audition room walks a vulgar and equally desperate actress-oddly enough, named Vanda. Though utterly wrong for the sophisticated part, Vanda exhibits a strange command of the material, piquing Thomas’ interest. They blur the line between play and reality, entering into an increasingly serious game of submission and domination.  

David Ives is best known for his evening of one-act plays, “All in the Timing” and for his drama “Venus in Fur,” which was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Play. He adapted Mark Twain’s “Is He Dead,” which was produced on Broadway and locally at Peninsula Players and Gibraltar High School, and has written a varied array of full-length plays, one-act collections and adaptations of classics. A former Guggenheim Fellow in playwriting and a graduate of The Yale School of Drama, he lives in New York City.

The second weekend of the festival includes “How to Write a New Book for the Bible” by Bill Cain, “The Dig” by Marie Kohler and “The Roommate” by Jen Silverman.

Contact me at warren.gerds@wearegreenbay.com. Watch for my on-air Critic at Large editions on WFRV-TV at 6:20 a.m. Sundays.


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