Critic At Large WeAreGreenBay

Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: Area Writer's ‘Waiting for Mr. Howard' Spirited in Green Bay

Green Bay Community Theater

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) - ***

Photo caption: The players in Green Bay Community Theater’s production of “Waiting for Mr. Howard” by Kathy Campshure are, from left, Steven Troudt, Sydney Ogilvie, David Wilson, Jodi Angeli, Bill Jones and Kathy Campshure. (Green Bay Community Theater photo)

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In a waiting room of a hospital, a cleaning woman is trying to cozy up to a good-looking guy who is biding his time. She ends up tipsy. He ends up tipsy. She accidentally knocks him out. The guy is Satan.

That is a big sequence in the clever comedy “Waiting for Mr. Howard” by area playwright Kathy Campshure that Green Bay Community Theater is presenting to Nov. 18 in the troupe’s Robert Lee Brault Playhouse.

Something interesting happened on opening night Thursday. The audience froze on the arrival of the persona of Satan, called Ross in the play. The audience watched and listened intently because Satan is so fascinating.

Dressed in all black except for a red necktie, David Wilson creates a riveting presence as Ross. Ross glides into the waiting room and speaks volumes in one short, smarmy line to a young nurse, “Well, hello, baby.”

Kathy Campshure’s play explores concepts of heaven and hell in everyday ways. The play thinks large things while having fun at the same time.

Mr. Howard of the title is never seen. He is lying in a hospital room about to die. Ross is in the waiting room... waiting. Mr. Howard has been a bad fellow in life, and Ross intends to escort Mr. Howard to hell and “My wonderful, glorious fire.”

Along the way, Ross meets a field of resistance in the form of a faithful nurse, Julie (Sydney Oglivie); the head nurse, Meg (Kathy Campshure, the author); two priests, Clarence (Steven Troudt) and Gustoff (Bill Jones); and notably, the cleaning woman, Mabel (Jodi Angeli).

Veteran director Craig Berken has his company tuning in on the fun/serious stuff around heaven/hell and some sight gags that Kathy Campshure embeds in the comedy. Some bits are wordless little gems.

The really, really good stuff in this production comes in the interplay between Jodi Angeli and David Wilson. Angeli plays a devil-may-care person. Mabel’s outlook is take what you can get NOW because there is nothing later. In an instant glance, Ross is her NOW. Wilson has an aura as an all-knowing and sharp-minded devil, but Ross meets his match in Mabel and in Mabel’s potent “floor polish” they both drink. On all kinds of levels, Angeli and Wilson click as they finesse rich comedic sequences.

This is the second Kathy Campshure play that Green Bay Community Theater has produced. The first was “Thanksgiving on Serendipity Lane” in November 2017. With regularity, The Machickanee Players of Oconto produces plays of Kathy Campshure, who lives in Gillett. That goes to show that plays don’t have to be from a mystical “out there” where plays come from to be effective.

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Creative: Playwright – Kathy Campshure; director – Craig Berken; assistant director – Kathy Keeney; stage manager and make-up designer – Kaitlin “Kit” Honkanen; head carpenter – Noah Villarreal; set dresser/designer – Sandy Zochert; lighting and sound designer – Peter Wojtowicz; costume designer Cyndee Wilson, properties designer and floor manager – Karen Konshak; carpentry assistant – Jeremy Stujenske

Cast: Rob/Ross – David Wilson; Mabel – Jodi Angeli; Julie – Sydney Ogilvie; Nurse Meg – Kathy Campshure; Father Clarence – Steven Troudt; Father Gustoff – Bill Jones

Running time: One hour, 45 minutes

Remaining performances: 7:30 p.m. Nov. 9; 4 and 7:30 p.m. Nov. 10; 7:30 p.m. Nov. 14, 15, 16; 4 and 7:30 p.m. Nov. 17; 2 p.m. Nov. 18

Info: gbcommunitytheater.com

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THE VENUE: A landmark on Green Bay’s west side, the 193-seat Robert Lee Brault Playhouse features elements of an earlier time as a church, built in 1854 (the current backstage dressing room), 1895 (auditorium) and 1911 (today’s Community Room). The most obvious remnants are the church’s peaked side-wall windows with stained glass that is covered. High-up triangular windows still contain stained glass, and their patterns can be seen playing on sunny days when the troupe has matinees. The auditorium includes a 30 by 23-foot open-end stage with no stage curtain. The troupe has remodeled some portions of the building with medieval touches, but the seating area retains elements of a church. The theater includes wooden arches with decorative geometric designs on the ends and exposed beams in the sharply angled ceiling. The stage front consists of woodwork of repeated arches that looks to be repurposed wainscoting from other parts of the building. The troupe owns the building, which became its home in 1966. The Community Room serves as a gathering space for audiences prior to a performance and at intermission and for board and other internal meetings.

THE PERSON: Larger-than-life personality Robert Lee Brault was a longtime Green Bay Community Theater actor, director, scenic designer and managing director. He and his wife, Rita Brault, were mainstays from the time the troupe performed at various locations through the purchase of the present playhouse. Bob Brault died Nov. 1, 2015, in Florida at age 88. The troupe has established a special programming and education fund in his name.

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. My latest book, “I Fell Out of a Tree in Fresno (and other writing adventures),” is available in Green Bay at Neville Public Museum and Bosse’s.


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