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Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: ‘110 Stories’ channels 9/11 realities in new Manitowoc theater

Critic At Large

Parkview Playhouse

Basic setup for “110 Stories” at Parkview Playhouse. (Warren Gerds)

MANITOWOC, Wis. (WFRV) – The play “110 Stories” is destined to be performed forever in the United States.

Author Sarah Tuft takes the audience to New York City and the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, and tells what happened in words of 26 people who experienced that day and elements of its aftermath.

Just as 9/11 means much to many, the play has an unforgettable quality for audience members.

The production in Manitowoc has an added touch: It is the first – a premier – for Parkview Playhouse featuring the Little Bakery Players in a space converted from a long-ago bakery/factory.

With Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021, being 20 years since the events in New York City, a field in Pennsylvania and at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C, interest is elevated for this anniversary.

“110 Stories” focuses on New York City and tells what happened through the voices and thoughts of firefighters on duty and everyday people caught up in the onslaught of fire, smoke, debris, death and emotion.

Director Bernie Starzewski and his nine-person cast are motivated by the material.

The players are reading and enacting the words of real people who were caught in cataclysmic circumstances, and an illusion of reality sweeps through the performance.

Bernie Starzewski especially worked the players on a sequence leading to the close of Act I. It’s rapid-fire delivery shifting from person to person to person with a unison word exploding at the end.

The players clearly place themselves into the lives of their characters.

One man, an office worker, describes a descent on a staircase in one of the towers while another man portraying a firefighter tells of the ascent into a kind of hell. The toll of firefighters on that day was 343.

A man with a hangover is headed to work at Morgan Stanley when he sees a jet airliner crash into that firm’s offices.

A photographer who thinks he has seen it all in South America sees the unthinkable and photographs people as they fall from a tower and prays, “Please give them wings.”

“110 Stories” and the cast give a sense of what being present at the World Trade Center was like. Act I is the day-of, and Act II is primarily the aftermath and a realization of how expansive, wracking and awful the blows of two jetliners were.

At present, the public is being exposed to a whole lot of words and pictures and videos and memories because of the 20-year observance. In Manitowoc, “110 Stories” and the humanizing cast enhance the impact and create a strong sense of what 9/11 was like first hand.

***

Creative: Playwright – Sarah Tuft; director – Bernie Starzewski; artistic director – Tom Berger

Cast:

Luis Castillo – Bolivar Arellano, Glenn Jinks, Mitchel Peritz

Dawn M. Dewane – Susan Flis RN, Narrator

Eric M. Eberhardy – FF Jason Casone, Garret Fisher, Ro Sheffe, B.J.

Cheryl Feld – Mom, Natalie Roundtree LPN, Lillian

Scott Felten – Paul Adams EMT, Terrance, Dr. Jim Snyder

Brad Leonhardt – FF Lou Trazino, Tony Esola, Carey Sheih

Caitlyn McCord – Karen Slade, Merline Duhrman, Elizabeth Gelibert

David Neese – FF Don Casey, Father Bob Demming, Thomas

Emily Sandoval – Officer Hernandez, Michelle Wilde Williams

Running time: Two hours, 15 miniutes

Remaining performances: 7 p.m. Sept. 10 and 11.

Info: parkviewplayhouse.com.

***

Parkview Playhouse on premiere day Sept. 9, 2021. (Warren Gerds)

THE VENUE: The theater at 932 S. 12th St. in Manitowoc draws its name from the building’s original purpose as Parkview Bakery. The proprietors are Bernard and Marilyn Starzewski. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the opening of Parkview Playhouse was delayed for months. The capacity is 49 persons. The space is rectangular. At the rear of the performance area is exposed brick that is embedded with soot from the fires of the bakery ovens. The room includes an exposed ceiling beam, a brick chimney and two windows draped by flowery curtains. The ceiling is painted black. The wall to the audience’s right is painted magenta, and wall to the left is magenta at the top and cream colored below. The audience sits on movable chairs of tan fabric for the seat and back, wood arms and metal framework. Speckled tan carpeting extends to the performance space, the rear floor of which is raised almost a foot, with the raised portion shaping an “L” that leads to the production control area to the audience’s left. The space is designed for intimate productions.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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