Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: Abstract ‘Red’ explores mind in Green Bay

Critic At Large

University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Theatre and Dance

Basic scene for production of “Red” by University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Theatre and Dance. (Warren Gerds)

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – Moment at the end of a play: As the performance closes, tears flow from the player seen as a central character.

She is lying on her back in the center of the stage.

This an elusive moment, like so many in the play “Red.”

Is this player so into her character that, from simpatico to a friend, she weeps?

Are the tears, instead, part of the player’s sense of accomplishment?

Or is someone present who she wanted to see her perform in a well-rehearsed, complex university production?

Whatever, tears did roll Tuesday night as University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Theatre and Dance performed Somalia Seaton’s “Red” in University Theatre of Theatre Hall on campus.

It’s been the “forever” of COVID-19 since the program performed live and in person – although its virtual productions last season were grabbers.

“Red” requires the audience to put pieces of lives together to shape a story. There’s a lot of minimalism at work. That starts with the printed program, which credits the playwright, the director and the ensemble players, and not much else.

The persons playing the focal characters of Dee and Jay are among the players listed in the ensemble.

What happens in the story is a series of sequences with Dee trying to patch together her memory.

Much is symbolic or a test of comprehension.

Somalia Seaton plays with the latter at the start: A kind of chorus of characters wonders about the apparent population of Earth – 7.5 billion. Seven point five billion is daunting to comprehend, particularly from perspective of there being four billion, nine hundred ninety nine million, nine hundred ninety-nine thousand, nine hundred ninety-nine others than you.

A problem for Dee and her memory, apparently, is she is “drifting outside the bounds of reality,” one of the characters says.

Basic scene at production of “Red.” (Warren Gerds)

Particularly surreal is a major visual element of this production. The system includes 15 sections of parachute-like white fabric hanging from approximately 30 feet above the stage. That’s a lot of footage of billowy, floaty, “creamy” fabric. The sections are wound and unwound as part of scene making – connecting and disconnecting, perhaps. Sometimes, players move with the hanging lengths of fabric in a circle around a focal character, akin to a merry-go-round. Sometimes, the players move as to weave a symbolic image with the fabric – everyone’s moves being choreographed.

This sometimes takes place on the full width of the stage. This is definitely something to see live, in-person for full impact.

Plus, there are voices of individual characters – other friends around Dee and Jay.

One sequence includes young women verbally standing back and pontificating about their body as part of their hopes.

In many ways, this is an unusual production for UW-Green Bay Theatre and Dance.

Masks are required for those in attendance.

Often, the program performs in the smaller Jean Weidner Theatre, but the sweeping and moving visual effects would not be anywhere near as effective.

Certain factors in society have opened the door for more exploration, with layers of creativity added by director Laura Riddle and collaborators.

At the core, it is something expected to be found on a university campus.


Creative: Playwright – Somalia Seaton; director Laura Riddle

Cast (ensemble):

Mason Amidon

Isabelle Austgen

Kylie Heisz

Mackenzie Hillmann

Charrey Honkanen

Grace Kolb

Cory J. O’Donnell

Alexandra Smith

Olivia Smith

Aubrey Stein

Olivia Zwerlein

Running time: 42 minutes (no intermission)

Remaining performances: 7:30 p.m. Oct. 20-23



NEXT: “Fun Home” musical, Nov. 18-20.

THE VENUE: Of 1970s vintage, the 450-seat University Theatre is a complex facility inside Theatre Hall at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. The theater features a proscenium (flat front) stage that’s 50 feet across and 23 feet high. The seats are a calm shade of red fabric, black plastic backs and light brown arms. The concrete walls gray and slightly angled. The ceiling is a semi-dark green/blue for the coverings ventilating/electrical equipment. Concrete dominates the room – the floor, the walls, the stairs. Aisle carpeting is a flecked gray. The seating area in front of the stage is adjustable to accommodate an orchestra pit when needed. The theater includes two seating areas – a lower one 20 or so feet deep on a sharply and creates an amphitheater effect. The theater may be entered from the lower or upper level.

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