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Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: Clintonville troupe comical in ‘Replacing Linda: A Virtual Play’

Critic At Large

Phoenix Players, Inc.

In a screenshot of a scene from Phoenix Players’ “Replacing Linda: A Virtual Play,” co-owners of a company interview a shady applicant for a job by Zoom. (Warren Gerds)

CLINTONVILLE, Wis. (WFRV) – This coronavirus thing has created all kinds of new stuff.

Like a play about a Zoom meeting specifically written and prepared to be viewed virtually.

Clintonville Players, Inc. community troupe jumped on the wagon with a performance of “Replacing Linda: A Virtual Play” for a paying audience Oct. 11. Now the production has moved to https://youtu.be/SQ6Ke1eduOc.

A little backstory: The play is licensed by Pioneer Drama Service of Colorado. The company was really on the ball as COVID-19 became a pandemic. Basically, live performances shut down all over on March 12. From the company’s Internet site, this is the title of its post of March 13: “The Show Can Go On… Virtually!” Since then, the company has regularly offered ideas and resources to community and other theaters based on that idea – and come with 42 virtual plays and skits. Thus: “Replacing Linda: A Virtual Play,” written by playwright Kimberly Barger for production on the web.

The play is just right for Clintonville Players – small cast, short story, current, manageable technical demands and a comedy.

The story: The co-owners of an expanding business are holding job interviews by Zoom to quickly fill an opening in its new office. The attraction for the audience is everything is tongue-in-cheek.

While one owner is serious, the main interest of the other owner is to hire someone who can bake cookies for him.

All the players are in different locations. The co-owners are always on the screen in individual office-like settings, and the job applicants come and go – like regular Zoom situations.

The first applicant is a with-it, with-herself millennial whose favorite word is “jam,” which has replaced “awesome” in the current vocabulary.

The second applicant is a person who “exposed an Internet security issue.” That is her way of saying she’s a hacker. The cookie-loving owner feels this applicant is okay, noting, “It’s not like she’s a murderer.”

The third applicant isn’t an applicant. She just turned on the Zoom meeting notice on the computer of her friend, who happened to have died suddenly the night before. The current Zoomee also happens to be the person the cookie-loving owner fired without the knowledge of the other owner.

Aye yai yai yai yai, is the story loopy.

Directed by Brandon Byng, the cast throws itself into the for-the-fun-of-it character roles.

Stephanie Miller crackles as the conscientious owner. Brandon Byng plays up his specialty of comical faces as the Cookie Monster owner. Marie Newton lays on all the trappings of an Instagram-fueled, slang-slinging walking selfie. Amy Steenbock dives into role the shifty shenanigans of a shady woman with her own way of interpreting legalities. Mary-Beth Kuester glides along as the sudden retiree with a kindly air.

The cast, clockwise from upper left: Stephanie Miller, Brandon Byng, Mary-Beth Kuester, Amy Steenbock, Marie Newton.

My wife and I watched the play on a computer on our dining room table. My wife’s take: “It’s like having our own play in our house.”

Not everything is slick like with a movie. Computer sound tends to be hollow. There’s a time lapse between lips moving and sound coming out. And computers are like mirrors – reversing the actions of the actors.

On the other hand, the live presentation ran fairly smoothly. The production includes recorded music for the opening credits and the sound of a cheering crowd for the bows – which the actors clearly got a kick out of.

The project proves a theater troupe can still put on a play using local people and present a viable product. In this case, it’s comic relief.


Creative: Playwright – Kimberly Barger; director – Brandon Byng; assistant director – Marie Newton; producer – Mary-Beth Kuester; posters/program/website/Facebook – Brandon Byng


Megan Fields – Stephanie Miller

Wade Zimmer – Brandon Byng

Ashley – Marie Newton

Jackie – Amy Steenbock

Linda – Mary-Beth Kuester
Running time: 37 minutes

Info: phoenixplayers.com.


Ahead, Phoenix Players says it has two virtual theater events up its sleeve.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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