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Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: Live ‘Cook Outs & One Acts’ short, fun in Sturgeon Bay

Critic At Large

Jamie Buesing and Dan Sallinen spread the humor in Rogue Theater’s production of “Dinner for One.” (Warren Gerds)

STURGEON BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – Sitting in a car by oneself and laughing out loud at a play presented outdoors by flesh-and-blood local actors in a church parking lot… Thank you, COVID-19, you sure have inspired unique experiences this year.

Nobody’s laughing about you, but you can’t stop funny from being funny or poignance from being poignant – or a few theater troupes from putting on productions.

Rogue Theater made a habit of performing against the odds this summer by offering a series of short plays as “Drive-In Theater.” The troupe added to its impromptu season with one more venture, “Cook Outs & One Acts.”

Saturday evening’s opener was rained out, and so was the pre-show picnic-style offering. Sunday afternoon, a shower skirted the location, and two plays were performed in the back parking lot of Prince of Peace Lutheran Church.

The plays are brief – one act with two actors – but zesty in different ways.

“Post-Its” is a variation on a number of marriage plays that take place over time. In this case, the story becomes moving as time marches on to … you know.

Playing the husband and wife are husband-and-wife Stuart Champeau and Lola DeVillers. While the portrayals have nuance and color, this is not a rocket science acting job for them because all the lines are read off of Post-Its – the sticky-backed notes the husband and wife have left for each other. In the stacks are comical snippets, wise cracks, criticisms and tell-tale signs of two people falling in love and then jouncing along a bumpy road called life.

One series of jokes goes like this: The man can’t stand Eugene. The couple’s child ends up being named Eugenia. And the child’s child has Eugene in his name.

The play is tightly written by Paul Dooley, an actor, and Winnie Holzman, who wrote the book and lyrics for the hit musical “Wicked.”

The couple shares a moment of happiness in a scene from “Post-Its.” (Warren Gerds)

The other play, “Dinner for One,” is the one I laughed out loud about a lot.

The premise is Miss Sophie (Jamie Busing, presenting an erudite manner) is holding a holiday party with four guests, who now happen to be dearly departed. Miss Sophie’s butler, James (Dan Sallinen), goes through the routine of serving four courses, including spirits for each course. The gag is James portrays each guest in each course in toasting Miss Sophie. Of course, James gets toasted – as in beyond tipsey.

James also becomes the guests in increasing degrees of inebriation – a regal sort who asks for more spirits in the first place, a militaristic sort who clicks his heels hard, a grande dame and a lay-it-on-thick flatterer.

For Dan Sallinen, the action is end-to-end sight gags. They start with a cat (large toy) that gets in his way and prompts stumbling and go on and on with all of James’s teetering trips around the table, each getting closer and closer to disaster.

COVID-19? Oh, I forgot you were there, if only briefly.

***

Act I

+ “Post-Its (Notes on a Marriage)” creative: Playwrights – Paul Dooley and Winnie Holzman; directors – Stuart Champeau, Lola DeVillers; production elements – company

Cast

Wife – Lola DeVillers

Husband – Stuart Champeau

Act II

+ “Dinner for One” creative: Playwright – Lauri Wylie; directors – Stuart Champeau, Lola DeVillers; production elements – company

Cast

Miss Sophie – Jamie Buesing

James – Dan Sallinen

Running time: 40 minutes

Remaining performances: 5 p.m. Oct. 10, 2 p.m. Oct. 11

Info: (920) 818-0816 or the troupe’s Facebook site

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

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