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Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: ‘Not Even Remotely’ stoked with adrenaline in Fish Creek

Critic At Large

Northern Sky Theater

Igor (Doug Clemons, left) joins ukulele-playing Victor Frankenstein (Alex Campea) in a scene from the Northern Sky Theater production of “Not Even Remotely” in Gould Theater. (Len Villano)

FISH CREEK, Wis. (WFRV) – The Creature was the product of Dr. Frankenstein.

“Not Even Remotely” is a product of Dr. Pandemic.

“Not Even Remotely” is an original musical comedy that was created for Northern Sky Theater in the midst of the COVID-19 blur to have two lives. The first life was online as a virtual presentation in June. The second life is as a live, in-person presentation in Northern Sky Theater’s indoor venue, the Gould Theater.

Watching online, the bizarre energy leapt from the screen. I got it: A couple of theatrical whizzes created “Frankenstein: The New Modern and Musical Prometheus” for an extravagant production, only to get stuck doing it via their computer in their apartment. I laughed out loud at times to myself.

Watching the show live, in-person Monday night with real people, I, of course, knew what was happening. At first, the audience gave off a palpable aura: “What is this?” The show is so different for Northern Sky Theater. It’s like Monty Python. A long way into the performance, a chuckle arose. One. More trickled in along the way. The clincher was when one of the guys on stage flipped into one of his 10-12 characters as a tavern operator who sings with bar patrons who are “portrayed” by plastic figures who light up when the guy speaks/sings for them by touching the figure or pressing hidden switches. It’s an impressive display. The audience finally got it. Also, the show is end to end impressive displays of adrenaline-driven imagination. Audiences get that. The show ended with a standing ovation – a turnabout from the start when ???????????’s filled the air.

The show is still what I wrote in my review in June: “Not Even Remotely” is totally out of character and totally off the wall for the professional Northern Sky Theater.

The premise is the fictional Little Theater in the Park has a $250,000 grant to produce Chris Mozog (Doug Clemons) and Sam Hardt’s (Alex Campea) ambitious musical. The cast is to be 40, and the set and all to be huge with the top-notch technology. The problem is COVID-19 has come along, and the two guys who dreamed up the show have to beam their baby from their basement playing all the characters with makeshift props and set work.

That is to say, “Not Even Remotely” is purposely awful/comically awful.

The performance level of Alex Campea and Doug Clemons is nuclear – the acting, singing, dancing and story/costuming/props mayhem. Everything fits the definitions of “camp” and “over the top.”

The show is being presented to Aug. 7 with the Gould Theater at limited capacity and social distancing for COVID-19 reasons.

The story-in-a-story-in-a-story follows Dr. Frankenstein’s quest to build a perfect man through his mad science and the assistance of Igor, a hunchback. Alex Campea portrays Victor Frankenstein, and Doug Clemons is Igor and everybody else in different voices – notably marriageable Elizabeth and the villagers, some of whom are finger puppets.

The “Frankenstein” story – the castle, a laboratory, a cemetery, “crowd” scenes, etc. – is stuffed into the “basement.”

Direction is by Nadja Simmons. My impression of that work: She has fired off the fireworks of Alex Campea and Doug Clemons and KABOOM! – wow, look at that! Ooo, ahhh!

All kinds of side stuff is part of the show. First, the characters go about preparations not knowing the camera is on. One is on his cellphone trying to find out whether his father is watching, and he ends the call blurting, “Oh, this is Alex,” which is a way-out bit of humor.

The creative committee led by Richard Carsey, Stephen Kovacs and Corrie Beula Kovacs maneuvers in the not only the desperation of the characters to pull off their show but added touches about their personalities. A kind of reality is mashed in when the two actors argue and one professes, “Vanity? This is artistry.”

And there is knowing self-teasing near the end when the character played by Doug Clemons says, “We did something like a performance.”

In some songs, the authors subtly inject what’s been heard around us for 16 months with such lines as “Nothing good can come from science” and “Play it safe, just stay home.”

Sight gags, verbal gags, grandiose singing, malaprops, costuming fakery, double-takes, duet dancing, breathless pacing – they’re all there, in spades.

One of the songs is “We’ll Take a Leap.”

Indeed.

***

Creative: Book, music and lyrics – Richard Carsey and Stephen Kovacs; story – Richard Carsey, Corrie Beula Kovacs and Stephen Kovacs; director – Nadja Simmonds; music director – Richard Carsey; choreographer – Doug Clemons; stage managers, Nadja Simmons, Shawn Galligan; sound designer – Ben Werner; lighting designer – David Alley; associate lighting designer – Brian Weinkauf; scenic elements – Lisa Schlenker

Cast:

Chris Mezog – Doug Clemons

Sam Hardt – Alex Campea

Running time: One hour, 13 minutes

Remaining performances: 7:30 p.m. Monday to Saturday to Aug. 7

Info: northernskytheater.com

***

ALSO: Live, in-person performances of “Tongue ’n Cheek” at Peninsula State Park Amphitheater to Aug. 7. This is the first time Northern Sky Theater has presented two summer shows simultaneously – plus with the same starting times on the same dates – at its two theaters.

Gould Theater entrance July 26, 2021. (Warren Gerds)

THE VENUE: Barbara and Spencer Gould Theater is located in the Northern Sky Theater Creative Center, 9058 Door County Road A near Fish Creek. The 248-seat theater (social distancing at present) carries two themes – wooded Wisconsin and a carryover of Northern Sky Theater’s summer home in Peninsula State Park Amphitheater. Height factors in. As do tall pine trees in and around the stage of the amphitheater, the knotty pine wall to the audience’s left reaches three stories. To the right, the woodsy outside is brought in through 28-foot-high windows (in two sections) that are shuttered by huge wood shutters during performances. Color schemes are gray and taupe – gray in the seat cushions and aisle carpeting and taupe in the wooden seat backs and arms, with the wood walls, stage front and shutters finished to taupe. The stage curtain is midnight blue, as are acoustical clouds on the ceiling. The stage floor is unique to the region, arcing in from the rear of the theater along the side walls to the front. In the shoulders of the main stage, space is open for scenes to take place (with set pieces) in addition to action on the main stage. The space was designed by Peter Tan of the Madison-based Strang, Inc.

THE PEOPLE: Barbara and Spencer Gould are longtime Door County philanthropists. They have been residents since 1988, after years of residing in St. Louis and being summer residents.

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

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