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Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: ‘Someplace Different’ eavesdrops for fun in Oshkosh

Critic At Large

Oshkosh Community Players/world premiere

Show image.

OSHKOSH, Wis. (WFRV)

You go to a restaurant – someplace different this time – and listen in on the goings-on at the other tables. You see and hear the byplay among the customers and between waiters and customers. Sometimes the customers are quirky, sometimes the waiters are quirky and sometimes they both are oddball.

That is the premise of “Someplace Different,” a new comedy by local playwright Bradley Dokken being given its world premiere by Oshkosh Community Players. Four performances remain to March 7 in The Grand Oshkosh.

The play is an observation on – often a tease of – folks seen at a popular full-menu, sit-down restaurant.

Human nature and personalities – along the line of “you meet all kinds” – are at the center of this clever play that is like a painting. “Someplace Different” has a theme, a structure. Within the frame is a collage, individual images on the theme. The images are of people in little stories or episodes. Each episode is different, mostly with different actors. The cast is large – 21 players – but the actors are on mostly for just one scene.

“Just” is misleading. The scenes tend to be dense. They are filled with intricacies of behavior, language and storytelling. One thing is consistent: The waiters offer the special of the night: Chicken, baked or fried, with details of the choices tumbling from the tongue each time and leading into some kind of comedy situation.

Being that playwright Bradley Dokken also is the director, the scenes are finely worked by the actors. There is clarity.

For instance, intricacies of a server messing up an order in a maze of mess-ups are finessed to a T by Kimberly Mueller (the server) as the customer (Deb Barkholtz) gets tipsy on an array of complimentary wines.

For another instance, the meaning of “special” is probed and probed some more by fussbudget customers (Noah Joseph and Booras) as the put-upon server (Pat Fails) walks a tight wire of patience.

And in another instance, what is served within the special – chicken leg, breast or thigh – become incendiary points for the servers (Breanna Paulson and Vicki Layde) when a customer (Jesse Tubeszewski) asks an innocent question. The piece becomes a treasure trove of double-entendre pick-up lines (with explosive reactions to them).

Jennifer Neary plays a through character – always around to invite and explain – as host/bartender for the restaurant.

Chris Borgardt also plays somewhat a through character as a pain-in-the-neck server. He plays a guy who’s a moaner, a know it all, a noisy sort who constantly invades space. The satire in the show is biggest around him.

Other scenes depict a power play in a couple, a bad-news telephone order and a boozy table of loud guys with a jokester leading to a quiet, O Henry-like ending. And more.

This and that:

+ The set includes a bar/beverage setup that is placed to the rear of the main action, with the placement a bit of problematic for hearing needs.

+ Basically, the players have been around theater. This is an opportunity for quite a few to get in some performance licks in a stand-alone scene without the major investment of a whole play.*

+ For the audience, originality is a plus. While you are familiar with the experience, what happens is new, if a bit beyond real… and really off the wall at times.

+ “World premiere”? Well, you never know. Improbable doesn’t mean impossible, especially because that * sentence is attractive to some companies.

+ Main takeaway: “Someplace Different” is entertaining as something different.

***

Creative: Playwright – Bradley Dokken; assistant director – Doug Bord-Pire; stage manager – Emily Miels; lighting design – Nate Scheuers; set design and construction – John Rubino; costume coordinator – Ellen Magnin; props – Booras

Cast:

Servers

Coach – Jennifer Neary

Frankie – Kimberly Mueller

Taylor – Pat Fails

Reagan – Jesse Tubeszewski

Sam – Doug Bord-Pire

Chris – Chris Borgardt

Parker – Antonio Zepeda

Nicki – Breanna Paulson

Alex – Vicki Layde

Guests

Murphy – Noah Joseph

Sidney – Booras

Dakota – Dalton Zanin

Dallas – Kylie Montee

Robin – Anne Caylor

Leslie – Amy Molinski

Jesse – Jesse Tubeszewski

Blair – Deb Barkholtz

Blake – Tom Vinje

Casey – Mike Doss

Dylan – Tim Harrie

Jody – Mark Kuettner

Guest – Dan Williams

Running time: Two hours, 13 minutes

Remaining performances: 2 p.m. March 1; 7:30 p.m. March 5-7

Info: oshkoshcommunityplayers.com or thegrandoshkosh.org

***

Scenes

Act I

“Pre-Opening Ritual” – Coach, Servers

“Lunch Special” – Sidney, Murphy, Taylor

“To-Go Order” – Sam, Coach

“First Date” – Dakota, Dallas, Chris

“Personal Problems become Work Problems” – Nicki, Coach

“Last Date” – Robin, Leslie, Parker

“Reality is Stranger than Fiction” – Chris, Coach

“Pick-Up Artist” – Jesse, Nicki, Alex

“SMOKE BREAK!” – Coach, Servers

Act II

“Break is Over!” – Coach

“Nightmare at Table 12” – Blair, Frankie

“Full Moon?” – Alex, Coach

“Everyone Wants to Pay the Bill” – Blake, Casey, Dylan, Jody

“Life’s Not Fair” – Chris, Parker, Alex

“Closing Time” – Coach, Alex, Guest

***

THE VENUE: Located at 100 High Ave. in Oshkosh, the 550-seat Grand Opera House is one of Wisconsin’s showcase surviving theaters. Built for live performance well before the arrival of movies, the theater opened Aug. 9, 1883. Designed by architect William Waters, the building reflects the opulence of the era and the strength of Oshkosh at the time. Roman influences abound in columns and support elements. Ceiling and wall artistry is elaborately detailed. A portrait of William Shakespeare above the stage gives the impression he is overseeing everything. See thegrandoshkosh.org/history for details on the theater’s rich history and ongoing challenges. When you are there, wander around the building – up and down stairways and in and around nooks and crannies – and savor the details along with vintage photos and displays. For instance, in the balcony are elaborate sections everywhere. In the rear ceiling are rectangles fringed by flowers and vines. The largest rectangle includes a crossing pattern with a square at the center that’s angled like a diamond. In the front ceiling, a crossing pattern in the central square leads to a circle which depicts cherubs at play, one riding a fly. The top edge on side walls is curved, with images being a series of potted trumpet vines interspersed with maize. The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. The building is owned by and receives financial support from the City of Oshkosh.

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

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