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Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: ‘The Understudy’ to visit Kafka in reading for Sturgeon Bay theater

Critic At Large

Third Avenue Playhouse

“The Understudy” playwright Theresa Rebeck, clockwise from upper left, director Alan Kopischke and actors Ryan Schabach, Chike Johnson and Katherine Duffy. (Amalgamated headshots)

STURGEON BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – Third Avenue Playhouse will present Theresa Rebeck’s “The Understudy” this week as part of its “PlayWorks 2021” online reading series.

According to a press release: The performance is at 7 p.m. May 7. Admission is free (donations welcome) with registration required. Info: thirdavenueplayhouse.com.

A live talkback with the cast and director will follow the reading.

Snapshot from the company: “Franz Kafka’s undiscovered masterpiece in its Broadway premiere is the hilarious and apropos setting for Theresa Rebeck’s exploration of the existential vagaries of show business and life.

“Charged with running the understudy rehearsal for the production, Roxanne finds her professional and personal life colliding when Harry, a journeyman actor and her ex-fiancé, is cast as the understudy to Jake, a mid-tier action star yearning for legitimacy. ‘The Understudy’ is a dazzling and humanistic look at people trying to do what they love in the face of obstacles that mount until all anyone can do is dance.”

Alan Kopischke directs the cast: Katherine Duffy, Chike Johnson and Ryan Schabach.

+ Theresa Rebeck is a widely produced playwright in the United States and abroad. Past New York productions include “Mauritius” at the Biltmore Theatre in a Manhattan Theater Club Production; “The Scene,” “The Water’s Edge,” “Loose Knit,” “The Family of Mann” and “Spike Heels” at Second Stage; “Bad Dates,” “The Butterfly Collection” and “Our House” at Playwrights Horizons; “View of the Dome’ at New York Theatre Workshop; and “The Understudy” at the Roundabout. “Omnium Gatherum” (co-written, finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2003) was featured at the Humana Festival and had a commercial run at the Variety Arts Theatre.

+ Alan Kopischke recently directed Anna Deavere Smith’s “Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992” for University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Theatre, where he teaches acting. His many Third Avenue Playhouse credits include “The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey,” “Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol,” “Oleanna” and “A Walk in the Woods.” Kopischke has also acted with Steppenwolf, Milwaukee Rep, Peninsula Players, Theatre Z and regional theaters across the country, including the American Conservatory Theater where he earned his MFA. He has been smacked around by the Chuck Norris family and a real highway patrolman on primetime television and in feature films. He produces the Door Kinetic Arts Festival every June at Björklunden and has created new arts programs in communities around Wisconsin.

+ Katherine Duffy (Roxanne) is an actor, singer and award-winning stand-up last seen at Third Avenue Playhouse in ​“The Amish Project,” “Sylvia,” “Educating Rita,” “Steel Magnolias,” “I Love a Piano”​ and “​Private Lives​.” Additional credits include ​“The Bridges of Madison County,” “The Hollow,” “Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime​” and ​“The Full Monty”​ at Peninsula Players Theatre; ​“A Christmas Carol”​ and “​The Amish Project”​ at The Milwaukee Rep; ​“Hair”​ at Skylight Music Theater; ​“Love’s Labour’s Lost”​ at Invictus Theater Company; and the Jeff Award-winning new musical ​“Haymarket​” at Theater Wit.

+ Ryan Schabach* (Harry) recently directed “A Lost Leonardo” as part of this year’s reading series and was last seen performing in “#ENOUGH.” Other Third Avenue Playhouse productions include “The Glass Menagerie,” “Greater Tuna” and “The 39 Steps.” Favorite projects include “The Underpants” at Milwaukee Rep; three seasons at The Utah Shakespearean Festival; “Sylvia” at Next Act, “Boeing, Boeing” ad Milwaukee Chamber Theatre and “Red,” at 6th Street Playhouse in Santa Rosa, Calif. Schabach recently edited the on-line performance of “Rosalind” for Door Shakespeare and is featured in the filmed production of a one-person “Panto – Buttons’ Sleeping Beauty “ (stagestheatre.com). Coming is a olo performance of “Hamlet” for Door Shakespeare in July and August.

+ Chike Johnson* (Jake) is a native of Milwaukee and a graduate of the Professional Theatre Training Program at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He has been acting for more than 20 years. Johnson has been seen on the Broadway stage, appeared in numerous television programs and major motion pictures. Recent credits include “Runboyrun” (New York Theater Workshop (nominated for Audelco Award for Best Actor), “Amen Corner” (Shakespeare Theatre Company), “Two Trains Running” (Cincinnati Playhouse and Milwaukee Rep), “Sweat” (American Conservatory Theatre), “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” (Lookingglass Theatre), “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” (Indiana Rep and Geva) and “A Raisin in the Sun” (Indiana Rep and Syracuse Stage.

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