Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: Environmentally minded ‘Kayak’ penetrating in Green Bay

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You know you should recycle. And save on water. And be economical with fuel. And… and… and… and… and… and…

Welcome to Julie.

A character in the play “Kayak,” Julie has a list of “and’s” a mile long and growing.

She aggressively puts Annie Iverson between a rock (Mrs. Iverson’s son) and a hard place (the heart of Julie).

That casts Mrs. Iverson adrift.

We meet Mrs. Iverson adrift in a kayak on water someplace. She speaks to us. We learn about Peter and Julie and how Julie wormed her way into Peter’s environmental consciousness.

Mrs. Iverson is alone and she may be hallucinating for all her time adrift as she runs out of necessities but Peter and Julie drift in and out to create a saga of dilemmas.

Also drifting in and out is the story of Noah and the ark and an aura that something is impending and it ain’t good.

Created by Canadian playwright Jordan Hall, “Kayak” is theater of the mind.

Presented by Theatre Z of greater Green Bay, “Kayak” is alternating performances with “The Children” as part of a theme weekend in Jean Weidner Theatre of the Weidner Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.

“The Children” considers nuclear energy conundrums. “Kayak” considers oi! a kitchen sink full of dirty dishes of environmental/political/governmental/life style conundrums. Julie leaves no state of grace for those who do not toe her line of in-your-face protest for the betterment of the world.

As performance, the production finds three actors and their director flexing muscles in a spare setting enhanced by lighting and music effects.

Director Jennifer Kuchenbecker Thomas ratchets up the intensity level in the continuous hammer-and-tong quandary-pounding between the characters.

The setup: Peter (Alex Sabin) is on his way to graduating on his parents’ dime with a degree in business when Julie (Grace Sergott) deflects him in body and, mostly, in mind. Peter follows Julie’s way, which is a total opposite of the upper middle class, strong-willed Mrs. Iverson (Teresa Aportela Sergott).

The play is loaded with acting licks for these serious-minded players, and they deliver.

Teresa Aportela Sergott physically depicts the difficulties of someone lost on water while plunging into the mind of a mother exasperated by what is happening to her son. Toward the end, the play becomes a huge monologue for Teresa Aportela Sergott, with detail upon detail driven home.

Grace Sergott portrays an incendiary character like an arsonist. She knows how to light fires as Julie. Grace Sergott has a strong, clear voice and depicts a nagging and mocking manner so effectively that one may find oneself in Mrs. Iverson’s boat, truly hating Julie. (Teresa Aportela Sergott and Grace Sergott are mother and daughter. Theater… how great thou art in providing an opportunity for a mother and daughter to let fly in high-level performance).

Alex Sabin portrays Peter at different ages, as recalled by Mrs. Iverson. Sabin’s scope carries from boy to parentally dutiful collegian to smitten young man to apostle, with a shots of frustration (mom) and desperation (Julie) tossed in.

The interplay between the three is effective, often getting under one’s skin.

At first, the play has touches of dark, dark comedy. Julie is so adamant and rigid making one feel so WRONG in life style that her impossibilities seem laughable. But Julie’s pebbles become stones, become rocks, become boulders, become the weight of the world. And then there is scene in which Julie tells her version of Noah with Grace Sergott slowly stepping down the main aisle looking everyone straight in the eye individually. Talk about penetrating theater.

Like “The Children,” “Kayak” is conscious-raising. “Kayak,” though, is like a mean baseball pitcher who glares at the batter and has no qualms about throwing right square at the head.

***

Creative: Playwright Jordan Hall; director Jennifer Kuchenbecker Thomas; scenic and lighting design April Beiswenger; costume designer Elizabeth Jolly; sound design Danny Thomas

Cast:

Annie Iverson Teresa Aportela Sergott

Peter Iverson Alex Sabin

Julie Grace Sergott

Running time: One hour, 15 minutes

Remaining performances: 7:30 p.m. May 25 and 2 p.m.  May 26.

Info: snc.edu/tickets, theatrez.wordpress.com

***

IN REPERTORY: “The Children” by Lucy Kirkwood at 7:30 p.m. May 24 and 2 p.m. May 25.

VENUE: Jean Weidner Theatre is a fully outfitted black-box space (no adornments; focus on the stage) located in the southeast corner of the Edward W. Weidner Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. The space is devoted to UWGB Theatre and Dance programs. Entrance is by way of a set of steps in a “L” in a hallway connecting the theater to the outside in one direction and the rest of the large building in the other. The room has height more than two stories. The audience enters at approximately a second-story level. Viewing is downward, like that of an amphitheater. The performance space is intimate, demanding that the actors be focused on stage, despite being surrounded by prying eyes. The theater is the smallest of three contained in the Weidner Center.

THE PERSON: Jean Weidner was a psychotherapist and wife of Edward Weidner, founding chancellor of UWGB. The Weidners had four children. Jean Weidner died in 1997. A memorial service was held for her on the stage of the Weidner Center’s main stage amid spectacular set pieces of a touring production of “The Phantom of the Opera.”

Contact me at warren.gerds@wearegreenbay.com. Watch for my on-air Critic at Large editions on WFRV-TV at 6:20 a.m. Sundays. My seven books are available in Green Bay at Neville Public Museum and Bosse’s.

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