Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: Super-Sized Human Figure Ignites Restive ‘Salvage’ at Players

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Peninsula Players Theatre Salvage photo1_1536249747931.jpg.jpg

Character drives the play “Salvage.”

One of the two characters created by playwright Joseph Zettelmaier especially sizzles. He tugs the mind: What’s this guy about?

This character likes stuff. A shop he runs in Detroit is filled with stuff he calls collectibles.

This character’s “like” is hooked on love. He really doesn’t want to part with the stuff. His shop, Hidden Treasures, is so off the beaten track – hidden – that customers are rare. In the play, we see only one.

Into this character’s shop/home/haven arrives a woman. The man character kicks into gear.

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Photo caption: As collectibles shop owner Jason (Matt Holzfeind) talks on and on with vigor, customer Sarah (Melanie Keller) soaks up the jabber in a scene from the Peninsula Players Theatre production of “Salvage.” (Len Villano photo)

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We see obsession. When the woman playfully picks up a Frankenstein Monster doll, he is aghast. He quakes about is precious gem.

We see super-smartness. Facts and nuances of the collecting/selling genre pour from the man. The play is a little primer on what the field is like.

We see attraction. The woman has one need that weaves into another – the man/woman kind.

The man character is truly a wired hunk of humanity, an anomaly. Anomalies make yarns, make plays. Sometimes with play-anomalies, reality doesn’t get in the way of a good story. In other words with “Salvage,” things don’t wash. That said, don’t let too many questions get in the way of the experience of seeing a riveting character and his supple igniter.

At Peninsula Players Theatre, where the pros play and ripple their muscles, “Salvage” is getting a zesty, zingy burst to Oct. 14 as the fall production.

Directing is Greg Vinkler, with the production having all the marks of his attention to nuance of character. That includes an eye on stagecraft (the set) as a character and “minor” things that are telling (a dress that speaks quietly but firmly of allure and a handbag that speaks $$$).

The performance of Matt Holzfeind is the personification of a high-octane character. He makes Jason Byrnes hip, quick and driven to the nth. Jason doesn’t speak, he gushes. Jason never sits in a chair, he flop/lounges. Jason seldom rests, he restive-ises. Holzfeind makes one believe Jason is real.

The performance of Melanie Keller also is quite defined as Sarah Smith pushes the buttons that make Jason spring to action. As Jason jabbers, Sarah lays back, with her background mostly tiptoeing in the shadows. The shadows eventually come to the fore, and they are the stuff of spoilers that I have to avoid. This won’t be telling too much:

Sarah has come to the shop with a picture postcard. The postcard is the catalyst for Jason to do his thing. Does the postcard have value? And so the Jason-Sarah interconnect begins.

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Creative: Playwright – Joseph Zettlemaier; director – Greg Vinkler; scenic designer – J. Branson; properties designer – Wendy Huber; costume designer – Kyle R. Pingel; lighting designer – Charles Cooper; sound designer – Christopher Kriz; stage manager – Alden Vasquez; production manager – Cody Westgaard; scenic artist – Elyse Balogh; managing director – Brian Kelsey; artistic director – Greg Vinkler

Cast: Jason Byrnes – Matt Holzfeind; Sarah Smith – Melanie Keller

Running time: One hour, 45 minutes (no intermission)

Remaining performances: To Oct. 14: 7 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays at 7 p.m., except 3 p.m. Sundays, Sept. 9 and 23 and Oct. 14

Info: peninsulaplayers.com

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This and that:

+ This production is a play with 1,000 props – or a number close to that. Jason’s shop of collectibles includes toys, dolls, images or do-dads of – and this is a very short list – Darth Vader, Godzilla, Frankenstein Monster, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, Superman, Pez dispensers, a devil mask, a theatrical comedy/drama mask, snow globes, character lunch boxes and vintage vinyl recordings. It is the stuff that Jason says makes people feel like a kid again. Examining the set and props is a nostalgia trip of sci-fi/scary-fi misspent youth (I’m talking mine here).

+ Detroit gets both a tip of the hat and a poke in the eye. Poke: Playwright Joseph Zettelmaier likens the city to a leper trying to apply make-up to pass for attractive. Tip of hat: The music of Motown with a groove. Particularly clever is an infusion of the opening of the song “Money” to signal (oops, it would be a spoiler to say what).

+ While the focus of the set is Jason’s shop, a cityscape is suggested by a silhouette of Detroit building tops. The sky changes, by lighting effects, as time advances.

+ Playwright Joseph Zettelmaier creates much, much crisp byplay between Jason and Sarah. Lines fly. One distills why Jason’s shop is failing as he says to bewildered Sarah holding an object that in the end is but a thing, “You really can’t see how awesome it is.”

RELATED: Post-show discussion Saturday, Sept. 8, with cast creative team. Post-show discussion Saturday, Sept. 15, with playwright Joseph Zettelmaier, creative team and cast.

THE VENUE: The location of Peninsula Players Theatre’s Theatre in a Garden is about atmosphere – tall cedars and pines and shoreline vistas along the bay of Green Bay. Flowers and other decorative foliage grace footpaths that weave through the grounds, which have been extended to the south. Driving along Peninsula Players Road and passing farms and trees, the thought may occur: “This theater is in an unusual place.” The 621-seat theater house features Door County limestone in its interior décor. When the weather is friendly, the wooden slats of the side walls are rolled open to the outside. For cool fall nights, the theater floor is equipped with radiant heating for comfort. While the company dates back 83 years, the theater building is of 2006 vintage. The playhouse and theater were built on the site of the previous structure, which got wobbly with age. The location on the shores of Green Bay provides playgoers with pre-show picnicking and viewing the sunset. Here’s a theatrical rarity: The Players’ website provides sunset times.

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 latest book, “I Fell Out of a Tree in Fresno (and other writing adventures),” is available in Green Bay at Neville Public Museum and Bosse’s.

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

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