Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Six Play Readings Scheduled in February at Theater in Sturgeon Bay

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Third Avenue Playhouse professional theater company has chosen six plays for its third annual Winter Play Reading Festival on two weekends Feb. 15-24. Info: thirdavenueplayhouse.com

According to a press release: Performances in the playhouse’s Studio Theatre are at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays.

Admission is by pay-what-you-can donations.

This year’s festival presents plays by six American playwrights. Included are an adaptation by a noted American playwright of a Norwegian classic and Wisconsin premiere.

The schedule:

+ Friday, Feb. 15: “An Enemy of the People” by Henrik Ibsen, adapted by Arthur Miller. Opening night of the festival is a collaboration with Door County Reads.

A small Norwegian town has just begun to win fame and wealth through its medicinal spring waters. Dr. Stockmann, resident physician in charge, discovers that the waters are poisoned. On receiving proof of this, he immediately reports to his associates, but is shocked to find that instead of being thanked, he is looked upon as a dangerous crank – a battle of political ambitions and moral integrity. First performed in 1883, Ibsen’s classic play still resonates today.  

+ Saturday, Feb. 16: “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” based on the novel by Mark Haddon, adapted by Simon Stephens; winner of the 2015 Tony Award for Best Play.

Fifteen-year-old Christopher has an extraordinary brain: He is exceptional at mathematics but ill-equipped to interpret everyday life. He has never ventured alone beyond the end of his road, he detests being touched and he distrusts strangers. Now it is 7 minutes after midnight, and Christopher stands beside his neighbor’s dead dog, Wellington, who has been speared with a garden fork. Finding himself under suspicion, Christopher is determined to solve the mystery of who murdered Wellington, and he carefully records each fact of the crime. But his detective work, forbidden by his father, takes him on a thrilling journey that upturns his world.

+ Sunday, Feb. 17: “Into the Breeches” by George Brant. Wisconsin premiere.

Providence, 1942: Oberon Play House’s director and leading men are off at war. Determined to press on, the director’s wife sets out to produce an all-female version of William Shakespeare’s “Henry V,” assembling an increasingly unexpected team united in desire, if not actual theater experience. A surprisingly modern and moving comedy about the singular way art and community reveal our boldest selves even in the darkest times.

+ Friday, Feb. 22: “A Life in the Theatre” by David Mamet.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright takes us into the lives of two actors: John, young and rising into the first flush of his success; the other Robert, older, anxious, and beginning to wane.  The play depicts the estrangement of youth from age and the wider, inevitable and endless cycle of life, in and out of theater.

+ Saturday, Feb. 23: “Orson’s Shadow” by Austin Pendleton.

An ingenious tale of two Hollywood giants – Orson Welles and Laurence Olivier. The time is 1960; the place is a West End theater. Legendary critic Kenneth Tynan has made a startling proposal: Welles should direct Olivier and the young Joan Plowright in “Rhinoceros,” Eugene Ionesco’s absurdist masterpiece. But it is the rehearsal process that brims with absurdity as titanic personalities, including Vivien Leigh, wrestle the muse in this witty and incisive depiction of the drama of theater.

+ Sunday, Feb. 24: “Fifth of July” by Lanford Wilson.

The third play in the Talley Family Trilogy along with “Talley’s Folly” (presented at Third Avenue Playhouse in 2015) and “Talley and Son.” This brilliant, enthralling play has been hailed as a major work by one of our theater’s most important and celebrated writers. Alternately funny and moving, it deals with a group of former student activists and the changes that have been wrought in their lives and attitudes in the years since leaving college. 

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.

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