The Milwaukee Rep’s God Of Carnage

Friday night, I attended The Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s opening of Yasmina Reza’s God Of Carnage. And sadly, in his opening remarks, Rep Artistic Director Mark Clements reminded us that this is the last play in the Rep’s 2022/2023 season. A season that has seemed to end far too hastily.

I think I remembered this right, but mid-play or so, Veronica says: “I don’t have a sense of humor. And I have no intention of acquiring one”! And that is about how I felt as I was walking down the stairs from the Quadracci Theater.

left to right: Adam Poss. Heidi Armbruster, Makha Mthembu, and Elan Zafir. photo by Michael Brosilow and courtesy of The Milwaukee Repertory Theater.

This is a dark, dark, dark, dark comedy. There are four characters here. Two sets of parents who meet to discuss a playground altercation between their sons. What starts as a conversation in an obvious upper middle class home…as strangers begin to get to know each other…and begin to discuss the situation, we get to meet Veronica (Heidi Armbruster) and Michael (Adam Poss) as the parents of the ‘victim’, although that term may be up for review, and Annette (Makha Mthembu) and Alan (Elan Zafir) as the parents of the ‘attacker’, also open to reinterpretation or redefinition during the play.

left to right: Makha Mthembu, Elan Zafir, Heidi Armbruster (in rear) and Adam Poss. photo by Michael Brosilow and courtesy of The Milwaukee Repertory Theater.

But everything quickly leaves the tracks and we clearly witness the destruction and abandonment of civility and maybe even the demise of civilization…well certainly at least, social and cultural mores, marriage, personal space, and the shattering of the facade of personal identity. Director Ryan Quinn pushes and pushes the characters until the play lives up to its title, God Of Carnage, yet there are no gods here.

And then it ends. I wasn’t expecting the end when it occurred…but it ends. How could this be the end?

left to right: Adam Poss and Elan Zafir. photo by Michael Brosilow and courtesy of The Milwaukee Repertory Theater.

I am not sure what the cast does to unwind each evening after their performances but I can’t imagine the intensity of emotions that they are called upon to present can simply be shrugged off at curtain close. And there is no intermission in which to catch their breath…or ours for that matter.

This play feels particularly contemporary, and I guess that it is. And it feels particularly American of the moment…but it isn’t. God Of Carnage was originally written in French by Yasmina Reza. So we are seeing it in translation…the English translation by playwright Christopher Hampton.

God Of Carnage runs at the Rep’s Quadracci Powerhouse Theater from now through May 14, 2023. Ticket information and additional details can be found here.

Extra Credit Readings:

The God of Carnage Program: I would recommend the note from Mark Clements.

And the Playguide: there are a number of key articles here that you might want to read before attending the show.

left to right: Heidi Armbruster, Makha Mthembu, Elan Zafir, and Adam Poss. photo by Michael Brosilow and courtesy of The Milwaukee Repertory Theater.

The Greatest Love for Whitney, A Whitney Houston Tribute Created By Mark Clements At The Milwaukee Rep

I am feeling like a bit of a Stackner Cabaret ‘tween at the moment…too young to have appreciated Dean Martin (Dino just closed at the Stackner : see my response here) and too old to have been a fan of Whitney Houston. But I am being a little melodramatic here because I should admit that Beehive was in my wheelhouse (see my response here).

But yes, I didn’t really know what to expect from The Greatest Love for Whitney other than I was about to experience some incredible performers in outstanding performances…the high bar that The Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s Stackner Cabaret has set for itself. But everyone else knew why they were there and from the shout outs and sing-a-longs and applause, this show met with their expectations for a Whitney Houston experience!

And obviously Rep Artistic Director Mark Clements is a huge Whitney fan. And he has created an elegant and moving tribute to Whitney. The Stackner stage is just filled with star presence in actors Alina Cherone and Alesia Miller and the Rep’s own Musical Director Dan Kazemi as accompanist.

Alesia Miller and Alina Cherone, photo by Michael Brosilow and courtesy of The Milwaukee Repertory Theater.

Cherone and Miller have the perfect voices to showcase Whitney’s catalog of songs. And they trade off one after another taking the lead role…or double up when the song calls for extra emphasis…or bring up the harmonies when needed! Not a wrong note here. And in between the songs they present some background from Whitney’s career. And they also provide us with how Whitney provided them with a role model that helped bring them to the Stackner stage.

Alina Miller; photo by Michael Brosilow and courtesy of The Milwaukee Repertory Theater.

And Kazemi accompanies them on piano and keeps the orchestral backing tracks rolling right along. It was great to see him in the footlights on stage rather than just a photo in the program this time!

And I almost forgot…and how could I? Alesia Miller is a Milwaukee native and brings some local color to the stories she tells about growing up and pursuing the stage and music!

Alesia Miller; photo by Michael Brosilow and courtesy of The Milwaukee Repertory Theater.

And just an elegant and simple cabaret stage…stools…piano…microphones…drape rear curtain…and a neon Whitney signature sign. A completely supportive environment…nothing to distract from the actors or the music.

The Greatest Love for Whitney continues at the Rep’s Stackner Cabaret through May 28, 2023…additional information here. The link includes access to the trailer and rehearsal videos.

Extra credit reading: The Program.

And when you go, you may see Charlotte Odusanya as one of the actors…she wasn’t on stage the night that I attended the play. I imagine that she has her own Whitney story to tell as well!

Charlotte Odusanya; photo by Michael Brosilow and courtesy of The Milwaukee Repertory Theater.

PSA: Milwaukee Rep Looking For Actors and Musicians For Original Musical: Run Bambi Run

A very interesting and intriguing email hit my in box this morning…if I still had my rock star skills from the previous century, I’d be applying immediately! And there is a Violent Femmes connection here!

RUN BAMBI RUN Actor/Musician Open Call for Local Submissions

We are looking for local actor/musicians to join the cast of the world premiere musical RUN BAMBI RUN featuring a book by Academy Award-winner Eric Simonson (LOMBARDI) and an all new score by Grammy-nominee Gordon Gano of the Violent Femmes! We welcome submissions from all who are interested, regardless of formal theatrical experience.

We are specifically looking for skill in the following instrumentations: Bass, Guitars, Strings, Accordion, Woodwinds, Brass, Percussion . Multi-intrumentalists are encouraged!

Please fill out the form (see links below) with all of the requested information, and our Casting team will be in touch to schedule an audition time. Auditions will be held on April 5, with invited callbacks on April 6. Note: NYC Auditions will be posted March 17 via Actor’s Access and will be held in mid-April in New York City.

For the audition, performers will be asked to sing a song of their choosing in the spirit of a rock, power ballad or folk (no musical theater selections) and demonstrate versatility by playing one or more instruments.

Details on the production can be found below. Thank you for your interest!

SYNOPSIS: An outrageous ‘true crime’ saga that took the nation by storm, Lawrencia “Bambi” Bembenek’s fall from Milwaukee Police Department cop to Playboy Bunny lands her in the slammer, convicted of a murder that she didn’t commit. Or did she? This rollicking hometown story about truth and justice is a wild ride that you have to see to believe.

Run Bambi Run Book by Eric Simonson Music & Lyrics by Gordon Gano Directed by Mark Clements (LORT B) 1st Rehearsal – August 4, 2023; 1st Preview – September 13; Opening – September 22; Closing October 22.

More information and application for here: