Milwaukee is often portrayed as a lifeless, lost city, and to a certain extent this description more accurately fits the play that carries the name. At times hilarious, but often tedious, Kerry Silva’s “Milwaukee,” opened last night in the Off-Broadway Theater Space.
Exploring the transition from youth to adulthood, Tucker (Christopher Burke ’03) and Ralph (Jackson Loo ’02) are directionless brothers who are thrust into a metaphysical examination of the purpose of life when Tucker steals Ralph’s car and follows an unknown woman, Molly (Maria Elena Kilovos ’02), to Milwaukee. Living entirely in the car for several days in pursuit of Molly, Tucker re-examines his role in the world and his relationships with his friends and family while Ralph tries to mask the loss of his brother with contempt for the loss of his car.
The entire plays centers around the serendipitous circumstances that have Tucker following Molly across the country. Yet when Tucker finally catches up to Molly, the meeting is disappointingly spiritless and reminiscent of a Seinfield episode. The characters are artificially comfortable with one another, and Molly’s intentional rambling, during which she goes from thoughtful and articulate to annoyingly misguided, slows the play to a standstill.
Although the anticlimactic ending is a big letdown, good direction, a fantastic set and even better acting save the show.
Making the best of a spiritless script, Burke and Loo are a dynamic combination. Loo appears to be the only actor who is truly comfortable on stage, since he convincingly portrays the older brother with enthusiasm. He nails his punch lines with precision, providing comic relief for the audience, by now bogged down with Molly’s vague analogies about life.
Burke’s appropriately awkward portrayal of his mid-20s character is almost as clever. Although he begins with a noticeable lack of energy and conviction, he builds up credibility as the play progresses. Playing the mother of these two, Jacqueline Sibblies ’03 ranges from sweet and pleasant to a forceful mediator, showing this versatility best when attempting to reconcile the differences of her sons. She is at times frank about Tucker’s metamorphoses, and yet other times she romanticizes her children’s youth.
The three show their best acting during an emotional three-way conference call when both brothers end up speaking through their mother. They build upon the comedic circumstances of the difficult reception wonderfully with elevated voices and repetition of lines.
While her character lacked depth, Kolovos gave a strong performance; having clearly worked on expression and posture, she added believability to her odd character. The ensemble is vibrant and funny, playing off of each other intuitively to create a cohesive group. Evidently, the cast benefited greatly from the direction of Erika MacDonald ’03.
The innovative set design by Ariel Williams ’03 serves much more than as a backdrop to the acting. Car windshields and phone booths drop flawlessly from the ceiling, contributing to a seamless transition between scenes. Adding to this transition are two white screens showing black and white slides of inner-city life on one hand and a long winding Midwestern road on the other.
The vivid contrasts of these images could either represent the transformation of Tucker’s character between environments or the stark contrast between a dull script and a colorful cast.
Friday at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m.
Saturday at 8 p.m.
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