Read highlights from the USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin article
The second and closing week of the Winter Play Reading Festival at Third Avenue Playhouse continues with a reading a day from Feb. 23 to 26.
The festival resumes Feb. 23 when Mark Moede directs Anne Herring and Thor Thoreson in the two-character play “When the World Was Green (A Chef’s Fable)” by Joseph Chaikin and Sam Shepard.
This hauntingly lyrical memory play is steeped in the elliptical, poetic style for which Shepard, whose “Buried Child” won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1979, is celebrated.
Chaikin and Shepard were commissioned to pen this play for the 1996 Olympics Arts Festival in Atlanta, held in conjunction with the Summer Olympic Games in that city that year. The play has an old man (Thoreson) who was once a superb chef and a young reporter (Herring) who comes to interview him in the prison where he as been locked up for many years after poisoning a man.
Their conversations are interspersed with a sequence of monologues in which both characters recall incidents from their childhood. These link together to form a narrative of regret and loss through which they transcend their memories and reach mutual forgiveness and love.
Sketched out in just a handful of scenes is a world of sensual delight, of great journeys to distant lands, and exotic food “piled as high as a mountain, glistening in the sun.” But the beauty of Shepard’s landscape is only skin-deep. Under the surface lies a family vendetta that has lasted for seven generations.
Feb. 24 brings a reading of “Constellations” by Nick Payne. Directed by Richard Carlson and performed by Logan Thomas and Victoria Kleidon-Linstrom, this romantic journey, which premiered in 2012, begins with a simple encounter between a man and a woman.
What happens next defies the boundaries of the world we think we know, delving into the infinite possibilities of their relationship and raising questions about the difference between choice and destiny.
“Who knew that higher physics could be so sexy, so accessible-and so emotionally devastating?” Ben Brantley wrote in his review of a 2015 Broadway production of “Constellations” for the New York Times, a show that starred Jake Gyllenhaal and Ruth Wilson. “Time, it turns out, is a more effective breaker of hearts than human beings, with all their conflicted intentions, can ever be. This story of parallel universes is universal in every sense of the word.”
Next, well-known Door County actor and director Amy Ensign directs the festival’s largest cast — Isaiah Spetz, Janae Mancheski, John Wilson, Ginger Auld, Mary White, Donna Johnson, Mark Moede, Mike Bleck, Kole Mallien and Ross Dipple — in Martin McDonagh’s “The Cripple of Inishmaan” on Feb. 25.
Set on a remote island off the west coast of Ireland in 1934, this is a comic tale in the tradition of Irish story telling. As word arrives that a Hollywood director is coming to the neighboring island of Inishmore to film a new production, the one person who wants to be in the film more than anybody is young Cripple Billy (Spetz), if only to break away from the bitter tedium of his daily life.
“The Cripple of Inishmaan” premiered in London in 1996 and made its way to the United States two years later. A Broadway revival in 2014 received six Tony Award nominations. Four other McDonagh plays have been nominated for Tonys, and his works have won awards in the U.S. and Britain.
As a movie screenwriter and director, McDonagh won an Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film in 2006 for “Six Shooter” and was nominated for Original Screenplay for the 2008 dark comedy “In Bruges.”
Closing the festival Feb. 26 is Bruce Graham‘s “Stella and Lou,” with TAP co-artistic director James Valcq directing company favorites Moede and Claire Morkin.
“Stella and Lou” premiered in 2013, starring Rhea Perlman. It has two kindred spirits seeking solace on a quiet night at Lou’s Bar as they navigate changing times and relationships past in an intimate exploration of friendship, forgiveness, and later-in-life longing for companionship that grows with the passage of time.
Graham has written extensively not only for stage but TV and movies as well. His plays have been nominated for numerous regional theater awards and won several, including a 2011 Joseph Jefferson Award for Chicago-area theater for “The Outgoing Tide.”
Play readings start at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays in the 84-seat Studio Theatre at TAP, 239 N. Third Ave., Sturgeon Bay. General admission is pay-what-you-can. For more information, visit the TAP box office, across the street from the theater at 234 N. Third Ave., or call 920-743-1760.