As we so seldom see plays that focus on several strong female characters, in this respect Marisa Wegrzyn”™s imperfect kitchen-sink comedy, The Butcher of Baraboo, is a real treat.
Set in a remote Wisconsin town during the heart of winter, the story concerns a group of small-town types, most of whom are related by marriage. Val (Janet Chamberlain) is the local butcher and she keeps a super-sharp and mean-looking cleaver in a handy wooden block at the edge of her kitchen bench. Her sullen grown daughter Midge (Nina Sallinen) works at the local pharmacy. Apparently Midge has been spotted by her sheriff Aunt Gail (a hilarious Rebecca Jordan) supplying local teen meth chemists with prescription meds.Â But live-wire Gail – Val”™s sister-in-law – isn”™t exactly above dabbling in a little drug use herself”¦
There”™s a fair amount of bickering and pot shots among the women. Beneath the spiky conversation lies an unsolved mystery; what really happened to Val”™s husband Frank, eventually pronounced dead although no body was ever found. Frank”™s brother Donal (Carl J. Johnson) and cop sister Gail both suspect that their sis-in-law Val dispatched him, seeing as she”™s so handy with that meat cleaver.Â Donal”™s wife Sevenly (Jenny Kern) – another sister-in-law – confides in Midge and pretty soon Midge comes under fire for “interfering”.
In my research I found thatÂ Wegrzyn had received some poor reviews when the play premiered. The Butcher of Baraboo made its debut at Chicago”™s Steppenwolf Theatre Company in 2006 and ran again at the Second Stage Theater in New York City a year later. Apparently one production was so deathly serious that it sucked all the humor from the material. Not so with the Road Theatre production. Director Mark St Amant directs his cast with a sure but subtle hand, eliciting superb line readings and spot-on comic timing. His light approach is certainly the wise and intuitively appropriate one for this difficult-to-quantify material.
Jeff McLaughlin”™s domestic country set is extraordinarily realistic and includes a functioning kitchen sink. Beautifully staged and acted, The Butcher of Baraboo is a fine and unusual darkly comedic play that will make you laugh more than you cringe.
The Road Theatre Company
5108 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood CA 91601
The Butcher of Baraboo
Runs until Saturday, December 11th, 2010.
Performances are at 8.00pm
Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Dec. 11th.
Box Office: (866) 811-4111
Check their website for designated **Pay-What-You-Can Nights**
Tickets (General Admission prices start at $24.00, Pay-What-You-Want Thursday performances) are on sale now online or via credit card phone order at 866.811.4111.
Group Tickets are on sale now at 818.789.1655.Â Student, Senior and 3-A Union Member discounts available.
The Road Theatre Company, located two blocks south of Magnolia Bl. in the historic Lankershim Arts Center, 5108 Lankershim Bl. in the heart of North Hollywood”™s NoHo Arts District.
For further information, call 866.811.4111 or log on here.
ABOUT THE ROAD THEATRE
Founded by Taylor Gilbert in 1991, The Road Theatre Company has amassed more than 130 regional theater awards and is helmed by Artistic Directors Taylor Gilbert and Sam Anderson, and Corporate Board President, Ian Bryce. Celebrated for its commitment to the most meaningful and dangerous of theater missions- New Work for the Stage, The Road Theatre Company also remains committed to community service and is the resident company in charge of the Historic Lankershim Arts Center and its programming. Please visit RoadTheare.org and LankershimArtsCenter.com
Review by Pauline Adamek