Dueling Critics head to the suburbs and take on seasonal theater

June 24, 2011

JONATHAN: Kelly, what are we talking about today?
 
KELLY: Actually, Jonathan, I'm going to let you do all the talking this week.
 
JONATHAN: You recognize at last the depth of my knowledge of theater, the acuity of my observations and the astuteness of my analysis.
 
KELLY: In a pig's eye, mister! I'm out-of-town. Indeed, I'm out-of-country. I'm in Russia seeing the astonishing classical art at The Hermitage in St. Petersburg. I know how your mind works, Jonathan. You're thinking, "At last Kelly will see what a naked man looks like."
 
JONATHAN: Oh, Kelly, how little you know me! I assure you I have only your best interests at heart. What I'm thinking is how dangerous Russia will be for you, given your well-known compulsive thirst for vodka. You've done so well in that 12-step program, Kelly, and now I fear for you, I really do.
 
KELLY: In a pig's eye, mister! Joke's on you 'cause I've made a solemn vow NOT to touch a drop of vodka once the sun goes down.
 
JONATHAN: But isn't this the time of the "white nights" in St. Pete? When the sun doesn't set until 3AM and comes up again at 4AM?
 
KELLY: That's the problem with you, Jonathan, you just can't do anything for a lark. You're always concerned with the practicalities. Besides, how can you read Chekhov in the dark? You need lots and lots and lots of daylight.
 
JONATHAN: Is that what you're doing? Reading Chekhov?
 
KELLY: Yes, and eating cherries. They're in season here. Cherries and Chekhov go together, you know. Are there any in Chicago yet? I mean cherries, not Chekhovs.
 
JONATHAN: Not yet, but maybe if I went up to Door County, WI or into Michigan I might score the first crop.
 
KELLY: Leave it to you to cherry-pick the cherries.
 
JONATHAN: If that were a Jewish joke I'd say "I'll pass over that one."
 
KELLY: Since you're a theater critic, it's more likely that you'd nit-pick the cherries. But are you going Up North? You know our Midwestern cherrylands have some wonderful, fun summer theaters. There are three in Door County alone beginning with the Peninsula Players in Fish Creek, WI.
 
JONATHAN: The troupe is back for its 76th year with a resident company in five plays. The current show is a world premiere comedy by Chicago actor/writer Sean Grennan, Making God Laugh (through July 3), followed by The Importance of Being Earnest (July 6-24) with artistic director Greg Vinkler as Lady Bracknell. The Peninsula Players season runs through Oct. 14. The new pavilion is a handsome and comfortable space and, as always, the sunsets over Green Bay are spectacular. www.peninsulaplayers.com
 
KELLY: Isn't American Folklore Theatre in Fish Creek, too?
 
JONATHAN: Good memory, Kelly. I guess you haven't slugged down enough vodka yet. American Folklore Theatre is just up the road from Peninsula Players and is situated within Peninsula State Park. The company offers 90- minute, family-friendly, original musicals based on Wisconsin and American history. The June 15-Aug. 27 outdoor season offers Bing! The Cherry MusicalGuys and Does and Lumberjacks in Love, all of which sound sexual to me.
 
KELLY: Jonathan, you think a turtle sounds sexual. The newest Door County troupe is Door Shakespeare in Baileys Harbor on the quieter Eastern Shore, isn't that right?
 
JONATHAN: Yes, Kelly, you're as sharp as the knock of the KGB on your door at midnight. Door Shakespeare offers Twelfth Night and Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice in nightly rotation for its 12th season, July 8-Aug. 21. The company location is a beautiful, 400-acre private estate called Bjorklunden which makes a perfect garden setting for Door Shakes. Ask about their free wine tasting and dessert nights.
 
KELLY: Food, booze and turtles, it's always the same with you.
 
JONATHAN: I wouldn't talk, Ms. Vodka-Breath. Reading Chekhov and eating cherries, right!
 
KELLY: So what about Michigan cherries?
 
JONATHAN: Well, the really, really good news is that the Barn Theatre is back after a year's hiatus. This wonderful old dairy barn in small, rural Augusta, MI was converted into a summer stock theater in1945 and has been family owned-and-operated ever since. The Equity stock company presents four musicals and two plays through Labor Day Weekend, currently Jeff Daniels's Escanaba in Love (through June 26) followed by Man of La Mancha (June 28-July 10). Halfway between Kalamazoo and Battle Creek, the Barn Theatre is genuine summer stock the way it used to be when I was doing it before the Crimean War. www.barntheatre.com
 
KELLY: I have no doubt, Jonathan. What about the Mason Street Warehouse in Saugatuck?
 
JONATHAN: Won't do you any good, Kelly. You need a nip-and-tuck.
 
KELLY: I'll pass over that one.
 
JONATHAN: Now in its ninth year, Mason Street Warehouse brings Equity theater to the other side of the lake, opening this weekend with Chicago (through July 17) followed by Five Guys Named Moe (July 22-Aug. 7) with two more shows to follow through Sept. 4. They do fine work in a weather-protected venue surrounded by excellent restaurants, art galleries and luxury B&B's. Why bother to drive and fight traffic when you can pull up in your yacht? 
 
KELLY: Aren't there a lot more seasonal theaters in the tri-state area?
 
JONATHAN: Yes, but these are the ones in Cherry Country. Maybe we can talk about the others when you're back . . . if you can walk a straight line. Which reminds me, how about bringing me back a bottle of really primo authentic vodka and some caviar?
 
KELLY: In a pig's eye, mister.