The world premiere run of Work Song, the play that reignites interest in the passionate life of influential architect Frank Lloyd Wright, ends Oct. 8 at Milwaukee Repertory Theatre.
Regional critics and commercial and nonprofit producers made the trek to Wisconsin — Wright's turf — to witness the new work by Jeffrey Hatcher and Eric Simonson, constructed as three one-acts focusing on different parts of the late Wright's life. Simonson directed. Performances began Sept. 6 and official opening was Sept. 9.
Richard Christiansen of the Chicago Tribune embraced the work, but there is no immediate regional or commercial future for the play, according to Milwaukee Rep sources. Hatcher is the author of such popular regional plays as Three Viewings, Smash and Scotland Road. Simonson is a busy regional theatre director who was Tony Award-nominated for helming The Song of Jacob Zulu on Broadway in 1992-93.
Tickets are still available for the final weekend of Work Song at the Rep's Quadracci Powerhouse Theater.
* Wright, a Wisconsin native, is seen in three one-act plays that make up the collage-like Work Song, a large-cast epic that began the Rep season as one of Milwaukee's major arts events of the year. Prior to the opening, a Rep spokesperson told Playbill On-Line that because of Wright's Midwest and Wisconsin roots, there is genuine buzz in town about the show.
Audiences are offered three objective views of the man, in separate acts set at different times in his life. The tension between Wright's personal and creative work is explored in the piece, presented by 24 performers. Wright (1869-1959) created the "prairie style" of architecture that stressed horizontal lines and never broke ties to his home state (his famed home, Taliesen, twice rebuilt, is in Spring Green, WI).
According to production notes, the staging "uses visual and architectural elements to animate the spirit and sense of Wright's architecture on stage." Singers will perform a song called "Work Song" in the show; the song is a poem to which Wright's wife added music.
Rep ensemble member Lee E. Ernst plays Frank Lloyd Wright.
The cast also includes Laura Gordon, Torrey Hanson, James Pickering, Rose Pickering, Kirsten Potter, Ron Frazier, Richard Halverson, Angela Iannone, Leon Addison Brown, Andrew Morris, Chris Mangels, Christopher Prentice, Andy Gladbach, Andrew Groble, Ian Alderman, Heather Rene Corallo, Jeff Ehren, Lisa C. Jones, Sarah Patterson Malkin, Trina Nance, Robert P. Reeves III, Molly Rhode, Leon Satchell-Paige, Charles R. Schoenherr.
Designers are Kent Dorsey (set), Karin Kopischke (costume), Chris Parry (lighting), John Boesche (projection), Barry G. Funderburg (sound). Ed Burgess is choreographer, Randal Swiggum is choral director and Ernst is the fight choreographer.
Tickets are $5-$40. The Milwaukee Rep Patty and Jay Baker Theater Complex is at 108 E. Wells, in downtown Milwaukee. For information, call (414) 224-9490.
This is not the first stage show to approach the subject of Wright. Daron Hagen's opera, Shining Brow, has played Wisconsin and Chicago. Next up for the Rep's Quadracci Powerhouse is W.S. Gilbert's farcical comedy, Engaged, Oct. 18-Nov. 19.
— By Kenneth Jones