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Theatre Gigante dishes on life, liberty, the pursuit of everything

By Michael Muckian, Contributing writer

Theatre Gigante, the company known for freely adapting the works of Shakespeare and others to its unique style, has applied its artistic revision to one of its own works.

The new production the way things go has its roots in a monologue co-artistic director Mark Anderson wrote nearly 25 years ago. Partner Isabelle Kralj has taken Anderson’s lengthy riff on “birth, love, the cosmos and everything in between” and adapted it for nine voices and musical accompaniment by one-man band Frank Pahl.

The result, say the two artistic directors, is another in a long line of plays unique to Theatre Gigante’s style and approach. It will run April 21–29 at Alverno College’s Pitman Theatre.

“We did an earlier version in Slovenia that I adapted for two voices and a drummer,” says Kralj, who once performed with the Slovenian National Theater Ballet, as well as teaching dance at Alverno and UWM. “We enjoyed it so much that we decided to perform it here rather than do Lysistrata as we had previously planned.”

Kralj, Anderson and Pahl provide three of those nine voices, all of whom speak their lines in the second-person, as if offering advice to the audience.

“I don’t remember the thinking that first prompted this idea when I originally started scribbling,” says Anderson, who teaches part-time at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design. “It’s about the things you know now that you didn’t know back then, a way of telling your younger self what’s going to happen.”

The other six voices belong to actors Marissa Clayton, Kat Grunert, Evan James Koepnick, Jordan Mackin, Melissa Matson and Ron Scot Fry.

Director Kralj has mixed up the voices to include young and old, male and female. There also is song, dance, juggling and a stilt-walker.

“Everything is a metaphor for the fumblings and rumblings and things we do working through life,” she says. “It’s a complete piece and I am amazed Mark wrote it when he was so young.”

The work’s storytelling style helps the play fall neatly into the unique oeuvre that Kralj and Anderson have created for Theatre Gigante, which next year celebrates its 30th anniversary.

“But it’s also different enough so there will be a few surprises,” Kralj says. “It also has a lovely cast, including a few people who have never worked with us before whom we are really enjoying.”

Next up for Kralj and Anderson will be the translation into English of the play Tarzan by Slovenian playwright Rok Vilcnik. The playwright takes more than a few liberties with the original Edgar Rice Burroughs character.

“It’s about Tarzan, Jane and a hyena named Mike, all of whom are past their prime,” Kralj says. “It’s a comedy, but it makes some important ecological points about the rainforest, the jungle and the world.”

There’s no word yet whether there will a part in the play for a one-man band.

On stage

Theatre Gigante’s production of the way things go runs April 21–29 at Alverno College’s Pitman Theatre, 3431 S. 39th St., Milwaukee. Tickets are $10–$25, plus a service fee. To order, go online to giganteway.brownpapertickets.com or call 800-838-3006.

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