The Best of the Rest: My Favorite Mark-Era Rep Shows Directed by Someone Not Named Clements
Nearly 100 Rep shows during Mark Clement’s decade-long tenure as Artistic Director have been helmed by directors other than Mark himself. Recently, I relived memories of my ten favorite Mark-directed shows. This week, I review my favorite ten Clements-era shows directed by someone other than Mark.
1. Fences (2016): Longtime August Wilson collaborator and director Lou Bellamy said The Milwaukee Rep ensemble that performed Fences was “easily the strongest I’ve had the pleasure of leading.” Watching this production, it was easy to see why. Milwaukee Rep’s Fences is among the best of the fifty-plus Wilson productions I’ve seen.
2. A Raisin in the Sun (2013): Directing a top-notch cast led by Chiké Johnson (Walter) and Greta Oglesby (Lena), Ron OJ Parson gave us a Raisin that I said in my review “will go down as a landmark we’ll be talking about for years.”
3. The Foreigner (2016): In a stellar Milwaukee Rep debut, Matt Zambrano’s Charlie offered a timely reminder that foreigners can show us the way to become our best selves.
4. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (2011): Ron OJ Parson (making his Rep debut) and an outstanding Greta Oglesby (Ma Rainey) teamed up for Milwaukee Rep’s first staging of this Wilson classic, asking how you make yourself heard in a racist society that won’t listen.
5. Woody Sez: The Life and Music of Woody Guthrie (2014): True to this show’s title, writer and lead performer David M. Lutken honored Guthrie’s populist aesthetic, in which a hard-hitting and left-leaning message is delivered with folksy charm and good humor.
6. The Invisible Hand (2016): Under Lucie Tiberghien’s direction, Milwaukee Rep’s production of Ayad Akhtar’s best play was presented as a provocative and fast-paced thriller in which the line between capitalists and terrorists proves much thinner than we think.
7. To Kill a Mockingbird (2012): Long before the new adaptation of Mockingbird by Aaron Sorkin, director Aaron Posner made clear that this story from long ago is all about the here and now, in a country that’s still searching for the promised land.
8. Good People (2015): Laura Gordon’s portrait of a working-class woman who has been left behind dramatized the chasm separating rich from poor in urban America.
9. An Iliad (2014): Under John Langs’ brilliant direction, Wisconsin acting legend Jim DeVita’s Poet brought home the cost of war, in a show that could make a pacifist of the most hard-headed and hidebound hawk.
Matthew Brumlow and Peter Silbert in Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s 2010/11 Season production of Nobody Lonesome For Me. Photo by Michael Brosilow.
10. Nobody Lonesome for Me (2011): Lanie Robertson’s haunting script gave us the man behind the Hank Williams legend; Matthew Brumlow brought him alive.