Stage Passion: Show People

The play begins with a man and woman In costume—sounds simple enough. But the audience quickly finds out that the costumed man and woman are actors onstage who are playing actors offstage who are being paid to portray the parents of a software millionaire in his effort to impress a girl. As convoluted as the beginning may be, the plot gets even more bewildering as it twists toward its inevitable climax. And so it goes with playwright Paul Weitz’s fast-paced 2006 comedy of identity, Show People.

Photo by Sal Tomasello

Written by the same man who created the screenplays for Antz and Nutty Professor II: The Slumps, this comedy may not be the deepest piece of contemporary theater, but with its deliberate obscuring of the nature of truth and identity, Weitz’s script ‘offers an undeniable appeal. It’s taken a couple of years for Weitz’s play to make it to Milwaukee, but Raymond Bradford’s RSVP Productions presents the show at the cozy Astor Theater starting Nov. 7.

Photo by Sal Tomasello

The first production in RSVP’s two-show season, Show People appealed to Bradford because of its unwavering look at theater itself. “Show People deals with the need to perform and the need to create and direct,” Bradford says.

The characters are driven to carve out a life in theater any cost. Ultimately, this is a show about what makes theater so appealing. And while Show People focuses on the darker end of stage passion, Bradford’s intentions seem much lighter: to produce an enjoyable, 80-minute show that will provide audiences with fun entertainment and leave them with ample time for dinner and drinks afterward.

Bradford, who has been directing theater for a number of years, says he was also drawn to the script by the opportunity to work with a small cast. The four actors in Show People have shown considerable promise in recent productions. Veteran Milwaukee actress Sharon Nieman is joined by a trio of actors who starred in Spiral Theater’s July production of Wait Until Dark: Brian Richards, Gloria Loeding and Randall Anderson. Richards exhibited a serious emotional presence that should contrast well with his comedic role this time around. Loeding exuded a promising stage presence despite her lack of experience, and Anderson showed a smooth charisma that will serve this production quite well. It’s a talented cast that should have little difficulty mastering such a challenging plot.