Thursday, October 2, 2014


(Cast of IDENTITA left to right: Marion Araujo, Joan End, Joe Picchetti, Charles Hanel)

Generous Support Provided by UWM Slovenian Arts Program

Julie McHale’s Waukesha Freeman Review of IDENTITA

I am not an historian.  My knowledge of geography is also quite paltry. However, the present offering at Windfall Theatre still intrigued me. The story is universal; we can see the same forces and conflicts going on here in many parts of the world in some form ad infinitum.

The play by Louise Zamparutti, a local playwright who teaches at UWM, is entitled “Identita,” and identity is its subject.   Set in a small village on the border between Slovenia and Italy, it traces a family torn apart by WWII and the various allegiances espoused by different members in that family.  The story is told through the voice of a young American of Italian heritage who returns to the nation of his birth after 20 years to attend his father’s funeral.  He encounters many surprises and discovers a past that he was totally unaware of.

We have many expressions around the subject of identity. Someone is trying to “find himself.” “He’s not himself today.” “You’re not the person I thought you were.” One’s identity consists of one’s genetic heritage, one’s knowledge and experiences and talents, one’s self-concept. It is formed over time and is changed and shaped as we live our lives. And yet, I often hear people say that “People don’t change; they are who they are.” To simplify, perhaps one’s identity is that unique mix that constitutes each person’s essence.

Upon his arrival, Joe Picchetti, very well cast as Josh, the young American, comes upon a small coffee shop, run by Julia.  Marion Araujo, with her soulful face and serene wisdom, is an oasis for Josh as he encounters the turmoil among his relatives. He returns to her for solace and understanding whenever he runs into an obstacle on his journey.

During WWII, most of the countries invaded by the Nazis formed resistance units.  In many instances, they were poorly organized and not very effective. As is true in any diverse group, there were disagreements as to how to handle the Germans.  Resist or comply?  Which group to join? How to best resist?

Josh meets his great-aunt Vida and her husband Aldo, a couple of modest means and fierce loyalties to the past Italian resistance movement, and his great- uncle Fabio, Vida’s brother, and his snobby, pushy wife Paola, a couple of substantial means and some bitter feelings toward Vida and Aldo.  Josh is caught between them at times as he tries to gather material about his father and return to America unscathed.

What struck me most about this story is how quickly we rigidify, how judgmental and unforgiving and divisive we become, adopting the attitude of “If you disagree with me, you must be wrong.”  This lack of humility, this lack of effort to try to understand differences probably accounts for many a war. It almost makes me despair that humans will ever begin to live together peaceably.

Christine Horgen is powerful as Vida; Charles Hanel, a very lovable Aldo. Joan End did a good job of alienating us in her portrayal of Paola; her husband Fabio, played by Gregory Valentine, made me feel drained and resigned when the demands of life become too much for him. Overall, all the characters were quite well developed and portrayed.  Each elicited our pity and/or sympathy. The cellist, Alicia Storin, provided beautiful transitional music between scenes.

Check it out.  It will lead to a fruitful discussion.  “Identita,” directed by Carol Zippel, runs two more weekends in The Village Church on Juneau and Edison (one block east of Water Street) in Milwaukee.  Windfall is always worth a visit. 

Call414-332-3963 or visit Brown Paper Tickets  for times and tickets.

 (IDENTITA cast L-R: Christine Lathrop Horgen, Charles Hanel, Joe Picchetti, Gregory Valentine, Joan End)

Monday, April 14, 2014


The Cast of Windfall Theatre's STOREFRONT CHURCH
L to R: Shayne Steliga, Ben George, Jason Will, Howard Goldstein, Ericka Wade, Bill Jackson
Bill Jackson as Reverend Chester Kimmich and Shayne Steliga as Donaldo Calderon in STOREFRONT CHURCH

Windfall Theatre continues its 21st Season with
by John Patrick Shanley

Pulitzer Prize, Academy and Tony Award-winning playwright John Patrick Shanley's sharply affecting comedy for our timestells the tale of a Bronx Borough President forced by the mortgage crisis into a confrontation with a local minister causing them both to confront a question of conscience that faces us all: What is the relationship between spiritual experience and social action?

STOREFRONT CHURCH by John Patrick Shanley
May 2 - 17
(Fri. 5/2, Sat. 5/3, Fri. 5/9, Sat. 5/10,
Mon. 5/12, Thu. 5/15, Fri. 5/16, Sat. 5/17)

Ben George, Howard Goldstein, Bill Jackson, Shayne Steliga, Ericka Wade, Jason Will
Carol Zippel
Mohammad N. ElBsat

All Windfall performances are at 8pm
At Village Church Arts, 130 E. Juneau
Tickets $20.00
Box Office: 414-332-3963
Box Office: 414-332-3963

Box Office: 414-332-3963

Tuesday, February 4, 2014


The Cast of Windfall Theatre's THE PETRIFIED FOREST
Heat up your winter at Windfall Theatre's production of Robert Sherwood's THE PETRIFIED FOREST a play that is at once funny, romantic, political, violent and ironically resonant today as it was in 1934 when it opened on Broadway and captured the restless mood of the country. It was a huge hit and became a popular film. It tells the tale of hostages held by gangster Duke Mantee in an isolated gas station/diner in the Arizona desert. Their stories revolve around two restless souls: Alan Squier, a drifter searching for meaning to his existence and Gabrielle Maples, the diner's waitress who dreams of escaping to see the world.
FEATURING: Randall T. Anderson, Mark Boergers, Cleary Breunig,
Marcee Doherty-Elst, Mohammad N. ElBsat, Christopher Elst, Thom Gravelle,
Amanda J. Hull, Robert W.C. Kennedy, Tom Marks, Joe Picchetti
DIRECTION: Carol Zippel
COSTUMES: Kathy Smith
LIGHTING: Kevin Czarnota
Windfall Theatre Presents
by Robert Sherwood
February 14 - March 1
(2/14, 2/15, 2/21, 2/22, 2/24, 2/27, 2/28, 3/1)
Village Church Arts
130 E. Juneau Avenue
All performances at 8pm
Tickets $20.00
BOX OFFICE: 332-3963
Box Office: 414-332-3963


        Robert Sherwood is remembered for his stage plays, movie scripts and film reviews.  He is also the winner of four Pulitzer prizes. “The Petrified Forest” and “Abe Lincoln in Illinois” are two of his most famous plays, and “The Best Years of Our Lives” often makes the list of the 100 best films ever made.
         It is always satisfying to encounter a classic play again, and Windfall is not afraid to take the chance of unearthing a good one. I remember their production of Chekhov’s “Three Sisters” in 2010, proving again that scripts written many years ago still have relevance with human nature being the constant.
        “The Petrified Forest” takes place during the Great Depression in a small café in Arizona. The National Park by the same name is alluded to as a parallel to the lives of all the characters. Their dreams have been aborted, and except for the ending, when there is a glimmer of hope for one of the characters, the mood is dark and the prospects, stagnant.
         Three generations of family members run the Black Mesa Bar-B-Q Gas Station/Diner in the Arizona desert – Gramps, Jason and Gabby Maple.  Gramps wallows in his memories; Jason, in his glory days in WWI and his involvement in the American Legion, and Daughter Gabby in her dreams of going to France to re-unite with her mother and pursue art. Each of these characters is well developed as are several of the patrons who drop in for a beer,  a bite and a little comraderie.
         Boze, a former football star, works in the Café and is in hot pursuit of Gabby, who has bigger dreams. The arrival of another visitor, Alan Squier, changes the dynamic completely.  His inglorious failure as a gigolo, a husband and a would-be writer, colors his perception of himself and the world.  His allusion to T. S. Eliot’s “Hollow Men” pretty much sums up his dismal philosophy. He is smart, handsome, and disillusioned and depressed.  BUT, his conversation with Gabby elicits a few humane sparks in him. The contrast between Boze and Alan is stark and creates some tension and some suspense.
        A buildup of drama occurs when Duke Mantee (a character modeled after Dillinger) arrives with two of his henchmen and holds all the characters hostage. They have hi-jacked the car of the wealthy Mr. and Mrs. Chisholm, so these two characters and their chauffeur Joseph have also joined the trembling assemblage.
        Several surprises are in store for us as this encounter proceeds.  People’s characters are often revealed in crises, and that is certainly true here. Even Dillinger is seen as a human being, not just a bad guy.
        Well paced and directed by Carol Zippel, “The Petrified Forest” holds our interest throughout.  The standouts in a well chosen cast include Joe Picchetti as the cynical Squier, Amanda J. Hull as the tough-minded but innocent Gabby, Tom Marks as the fearless Gramp Maple, and Robert W. C. Kennedy as the slippery Duke Mantee.  Marcee Doherty Elst is memorable in her cameo role when she unearths some of her long-hidden frustrations.
        This production runs through March 1 with showings on February 21, 22, 24, 27, 28 and March 1.  There are no Sunday performances because Windfall’s Theatre is the Village Church at 130 E. Juneau in Milwaukee.  Call 414-332-3963 or visit their website at  If you’ve never attended a performance at Windfall, I recommend that you do if you’re looking for quality theatre in an intimate space at a reasonable price. The fact that they’ve been around since 1992 says a lot in a city where good theatre abounds.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

FEARLESS 2013-2014 SEASON 21


The cast of Windfall Theatre's production of An Empty Plate in the Café du Grand Boeuf
L to R: Lindsey Gagliano, Matt Wickey, David Flores (seated),
Christopher Elst and Mohammad ElBsat




Wednesday, April 10, 2013


Follow the links and read below the Rave Reviews and listen to a wonderful preview!
Julie McHale, Review (Waukesha Freeman and Bay View Compass)
Stephen Sondheim, considered by many as the ultimate composer of American musical theater, first gained notice when he wrote the lyrics for Bernstein’s score for “West Side Story.” Sondheim has a very unique musical style and is an exceptionally clever lyricist as well.  One doesn’t want to miss a word, so vocalists have to articulate very carefully when delivering his compositions.
Windfall Theatre celebrates its 20th anniversary with a stunning production of “A Little Night Music.”  One can hardly believe the assemblage of talent that Carol Zippel gathered for this show.  Sondheim himself would probably revel in this showing of his musical on its 40th anniversary.
Set in Sweden in the early 1900’s, it is based on an Ingmar Bergman film, “Smiles of a Summer Night.” There definitely are smiles in this show.  It swirls along with graceful dancing, sexual intrigue, amid the witty wisdom of Madame Armfeldt, the elder of the tribe, so deliciously portrayed by Michelle Waide.
The opening overture introduces us to five strong vocalists – Matt Wickey, Kristin Pagenkopf, Marcee Doherty-Elst, Isaac Brotzman, and Heather Reynolds – who set the tone of the whole production.  We already sense, under the musical direction of Christopher Wszalek, that we are in for a melodic banquet. This quintet of voices appears regularly to provide transitions and emphasize main turning points in the story.
The plot revolves around Fredrik Egerman, masterfully rendered by the incomparable David Flores, his second wife, the still innocent Anne, nicely depicted by the lovely vocalist Emily Pogorelc, his former lover and actor Desiree, a complex mix of flamboyance and confusion, cleverly captured by Tamara Martinsek, and another unforgettable couple, the blustering Count Malcolm (Christopher Elst) and his acerbic wife Charlotte (Laura Monagle), both of whom cross paths with Fredrik via Desiree.
Two other characters provide supreme delight – Doug Clemons as Henrik, Fredrick’s tortured son, and the flirty, dirty maid Petra, hilariously rendered by the inimitable Liz Mistele.  Alison Pogorelc does a good job as Desiree’s daughter and companion to her grandmother, Madame Armfeldt.
Few of Sondheim’s songs enjoy a life beyond his musicals, with the exception of “Send in the Clowns,” which provides the moving climax of this show when Fredrik and Desiree realize that they may finally get their timing right. There are many numbers, however, that are vital to the context of the story and are beautifully delivered by these gifted vocalists.
Several of these include, “Later” by Henrik; “Soon” by Fredrick, Anne and Henrik; “In Praise of Women” by Carl-Magnus Malcolm and “Every Day a Little Death” by Anne and Charlotte. The ensemble number “A Weekend in the Country”is especially well done, emphasizing in its lyrics Sondheim’s supreme sense of irony.  Mention must also be made of Petra’s strong rendering of “The Miller’s Son.”  Mistele has such a mischievous quality about her that one has to smile just anticipating her next move.
I can’t rave enough about this powerful show.  It already has made my list of “The Best of 2013” and it’s only May.  I can’t imagine another show that will match this one.  Because Windfall Theatre has its home in the Village Church at 130 E. Juneau in Milwaukee, there are no performances on Sunday. The remaining dates include May 10, 11, 16, 17, and 18. Call 414-332-3963 or visit before all the seats are taken. This is a small theater and a great production directed by the multi-talented Carol Zippel.

Monday, February 18, 2013

A Time To Live by Howard Goldstein

 Guarantee your seats to A Time To Live 
today by clicking the link below
to purchase your tickets at
"A TIME TO LIVE" by Howard Goldstein*****This new play is superb! Highly, highly recommended. Opening night played to a full house. It is such a pleasure to be totally involved in a theatre performance with wonderful humour, the input of Buddhism and the rich symbology of the waters of the Great Lake of Michigan and the seasons. The two actors had incredible chemistry - an essential for this play. I've seen Romeo and Juliet where all was dead - ghastly. Do go and see this play written by talented local playwright - Howard Goldstein at the charming, intimate Windfall Theatre in the Village Church on 130 E. Juneau, downtown Milwaukee. This is a writer who knows how to use his words well - shear poetry.
~Chris Merritt, Opening Night, February 15, audience member
There's nothing that terrifies us more or gets talked about less than what it means to die - or the related prospect of soldiering on when those dearest to us are gone. That's the subject of Howard Goldstein's "A Time to Live," now receiving its world premiere courtesy of Windfall Theatre - an intrepid company that consistently stages plays involving those thorny subjects that matter most. 
~ Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Review of “A Time To Live”                              
By Julie McHale, Waukesha Freeman
“A Time to Live” is the kind of sweet-sad play that quietly breaks your heart. Written by local playwright Howard  Goldstein and performed at The Windfall Theater in The Village Church on Juneau in Milwaukee, the story features a recently-married couple – she, a doctor, and he,  a professor of Eastern philosophy, living through the last year of their life together.

The setting is in Milwaukee, near Lake Michigan, a phenomenon of nature that figures prominently in the story.  The structure is episodic as the journey of Madeline and Richard unfolds through the four seasons of the year.  Besides the dialogue between the two characters, both speak directly to the audience at times, giving us some thoughts they don’t share with each other.

The set design is simple but effective.  It was a collaborative effort, shared by Carol Zippel (who also directed the play), Dan Austin and the playwright Howard Goldstein. Lighting was designed by Kevin Czarnota and is an important component in the story as time changes and wanes. The bed dominates the setting, but the window, the folding screen and the bookshelves filled with the “stuff” of their lives together also contribute to the story.

Madeline is dying of cancer and has chosen to stop treatment and try to enjoy the time that remains. Richard doesn’t totally agree with her decision but tries to be supportive and accepting.  A plethora of human emotions reveal themselves here – confusion, sadness, frustration, anger, love, fear, despair, hope.  Because their personalities are quite different, of course each character deals with pain and uncertainty quite differently, but the constant in the story is their steadfast love; albeit how to express it is far from simple and straightforward.  Madeline often seems to be pushing him away, helping him to learn to live without her, and Richard is either clinging or escaping.  Ironically, his knowledge of Buddhist teaching doesn’t seem to be a very helpful guide for him.  However, by the story’s end, one feels a peace and acceptance, indicating that both characters have reached some measure of wisdom in the painful process of facing their mortality.

Beth Monhollen and Christopher Elst are superb in their roles.  We grow to love them both but can’t quite understand how two such different people ended up together (but isn’t that always a mystery).

The references to and descriptions of Lake Michigan, which becomes a symbol of forces beyond our control, a source of beauty and enjoyment, and a reminder of how life is forever changing, greatly  enriches the  poignant, poetic script.

The intimate space of The Village Church is the perfect vehicle for a lovely but heart-wrenching piece such as this. Remaining performances of “A Time to Live” are February 22, 23, 25, 28, and March 1 and 2.  All shows start at 8:00 at 130 E. Juneau Avenue.  Call 414-332-3963 or visit for tickets. There was a full house on opening night, so don’t wait to reserve a seat.

By Matthew Reddin, Third CoastDigest
 Milwaukee doesn’t see a ton of world-premiere shows in a given season, so A Time to Live, at Windfall Theatre, has high expectations built in...this not-quite-a-play – a portrait, perhaps – has a poetry all its own. Goldstein and director Carol Zippel have brought us something a traditional play – with a clearly defined rising action, narrative beats, through-line, climax, etc. – might not have been able to provide with such simplicity: an honest, unpretentious look at a couple forced to live through dying earlier than they ever could have Time to Live develops, Monhollen and Elst gradually draw us in; every momentary success earns a smile of gladness and every reminder of her disease provokes a visceral tension...Portraits like this have existed in various mediums for decades, and will for decades more. But Windfall’s production of Goldstein’s play works because it stays on the right side of sentimentality and melodrama. Especially for a world premiere, that’s something to love.