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.