Daniels dog-gone convincing in 'Chesapeake' 

By JULIE McHALE - TimeOut Theater Critic

February 27, 2014


MILWAUKEE - If the subjects of politics, the arts and dogs interest you, you’ll find this production fascinating. 

In Tandem Theatre has taken on, via the talented actor Matt Daniels, the one-man show “Chesapeake.” Sometimes a woman has played the role, but either way, it is quite the challenge for one actor.  Daniels meets the daunting task of executing this complex script of the talented playwright Lee Blessing.

Blessing usually takes on pretty serious subjects, but he maintains his sense of humor in most of his scripts, and that is certainly true here. Especially when Kerr turns into a dog, we are often amused at his antics and Daniels’ ability to convey his “dogginess” so convincingly.

Strangely enough at the beginning of the play, Blessing seems to be poking fun of the arts, but we soon learn that he is ardently defending the importance of creativity and individual expression, even though people have very different tastes and sensitivities.

The story is basically a confrontation between a  performance artist and a Southern congressman. The legislator is trying to cut off the artist’s funds so the angry performer decides to revenge himself by kidnapping the politician’s Chesapeake retriever, his cherished political companion. What follows is a strange mix, hilarious and poignant. We come to appreciate the passion of actors, the conniving of politicians and the strange and wonderful world of dogs. There are some absolutely marvelous scenes when Daniels is playing the dog. The actor and the playwright must have an affinity for this species.

The play is a bit of a sleeper. The first half is somewhat slow, and I wasn’t  sure what to make of it, but in the second act, it keeps building and building until the end. Then I wanted to watch it again. It not only deals with the problem of government support for the arts, which has always been an issue in this country, but also the subjects of beauty, intellectual exploration, creativity, censorship, tolerance, compassion and love. It even suggests that perhaps people of different points of view could come to understand each other and accept alternate perspectives. (Wouldn’t that be nice for a change?)

“Chesapeake” will keep providing you with surprises. The well-conceived script, the myriad talents of Daniels, and the able direction of Chris Flieller will make the trip to In Tandem Theatre worth your while. If you’ve never encountered a Lee Blessing work, you should give him a try.

“Chesapeake” runs through March 16 at the Tenth Street Theatre, 628 N. 10th St., Milwaukee. For show times and tickets, call

271-1371 or visit