- I first experienced Stephen Massicotte in “Mary’s
Wedding,” which was presented in Next Act Theatre’s
pleasant experience it was, I awaited his present play, “The
Clockmaker,” which opened last weekend at the same theater.
I was not disappointed to encounter this Canadian playwright
able tutelage of director Mary MacDonald Kerr and the acting
talents of Richard Halverson, Drew Brhel, Dan Katula and Molly
Rhode, another beautiful, challenging story unfolded. Together
with the magic light design of Jason Fassl, the simple but
versatile and surprising set design of Rick Graham and the
beautifully ominous sound design of David Cecsarini, we are
served a surreal, provocative look at time and eternity, and
how each individual will be judged by his or her use of it.
playwright plays with time, which is always an intriguing
exercise. Time is all we have as humans to forge a life for
ourselves. It is fragile and precarious. Some believe that we
are responsible for how we use it. Others believe that when
our time is over, it is over, amen. Some believe in heaven and
hell, and there are many versions of those “realities.”
So, we can speculate, and artists often do, and then we can
weigh and compare our interpretations with theirs, which this
characters intersect in this way. The play opens as St. Peter
(Monsieur Pierre) is questioning Heinrich Mann regarding his
life. At the time
we’re not sure, nor is Heinrich, as to what’s going on,
but Heinrich senses in some way that a record is being made of
his answers and his actions, and he is uncomfortable. Monsieur
Pierre is persistent and threatening, though polite. The
sparse setting is a bit unnerving.
former life, Heinrich was a clockmaker, but not the one he
hoped to be. He has not achieved his lofty goals of creating
the perfect clock, nor ever had a meaningful relationship. He
is a pretty sad soul, actually. Enter Frieda out of the rain
into his shop with a loaf of bread and a broken cuckoo clock.
She is earnest and frightened and beautiful. That is the start
of some major changes for Heinrich, Frieda and her husband
Adolphus, an abusive man.
Heinrich is totally absorbing and lovable; Frieda, as rendered
by Molly Rhode, is a poetic soul, overpowered by a brutal
husband. Dan Katula creates a despicable character in Adolphus,
trapped by his own emotional ineptitude. There are times we
pity him, but mostly we hate him.
scenes are very realistic to the point of making us very
uncomfortable. I don’t see a fight choreographer mentioned
in the program, so the actors must have blocked these scenes
themselves. That’s no small feat, especially on such a
small, intimate stage.
give away anything because it is fun to grapple with this
ambiguous puzzle and watch each character deal with the gift
of time and the choices each makes, I will end my review with
this directive: GO TO SEE IT.
Clockmaker,” true to the quality of the offerings Next Act
Theatre provides, is a grabber. It holds you for 100 minutes
and does not let you go.
Clockmaker” runs through Feb. 24 at the Next Act Theatre,
255 S. Water St., Milwaukee.
Call 414-278-0765 or visit www.nextact.org for show
times and tickets.