by James Norris
The cast of “Return of the Heir,” from left: Tom Marks,
Sophia Diliberti, Hayley San Fillippo, Marie Arndorfer, Cory
Jefferson Hagen, Phil Stepanski, April Paul, Margaret Casey
and Mark Flagg. The Milwaukee Entertainment Group uses
the Brumder Mansion in Milwaukee to good effect - before and
during the play.
The Milwaukee Entertainment Group, which performs at the Brumder
Mansion, almost always makes use of the beautiful estate and
playhouse in its productions.
with the gracious surroundings, one is greeted warmly at the door
either by the artistic director, Tom Marks, or by the owner, Tom
Carr. Wine or water is available for purchase in the foyer, and
one is often invited to enter the dining room to indulge in some
tasty confection before the performance. There are lovely parlors
to enjoy a small repast and await an invitation to proceed
downstairs to the theater.
Since this is
their Christmas offering, the Carrs are especially generous in
their offerings before the show.
used in many of the recent productions is to have the play begin
in the foyer as we observe and interact with some of the cast. In
this one, “Return of the Heir,” by Amanda Hull, we become the
townspeople, anticipating the return of Alfie, the eldest son, who
has been gone from the MacKenzie estate for a decade. One senses
that his choice to leave home and live in London for 10 years was
regarded with mixed emotions by his parents, his sister Dee and
his almost-brother Dudley, who lives at the estate. How he will
fit back in is the burning question throughout the story.
in the foyer watching the MacKenzies’ dynamics for almost 25
minutes (a bit too long, I thought), we were invited into the
living room of the MacKenzie home downstairs, where Christmas
decorations, a lovely fire and a cozy atmosphere awaited us. There
we became part of their holiday celebrations and began more to
understand the characters and their family history.
As the story
unfolds, we become attached to all the family members and their
close friends and their past relationships as well as how they
feel about each other now. I won’t reveal too much to avoid
spoiling the twists and turns that every family has in its unique
All the actors
are well-cast, including the little one, Marie Arndorfer, who
played Dotty Fitzsimmons so skillfully. The others include Phil
Stepanski as the charming Alfie, Haley San Fillippo as the lovable
Molly, Cory Jefferson Hagen as the bombastic Dudley, Mark Flagg as
the befuddled Harold MacKenzie, Margaret Casey as the devoted
Marjorie MacKenzie, April Paul as the rebuffed Dee MacKenzie, and
Tom Marks as the mysterious Walter Bradley.
audience involvement during the show, making us feel that we, too,
are a part of their Christmas celebrations. Though the play itself
is loosely structured, it is nonetheless a very entertaining
experience, and we leave the theater feeling warm and satisfied.
Amanda Hull, “Return of the Heir” runs one more weekend.