In the Waukesha Civic Theatre’s “Bad Seed,” from left, are Maddie Dixon (Rhoda Penmark), Mike Owens (Leroy), Kelly Simon (Christine Penmark) and Liz Tannehill (Monica Breedlove).

Photo by Van James Studio

WAUKESHA - ”Bad Seed” is an older play, the language is somewhat dated, but the subject matter is still relevant. It raises the age-old question of nature vs. nurture, genetics vs. environment.

The story centers on Rhoda, a young only child: pretty, gifted, educated in an expensive private school and doted upon by her mother Christine, her often-absent military father,  and the busybody landlady Monica, who lives upstairs with her brother Emery and often engaged in psychological babble.

Three other important characters are the maintenance man, Leroy, a rather warped but insightful character; an author of crime novels, Reginald Tasker; and Christine’s adoptive father, Richard Bravo.

As the story proceeds,  Claude, a young boy in Rhoda’s class mysteriously drowns at a class picnic. Upon examining the body, they find that his medal for winning the spelling bee is missing, something Rhoda thought she deserved.

Claude’s parents, Miss Fern, a teacher, and Leroy all suspect that Rhoda had something to do with Claude’s demise. As evidence begins to mount, Rhoda’s lies begin to weaken.

Of course, Christine is beside herself with anguish and guilt.

It is a disturbing piece. Psychopaths have always been a mystery, but when these characteristics surface in a young child, it is especially chilling.

The premise of this work seems to support the genetic-flaw theory for Rhoda’s behavior, which accounts for Christine’s drastic action at the end of the play.

The actors who are especially effective in their parts include Maddie Dixon as the disconcerting child, Kelly Simon as her harried mother, Elizabeth Tannehill as the meddlesome landlady and Mike Owens as the creepy janitor. Joel Marinan, Jena Dorn, David Jirik, Donna Daniels, Bill Kirsch, William Molitor and Kyle Kramer fill out the large cast.

The production is well-directed by Kelly Goeller. The set design by Michael Talaska and the costuming by Joanne Cunningham all contributed to the overall effect of this dark, but engaging story. 

A number of surprises await you. Was this choice of play made with Halloween in mind, perhaps?



“Bad Seed”

The drama runs through Nov. 10 at the Waukesha Civic Theatre, 264 W. Main St. , Waukesha.

Call 262-542-0708 or visit

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