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Boomerang kids cause chaos in WCT comedy

'Alone Together' strikes a familiar chord with audience

Feb. 15, 2011

In "Alone Together," Waukesha Civic Theatre's latest offering, Californians Helene and George Butler (Donna Daniels and Dan Hargarten) have just seen their third and youngest child, Keith (Harry Brammer), leave the nest as he heads off to college in another state.

Sons Michael (Sean Duncan) and Elliott (Eric Eggers) are also miles away and Helene and George waste no time in planning their new life, sans children.

George is so happy about this new chapter in his life that he draws a map with pegs in Texas, New England and Washington State, indicating the distance between parents and children for a visual exclamation point to the couple's new course in life.

He's also gathered some delightful cheeses and a couple bottles of wines for a romantic evening to celebrate.

But before you can say "pop the Pinot Grigio," Michael, who is stressed out about his MIT teaching position, returns home. Hot on his heels is Elliott, whose skirt-chasing has gotten him bounced out of his Texas home and marriage and back into his parents' home in Los Angeles.

Knowing that his room at home is available while he's at school, Keith offers it to a female friend, Janie (Jenny Kosek), so the once-quiet household is again filled to capacity and filled with chaos.

The comedy, set in the '70s, drew lots of laughs on opening night and still resonates with audiences. Parents of adult children can relate to George as he's all set to give Michael some tough parting words, only to be dissuaded by his genius son's ironclad debate skills tempered with a guilt trip. Moms will feel Helene's tug of heart as she looks forward to the quiet days ahead and returning to her art hobby, yet feels the loss of her days of mothering.

And adult children may no doubt see themselves when they've returned to their parents in times of trouble.

Daniels and Hargarten are nicely paired as the exasperated couple weathering the temporary storm of their sons' return. Both keep up a high energy performance and get plenty of mileage out of author Lawrence Roman's laugh lines.

Sean Duncan, who played Conrad Birdie in last season's "Bye, Bye Birdie," does a nice job with his Michael character, giving him a harried, absent-minded professor presence, to go along with his sharp analytical mind. He moves about slightly stooped, wringing his hands, concentrating on his next experiment or complicated math problem. He's always ready for a good argument and has answers for everything.

By contrast, Eggers' Elliott character is ramrod straight, cocky and sweet talking, though it's hard to understand that after just a brief stint in Texas he sounds like George W. Bush and wears bolo ties.

Kosek's Janie, the flower child who's hopped on the celibacy bandwagon, is great fun to watch. Her conversation with Helene while the family is preparing for a party is one of the highlights of the evening (along with George's talk to Michael that finally hits the mark). Her wide eyes seem to view the world with childlike wonder.

Brammer, though his time on stage is brief, is very natural and appealing as the Butlers' youngest son, Keith.

As a bit of a warning, there is some sexual innuendo and even a few F-bombs dropped in the show.

Scenic designer and master carpenter Michael Talaska has washed the walls in a bright shade of gold that was popular at the time, and furnishings keep the warm tones as do the actors outfits, for the most part. Sallie Burkard handled the costume design.

Director Karin Cunningham elicited taut performances from all and kept quick, nearly imperceptible scene changes and steady pacing.

"Alone Together" runs through Feb. 27.

IF YOU GO

Who: Waukesha Civic Theater

What: "Alone Together" by Lawrence Roman

When: Through Feb. 27

Where: 264 W. Main St., downtown Waukesha

Tickets: (262) 547-0708, www.waukeshacivictheatre.org

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