Friday August 18th 2017

“The Butcher of Baraboo”

The tiny storefront theater known as A Red Orchid Theatre in Old Town, is one where we get a true mix of theater, dark dramas, light comedies  and productions that make you think about life in general. This is a very intimate space and somehow, in this small area, they bring us large theater. Their current production, “The Butcher of Baraboo” written by Marisa Wegrzyn, is a well choreographed/directed ( Shade Murray), comic  mystery about a very dysfunctional family in Baraboo Wisconsin. The entire story takes place in  Valerie’s kitchen. Valerie is a butcher at the local shop and lives with her daughter Midge, a pharmacist assistant at the local Walgreen’s, who has been known to help others get drugs they need or want to help them feel better. Valerie ( a powerful performance by Kristen Fitzgerald) has been left by her husband and everyone expects that he met with foul play, winking at the possibility that Valerie did him in.

The others in this story are Valerie’s in-laws, brother-in-law Donal ( a solid performance by HB Ward) and sister-in-law, Gail ( Natalie West in yet another perfect comic character portrayal) and Donal’s wife, Sevenly ( deftly handled by Lara Phillips). Donal, as it turns out, at one time , was in love with Valerie, but when she married his brother, he moved on, and yet now, he has returned to town with his wife and 6 kids and in fact, purchased the house next door. Sevenly, named so, because she is the 7th child of her parents is the perfect homemaker but has fears about haing another child as two of her sisters passed away while having their seventh, so she is fearful of what might happen to her.

Midge ( Missi Davis handles the full range of amisguided young woman’s emotions in this role) was the last one to see her dad and thinks he left because of her and the possiblity that he is not her father. Could it be uncle Donal? Could Valerie have killed her husband and butchered him so that he would never appear again? Should Sevenly have another child? Is Gail crazy, thinking that her sister-in-law killed her brother? This is a play that is filled with questions and deals with skewed family values as well as some secrets that keep you alert and in focus on the action that takes place in this quaint kitchen ( a marvelous working kitchen designed by Grant Sabin).

While this could be classified as a mystery, it is one filled with lots of comic touches. Of particular note, a scene when Gail ( Ms West is a pleasure to watch) decides to see what drugs can do to a person. This is to help her spread the word of D.A.R.E. to the local teens- amazing timing, in fact flawless. In a scene when Fitzgerald hog-ties her daughter ( Ryan Bourque has done an amazing job in coordinating the violence scenes) and tosses her around, being only a few feet from the action, one can only hope that no harm comes to these highly skilled performers. This is a large production in a small venue which I suggest you find a way to put on your theater schedule. I also want to give a thumbs up to Linda Laake for the props in this show, wow!

“Butcher” will run through May 20th ( I hope they can extend this one so more of you can witness a very solid production) at A Red Orchid Theatre located at 1531 N. Wells Street ( tucked between a Subway store and the new Kamehachi) with performances as follows:

Thursdays,Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m.  ( the show is two hours with a 10 minute intermission)

Tickets range to $30 ( a bargain for theater of this quality) and can be purchased by calling 312-943-8722 or online at

this is an open seating production, but to be honest, there is not a bad seat in the house.

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