KelsyAnne Schoenhaar Jenny Kopp (left) and Nick Kaprelian face off in “New Election.”
I could tell you to see Acts to Grind, the newest show by Encore Studio for the Performing Arts, because it was created by Wisconsin’s only professional theater company for people with disabilities.
But, in the spirit of Encore and its exceptional players, screw that: See it because this series of vignettes is political, dynamic and laugh-out-loud funny.
I can’t remember the last time I experienced so many consistent belly shakers in one show and at such a quick pace, too. Just when you think you get to the bottom of the dark humor and sly punchlines, Encore’s cast throws one more, a sucker punch that leaves the audience reeling. Encore is just a little smarter and a little faster than we are.
Acts to Grind, which runs through May 21 at the Mary Dupont Wahlers Theatre (1480 Martin St.), includes performances by disabled and non-disabled actors, and the company often rotates cast members. One highlight is a three-act intermezzo called “A New Election,” written by the company’s founder, KelsyAnne Schoenhaar. Julie (played on May 7 by the delightful Malissa Petterson) is angered by a Republican pamphleteer who wants her vote for Joyce Humphries (Wendy Prosise), a Sarah Palin-type character. Julie’s friend April (Connie Alsum) encourages her to run against Humphries, reminding her that as a person with disabilities she has an important voice to add to the election. But Julie remains unmoved — until April entices her with the possibility of sleeping with “younger, hotter guys.” Hey, politics are serious, but let’s not underestimate the appeal of younger, hotter sex partners. I can think of at least a few politicians motivated by similar concerns.
Encore never settles for what’s easy or expected in its portrayals of living with disabilities. I admire them for bringing sharp wit to every story and also for illuminating the fact that no matter what mental or physical challenges we face, we’re all human, sharing many of the same underlying concerns.
If you think you know everything Encore has to teach you, you couldn’t be more wrong. See Acts to Grind and you are bound to discover many hilarious, unexpected truths.