My lovely wife Cathy and I have been well-known among our circle as major theater buffs. Long-time subscribers to all three platforms of the Milwaukee Rep, and absolute devotees of the brilliant American Players Theater in Spring Green.
Chicago (“Cabaret” and the astounding “Hamilton”), Broadway (bravo to the 1998 revival of “Chicago” and to the brilliant “American in Paris” of two years ago) and national traveling shows (I howled with laughter all the way through “The Book of Mormon” a few ago) have also been on our theater docket too.
But we have been remiss in making that simple three hour trip north to Door Peninsula for a theater with great history if one only chose to look it up.
Simply put, The Peninsula Players located in scenic Fish Creek is still an absolute treasure and marvel at its still relatively youthful age of 82 years, making it as it bills itself, “America’s oldest professional resident summer theater”.
A brief, very illuminating history is provided in the program and when patrons are visiting the snack stand, they can look to the right and see a series of vintage photos of productions, some dating back 80 years, including one that featured an almost painfully young Rene’ Auberjonois (Odo from “Star Trek: Deep Space 9”).
He was one of over 1,000 actors who have made their way onto the Peninsula stage, many of whom have gone onto greater things.
But if one believes that the Peninsula Players are merely a stepping stone, one would be making a great mistake.
Just like my wife and I did in not making a trip there until this summer.
The reasons for going are abundant and don’t begin and end with what goes on on stage.
We were simply astonished to walk out of the wooded parking lot, up and down a couple of staircases and into a wonderland that included the 11-year old, well-designed, covered 600-plus seat open air stage
Further, if one takes a few, quick steps outside the theater, they will find themselves surrounded by a stand of majestic pines at the center of which is a firepit for after-show libations and fun (we were ignorant and made the mistake of not staying for that on our July 1 visit).
Even better, and the drop-dead secondary draw to the place is the mere 50-yard walk from the stage right to the beautiful shores of Green Bay (the body of water, not the city). The company actually invites patrons to come early, grab a drink and a snack and then just sit and stare out onto the pure amazing beauty of nature until showtime.
And if the shows are all as good as the recently completed lovely, sad, wise and wistfully funny “The Actuary”, then that makes Peninsula as close to theater heaven as one can find.
Anchored by a splendidly understated performance from Artistic Director and widely respected veteran actor Greg Vinkler in the title role (he’s been 29 years at the place), this original production written by Steven Peterson and directed by Kevin Christopher Fox, had spark and life.
It featured exquisite timing, amazing set design and a great sense of taking an old conceit (the trusted narrator telling his or her version of historic events directly to the audience) and giving it a fresh, original bite.
I just wish we had seen it earlier in its run so I could give it the full, enthusiastic review it deserved.
But in light of that, I encourage all who have discovered this gem of a theater and especially those who haven’t, to make a trip or two there for either “Peter and the Starcatcher” (July 5-23), “The Bridges of Madison County” (July 26-Aug. 13), “Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime” (Aug. 16-Sept. 3), and “Almost, Maine” (Sept. 6-Oct. 15).
It will be more than worth your time. Cathy and I for one, will be making more time for Peninsula later this season.
For ticket information, please go to http://www.peninsulaplayers.com or call (920) 868-3287.