Milwaukee Chamber Theatre’s ‘Lovely Sunday’ witty and comedic

Julie Steinbach, Contributing writer

Julie SteinbachContributing writer

Milwaukee Chamber Theatre will open its 2016–17 season with a Tennessee Williams’s A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur. Williams — one of the most celebrated playwrights in American history — is better known for such popular works as Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and The Glass Menagerie. This lesser known and even less frequently performed play premiered under a different title in 1978 and was revised, retitled and reopened in 1979. It garnered reviews like “sweet, honest, compassionate and different,” and “tender, poignant and measurably human.”

MCT’s rendition features an almost entirely female production team and cast. Director Leda Hoffmann, who is making her Milwaukee Chamber Theatre debut with Lovely Sunday, says this was not planned, but it’s a refreshing and welcome occurrence not seen often enough in theater.

“There’s this amazing female energy in the room that has allowed us to have really open and honest conversations,” says Hoffmann. “There’s a certain level of openness that we’ve found in the cast and on the team about all of our varied experiences navigating the world as women.”

Lovely Sunday is set in late 1930s St. Louis, Missouri, and takes place entirely in a “bright and cheerful” apartment, the morning before a picnic in Creve Coeur park. According to the play’s notes and text, the true level of appeal in this apartment depends very much on who is observing it. Hoffmann says there has been much left up to the creative imaginings of set designer Courtney O’Neil regarding the interpretation of these notes. “There are all these notes in the script about how bright and cheerful this apartment is. Yet the woman who comes to visit thinks it is a ‘hideous clash of color!’” Hoffmann explains.

Audiences can look for such touches as purple carpet and pink roses exploding all over the walls.

Despite the witty set direction and comedic context of Lovely Sunday, everything isn’t exactly coming up roses for the characters in question. Quite the contrary. The women of the play find themselves at pivotal points of mid-life, asking large questions of themselves and of their futures.

“These characters are pretty amazing people. They are flawed people who all have their own delusions about life and about love,” says Hoffmann.

The characters are involved in a range of human activities — from match making to seduction — and through their actions, they explore humanity and loneliness.

The poignancy of the work arises from these actions, Hoffmann says.

“It was really moving to see this group of women, who are all at this age where their adult lives are about to become permanent, explore their situations. Lovely Sunday has this feeling of transitional time, and it asks the question: Is this life the one you want to settle in?”

On Stage

A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur runs from Sept. 21 to Oct. 16 in the Studio Theater at the Broadway Theatre Center, 158 N. Broadway. Some performances will include special events. Go to milwaukeechambertheatre.com. For ticket information, phone 414-276-8842.