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Door County summertime theater companies usually provide audiences with ample doses of mirth and merriment. As an alternative, Isadoora can usually be counted on to provide serious, dramatic theater. Their new season is no exception.

Their first production is “Side Man” by Warren Leight. The show is a “memory play” that follows the decline of an art form, jazz, and people who try to keep it alive.

One of its main characters is Clifford who describes in flashbacks the lives of his parents. His father, Gene, is a possessed jazz trumpet player. Gene’s wife is Terry, a woman who once had hopes but whose life rapidly falls into decline.

At first we see a couple happy and in love. Yet over time the world of jazz declines and so do their fortunes. Terry resorts to alcohol and heavy smoking and Gene refuses to see what is going on. Gene does not care about money and will not take on another job to keep the family going. All he cares about is playing jazz.

Clifford tries to keep the family together. The play takes place roughly from the 50’s through the 80’s but today Clifford would be called an enabler. Despite his best efforts he cannot save his family.  His father is clueless to what is going on around him and is a chronic liar. Terry comes to hate her life and there is nothing Terry can do to save them.

I talked to the players in this show several weeks ago and what struck me was their attempt to really understand their characters. It’s populated with several Isadoora regulars who have to express a broad range of emotions. They do not disappoint.

Chad Luberger who was last seen in Isadoora’s 2006 production of Assassins plays Clifford. He has to be Clifford about age 6 through adult years. Luberbergr’s transformation from child to adult is quite remarkable.

Mark Moede plays Gene with calm reserve. His character always has to keep his emotions in check and express a person who loves his arts at the expense of everything else. The versatile Moede plays his character with a cool, New York  “hipster” persona.

The hardest role in the show is Terry. As the play progresses the character’s rage and disappointment is profound. It’s a hard role to play since it calls for so much emotion. Pamela Johnson plays the role with compelling conviction.

The cast is filled out with Craig McClelland, Chris Weidenbacher, John Wilson and Bill Baurenfeind who prove very fine support. The show’s director, Renee Kukawski who scored a hit with last years “Picasso at the Lapin Agile” directs her players with sensitivity and apparent willingness to let her cast find the heart of their characters. Well done!

“Side Man” has mature themes and adult language that may be inappropriate for younger or more sensitive viewers.

Isadoora Theater Company presents “Side Man” by Warren Leight, Thursday- Saturday, 7:30 p. m. and Sunday 2:00 p.m., November 20-23, Sturgeon Bay High School, Sturgeon Bay.

Tickets are $12 adults and $7 students.

For tickets and information call 493-3667; or go to

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