2022-2023 Season

"Much of the spirit of the holiday season is so hopelessly entombed in an imperviously superficial wrapping paper of perfunctory sentimentality. Sunstone Studios cleverly sneaks beyond the cliches of the holidays to find genuine heart in Christmas as it hosts one-woman holiday show of impressive depth and nuance: Who’s Holiday. Written by Matthew Lombardo, the show features Samantha Sostarich as Cindy-Lou Who all grown-up. The audience hangs out with the beloved Seuss character as she tells stories of all that has happened to her since her first encounter with the Grinch. Things get considerably adult from there as Sostarich deftly glides through intricacies of lost innocence. It hasn’t been an easy life for her. She has been in some pretty dark places prior to arriving at the trailer where she’s hosting her party."

"Henning and Ripp-Dieter are as fearless as they are nuanced in their portrayal of a couple of people trying to relate to each other as human beings. They happen to be one white woman and one Black man. There’s a hell of a lot of baggage tied-up in those two designations that they’re both forced to confront in a tiny tube deep beneath the streets of one of the most densely populated cities on the planet. Baraka’s tale of two people remains remarkably contemporary. Aspects of race relations in the US have changed, but Henning and company put together a presentation that speaks quite clearly to present audiences."

"First off: I love... Dutchman. The Sunstone Studios production that’s running right now might be one of. the best dramas I’ve seen in the past few years. I’m biased. I love the play. And as it turns out I’ve never actually seen a production of it. And... I haven’t really thought about it for over a quarter century. So... y'know... that's weird. That and a few other things didn't make it into my upcoming Shepherd-Express review of the show...."

"The intimate space, hidden behind a storefront across from the Pabst Theater, has been home to theater companies for at least 40 years... The newest occupants, Sunstone Studios MKE, coalesced during the time of COVID. Sunstone Executive Director Amber Regan acted in Off the Wall’s final season and was familiar with the room, a black box theater seating 55-75 people. 'We started a conversation around the only storefront theater in the Theater District,” she says. “Our initial thought was to rent the space to small companies as a communal space. We’re still working toward that goal.'"

"McCasland creates a plausible account of Taylor’s life at that time -- a heavy drinker since the death of her husband and facing a more sophisticated audience than her previous stage successes. We encounter Tennessee, relatively unknown at this time, overseeing the rehearsals and brazenly rewriting pages, unsure of himself after a few theatrical missteps. The audience also discovers how the play’s title applies to many of its characters. This cast does a fabulous job bringing these people to life. Leslie Fitzwater is a pure delight as Laurette Taylor, struggling with her demons as she attempts to move forward with her career. Cory Jefferson Hagen is marvelous as Tennessee, balancing the playwright’s verve and determination with the internal battles he is facing."

A Comedy and Drama of Imperfect Loves
Shepherd Express (9/12/22)

"Charismatic Cory J. O'Donnell develops an impressively intricate portrayal of an opera aficionado named Stephen. As the play opens, Stephen is discussing matters with fellow opera devotee Mendy. Captivating in the role, Bryan Quinn capably slices his way through the nuances of a Mendy’s love for the late soprano Maria Callas that has come to comically overshadow every other aspect of his life. Joshua Biatch resonates through the gravity of McNally’s drama as Stephen’s former romantic partner Mike. Deshawn A. Thomas fills-in the space between the other three men in the ensemble as a nice guy named Paul who also happens to be Mike’s current lover."

"Also by McNally, Sunstone Studios MKE is producing The Lisbon Traviata.... An opera queen at heart, McNally sets his work around a bootlegged Maria Callas recording of Verdi’s La Traviata and within the world of gay opera aficionados explores the often tragic (or otherwise melodramatic) operatic lives they lead. A critic called it 'funny and heart rending.' In fact, it’s a difficult piece, contemplating relationships, the younger versus older dynamic and, perhaps, our emotionally masochistic inclinations."

2021-2022 Season

"Bard and Bourbon return with a cunningly-framed staging of a classic. Directed by Katie Merriman, Hamlet (Drunk) is a breathtakingly taut evening’s Shakespeare featuring the sharply youthful energy of Brittany F. Byrnes as the tragic Prince of Denmark. Byrnes’ sleek precision in the role cascades gracefully from amusement to aggression in a lean, sinewy charisma. Merriman conducts a refreshing take on the tale of a descent into murder and madness with a nearly all-woman cast. Reva Fox commands deft comedy in a warmly sympathetic presence as Polonius. Anya Palmer conjures an appealingly magnificent and resonant serenity as Hamlet’s love Ophelia. Grace DeWolff wields a slicingly cool aggression at drama’s end as Hamlet’s rival Laertes. Tawnie Thompson is admirably poised both emotionally and intellectually in the role Hamlet’s mother. A.J. Magoon manages a concise inner complexity as both her husband Claudius and the ghost of Hamlet’s father."

"There’s a production picture for Bard and Bourbon’s Hamlet (Drunk.) The title character is speaking to Ophelia. This might be the last time they speak. Hamlet’s wearing a Harley Davidson hoodie. The smiling cheshire cat tattoo can be seen smiling beneath Ophelia’s shoulder. The glowing red Exit signs of Sunstone Studios can be seen hovering in the darkness behind them. The exit’s in sight. She really COULD get herself to a nunnery. It’s way too easy to look for symbolism in the imagery of that one photo."

Dark Comedy at Sunstone Studio
Shepherd Express (5/14/22)

"There’s a man duct taped to a recliner. His wife Nan wants to have a few words with him. Then she’s going to pack the chair with meat and drizzle honey on the driveway, opening up the doors to let the bears have their way with him. He probably deserves it. He’s been abusive. There are people there to see him suffer. Most of them are off stage. It’s OK: this is a play. Lauren Gunderson’s Exit, Pursued by a Bear straps itself down into shadowy, thought-provoking comedy for one weekend only this May."

"Sunstone Studios marches through the final weeks of February with the premiere of an unflinchingly intense World War II drama. Playwright Zach Thomas Woods explores the complexities of life on the frontlines in ‘Neath the Hills of Bastogne—an intimate, small-ensemble study of Americans, Germans and those caught in the middle of a brutal war during the exceptionally bitter winter the gripped the Battle of the Bulge."

A Tiny Gift At Sunstone
Shepherd Express (12/20/21)

"Just down the street from the dense cluster of the biggest theater productions this holiday season, Sunstone Studios presents a cozy, little production of The Gift Of The Magi. The stage is set for a classy, little vintage radio show written for the stage by Bob Cooner. A cast of five shares a tiny space in front of a Christmas tree with a tiny foley area, two music stands and three prop microphones."

A Few Endearing Moments with Cindy Lou
The Small Stage (12/18/21)

"Sostarich deftly walks a line between abrasively crass and endlessly endearing as the little girl all grown-up. That she manages to do so while delivering an entire monologue in end rhyme is quite an accomplishment. End rhyme can get really annoying really quickly, but Sostarich handles it beautifully. She's having a lot of fun with the surface-level comedy. That fun is delivered to the audience in a festive mix of storytelling and audience interaction."

"Sostarich is beautifully dazzling as the charismatic, super-heroic leader. Howard wields an idealistic gravity about her as the politico looking to make a difference. Norton has deftly subtle comic instincts as the revolutionary disruptor. Marks has fostered a comedic celerity in the cast that allows for a sharpness of wit in subtle shifts of tone and inflection that make for an entertainingly textured comedy."

Four People. One Hour. Macbeth.
The Small Stage (10/28/21)

"Prophecy. Ambition. Death. It all plays out in a single hour without intermission. Everything glides across the stage quite gracefully. Danks has really cut the script to the quick. The production follows Danks' minimalism in a reasonably deft swiftness. There’s a powerful economy of visuals on a stage that isn’t much deeper or wider than the length of a broadsword. Four seats sit at four corners as the three witches settle-in for the play’s opening. The stage is bathed in black and gold with the occasional flashes of red light when blood is spilled."

Between Two Rivers with Sunstone
The Small Stage (10/16/21)

"Sunstone Studios follows-up its debut comedy Toil and Trouble with local playwright Michael Lucchesi’s contemporary dramatic thriller Between Two Rivers. Director Tim Kietzman brings the drama to one of the smallest, most intimate stages in town. Lucchesi’s script delves into ancient myth with a contemporary story that explores some basic human conflicts. An AWOL marine returns home in order to take care of some unfinished business."

"It’s all so very, very absurd. The cast holds the totally bonkers script together in a way that makes it feel almost believable. Gunderson has left just enough believability between the weird references to Macbeth and odd tangential sci-fi clustering around the edges of the absurdity. It all feels just grounded enough to keep the weirdness from annihilating the emotional gravity that keeps the comedy firmly rooted in very real human emotions between three people who have no business being together and really no reason for being alone either. It’s a very tightly-produced comedy on a appealingly small stage."

"Amber Regan and a team of Milwaukee-area creatives are opening a 'community arts space' with a rentable theater, in-house programming and the goal of creating 'a more equitable environment' for artists of all races, abilities and gender identities."