Next Act Theatre comic 'Three Viewings' characters share dark secrets – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Two characters in “Three Viewings” make a point of telling us that they are not Catholic. Nonetheless, we are still hearing their confessions.
Next Act Theatre’s production of Jeffrey Hatcher’s “Three Viewings,” which continues through Oct. 17, presents us, one at a time, with three characters in a small-town American funeral parlor baring their souls.
This script and production are often comic, though not exclusively so. Their successive monologues are really verbal arias, composed by Hatcher for actors with the skill and craft to hold an audience for 20 to 30-plus minutes each.  
Each tale has a late-arriving twist or revelation that forces audiences to reconsider what they’ve heard.
Edward Morgan directed this production. While Next Act is performing for live audiences, it also offers a virtual option for this show, which is how I saw it. The video was recorded and edited by Traveling Lemur Productions. 
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Middle-aged funeral director Emil (David Cecsarini), who has a massive crush on a local real estate agent, is as moony as a teenager. His strategy for connecting with her? Hoping she’ll turn around and notice his longing gaze and hear his whispered mantra. Call me unromantic, but I was more entranced by this character’s occasional observations on his trade and clients, such as the recently departed woman so old “she was tissue paper and cobwebs these last few … decades.” 
The blunt Mac (Cassandra Bissell), so comfortable in black, has a habit of stealing jewelry from corpses for fun and profit. But when it’s her grandmother in the casket, the motivation is personal. Like any heist story, Mac faces unexpected obstacles, with the final one a reminder that a death in the family has a way of bringing up unfinished business. 
“Three Viewings” concludes on a high note for me with Carrie Hitchcock’s Virginia, a sixtyish widow who discovers her late, taciturn husband left many important things unsaid about his construction business and financial shenanigans. Hatcher has written Hitchcock opportunities to drop into the voices of various wise guys, loan sharks and bankers, which she does with aplomb. 
In a line that would get her an “Amen” from Linda Loman, Virginia says that “No one absolves failure.” But maybe she speaks a little too soon. 
Contact Jim Higgins at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @jhiggy.
Next Act Theatre performs “Three Viewings” through Oct. 17 at 255 S. Water St. Next Act requires that all patrons be vaccinated and wear masks in the building. Also, there is a virtual option for viewing this production. Tickets and info: nextact.org or call (414) 278-0765

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