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Theater Review: The Butcher of Baraboo Doesn't Quite Make the Cut

The Butcher of Baraboo with Nina Sallinen, Carl J. Johnson, Jenny Kern, Janet Chamberlain and Rebecca Jordan (on floor). | Photo: Chris Goss.
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The Road Theatre Company, beginning its 20th season, has been terrific for a long time, a conglomeration of artists that has provided L.A. with shows of excellence and ambition, from the twisty treats of Ouroboros and Bunbury to the distinctive and dissimilar pleasures of Napoli Milionaria and The Bird and Mr. Banks. What all of these productions had in common was a strong play to begin with, but unfortunately Marisa Wegrzyn’s The Butcher of Baraboo is very uneven. A great cast brings the characters to life, and there are moments and scenes that work, but overall the writing is unconvincing and the story ultimately adds up to little.

In the small Wisconsin town of Baraboo, Valerie (Janet Chamberlain) makes her living as a butcher. She provides free cuts of choice meat for her police officer sister-in-law Gail (Rebecca Jordan), even though the two women don’t really like each other. Valerie’s 31-year-old daughter Midge (Nina Sallinen) still lives at home and works as a pharmacist, selling drugs to local high school kids on the side. The great mystery of Valerie’s life was the disappearance of her husband one year ago, something she has tried to move past. The arrival of her brother-in-law Donal (Carl J. Johnson)—the man she liked better than her husband—and his wife Sevenly (Jenny Kern), however, has brought the mystery back to life, and the butcher’s meat cleaver is about to get sharpened.