In review: Because of Poppy Weisz

Story by David Taintor

Just who, exactly, is Poppy Weisz? Well, if you’ve been following her Twitter feed, she’s a New York City socialite turned activist who enjoys drinking martinis at noon and jet setting – to Minneapolis, of all places – for extravagant shopping excursions.

“Because of Poppy Weisz” is the latest production from UW-Eau Claire’s own student theatre group, the UWEC Players. The Twitter accounts for Weisz and her nonprofit organization “Poppy Aid” are the Players’ clever viral marketing ploy. And it works.

“Because of Poppy Weisz” is a play about lovers, about professional competition, about the media and what makes headlines; or maybe it’s a play about all of these things. The Players’ second performance this year, “Poppy Weisz,” is an ambitious and risky production. While “Candid” was a breathtaking and intimate production, “Because of Poppy Weisz” is sprawling and expansive.

The show opens with two dubious-looking men ruminating on newsprint and seeking notoriety for themselves. Because, after all, “what’s in the news is real.” In the same scene, two young men – one dapper and successful, the other bohemian and artistic – catch the eyes of two women of similar disposition. Sparks fly, and the play zooms into the two couples’ lives.

The show hits its stride when the sexual tension between Paul and Amelia peaks. One moment they’re screaming their lungs out at each other, arguing the finer points of the American political system, the next they’re inches from each other’s lips. Senior CJ Krueger performs double duty – both acting and writing the script – and he dazzles on stage as Paul, with his quirky mannerisms and razor-sharp dialogue.

Full disclosure: I adore the Big Apple. That being said, I couldn’t help but think some of the interactions felt a bit Midwestern. Characters have cell-phone conversations in deserted Manhattan subway cars, and strangers politely remind each other that their cell phones are ringing, two things I’ve never witnessed during my time there.

It’s astounding that a handful of students put this show together, from writing the script to directing and promoting it, and six months after their last original production, no less. Head to Riverside Theatre this weekend to see just what happens “Because of Poppy Weisz.”