A Tiny Miracle With A Fiberoptic Unicorn

By Don Zolidis

Directed by Brian Zelinski
June 10 to 26, 2011

Read the Reviews: Waukesha Freeman, WaukeshaNOW

Click on a photo to see a larger image

Photos By Carroll Studios Of Photography

Volunteer of the Production

Fran Klumb

Joan End

Grandma Skolowski

Michelle Gross

Emily Skolowski

Guy Holling

Present Day Louis Skolowski

Fran Klumb

Grandma Jacobs

Maddie Penzkover


Garcia Ralph M.

George Skolowski

Francesca Steitz

Kelly Skolowski

Matt Welden

Louis Skolowski

Production Staff 


Brian Zelinski

Stage Manager

Donna Redmer

Scenic Designer / Master Carpenter / Set Decorator

Michael Talaska

Costume Designer

Aleta Bernard

Lighting Designer

Scott Fudali

Sound Designer

John Santroch

Properties Designer

Monica Santroch

Wig Master

Anthony Mackie

Civic Theatre’s season finale is no miracle. Complex lives of ‘A Tiny Miracle’ will charm you

Julie McHale - TimeOut Theater Critic
June 17, 2011

As soon as the narrator took the stage, a miracle began to happen. Guy Holling, as the adult Louis, was very magnetic in drawing us into the retrospective story of his 13th Christmas and all the intricacies of his family when he was at the cusp of his adolescence.

The Waukesha Civic Theatre’s season closer, “A Tiny Miracle with a Fiberoptic Unicorn” by Don Zolidis will charm, amuse and move you. It is truly a gem.

The story is set in Brookfield in 1986. The Skolowski family is putting the final touches on the tree and the house as Grandma Jacobs arrives for the festivities. George and Emily, the parents, are bickering as are their children, Kelly and Louis. Emily’s mother’s arrival only adds to the sniping. She explodes into their midst and starts firing off her opinions on everything. Fran Klumb makes her role beyond memorable.

Louis has fallen in love for the first time and seeks his older sister’s advice. Kelly is less than helpful, telling him that no girl could possibly be interested in him. So much for trying to tap into her experience and supposed wisdom. Meanwhile Kelly is directing a Christmas play at their church.

Because Carolyn, the object of Louis’s affections, is playing the part of Mary, Louis wants to be Joseph, but instead he is assigned to play an ass. Kelly’s directorial genius soon creates other problems that surpass Louis’s disappointment. However, her ability to alienate others does provide us with some great comic moments when she has to play multiple roles. Francesca Steitz is a master of “attitude.”

Meanwhile, another grandma arrives unexpectedly. George’s mother, as played by Joan End, is a character we immediately love. She has learned to compensate for her loss of mental acuity by fantasizing, and her “stories” are fascinating. The scene between her and her grandson Louis is precious. Even in her diminished state, she is probably better adjusted than anyone else in the family.

The tension in the Skolowski house is palpable at times, especially the discomfort created by George and Emily. Michelle Gross and Ralph Garcia do a fine job of conveying the thin veil that covers their underlying issues.

When their true feelings finally surface, we do experience their individual pain and frustration. However, I had a problem seeing George as he sees himself. His self-characterization as clown doesn’t come through in the script, but that’s a flaw of the playwright, not the actor.

Maddie Penzkover as Carolyn captures the innocence and spunk of a young girl finding her identity and even shows some empathy for Louis’s infatuation. Amidst a very competent cast, Matt Welden as Louis really shines and totally captures our heart. He epitomizes the awkward, ingenuous teenage boy perfectly. Even his sister, despite her many putdowns, has to admit that he’s a pretty good guy. We agree.

The set design is somewhat problematic. Creating an entire house on a relatively small stage gives one a slightly claustrophobic feeling, but it does allow the play to flow without a lot of scene changes, so that’s a plus.

I can’t imagine anyone who has experienced the complexity of family and remembers some of the pain and wonder of falling in love or the difficulty of maintaining it will not enjoy this play. Kudos to Brian Zelinski for his skillful direction.

Review Title

By Reviewer Name
Posted: Month 16, 2011

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Work of stellar WCT cast 'a tiny miracle'

June 14, 2011

Anyone growing up with siblings will immediately attach themselves to the teen-aged brother and sister in Waukesha Civic Theatre's "A Tiny Miracle with a Fiberoptic Unicorn."

The play boasts some of the most hilarious, touching and true-to-life sibling dialogue imaginable as 13-year-old Louis Skolowski (Matt Welden) embarks on wooing the girl of his dreams, his first true love: Carolyn (Madison Penzkover). Louis is very shy, but he thinks, if he can find the most awesome gift with the $11 he has to spend, he can win her heart. In order to do that, he needs help: first, he needs to determine what to buy. Second, he needs to get to the mall to buy it. So he calls upon his 17-year-old sister, Kelly (Francesca Steitz), who thinks Louis is the world's biggest dork, wants nothing to do with him and lets him know these things in no uncertain terms.

Guy Holling, as an older Louis, narrates the scenes in flashback, adding insights as the tale unfolds. And if Louis' newfound love and onset of puberty have complicated his life, his life is about to become as tangled as hastily packed holiday lights with one knock on the door.

In walks bombastic Grandma Jacobs to spend the holidays with the Skolowski family. As Grandma Jacobs, Fran Klumb takes over the stage with a larger than life persona, hacking and coughing, shouting orders, throwing out insults like candy at a parade. Klumb's timing and storytelling are impeccable as her character relates how she found a snake in her yard, called the police and dealt with the matter herself - with her gun!

The play's author, Don Zolidis, is a master storyteller. He finds another avenue for a fantastic tale when Grandma Skolowski (Joan End) unexpectedly pays a visit to the already topsy-turvy Skolowski clan. The narrator explains that his grandma couldn't remember the past, so she made it up. At that point, End's character tells how she ran away from home at age 13 and joined the Rockettes. End is marvelous as the dotty Grandma Skolowski, as she contrasts the sailor-tongued Grandma Jacobs with an affected accent - acquired in her dotage - and a gentile manner.

With two difficult grandmothers in his house, (meaning he has to share a room with his spiteful sister) plus his parents' (Ralph M. Garcia and Michelle Gross) marriage on the rocks, Louis has to make his move with Carolyn, the star of the Christmas pageant, directed by Louis's sister, who casts Louis as a donkey. Only she doesn't call it a donkey.

"A Tiny Miracle" pivots on the convincing relationship of the two siblings, which makes Welden's and Steitz's performances crucial - and they don't disappoint. Kelly's attitude is evident the moment she arrives with ratted hair - residue of the 1980s setting - so big Louis teases her that a small mammal could nest in her bangs. As Kelly, Steitz is the consummate spoiled, taciturn teenager and she plays off of Welden's smart, sweet, understated Louis beautifully. Their nocturnal conversation, when Louis is forced to stay in Kelly's bedroom while his grandma's in town, is a gem as the pair throw items, barbs and love-hate language at each other, ending with Kelly's "Go to sleep or I'll knock you unconscious."

The backdrop to all the teen-aged angst is Louis and Kelly's parents' disagreements, which go unnoticed until it all comes to a head on Christmas Day. Gross, in her first major stage role, and Garcia, a theater veteran, are a bit uneven as the parents, but do a fine job with their final scene.

The play's author shows a tremendous gift for teen dialogue and his characters are so funny because they have just enough believability for the audience to relate. But the story seemed a bit cluttered with Louis' many dilemmas, which perhaps could have been pared down. Did two grandmas have to complicate his life? Did his parents' marital difficulties have to play into it?

Cluttered, too, was the stage, a replica of the Skolowski home. In the middle of the three levels toward the rear of the stage was Kelly's bedroom, with its large, unmade, white poster bed. That portion of the stage was in shadows most of the time, but a distraction nonetheless, while action took place in the cramped living room on one side of the stage, or the dining room a few steps up on the other side. The set, however, proved very easy for the characters to move on with not a break in the action. The play's 2 ½ hours flew by on opening night.

Director Brian Zelinski did a fine job in showcasing the talents of the veterans and paving the way for some WCT budding talents, a "tiny miracle" in itself.

Volunteer of the Production - Fran Klumb

Fran has been actively involved on the WCT stage for many years. Her enthusiasm and energy is evident in all that she does. She is always ready to perform and her professionalism would be an asset to any show. One cast member said that "… she made me want to push to be better." Fran is a pleasure to work with and can be counted on help in any way possible.