For Purely Elfish Reasons

By Jason Powel

Directed by David Kaye
December 2 to 18, 2016

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

Christine Kulinski

Sponsored In Part By

WCT projects are supported in part by a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin.


Ireland Anderson

Devon Tannenbaum

Jessie Barr

Desiree Deus

Mary Brzozowski

Daisy Baker

Mike Crowley

Santa Claus / Sam Tannenbaum

Niki Czisz


Jim Donaldson


Allyson Kulinski


Elyse Lange


Ellyan Goeller


Lesley Grider

Minnie Tannenbaum

Rowan Grider


Lauren Heinen

Sophie / Violet

Melissa Pol Loth

Katherine Conn

Bryan Madson

Augustus Eiderbroth

Bryanna Madson


Ella Madson


Emily Martinez

Marie / Pansy

Kelsey Monnot


Emily Schmidt

Angie / Lillian

Alison Schmidt


Nathan Stepanski


Phil Stepanski


Ryan Stepanski


Jordyn Stewart


Laura Tauzell


Yeng Thao

Theodore Jones

Production Staff 


David Kaye

Stage Manager

Jim Padovano

Music Director

Joshua Parman


Hayley San Fillippo

Scenic Designer / Master Carpenter

Billy Ray Olson

Sound Designer

Keith Handy

Lighting Designer

Scott Fudali

Costume Designer

Dana Brzezinski

Properties Designer / Set Decorator

Nicole Allee

'Purely Elfish Reasons' addresses labor shortage

Waukesha Civic production takes a Marx Brothers twist
By JULIE McHALE - TimeOut Theater Critic
December 8, 2016

WAUKESHA - For six years, the Waukesha Civic Theatre developed a tradition of offering its original "Candy Canes and Holiday Carols," tweaking it every year to combine predictability and variety. It was a production that highlighted a lot of individual talent and showcased many of the stories and songs we associate with this Yuletide season. It was quite a successful show, especially musically.

This year the Waukesha Civic decided to break away from that traditional fare and present "For Purely Elfish Reasons," a new play by Milwaukee playwright Jason Powell. The tale combines a labor shortage among Santa's elves with a style flavored with the Marx Brothers' humor.

Granted, humor based primarily on puns is not everyone's favorite, and one could hear groans more than laughter in the audience. Not that Phil Stepanski (Groucho ala Jules), Jim Donaldson (Chico ala Lonnie) and Kelsey Monnot (Harpo ala Dolly) are not up to the task of filling these roles. They definitely are, but somehow the combination of a rather weak story, several not-very-memorable songs and this style of slapstick and word-play humor did not add up to a terribly winning mix.

It is always enjoyable to watch the little ones prancing about as elves, especially the youngest ones as they look about for their next cue. The singing trio of Lauren Heinen, Emily Martinez and Emily Schmidt is adequate, though not stellar. Bryan Madson's basso delivery of "One Dimensional" was memorable and Donaldson's rendering of "Three Particular Words" was certainly well done. His Italian accent offered some humor as well. Donaldson always delivers.

Jordyn Stewart was outstanding in her role as the hard-working Hermey, and Yeng Thao (Theodore Jones) very sincere in his pursuit of his reluctant partner, Melissa Loth (Katherine Conn). Jessie Barr (Desiree Deus) delivered her "Tale of the North Pole" with a decided vigor.

So there were definitely moments of enjoyment, but overall the show did not reflect the usual sustained quality that we have grown to expect from Waukesha Civic's productions. I hesitate to write this because it is an unwritten rule that one not criticize anything about Christmas or any play with children in the cast. However, I have to be honest and fair in my critiques, aware always that my opinion is just one opinion. Everyone is the judge of their own perceptions.

The costumes were well-chosen (Dana Brzezinski) and the set (Billy Ray Olsen) was functional and easily converted from one scene to another. Director David Kaye was assisted by Joshua Parman (music) and Hayley San Fillippo (choreography).

Review Title

By Reviewer Name
Posted: Month 16, 2016

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Elves with a Marx Brothers shtick: 'For Purely Elfish Reasons' delivers tale with identifiable quirkiness

By Marilyn Jozwik - WaukeshaNOW Theater Critic
December 5, 2016

For the first time in years, Waukesha Civic Theatre has shed its "Candy Cane Tales," a holiday variety show, in favor of the quirky, but funny, holiday show "For Purely Elfish Reasons" by Jason Powell.

The mostly adult story contains the sort of puns and word plays made famous by the Marx Brothers that bombard the audience like snow in a blizzard. David Kaye directs the show.

There's a reference to a line in "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air" theme song, a nod to "A Christmas Story" ("You'll shoot your eye out"), the 1964 TV special Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," a Bogart-like character and others, all swirling about the Marx Brothers-like planet.

Christmas story
There a few group numbers featuring a bunch of little brown-clad, grade-school-aged elves, but in between is a bit of a mystery. It seems that Santa must lay off elves, which means the toy output is dwindling. And that means an unhappy Christmas for many youngsters. But why?

Three elves, Jules (Phil Stepanski), Lonnie (Jim Donaldson) and Dolly (Kelsey Monnot), are selected to recruit new elves. The three are the equivalent of the Groucho, Chico and Harpo Marx characters, respectively.

In the meantime, Hermey (Jordan Stewart) has been assigned to check the books for Santa to see if there is any malfeasance. Sure enough, it appears some elf may have been dipping into Santa's till. But which one?

The show opens with all the elves singing about how happy they are to be employed in Santa's workshop. But soon Jules points out the bad financial news. He tells Santa he was excited about the prospect of making of six-figure salary, only he didn't know the "first five figures would be zeros."

Jules, who constantly carries a candy cane, similar to the way Groucho held a cigar, gets Lonnie and Dolly to join him on the mission to solve the mystery of the missing cash.

There are numerous scenes with fun and funny exchanges that contain so many groaners you can barely catch your breath. One bit includes a clever array of Marx Brothers movie titles that come spilling out during a conversation.

In another scene, Jules is interviewing Hermey (the name of an elf/dentist wannabe undeniably associated with the 1964 "Rudolph" TV show), and they get into a discussion about the seriousness of gum disease. "Gums don't kill people," says Jules. "People kill people."

When Lonnie tells Jules he's a Pole, Jules asks, "North or South?" Lonnie later tells him he "doesn't get into Pole-etics."

Dolly, who doesn't speak (she's the Harpo equivalent), is forever bringing out props to communicate. When someone asks for a musical chord, she pulls a cord out of her ample pockets.

And, of course, you just knew somewhere in the show would be the phrase "Santa-ty Claus," as is the case when Jules and Lonnie are talking about the contents of a contract.

Season's songs
There is plenty of surprisingly pleasant music throughout the show, each number delivered quite well. Donaldson's Lonnie sings a charming tune about his love life – or lack thereof – and how he just wants to hear three little words for Christmas, and two of them are pronouns.

Two elves, Theodore (Yeng Thao) and Katherine Conn (Melissa Loth), pair up for a cute bit about getting married – he thinks romance is enough, she wants to wait until they're more financially stable. Thao also adds some impressive gymnastics to his scenes.

Bryan Madson as the elf Augustus Eiderbroth delivers a richly textured tune in his deep base voice (with a Bogart-like demeanor and gangster-like looks) about being one-dimensional. And not in a good way – more like the Grinch. It's a most intriguing way to open the second act.

Adding some nice vocals and movements to a number of scenes is the trio of Lauren Heinen, Emily Martinez and Emily Schmidt, who also have created a variety of vampish looks.

In character
Armed with a sackful of one-liners is Stepanski, who, as Jules, fires them off with the precision of a sharpshooter. When he and Donaldson's Lonnie get going, the wordplay is like an artillery attack.

I really enjoyed Donaldson's Lonnie character, his joy-filled singing and interplay with the other characters. He's definitely a scene stealer.

Monnot's Dolly is fun to watch, too, with her expressive face and never ending supply of props, including a bicycle horn.

Jordyn Steward gives her Hermey character an appealing, no-nonsense bookish quality and really handles the fast-paced repartee nicely.

The kids all did well in their song and dance numbers, but the show focused on the grown-ups and the homage to the Marx Brothers.

Student rate is available for children and any patron with a current student ID. Senior rate applies to all patrons 60 years or older. Military rate is available for any patron with a valid current Military ID.

For our "Pay What You Can" performances, patrons can buy tickets for that show on the day of the performance at whatever price their budget will allow.

Subscriber rate is available to any subscriber for unlimited additional tickets outside their package.

10 ticket minimum per performance required.

Educational Group Rate is only available for all educational groups and Boy and Girl Scout troops. 10 ticket minimum per performance required.

Volunteer of the Production - Christine Kulinski

Christine was one of our “kid wranglers” for this show, but was so much more than that. She was always around to help out in any way no matter what, and always with a pleasant attitude. She kept everyone, adults included, organized and on track. She took on the difficult task of keeping the kids in the cast quiet, focused, and entertained when they were not on stage. “She was FUN!”

Way to go, Christine!