Wednesday, December 11, 2019

"The Band's Visit" Broadway tour at the Orpheum Theatre

This morning my yoga teacher asked us to think of something that was magic. It should come as no surprise that my immediate thought was: theater. I can't think of anything more magical than a couple of thousand strangers sitting in a room together and being transported to a tiny town in the middle of the desert in Israel, hearing the stories of people who may live in a very different place than us, may speak a different language, may have different beliefs, but with whom we connect and relate to via our shared humanity. And really, this is what The Band's Visit is all about. People who may seem very different coming together and sharing a very real and human, if momentary, connection through music and stories. It's such a simple and beautiful story, and one that this divided world needs to hear now more than ever. Which is why I'm so glad that this 2018 ten-time Tony Award winner, which just closed on Broadway in April, is touring the country so that ordinary people in ordinary towns can experience this extraordinary story of ordinary people in an ordinary town. That's the kind of magic that can change the world.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

"Immortal" by Trademark Theater at Camp Bar

The latest creation from new #TCTheater company Trademark Theater is a solo show created and performed by its Artistic Director Tyler Michaels King. Immortal has been in development for a while, and for the last three weeks Tyler and his collaborators workshopped the project, culminating in a one-night only performance at Camp Bar last night. Hopefully this is not the last we see of the aging crooner F. Amos Lee, and he'll make his return in some form or another in the coming years.

Monday, December 9, 2019

"Dog Act" by Fortune's Fool Theatre at Gremlin Theatre

Dog Act is a little like The Walking Dead, but with entertainers. Because even in an apocalypse (zombie or otherwise), we still need to tell our stories, and be entertained by storytelling. In Dog Act, produced by Fortune's Fool Theatre at Gremlin, a traveling performer and her dog/person try to survive in a post-apocolyptic world that, much like the TWD universe, consists of scavengers and worse, people who will stop at nothing to survive. Those are the ideas explored in this weird but oddly sweet play, well executed by the Fortune's Fool team.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

"Family Dinner" and "The Mess" at HUGE Improv Theater

Family Dinner is my favorite show at HUGE Improv Theater in Uptown. It comes around this time every year, with shows on Fridays and Saturdays all through November and December, most of which sell out. Now in their eighth year at HUGE, it's basically the Guthrie's A Christmas Carol (as creator Molly Ritchie said). I attended with my Twin Cities Theater Blogger friends old (Minnesota Theater Love, Twin Cities Stages, Bite-Sized Beet) and new (The Stages of MN, The Global Dig, and Millennial in the Mezzanine), and a good time was had by all. HUGE is a great option for a fun outing this time of year, or any time of year. Buy tickets for one show only, or save on a two- or three-show pass. And you will want to get your Family Dinner tickets in advance - they will sell out.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

"The Norwegians" by Dark and Stormy Productions at Grain Belt Warehouse

Seven years after their debut, during which time they've brought us a couple of dark and stormy little plays every year, Dark and Stormy Productions is doing their first remount. If you're going to remount a show, the hilarious and very Minnesotan dark comedy The Norwegians, first presented in 2016, is a great choice. This story of two Southern women so beaten down by Minnesota winters and bad relationships that they hire Norwegian gangsters to kill their exes is worth seeing again. In 2016 I called the play "a cross between a Prairie Home Companion sketch and an episode of Fargo, with more edge than the former but without the latter's ominous cloud of despair." They've reunited most of the original cast and creative team, with a few new faces, for what is once again is a very funny, entertaining, and intimate anti-holiday* #TCTheater choice.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

"SIX" at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts

The history of the British monarchy has inspired countless works of entertainment, from Shakespeare plays to Netflix series. And now it has inspired a fabulously feminist pop musical. In just over two years, SIX (written by Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss while students at Cambridge) has gone from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival to London's West End to Broadway, where it will premiere next spring after wrapping up the month-long run at the Ordway. Structured as a pop concert, SIX allows the six wives of Henry VIII to tell their own stories. This musical couldn't have come at a better time, when we're hungry for women's stories, for women to tell their own stories instead of being defined by men, as history has defined these six women by their marriage to a king. SIX's reputation precedes it; young musical theater fans in the know have been obsessively listening to the London cast recording for months, and the US production is surrounded by huge buzz. The opening night audience was ready for this show, responding enthusiastically to their favorite moments that they knew were coming. I knew nothing about the show going into it, and was hugely impressed by this smart, funny, clever, modern, fresh, and wildly entertaining musical. It's a rare thing that we get to see the next Broadway sensation in Minnesota before they see it in New York, and #TCTheater music-theater fans would be wise not to miss this chance.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

"A Very Die Hard Christmas" at Bryant Lake Bowl

I've never seen the popular 1988 action movie Die Hard, so for years I resisted seeing what has become an insanely popular holiday* tradition - A Very Die Hard Christmas at Bryant Lake Bowl (the 10pm showtime also kept me away). But this year, I finally had to see what everyone was raving about, especially since they added a few 8pm shows for us morning people. I'm still not sure I understand why it's so popular (this year they sold out the entire run before they even opened), but it is a super fun show chock full of pop culture references (of the '80s and Christmas varieties), with very funny performances by the cast. I've never seen such a packed and enthusiastic BLB audience. People love the show, and the team loves doing it, and I guess that's what makes it such a popular and long-standing tradition.

Monday, December 2, 2019

"The Viking and the Gazelle" by The Waterfront Productions at Mixed Blood Theatre

The independently produced Minnesota Fringe play The Viking and the Gazelle is being remounted at Mixed Blood Theatre this December with a mostly new cast. Producers (under the name The Waterfront Productions) and co-writers William and Suzanne Bengston based the play on their experiences as an interracial couple. It's an interesting premise and the play includes some good discussions, bringing up some important issues like institutional racism and white spaces that hopefully encourage discussion amongst those who see it. But there's no nuance or subtlety; every character is one extreme or the other, so much so that they feel less like real people and more like caricatures of certain "types" of people. Still, these are important conversations to be had.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

"All Is Calm" by Theater Latte Da at the Ritz Theater

I saw the movie A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood yesterday, about how one person's life was changed by meeting Mister Rogers, the legendary children's show host who touched, and continues to touch, so many lives. It reminded me of the good in humanity, and that we all need to, and are perfectly capable of, doing better. What does this have to do with Theater Latte Da's Drama-Desk-Award-winning soon-to-be-PBS-broadcast original holiday piece All is Calm? Like Mister Rogers, this artfully constructed story of the real life WWI Christmas Truce reminds us what can happen when we choose kindness over violence, connection over hate. The soldiers were only able to accomplish this remarkable feat for 24 hours, and then the war continued for several years and millions of deaths. But if a war can cease even for 24 hours, if a man can heal his relationship with his father thanks to one person's kindness and encouragement, what else can we accomplish, individually and collectively, if we choose kindness, connection, and peace? This is the seventh time I've seen All is Calm, my favorite of what the #TCTheater holiday* season has to offer, and it only gets more beautiful, poignant, and necessary every year. We need this message now more than ever.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

"Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley" at Jungle Theater

#TCTheater friends, I would like to visit Pemberley every year for the holidays* (or really any time of the year). For the third year in a row, Jungle Theater is presenting their own special brand of Pride and Prejudice fan fiction, in the form of delightfully modern yet still very Austen plays by the playwrighting team of Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon. Their 2017 production of Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley was so successful that they co-commissioned a sequel for 2018 - The Wickhams: Christmas at Pemberley. This year they're remounting the 2017 production of Miss Bennet with much of the original team, plus a few delightful new additions. Jane Austen created such a rich world in Pride and Prejudice that I could envision a dozen more sequels, as we continue to visit these four loving but very different sisters in different times in their lives. (Oh wait, there are five sisters; we haven't seen Kitty yet, so she deserves her own sequel next!) This is exactly how I like my Austen - fresh and modern and feminist and charming, but still within the manners of the time. I want to live in that world, but I guess I'll settle for a visit to Pemberley once a year via the Jungle Theater.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

"A 1940s Radio Christmas Carol" at Lyric Arts

Lyric Arts' contribution to the #TCTheater holiday* season this year is A 1940s Radio Christmas Carol. It's a feel-good nostalgic kind of holiday show, full of laughs, groans, lovely music, and a few poignant moments. You really can't go wrong combining the Dickens classic with 1940s Americana. Lyric Arts has assembled a great cast that performs the material well - both musically and theatrically - with detailed design that'll put you in the holiday spirit.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

"what if" by the Moving Company at the Lab Theater

The Moving Company's latest original work what if is made up of two separate and very different parts that together form a "moving," "funny," "thought-provoking" piece of theater. I use quotes because in this sort of meta, fourth wall breaking piece, the performers talk about theater, and how we talk about theater, and say just about every world I've ever used to write about theater. It's sort of about theater itself, why we do theater, why we go to the theater. And it's also about humanity, and the origins of storytelling, and the what if of imagining ourselves in someone else's shoes - both as performers and as audience members. It's a process of creating empathy, of making this very big world seems smaller, or more familiar, or more connected. Forgive me if I'm not making sense, or talking in circles, but such is this piece of new and original theater.