Wednesday, May 22, 2019

"Small Mouth Sounds" at the Jungle Theater

"Friends, @jungletheater's Small Mouth Sounds is exactly my kind of play: awkward, funny, profound, and full of one of my favorite things in theater that I rarely get - silence! Perfect execution by the yummy cast and the whole team."

This was my Instagram post upon arriving home from the Jungle last night, and it pretty much says it all. I'll expand on that a bit more here, but in general, this new play about six people on a silent meditation retreat is hilarious, heart-breaking, and very human. Visit the Uptown theater now through June 16 to experience it yourself (pro tip: the Jungle is one of the few theaters in town with Tuesday and Wednesday performances, which have lower ticket prices, better availability, and usually less Uptown crowd/parking/traffic issues than weekends).

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

"Another Revolution" by Market Garden Theatre at the Crane Theater

Judging by the mathematical symbols and equations painted on the floor and wall of the Crane's studio theater, I was expecting Another Revolution to be a math play (which I love, BTW). But this new play by Jacqueline Bircher, produced by Market Garden Theatre, is less about math than it is about science, and it's less about science than it is about friendship, politics, protest, war, and coming of an age in a tumultuous time. The tumultuous time in this case is 1968, but it's not too hard to translate it to today's world, which has plenty to protest and is still sending young people to war. In addition to math plays, I also really love two-people-sitting-in-a-room-talking kind of plays, and that's what this play is. It's like eavesdropping on a conversation between two specifically drawn characters who couldn't be more different, but find common ground, and maybe even friendship, when forced to spend a few months together. This is also one of those plays where nothing really happens, and everything happens. Both are true. I left the theater looking at the sky differently than when I walked in. What more can you ask of theater than a discussion of ideas big and small, and a different outlook on the world?

Monday, May 20, 2019

"Blood Knot" at Pillsbury House Theatre

Despite being written almost 60 years ago in a country on the other side of the planet, Blood Knot, currently playing at Pillsbury House Theatre, feels very relevant to the here and now. Through the story of two brothers, one dark-skinned and one light enough to pass for white, South African playwright Athol Fugard explores the complex issues of racism and white privilege, before that term was in our collective consciousness. It's remarkable that this play was performed (for one performance only) in Johannesburg in 1961, with it's strong anti-apartheid message. But even in Minnesota in 2019, we still have lessons to learn from it. This is a powerful, intense, and sobering play, beautifully acted by two beloved #TCTheater veterans.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

"Caught" by Full Circle Theatre at the Guthrie Theater

When I took the elevator up to the Guthrie Theater's 9th floor Dowling Studio, accompanied by high school students dressed for prom*, I didn't know what I was in for. I knew I was attending my third Full Circle Theatre show, and I knew enough about them to expect it to be something thoughtful, well done, and relevant to the world we live in. And I knew this play had something to do with Chinese political art. All of those things are true, but Caught is so much more. It's a Russian doll of a play with layers upon layers of truth, reality, and artifice. By the time it was over I didn't know what was real, where the play ended and reality began. And that's the point of Caught, to make us question truth, reality, art, politics, even theater. It's a brilliantly written play (by California based playwright Christopher Chen), perfectly executed by director Rick Shiomi and the team. I'm not going to be able to tell you too much about it because I don't want to spoil the surprising and delightful trip, but just trust me - you need to see this play. And with all tickets just $9 as part of the Guthrie's Level Nine initiative, you have no excuse not to.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

"The Sins of Sor Juana" by Ten Thousand Things at Open Book

Ten Thousand Things' first post-MH season is in its conclusion, and we can now safety declare that TTT's retired founder and Artistic Director Michelle Hensley has taught us well, and her legacy of accessible, entertaining, engaging, meaningful theater for everyone lives on. From the hilarious Scapin, to the most moving Into the Woods, to the currently playing The Sins of Sor Juana, this season has been classic Ten Thousand Things. That is to say theater in its purest form without distraction, stripping away all the fluff to get to the purest heart of the story, and delivering it directly to the audience in a playful and immediate way. The Sins of Sor Juana is a fictionalized telling of the life of an inspirational woman ahead of her time, 17th Century Mexican poet and scholar Juana Inéz de la Cruz. It's a story that feels so relevant, as girls and women around the world are still denied opportunities for education. Sor Juana is a heroine for today.

Friday, May 17, 2019

"Mary Poppins" at Lakeshore Players Theatre

Do you know who your local community theater is? There are so many great community theaters in the #TCTheater area that it's impossible to keep track of them all. But I encourage everyone to find one in your area and support them. There are so many people working so hard for little reward other than seeing your smiling face in the audience. My local community theater is Lakeshore Players Theatre* in White Bear Lake, which opened a gorgeous new building about a year ago. The final production in their first full season in their new space is Mary Poppins, a show that celebrates imagination, determination, play, and family. I'll admit that the biggest draw to see this show was seeing one of my #TCTheater favorites Quinn Shadko as Mary Poppins, but the whole show is just darling. If you're in the Northeast metro be sure to visit them in the Hanifl Performing Arts Center, or check out what theater is happening in your neighborhood.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

"Peter and the Starcatcher" at Daleko Arts

DalekoArts, a professional theater in New Prague, Minnesota on the very southern edge of the metro area, is closing out their seventh season with the multiple Tony-winning Broadway play-with-music Peter and the Starcatcher. It's a charming, quirky, innovative little play, and therefore a great choice for Daleko. This is my fourth year attending their spring musical(ish) and I continue to be impressed with the care and energy they put into the work that they do. Season 8 looks just as promising, with a walking ghost tour around historic downtown New Prague, a Scrimshaw Christmas comedy, a play about 19th Century mathematician Ada Lovelace, and the hilarious musical Spelling Bee. If you're in the mood for a theater road trip (about an hour from the cities), head south to Daleko.

"Rough Cuts" at Nautilus Music-Theater: "Hurricane"

It's the second week of the month, and that means it's time for another "Rough Cuts" at Nautilus Music-Theater. I'd go to every one if my schedule would allow, so fun and fascinating it is to experience a new work of music-theater in development. Fortunately this week is a fairly light one for me (only four shows on the schedule), so I was able to make it Nautilus' Lowertown St. Paul studio space to see a reading the new musical Hurricane, by L.A. based Cory Hinkle (libretto) and Carla Patullo (music). The performance will be repeated tonight (likely with a few tweaks, as workshops go) across the river at the Playwrights' Center. For a suggested donation of just $5, you too can experience this lovely new musical performed by some of #TCTheater's best. See Nautilus' Facebook page for details and to be informed about upcoming "Rough Cuts" (the next one is a selection from their annual composer-librettist studio on June 3-4).

Monday, May 13, 2019

"The Pathetic Life and Remarkable Afterlife of Elmer McCurdy, the Worst Robber in the West" by nimbus theatre at the Crane Theater

With their original work, nimbus theatre often brings us some fascinating but little known historical event or issue, typically in a thoughtful way that's somehow relevant to today. Their newest work, The Pathetic Life and Remarkable Afterlife of Elmer McCurdy, the Worst Robber in the West, does that too, but it's the first straight-up comedy I've seen them do, and it's great fun. Real life unsuccessful outlaw Elmer McCurdy would likely have been lost to history, if not for the strange tale of his corpse, which was preserved and made the rounds of carnivals, exhibits, side shows, and even movies, eventually stashed away in storage where it was discovered in 1976 and finally buried. He was the subject of an episode of Drunk History, and this play sort of feels like an extended episode of Drunk History. Silly and funny yet sorta kinda true.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

"Autonomy" by Mixed Blood Theatre at the St. Paul RiverCentre

Mixed Blood Theatre's latest project is wildly ambitious, and they accomplish it quite brilliantly. Reminiscent of Safe at Home, a walking play staged in nine locations at CHS Field with precise timing, Autonomy is a driving play staged at nine locations within the exhibit hall at St. Paul RiverCentre. It's a play about climate change, immigration, and autonomous vehicles (aka self-driving cars). A great guideline for making theater is "content dictates form," so when the content is about cars, why not surround the audience with classic cars and have them drive around in golf carts? A little on-the-nose, but it's quite effective. It's really too bad they're only running it for one weekend. There are four more groups of performances but only extremely limited tickets remain. Autonomy is a forward-thinking experiment in theater like you've never seen before.

Friday, May 10, 2019

"The Play That Goes Wrong" Broadway Tour at the Orpheum Theatre

When something goes wrong at the theater, it can sometimes lead to a wonderful moment in which you get a peek inside the process and see how the actors react to the unexpected. When everything goes wrong, it leads to outrageous hilarity. Such is the concept of The Play That Goes Wrong, a 2012 British play (written by three playwrights from London's Mischief Theatre) that opened on Broadway in 2017, where it played for two years before moving to Off-Broadway earlier this year. Similar to Noises Off, it's a play-within-a-play that's so bad it's good. There's no subtlety in The Play, it's all super broad comedy, including pratfalls, spit takes, and falling scenery. They continue to pile it on until the whole thing collapses in glorious chaos. Broadway plays don't often go on tour, and the fact that this one is on tour points to the fact that it's a crowd-pleaser. The ridiculousness continues through Sunday only (click here for info and tickets).

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Minnesota Fringe Festival: "Five-Fifths of Mary Poppins" at Park Square Theatre

We're only three months away from the most hectic, exiting, exhausting, wonderful week in #TCTheater: the Minnesota Fringe Festival! This year's festival will take place August 1-11 (with the related Family Fringe happening July 26-28 and August 2-4), but events have been happening all year. May brings one of my favorite Fringe events, the "Five-Fifths" benefit, in which a popular movie is divided into five parts and handed to five Fringe companies for them to interpret as they wish. It's a very clever concept, and one that really showcases what's unique about each company. This year's choice was Mary Poppins, and the results were, as my friend Jules from Minnesota Theater Love succinctly put it, "weird and fun." Just like Fringe!