Saturday, November 9, 2019

"A Life of Days" by nimbus theatre at the Crane Theater

nimbus theatre's new original plays always explore some fascinating topic, idea, or historical era in a way that gets me thinking and wanting to know more. Their latest such work, A Life of Days, officially opens tonight and was inspired by a true story about a family that lived completely isolated in Siberia for 40 years. You can read that super fascinating story here, as well as playwright Liz Neerland's other literary research and inspiration here. I want to read all of these books, preferably by myself in a remote cabin in the woods, but as that's not possible at the moment, I'll settle for seeing this thoughtful rumination on solitude, society, nature, civilization, and humanity.

Friday, November 8, 2019

"Getting Plowed: A Holiday Survival Guide" at Brave New Workshop

Friends, it's been way too long since I visited the Brave New Workshop, for no other reason than the theater world keeps me so busy I rarely have time to venture over to the adjacent comedy world. But last night I attended opening night of BNW's annual holiday show, Getting Plowed: A Holiday Survival Guide (continuing through January 4), and was reminded of how much fun it is. It's definitely different than the usual theater I attend - more fun and loose and playful - but still with talented and familiar performers who are experts at what they do. Which is write and perform silly, smart, timely, relatable, ridiculous comedy sketches. And this show is all about the holidays, in an irreverent sort of way that celebrates all that we love and hate about this time of year.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

"Steel Magnolias" at the Guthrie Theater

Steel Magnolias is not a new or particularly revolutionary play, but the reason it still resonates 30+ years after its premiere (and the popular 1989 movie adaptation) is that this story of female friendship, and the ways that women come together to support, challenge, and love each other, will never go out of style. Unlike the poofy bangs and high-waisted stone-washed jeans of the '80s. The Guthrie's new production of this late 20th Century classic features a terrific and mostly local all-female cast, plus an all-female creative team, that together bring out all of the "laughter through tears is my favorite emotion" feeling of the play. Steel Magnolias is warm and comforting, familiar and funny, moving and life-affirming.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

"Great Big Rainbow World: The Musical" at the Playwrights' Center

Last night I attended a reading of a new original locally created musical, aka my favorite thing. Sarah Julius wrote the book, music, and lyrics for the semi-autobiographical musical Great Big Rainbow World, and is also the producer. GBRW already has a date and location for its first full production, next summer at Gremlin Theatre, and the team is raising money in support of that. I heard Sarah sing a song from the show at Musical Mondays this summer, and was intrigued enough to accept the invitation to attend to last night's reading. In her intro speech Sarah said this show was all about love and chosen family, and it definitely felt that way.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

"Twin Cities Horror Festival" at the Southern Theater

The 8th annual Twin Cities Horror Festival concludes today, and surprisingly this was only my 2nd time attending. Or maybe not surprisingly; unlike my friends at Minnesota Theater Love, who love all things horror and TCHF, horror is not my thing, and Halloween is just another day to go to the theater and an excuse to buy half price candy the next day. But after spending the day at the Southern Theater yesterday, I realized that TCHF is just like a mini Minnesota Fringe Festival (drawing from the same pool of artists, with a similar structure), except that everything is a little spookier. Like Fringe it's a well run festival, but unlike Fringe you don't have to race between venues. You can just park yourself at the Southern for a few hours or a whole day. The festival concludes today with six shows, including two of the below five fantastic shows that I saw yesterday, so use that extra hour you gained to see some fun and spooky theater.

Saturday, November 2, 2019

"The Song of Summer" at Mixed Blood Theatre

After a pretty intense 2018-2019 season of plays that included Is God Is, the trilogy Prescient Harbingers, Roe, and Autonomy, Mixed Blood Theatre is beginning their 2019-2020 season with something a little lighter. Playwrights' Center Affiliated Writer Lauren Yee (whose work has been seen in #TCTheater most recently in the Guthrie's production of The Great Leap) brings us a sweet and fun play that's almost a rom-com. The Song of Summer is not without substance, dealing with relationships, pop culture, and celebrity, but the story at its heart is one we've seen many times before. But it's told in a unique framework with an appealing cast, so it's a story I'm happy to watch. It's OK for theater to be light and sweet and fun, even at Mixed Blood, especially when this well written, directed, and acted.

Friday, November 1, 2019

"Oh My God!" by Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company at Highland Park Center Theatre

In Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company's 25th Anniversary season, they're bringing us Israeli playwright Anat Gov's O my God!, an imagined therapy session with none other than God himself. As someone who doesn't believe in the God of the Bible, I found it a little hard to connect to, but still an interesting exploration of faith and philosophy. What there's no doubt about is that this excellent three-person cast, under Robert Dorfman's direction, makes the story feel real and grounded, despite the fantastical elements.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

"Open" by Walking Shadow Theatre Company at Off-Leash Art Box

Apologies for the late notice (October was a really busy #TCTheater month), but you have just three more chances to experience a really unique and special show. Walking Shadow's production of Crystal Skillman's new play Open (this is just the second production!) is all around magical storytelling. And such a beautiful and tragic story it tells. In The Glass Menagerie, Tennessee Williams as Tom says the stage magician "gives you illusion that has the appearance of truth. I give you truth in the pleasant disguise of illusion." This play is definitely the latter. The playwright uses the framework of magic to tell an all too real story of a horrific hate crime. This "illusion" is beautifully realized by the entire team at Walking Shadow and #TCTheater favorite Allison Witham in her best performance to date. If you have a spare 65 minutes this weekend, I can't think of a better way to spend them than with Open (click here for info and tickets).

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

The Playwrights' Center's Annual PlayLabs Festival

It's late October again, my #TCTheater friends, and that means it's time for my favorite fall theater festival* - PlayLabs at the Playwrights' Center! Every October, they invite three playwrights to workshop a new play and then host two free readings of each play throughout the week and weekend. A party and showcase of this year's fellows round out the weekend. This year brings an additional special event - a talk on the climate crisis, and the theater community's role in it, by Tim Guinee, a NYC-based theater/TV/film actor (including the 2005 Minnesota-made movie Sweet Land, one of my personal favorites) who founded an organization called Climate Actors. You can find information on all of the events at this link, as well as registration for the events.

Monday, October 21, 2019

"Macbeth" by Wayward Theatre Company at the James J. Hill House

Macbeth is one of Shakespeare's creepiest and darkest plays. Which makes it a perfect choice to produce during Halloween season, at the James J. Hill House which, while elegant during the day, is a bit creepy after hours. Wayward Theatre Company, experts at site-specific theater, is doing not only that, but also moving the audience around the house to eight different performance locations. For a three-hour play, the walking around adds interest and keeps the blood flowing. This intimate and immersive (but not interactive) show feels immediate and brings out all of the horror of this tale of unbridled greed.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

"A New Brain" at Artistry

Artistry's production of the rarely done 1998 Off-Broadway musical A New Brain is exquisitely lovely, and everything I love about musical theater. After composer/lyricist William Finn (see also Falsettos and Spelling Bee) underwent a serious heal crisis due to AVM (it's a brain thing), he wrote a musical about it. Because that's what artists do. The result is a very honest, clever, silly, funny, poignant, beautiful look at life. My previous experience with the piece was a staged reading several years ago by Second Fiddle Productions*, a company that does readings of rarely done musicals. I'm thrilled that Artistry chose this rare gem of a musical for their 2019-2020 season and are bringing us this beautiful production with the dreamiest of casts. If you're a fan of music-theater, don't miss this show!

Saturday, October 19, 2019

"Journey's End" at Gremlin Theatre

Written in 1928, Journey's End transports the audience to the trenches of WWI. British playwright R.C. Sherriff knew what he was writing about - he fought and was wounded in those very trenches when he was just 21 years old - making this an authentic account of war. The mundanity of the daily routine, the tension of waiting for something to happen, the horror when it does. It's all very palpable in a sobering three hours of theater (yes, three - take a nap and grab a cup of coffee). Gremlin Theatre's new production is directed by Bain Boehlke, returning to the piece 25 years after doing it at the Jungle Theater where he was Artistic Director. The strong 12-person cast of #TCTheater veterans and newcomers bring out the humanity of these characters and the horror of the situation.