Wednesday, May 18, 2022

"A Raisin in the Sun" at Guthrie Theater

The American classic A Raisin in the Sun premiered in 1959, making Lorraine Hansberry the first female Black playwright on Broadway, but it's anything but dated. Unfortunately, racism, discrimination, and unjust practices like redlining are still very much a part of our world, as evidenced by the recent racist and anti-Semitic fueled mass shooting in Buffalo, and the fact that in Minnesota 77% of White families own their homes compared to only 26% of Black families. This is the legacy of the world Hansberry wrote about that we're still experiencing. The Guthrie's production of this ever-relevant piece is beautifully wrought, from the detailed set to the raw and emotional performances by the entire cast. You can see it now through June 5 on the Guthrie's proscenium stage.

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

"Airness" at Park Square Theatre

Park Square Theatre finally returns from their extended intermission with a really fun and feel-good play about a national air guitar competition. It sound ridiculous, but truth is stranger than fiction - this is actually a real thing. LA-based playwright Chelsea Marcantel has set Airness within this world where people travel the country to compete with 60 seconds of playing an imaginary guitar. But like any story, it's not really about air guitar; air guitar is the backdrop against which is set this sweet and funny story of community, friendship, finding your people, and pursuing your passion. The fantastic cast embodies this lovable group of oddballs so well that you find yourself rooting for them and becoming invested in their story. With the stage appeal of a rock concert and the heart of a chosen family story, Airness is a great welcome back for Park Square (continuing through June 5).

Sunday, May 15, 2022

"The Labyrinth and the Minotaur: The Incarceration Play Project" by Wonderlust Productions at Mixed Blood Theatre

Four years in the making, Wonderlust Productions' newest piece The Labyrinth and the Minotaur: The Incarceration Play Project reimagines the myth of the Minotaur and the Labyrinth in which it is kept as the Minnesota Corrections system. For this project they collected  stories from over 230 people who live and work within this system, and the huge cast (perhaps the largest I've ever seen) includes many of these people, alongside seven professional actors. It's a really beautiful, inspiring, and thought-provoking piece about an incredibly relevant issue - this country's broken, cruel, and racist system of incarceration. This is a theater company dedicated to elevating the voices of the unheard, and there are few voices less heard than those of the incarcerated. Here they get to tell their own stories in an empowering and powerful way. Although the play is a bit too long (three hours and 15 minutes on opening night) and would benefit from some editing, it's very worthwhile and important. See it through May 22 at Mixed Blood Theatre; only five more performances remain.

Saturday, May 14, 2022

"Once" at DalekoArts

I finally made the gorgeous springtime drive out to New Prague to see DalekoArts' production of the 2012 Tony-winning musical Once in its sold-out final weekend. Just the second #TCTheater production*, Once is a perfect choice for the scrappy little theater in the far-out suburbs, the stage packed with singer/actor/musicians and the intimate house making it feel like we're all in a cozy Irish pub together enjoying some good craic. It's such a beautiful story, and a unique kind of musical that's really more of a play-with-music. All of the music in this Irish folk-rock score (by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, who also starred in the 2007 movie from which the musical was adapted by Irish playwright Enda Walsh) is in context, in a pub or recording studio or music shop. The music is woven so naturally into the story that there's not a lot of applause during the show, not wanting to break the spell of the story being woven on stage. A multi-talented 12-person cast plus three band members embody this charming and bittersweet Once.

Friday, May 13, 2022

"Moonlit Walk Home" at Nautilus Music-Theater

Nautilus Music-Theater's second new original piece of music-theater this season is the lovely song cycle Moonlit Walk Home. It turns out that #TCTheater's favorite singing sisters Christina Baldwin and Jennifer Baldwin Peden have a talented poet for a mother, which isn't really that surprising; artistic talent often runs in families. Fern Green Baldwin put her writing aside to raise eight children and numerous plants and animals on 36 acres in the Minnesota River Valley outside of Jordan, Minnesota. She finally got back to writing in her 70s, and published her first book of poetry Moonlit Walk Home at the age of 80. Her daughters have adapted it into a song cycle, along with stage director Ben Krywosz and composer Daniel Nass. The result is a really beautiful collection of music that is not only a love letter to their mother, but also to finding poetry and beauty in the simple and mundane things of everyday life. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

"Two Jews Walk Into a War..." by Six Points Theater at Highland Park Community Center

Two Jews walk into a war. No, that's not the set-up to a joke, it's the title of a play. But it is funny, as much as a play about the beleaguered nation of Afghanistan and the millennia-long story of the persecution of the Jews can be funny. Seth Rozin's play is a fictionalized account of the last two Jews in Kabul, who hated each other but were forced to work together. He uses the humor of this cantankerous relationship to delve into some pretty deep issues of faith, community, tradition, identity, and the meaning of home. See this sweet, funny, heart-breaking little play at Six Points Theater through May 22.

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

"Runestone! A Rock Musical" at History Theatre

Who else but the History Theatre can take a bizarre Minnesota legend and turn it into a super fun, entertaining, and even thought-provoking musical? Who else would even attempt such a thing? In the vein of their smash hit Glensheen (returning to St. Paul this summer after a tour through outstate Minnesota), History Theatre brings us the new original musical Runestone! A Rock Musical, a show many years in the making about the Kensington Runestone. I first saw a reading of it in 2019 and was so intrigued that I visited the original Runestone in its museum the next time I was in Alexandria. The musical's 2020 premiere was postponed along with so many things, but it's finally seeing the stage in a terrific production continuing through the end of the month.

Sunday, May 8, 2022

"The Bucket List of Booze Club" by Freshwater Theatre Company at the Crane Theater

In their first production in over two years, Freshwater Theatre Company is bringing us a new play by Michigan-based playwright Maureen Paraventi called The Bucket List of Booze Club. An odd title for a sweet and salty, funny and poignant play about female friendship and the mother/daughter bond, which couldn't be more appropriate for this Mother's Day weekend. This very real and relatable story is beautifully brought to life by the cast and creative team at Freshwater. But only 6 performances remain in this short run, so bring your closest friends, a parent or child, or yourself to the Crane before it closes on May 15 (click here for info and tickets). 

Saturday, May 7, 2022

"Celebrating Sondheim, Act I" by Theatre Latte Da at Crooners Supper Club

My favorite Sondheim interpreters, Theater Latte Da, return with Act II of their Celebrating Sondheim cabaret series at Crooners Supper Club. And the good news is - there are still some tickets remaining for today's two shows! Click on this link right now to snag one before they're gone, so that you too can experience this beautifully curated selection of songs from arguably our greatest music-theater creator.

Thursday, May 5, 2022

"Miss Woodhouse Presents" by Aethem Theatre Company at Elision Playhouse

In a delightful piece of Jane Austen fan fic, Aethem Theatre Company brings us the new play Miss Woodhouse Presents, written and directed by their Managing Director Kayla Hambek. It's a sort of mash-up of all of the novels, in the form of a British reality TV show. In just 90 minutes, we see love lost and won among the Dashwoods, the Bennets, and more familiar characters. Fans of Austen, who are not too precious about it, are sure to enjoy. The short run ends this weekend; you have just three more chances to see this charming play at Elision Playhouse in Crystal (click here for info and tickets).

Sunday, May 1, 2022

"Diary of a Wimpy Kid" at Children's Theatre Company

To close out their 2021-2022 season, Children's Theatre Company is bringing back their original musical adaption of the popular book series Diary of a Wimpy Kid. I saw 2016 premiere, and although I had no prior experience with the source material, I was thoroughly charmed by it. The creative team has updated the show to add new scenes and songs, but my memory is not good enough to notice which ones, although I did note a Tik-Tok reference, which wasn't a thing six years ago. So they've tweaked the show a bit to make it feel fresh and new, but what hasn't changed is the incredible talent of #TCTheater youth (plus a few out-of-towners) in bringing to life this "clever and musically diverse score, universally relatable story of a kid trying to find himself in middle school" (as I wrote six years ago). "Whether you're a kid stuck in the middle (school), or a jaded grown-up, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Musical is simply irresistible." What follows is my 2016 review, plus a few tweaks for the current production, which continues through June 18.

"All American Boys" by Stages Theatre Company and Capri Theater

Stages Theatre Company (Hopkins) is partnering with The Capri Theater (North Minneapolis) on an adaptation of the book All American Boys, a story of how a school and its students are affected by police violence against a Black teen. It's an incredibly inspiring and insightful look at one of the biggest and toughest issues we're facing right now, and these kids (it's primarily a youth cast, like most of Stages' work) do such an amazing job. It's hard enough to be a teenager, but a teenager living with all of the uncertainties of today's world, a Black teenager living with the knowledge that they could be beaten or killed for simply trying to buy a bag of chips, it's unthinkable. This play and these incredibly talented and open-hearted young actors do a beautiful job of bringing that experience to life. Really the only thing that gives me hope these days is our young people; they can show us the way out of this mess if we just let them, and listen to them. You can do that now through May 22 at the beautifully renovated Capri Theater (click here for info and tickets).