Saturday, August 27, 2016

"Donald Giovanni in Cornlandia" by Mixed Precipitation at Loring Park

Opera. Pop music. Delicious food. The beautiful Minnesota summer. What could be better than Mixed Precipitation's annual summer picnic operetta that combines all of these things?! Not much. This year's selection for this wonderful tradition known as the picnic operetta is Donald Giovanni in Cornlandia, a mash-up of Mozart's Don Giovanni, '80s music, and, you guessed it, this bizarre election. A friend recommended that I should read the plot summary of Don Giovanni before the show because it can be hard to follow. But I don't think plot is the point. The point is good music, good food, good fun, and the great outdoors. So head out to the park between now and September 18 (performances in the Twin Cities and outstate Minnesota) and enjoy some delicious food and delicious opera.

Directed by Kym Longhi and written by Jerrod Wendland, who also plays keyboard and directs the lovely four-piece orchestra (also including two violins and a cello), Donald Giovanni in Cornlandia sets the story of the opera (based on the legend of Don Juan) amidst the current election. Specifically, it seems to be in the primary phase, as Donald's opponents are Carly Davidson and Ted Snuz. This makes the jokes a little less timely, but they'd have to be rewriting every day to keep up with all the new craziness. Donald (played by Michael Liebhauser as a mix of Donald Trump and a young John Travolta, making him both revolting and strangely appealing at the same time), Carly (Naomi Karstad), and Ted (Jim Ahrens) vie for power, because "Everybody Wants to Rule the World." Donald is aided by his reluctant campaign manager (Nick Miller), and hindered by a woman he's wronged (Carolyn Cavadini) and Paris Hilton (Lizz Windnagel). As the show goes on, there are debates, fundraisers, parties, and eventually... repentance (one can only hope).

the cast of Donald Giovanni (photo courtesy of Mixed Precip)
And there's music! Some selections from Mozart, either sung in English with new silly words to match the story, or in Italian with sparse translations charmingly displayed on hand-written signs and scrolls, as well as pop songs like "Teach Your Children Well," "Take On Me," and "Living on a Prayer." All beautifully and often hilariously sung by the large and talented ensemble, diverse in ethnicity and age (the littlest ones being the most charming and fun to watch).

And there's food! Five small bites are passed during the show, introduced by the cast and sort of fitting into the story somehow. All are delicious, fresh, and vegetarian (my vegan friends and those with food allergies - check with the chefs). And there's something about passing the plate and sharing food that makes this feel less like formal theater and more like a casual entertaining evening with friends.

And there's nature! They perform at parks and gardens around Minneosta. I've previously seen them in Falcon Heights, but this time I saw the show in Loring Park. It was lovely as the sun set, and delicious fall (our reward for making it through the heat of summer) was in the air. Runners, kids, and dogs pass by and look over to see what's going on, and mosquitoes, wind, and sun are added elements of the experience. The cast works with the elements, running through the park and the crowd, making this a truly immersive site-specific experience.

Theater doesn't have to be formal, indoors, stuffy, regulated, it can also be casual, fun, playful, outdoors. Mixed Precipitation is the latter, and offers a truly unique experience. So check out their schedule, grab a folding chair or blanket to sit on, and go see some pop/opera accompanied by yummy food in a beautiful outdoor setting.

the sun sets over Cornlandia