Sunday, May 27, 2018

"Bull" by Hypnic Jerk Theatre at Element Boxing Gym

"Site-specific theater in a boxing ring, now that’s cool! Brand new #tctheater company Hypnic Jerk debuts with BULL. Note: the play is not about boxing it’s about office politics.
-Cherry and Spoon Instagram

And a great metaphor it is. Director and Hypnic Jerk Theatre founder Kari Steinbach notes in the program that playwright Mike Bartlett was inspired to write Bull after watching a bullfight, but a boxing match works well too. They're staging the show in two locations on two weekends only, the first in Element Boxing Gym in St. Paul, the second at A Mill Artist Lofts in Minneapolis. I like the idea of a traveling show, making it more accessible to different communities (and people who are loathe to cross the river), but I'm glad I saw it in the first location, because it was really cool to watch a play in an actual boxing ring in an actual gym, something I've not done before. Just two more performances remain this Memorial Day Weekend, before the show moves across the river next weekend. Check it out for a short, intense, engaging, well directed and acted performance.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

"Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill" at the Jungle Theater

Continuing with their trend this season of presenting plays with music, the Jungle Theater opens Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill on this holiday weekend. This play with music premiered off Broadway in the '80s and on Broadway in 2014, winning Audra McDonald her sixth Tony. It takes place during one concert at the end of Billie Holiday's life, playing out in real time, as Billie tells stories from her past, her family, her husbands, and the racism she's dealt with in her career and as a black woman living in America in the first half of the 20th Century. Acclaimed director Marion McClinton directs Thomasina Petrus in this role that she's performed before, and was born to play. It's a perfect marriage of actor to role, with wonderful music and impeccable design that really makes you feel like you're watching the tragic end to this brilliant musician.

Monday, May 21, 2018

"The Room with Closets" by Sparkle Theatrical at the Southern Theater

Immediately after seeing Sparkle Theatricals' original new work The Room with Closets, I posted on my Insta story: "I'm not sure what just happened, but it was exquisite. I feel like I was in a dream." This is one of those theater experiences that is so mesmerizing, that so fully and specifically creates a world through words, movement, music, and visuals, that it absolutely casts a spell over the audience. A spell that's hard to shake when you step out of the theater and back into harsh reality, like waking up from a dream that you don't fully understand but that created such lovely feelings you want to go back to it. It's also the kind of show that's really hard to describe; words fail. I'll do my best, but I encourage you to go see it for yourself. It's a beautifully unique piece, and the creators (theatrical director Jon Ferguson, choreographer Alejandra Iannone, technical director Rick Ausland, and this beautiful six-person ensemble) obviously put a lot of thought and care into every detail. See it at the gorgeous Southern Theater (a space that enhances every performance there) through this week only!

Sunday, May 20, 2018

"Kind of Funny But Also A Little Sad" at Strike Theater

A few weeks ago I brought you my adventures at HUGE Theater, your home for comedy in Uptown. Today I bring you a report from Strike Theater, your home for comedy in Northeast Minneapolis, a neighborhood closer to (my) home and easier to get to and park in (unless it happens to be Art-A-Whirl, then it's almost as miserable as Uptown). Strike has been open for a few years as a Fringe venue but just opened as a full-time comedy venue last fall. Founded by Allison Broeren, Mike Fotis, and Joe Bozic (whom you might know from the Minnesota Fringe Festival), they are "dedicated to Twin Cities sketch comedy, storytelling, and spoken word," and they offer an array of comedy performances and classes. Last night I attended the final performance (sorry) of Kind of Funny But Also A Little Sad, but check out their show calendar and class schedule for what's next at Strike.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

"The Good Person of Szechwan" by Ten Thousand Things at St. Paul's ELCA

Michelle Hensley, retiring Artistic Director and Founder of Ten Thousand Things, is a gift. A gift to theater, a gift to Minnesota, a gift to the world. She taught us a new way to do theater, a new way to experience theater, one that considers who the audience can and should be, which is everyone. Read her book All the Lights On if you want to know more about it, or go see her beautiful swan song The Good Person of Szechwan (continuing through June 3), which is also the first play that TTT ever did nearly 30 years ago when Michelle started it in California. We've been lucky enough to have TTT as a vital part of the #TCTheater community for 25 years, a tradition that will continue after Michelle's retirement under the leadership of new Artistic Director Marcela Lorca. One can only hope that all of the artists and audience members she's worked with and influenced in those years will continue on this tradition of inclusive, accessible, imaginative theater that is unlike anything else.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

"An Enemy of the People" at the Guthrie Theater

Whistle blowers. Leaking confidential information to the press. A scientist who isn't believed. A politician covering the scientific truth with an invented truth of his own. An Enemy of the People feels like a ripped from the headlines play, but in reality it's a 130-year-old Norwegian play, although with a new adaptation that has been updated for the Guthrie's production, allowing for the inclusion of timely phrases like "alternative facts." But the core of the story is the same: science vs. politics, truth vs. fabrication. In a gripping 90 minutes, the story unfolds and the scientist's life unravels, all while trying to do "the right thing." A fantastic cast of local and national talent, a gorgeous crisp, clean, Scandinavian design, and timely and relevant themes make for another great night at the Guthrie.

Monday, May 14, 2018

"She Loves Me" at DalekoArts

The second of three #TCTheater productions within a year of the delicious and timeless 1963 musical She Loves Me is now playing on the far Southern edge of the seven-county metro area, at DalekoArts in New Prague. Based on a 1937 Hungarian play, the basic story has been told in multiple iterations, including the 1940 Jimmy Stewart movie The Shop Around the Corner, and the 1998 Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan remake You've Got Mail. But She Loves Me tells it in musical form, which IMO is always the better way to go. The current popularity of the show is perhaps due to the successful 2016 Broadway revival (broadcast live via BroadwayHD), but whatever the reason I'm glad of it. I have fallen in love with this sweet and funny show, first through Lyric Arts' production earlier this spring, then through listening to the 2016 cast recording, and now through DalekoArts' charming production. They employ a smaller cast and band on a much smaller stage (I'm not sure there are any tinier stages in #TCTheater than Daleko's), and blissfully no body mics, which only makes the experience more sweet and intimate. She Loves Me plays for one more weekend only; if you're in the Southern Metro you should definitely check out what's going on in New Prague.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

"Taking Shakespeare" at Gremlin Theatre

I wish I had had a professor like the one in Taking Shakespeare, maybe I'd have a better appreciation for the Bard. As it is I struggle the first time I see a Shakespeare play, as does the student in the play. But by the end he seems to really get it, and like in any good teacher/student relationship, the teacher also learns from the student. In Gremlin Theatre's staging of the new(ish) play by John Murrell, directed by Artistic Director Peter Christian Hansen, we get to watch this relationship play out in the hands of two talented actors (a beloved veteran and an exciting newcomer). It's an exploration of not just Shakespeare, but the changing phases of life, and whatever one's passion happens to be.

Friday, May 11, 2018

"Marisol" by Theatre Coup D'Etat at SpringHouse Ministry Center

Theatre Coup D'Etat has done it again. They've brought us an interesting piece in an intimate setting with innovative staging and a talented and diverse cast. A piece that pushes boundaries and makes the audience think. I never know what to expect from Coup D'Etat, as I didn't with Marisol, currently playing at SpringHouse Ministry Center, but it's always worth my time. For this play written by Puerto Rican playwright José Rivera they've enlisted Puerto Rican #TCTheater artist Ricardo Vázquez, which is the smartest choice they made with this piece, because it lends an authenticity and an understanding of the culture and traditions from which this play was born. It's a wild ride, one that's at times confusing or difficult to watch, but so chock full of meaning and symbolism that I can't even begin to unpack it all. The production is very thoughtful and detailed, and not one I will soon forget.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

"Under this Roof" by Full Circle Theater at the Guthrie Theater

Currently staging just their third production, Full Circle Theater is new to the #TCTheater scene, but the founding members are certainly not new to the community. Co-Artistic Directors Rick Shiomi and Martha B. Johnson, along with Core Artists Lara Trujillo, James A. Williams, and Stephanie Lein Walseth have combined their experience and talents "to produce heartfelt, groundbreaking theater that artfully addresses issues of diversity and social justice for 21st century audiences." The new play Under this Roof, written by veteran actor of local and national stages Barbara Kingsley, fits well with this mission. It's a simple story of friendship and family, with moments of lyrical beauty mixed with the mundane stuff of everyday life. Directed by Full Circle artist James A. Williams and featuring a solid four-person cast, it's a realistic and ultimately hopeful look at the challenges that life throws at us.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

"Five-Fifths of The Matrix" by Five Minnesota Fringe Festival Companies at ARIA

The first Minnesota Fringe Festival event of 2018 is here! The first one I attend anyway (the lottery happened a few months ago, choosing the lucky companies that get to perform in the festival). The annual "Five-Fifths" fundraiser is when they take an iconic movie, split it up into five parts, hand it over to five Fringe companies, then put the five parts back together again. To say that the end result bears little resemblance to the original goes without saying. But it's great fun, and really gives you a taste of what Fringe is - a display of a wide array of creativity. Mark your calendar for August 2-12, and in the meantime find out how you can get involved (by volunteering, donating, or attending other pre-festival events) at the Fringe website.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

"High Fidelity" by Minneapolis Musical Theatre at Electric Fetus

High Fidelity, the Broadway flop musical adaptation of the 2000 film (it ran for 32 performances only), is the perfect choice for Minneapolis Musical Theatre, whose motto is "Rare musicals. Well done." They have a knack for bringing out the best in a show and staging it in a way that works. So they're staging High Fidelity, which mostly takes place in a record store, in an actual record store! And an iconic Minneapolis record store at that - Electric Fetus. Maybe this show didn't/wouldn't play well in a traditional theater space, but in this intimate site-specific space that makes you feel like you're part of the story, it's a unique theatrical thrill. With a fantastic and hard-working 14-person cast, a rockin' band, and great use of the space, it's a sure-fire hit. With only six more performances and limited space, act fast so as not to miss out on the fun! (Click here for more info and tickets here.)

Monday, May 7, 2018

"Sub/prime" by Media Blitz at Mixed Blood Theatre

In a note in the program for his new play Sub/prime, NYC playwright Beck Lee states that local director Peter Moore told him after a reading, "You haven't found the humanity in these people yet. They are not honest, vulnerable people... they're stick figures." I shudder to think what the early version of this play was like, because these four Minnesota tourists on vacation in NYC are the most miserable horrible people I have ever seen on stage. I kept waiting for some sort of redemption, where someone learns a lesson, or gets there comeuppance, or something. But it never came. Part of me thinks this play is one big prank on Minnesotans; that the playwright hates Minnesotans and tourists and this is his big joke to show how horrible we are. Either way I was not laughing; I've rarely been so offended at the theater.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

"Lord Gordon Gordon" at History Theatre

The creators of History Theatre's smash hit new original musical Glensheen return for their second collaboration with the theater dedicated to creating new work mining the area's rich history - the fun and farcical (yet somewhat factual) Lord Gordon Gordon. I didn't love it as much as I did Glensheen (maybe because I'm not obsessed with this story like I am the story of the wealthy heiress serial killer arsonist), but it has that same sense of fun and wit combined with great original music that one comes to expect from a Hatcher/Poling show. With an excellent cast, plenty of Minnesota and Canada jokes, and clever theatrical tricks, it makes for a fun evening at the theater, laughing about the truth-is-stranger-than-fiction antics of a con man and his marks right here in Minnesota almost 150 years ago.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

"Prescription: Murder" by Ghoulish Delights at the Phoenix Theater

Lieutenant Columbo, as personified by Peter Falk, is one of the best TV detectives of all time. The original series ran for seven season in the 1970s, two more in the late '80s, with specials continuing through 2003. Columbo, with his trench coat and cigar and "just one more thing," is a TV icon. But did you know that this detective series actually started as a play (as most good things do)? The creators of the TV show, William Link and Richard Levinson, first wrote a play about the disheveled detective who always gets his man, a play that was then turned into a TV movie that became the pilot for the long-running series. And the rest is history. Now, thanks to Ghoulish Delights, you have a chance to revisit that history and see Columbo's origins on stage at the Phoenix Theater in Uptown: a must see for Columbo fans and fans of retro thrillers.