Theater Latte Da's Drama-Desk-Award-winning soon-to-be-PBS-broadcast original holiday piece All is Calm? Like Mister Rogers, this artfully constructed story of the real life WWI Christmas Truce reminds us what can happen when we choose kindness over violence, connection over hate. The soldiers were only able to accomplish this remarkable feat for 24 hours, and then the war continued for several years and millions of deaths. But if a war can cease even for 24 hours, if a man can heal his relationship with his father thanks to one person's kindness and encouragement, what else can we accomplish, individually and collectively, if we choose kindness, connection, and peace? This is the seventh time I've seen All is Calm, my favorite of what the #TCTheater holiday* season has to offer, and it only gets more beautiful, poignant, and necessary every year. We need this message now more than ever.
Saturday, November 30, 2019
Wednesday, November 27, 2019
Jungle Theater is presenting their own special brand of Pride and Prejudice fan fiction, in the form of delightfully modern yet still very Austen plays by the playwrighting team of Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon. Their 2017 production of Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley was so successful that they co-commissioned a sequel for 2018 - The Wickhams: Christmas at Pemberley. This year they're remounting the 2017 production of Miss Bennet with much of the original team, plus a few delightful new additions. Jane Austen created such a rich world in Pride and Prejudice that I could envision a dozen more sequels, as we continue to visit these four loving but very different sisters in different times in their lives. (Oh wait, there are five sisters; we haven't seen Kitty yet, so she deserves her own sequel next!) This is exactly how I like my Austen - fresh and modern and feminist and charming, but still within the manners of the time. I want to live in that world, but I guess I'll settle for a visit to Pemberley once a year via the Jungle Theater.
Tuesday, November 26, 2019
A 1940s Radio Christmas Carol. It's a feel-good nostalgic kind of holiday show, full of laughs, groans, lovely music, and a few poignant moments. You really can't go wrong combining the Dickens classic with 1940s Americana. Lyric Arts has assembled a great cast that performs the material well - both musically and theatrically - with detailed design that'll put you in the holiday spirit.
Sunday, November 24, 2019
The Moving Company's latest original work what if is made up of two separate and very different parts that together form a "moving," "funny," "thought-provoking" piece of theater. I use quotes because in this sort of meta, fourth wall breaking piece, the performers talk about theater, and how we talk about theater, and say just about every world I've ever used to write about theater. It's sort of about theater itself, why we do theater, why we go to the theater. And it's also about humanity, and the origins of storytelling, and the what if of imagining ourselves in someone else's shoes - both as performers and as audience members. It's a process of creating empathy, of making this very big world seems smaller, or more familiar, or more connected. Forgive me if I'm not making sense, or talking in circles, but such is this piece of new and original theater.
Saturday, November 23, 2019
cancelling two planned shows in their 2019-2020 season due to financial challenges. But fortunately, the regional premiere of Kate Hamill's new adaptation of the beloved Jane Austen novel Pride and Prejudice is not one of them. Kate Hamill is a young female playwright who's been adapting several classics with a modern and feminist bent, e.g., Sense and Sensibility, Little Women, and the upcoming Emma, to premiere at the Guthrie next spring. Walking into the theater we're told "this is not your grandmother's Pride and Prejudice," which turned out to be very true. The playwright turns the story into a full-out comedy, performed by an ensemble of just eight actors, many playing multiple roles. While the comedy went a bit too far for my taste in a few places, on the whole it's a fun and delightful new look at a beloved classic.
Friday, November 22, 2019
Collective Unconscious Performance's latest original work Into the Darkness is an adaptation of two fairy tales, "The Dark Princess" and "East of the Sun, West of the Moon." The bad news is they're only doing eight performances in a small space that's selling out; the only remaining seats are for this Sunday. The good news is this inventive adaptation of these little known stories, using music and puppetry, is really lovely. I've never seen Collective Unconsious' work before, and I'm happy to make their acquaintance with this piece. If you can't get tickets to this show, follow them on Facebook and make plans to see their next original work, Maiden Voyage, next spring.
Tuesday, November 19, 2019
Monday, November 18, 2019
Wikipedia tells me it is "the second-oldest extant work of Western literature." But this story, as many old stories do, mostly focuses on the men, with the women as peripheral characters. What if we reimagined this ancient story with women at the center? Author Margaret Atwood did just that in her 2005 novella The Penelopiad, which she later adapted for the stage. It's fascinating and exciting to look at these old familiar stories in new ways, ways that feel more relevant and immediate and rich. Theatre Unbound is presenting this play to begin their 20th anniversary season, and it's a powerful, moving, tragic, and beautiful example of the work they've been doing for 20 years - women telling women's stories.
Sunday, November 17, 2019
three new works by women about women, HERstory Theatre has continued this fall with the powerful and moving more-than-just-a-play Gloria: A Life (a regional premiere), and now a remount of the History Theatre's original play-with-music Beyond the Rainbow: Garland at Carnegie Hall. This commissioned piece (as many of their work is) premiered in 2005, and has since been produced at regional theaters around the country, including a few return engagements at the History Theatre, most recently in 2011 when I first saw it. Some of the original cast returns, including the incomparable Jody Briskey as Judy, in this story of one of Minnesota's favorite daughters. Everybody loves Judy, especially here in the land of her birth, and this play is a beautiful homage to the human behind the legend, while still celebrating her incredible legacy of music and film.
Saturday, November 16, 2019
Old Log Theatre (rumored to be the oldest continually operating theater west of the Mississippi) is presenting the regional premiere of the 2014 Tony winning* best musical A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder. I saw it last night, about one month into its four-month run, and it's an absolute delight. It's a charming and hilarious big broad English comedy (written by Americans Robert L. Freedman and Steven Lutvak), full of fast clever lyrics, lovely melodies and harmonies, and ridiculously plotted murders, executed brilliantly by the team at Old Log. The only place you can see this recent Tony winner is in the charming lakeside town of Excelsior, that only gets more charming with snow and holiday decorations. This is not a holiday show, but would make for a fun holiday (or post-holiday) outing for friends, family, or solo.
Yellow Tree Theatre's original Minnesota comedies. It all began with Miracle on Christmas Lake in their first season way back in 2008, a play written quickly under pressure by co-founder Jessica Lind Peterson, that has turned into an Osseo sensation. It ran for several years, then inspired a sequel. After a few other unrelated original holiday comedies set Up North, Yellow Tree returned to the original Miracle on Christmas Lake last year, and this year are bringing us the sequel.** Full of the quirky and very Minnesotan characters we've come to love, but with a (mostly) all new cast of talented comedians, Another Miracle on Christmas Lake is a riot. I have a group of friends and co-workers I've been bringing to Yellow Tree for almost ten years, and we all agree that with everything going on in the world and at home right now, we just needed to laugh. There's no better place for that than this show. It continues through December 29, but like I said it's a sensation and their intimate theater space sells out, so get your tickets soon.
Friday, November 15, 2019
Two Kids that Blow Shit Up a few years ago, and are now bringing us this smart, funny, family crime dramedy Fast Company. There's nothing particularly deep or revelatory about it, but it's fun in an Ocean's Eleven heist kind of way, and it's rare and wonderful to see an Asian-American family at the center of this type of story, portrayed as flawed, messy, loving, complicated humans instead of stereotypes.
Tuesday, November 12, 2019
this excellent and necessary series is an original play by Artistic Director Shannon TL Kearns. But In a Stand of Dying Trees, playing at Off-Leash Art Box through November 23, is not just a play about gun violence. It's also a play about transgender rights, about the conflict between urban and rural communities, about when to overlook differences in the interest of peaceful coexistence and when to have the uncomfortable conversations. It's not an easy play to watch, and doesn't offer any solutions, but what it does do, what Uprising always does with their work, is open up a conversation. Their community partners for this play are Moms Demand Action, an organization working to end gun violence, and Better Angels, which hosts workshops and conversations to depolarize America. This partnership, along with the discussions that Uprising hosts after every show, make In a Stand of Dying Trees not just a thought-provoking, timely, relevant play, but also, hopefully, a catalyst for real conversation and change.
Saturday, November 9, 2019
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
Thursday, November 7, 2019
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
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 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
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
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.