Monday, February 28, 2022

"Monster Heart" by Combustible Company at the Southern Theater

200 years after its publication, Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein still holds a permanent place in our culture, having inspired countless adaptations in theater, film, and television over the years. There's a reason that this story of the creature who just wants to be loved and accepted, and the destruction that follows when he isn't, continues to appeal to us; there's something very human about this creature. The author's life, while less fantastical, is every bit as dramatic as her story. Combustible Company's new piece Monster Heart combines the two stories into one beautifully tragic arc of love and grief (see also Collide Theatrical's recent Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, which did the same through dance and pop music). Combining text from the novel and other writings of the time with music and movement, they weave a haunting tale, shedding new light on this familiar story. Only four performances remain in this short two-week run; click here for info and tickets.

Sunday, February 27, 2022

"IN PERSON" by Emily Michaels King at the Crane Theater

Almost exactly one year ago, multi-disciplinary artist Emily Michaels King presented one of the most innovative virtual performances to come out of #TCTheater during the pandemic intermission from live performances. DIGITAL was a highly technical use of various media and software (MacBook Pro, iPhone, Zoom, recorded videos, live videos, images, audio clips, text) that was also highly personal. Now, for two weekends only, Emily is presenting a companion piece called IN PERSON and performed live and in person at the Crane Theater. It truly feels like a continuation of what was begun a year ago, as if we're watching her create this feat of technical artistry that we experienced last year, and move beyond it. If you saw DIGITAL I highly recommend you continue the journey with IN PERSON, but it's not a prerequisite; IN PERSON can also stand on its own. Like all of Emily's work, this piece is extremely innovative, thoughtful, raw, vulnerable, powerful, inexplicable, and deeply moving.

Saturday, February 26, 2022

"The Mousetrap" at Lyric Arts

The world's longest running play has arrived in Anoka! Agatha Christie's murder mystery Mousetrap opened in London's West End in 1952 and has run continuously every since (not counting the covid intermission). Lyric Arts's new production opens this weekend, and it's delightful. I had never seen the play before, so I was in the wonderful position of not knowing whodunit, until the murderer was finally revealed to audible gasps from the audience. It's less scary than spookily fun, as the audience tries to figure out whom to trust and whom to suspect amongst these unique and specific characters who come together in a boarding house just outside of London. Christie's popular and well-plotted (if a few too many coincidences) story, along with this talented cast and spot-on design, make for an entertaining evening on a chilly Minnesota night.

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Broadway Tour of "Pretty Woman: The Musical" at the Orpheum Theatre

Now playing in the "Broadway on Hennepin" season at the Orpheum Theatre in downtown Minneapolis: the 2018 musical adaptation of the iconic 1990 film Pretty Woman. Did Pretty Woman need to be made into a musical? Probably not. Is it fun? Sure. Is the cast bringing it and making the most of every moment? Absolutely. Was it worth driving through snowy Minnesota streets to see original RENT cast member Adam Pascal? You betcha! To be honest, he's the only reason I saw the show, not being a fan of movie adaptations in general. But I can't deny that it's a fun show with fantastic performances by the entire cast, and if you love the movie, you might love seeing it come to life on stage. Is it the best show in this 2021-2022 season? Not by a long shot, but I had a great time. It's only in town for a week; click here for more details and ticket info

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

"Falsettos" by Morris Park Players at Edison High School

There's a ton of great community theater in the Twin Cities, but I don't get to see much of it because I'm kept more than busy attending shows by the plethora of professional #TCTheater companies. But when the only local theater to do Falsettos (in my recent memory) is a community theater, I'm there. The 1992 multiple Tony winner had a successful Broadway revival a few years ago, and I fell in love with this messy and real love story when I saw the filmed version in a movie theater, and the subsequent tour. I just happened to see that Morris Park Players, a Northeast Minneapolis-based company that has been around for 70 years, was doing Falsettos, and I was lucky enough to catch their final performance. This is not an easy musical, think Sondheim-level complicated lyrics and rhythms, and I was super impressed with MPP first for choosing it, and secondly for the way they handled the material with energy, skill, and heart. It looks like they do one or two shows a year, so I'll be watching for their next choice. You can too (follow them on Facebook here), or better yet, find out what community theater is performing in your neighborhood and give them your support!

Sunday, February 20, 2022

"Marjorie Prime" at Theatre in the Round

Now playing at the oldest theater in Minneapolis: the 2015 Pulitzer Prize finalist Marjorie Prime. This is the third show in Theatre in the Round's abbreviated five-show 70th season, which is an eclectic mix of traditional works and more interesting pieces like this. In just 80 minutes, the trippy and futuristic Marjorie Prime explores issues of aging, dementia, grief, depression, suicide, artificial intelligence, and complicated family dynamics. It's a fascinating and layered look at a multitude of relevant topics, well done by this cast and creative team. Continuing weekends through March 6 (click here for details).

Saturday, February 19, 2022

"Man of God" by Theater Mu at Mixed Blood Theatre

It's so exciting to continue to welcome #TCTheater companies back to the stage after the very long extended intermission of 2020-2021. Today's edition: Theater Mu, who are finally presenting the dark comedy Man of God, their first onstage production since Peerless in February of 2020. Man of God was originally scheduled to close out their 2020-2021 season, which included the fantastic virtual full production Today is My Birthday. Now the star of that show, Katie Bradley, is making her directorial debut on this new play by Anna Ouyang Moench about a Korean-American Christian youth group on a mission to Bangkok who discover Pastor isn't who they think he is. It's a brutal look at sexual abuse, harassment, and living under the male gaze, which is especially relevant in a time when hate crimes against Asian Americans, particularly women, are on the rise. See this funny, entertaining, thought-provoking, heart-breaking play through March 6 at Mixed Blood Theatre (click here for details).

Monday, February 14, 2022

"Footloose" at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres

Chanhassen Dinner Theatres is back with their first show created after the long pandemic intermission of 2020-2021. After their 2020 production of The Music Man was finally able to return last summer and continue through January, the Chan is turning the page to Footloose, the adaptation of the classic '80s movie. While it's not my favorite musical, being both a movie adaptation and a (partial) jukebox musical, this production makes the most of the material and is a super fun time at the theater. As always at the Chanhassen, every element of production is smooth and professional, the music and dancing are fabulous, and the cast is top notch. It's nearly impossible not to have a blast at the Chan, and this Footloose is pure entertainment from start to finish. The show will continue through the summer and into September, but weekends are already starting to sell out and summers are always busy, so make your plans now to cut loose in Chanhassen.

Sunday, February 13, 2022

"Fearless 5: Music" by Fearless Comedy Productions at the Historic Mounds Theatre

This was my first time seeing Fearless Comedy Productions' Fearless 5 show: "an evening of one act plays in which an ensemble of actors perform 5 original short plays, written by 5 different playwrights, and directed by 5 different directors." This year's theme is music, and combining music and theater is my favorite kind of storytelling, so I couldn't resist. In an era of jukebox musicals, movie adaptations, and repeated revivals (e.g., the upcoming Broadway touring season, which has not a single new original musical), it's exciting to see local playwrights explore the idea of music-theater, whether it's through full-blown musicals, or merely with music as an idea behind the story. Check it out at the cool (and possibly haunted) art deco-era renovated Historic Mounds Theatre in St. Paul's Dayton's Bluff neighborhood, Fridays and Saturdays through the end of the month (tickets just $10 - click here for details).

Saturday, February 12, 2022

"An Evening with Ella and Harold" at Lakeshore Players Theatre

The Queen of Jazz and one of the greatest composers of the American Songbook -  a match made in music heaven. Such is the subject of the new original play with music by Lakeshore Players Theatre. An Evening with Ella and Harold parallels the lives and stories of Ella Fitzgerald and Harold Arlen, featuring music from the 1961 album Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Harold Arlen Song Book. Though they never met, the two were connected by music. Local playwright Alayna Jacqueline imagines a sort of conversation between them, for a lovely evening of music history and performance.

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

"Not For Sale" at the History Theatre

Part two of History Theatre's pair of new original plays based on Minnesota's history of segregation and redlining is now on stage. Originally scheduled to run in rep in March 2020, the two plays were split up this season, with Not in Our Neighborhood premiering last fall, and Not For Sale last weekend. It would have been nice to see them in rep (although perfectly understandable why that plan was shelved in the wake of new covid safety protocols) because they really are two chapters in the same story. The long, complex, ugly story of racism in Minnesota that continues to play out on a daily basis. There's a direct line from Black families being denied the opportunity to purchase property in certain neighborhoods, or at all, to the racial injustice we see today. Plays like these help us to remember our history, so that we can build a better future.

Sunday, February 6, 2022

"Copenhagen" by Melancholic Anonymous at the Crane Theater

New #TCTheater company Melancholics Anonymous came out of St. Olaf shortly before the pandemic. What a time to start a theater company! But maybe because they are new, and young, they were able to quickly adapt to the virtual theater world and produce some really great virtual productions (e.g., Good Grief and On Air: The Wuppet Time Murders for the 2020 and 2021 Minnesota Fringe Festival). I saw them live for the first time last night, a production of the 2000 Tony Award-winning best play Copenhagen. In the intimate space of the Crane studio theater, this three-hander (if that's a term) that speculates about the real-life 1941 meeting between scientists Neils Bohr and Werner Heisenberg (both of whose worked contributed to the development of the atomic bomb) is a wonderful exploration of science, philosophy, and morality. Copenhagen continues at the Crane Theater in Northeast Minneapolis through February 13 only.

Saturday, February 5, 2022

"Redwood" at Jungle Theater

Nearly two years after its planned opening night that never happened in March 2020, Redwood is finally opening at Jungle Theater this weekend. A lot has happened in those two years, and the dramedy about an interracial couple who discovers an uncomfortable ancestral connection may play a little differently now (read more about that here). But through humor and a loving family, the exploration of the complicated connections that bind us, historically and presently, is ultimately hopeful. It shows us that globally, nationally, and personally, we need to acknowledge past traumas, but not let them define us as we move forward together. This funny, thought-provoking, and moving play (the title refers to the deep roots of a family tree) continues at Jungle Theater in Uptown through March 13.