Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Agatha Christie's "The Mysterious Affair at Styles" at Theatre in the Round

Theatre in the Round, the oldest theater in Minneapolis, has a tradition of presenting Agatha Christie mysteries. For their 71st season, they're premiering a new adaptation of Christie's first novel The Mysterious Affair at Styles, published in 1920 and featuring what would become one of her most popular characters, the Belgian detective Hercule Poirot. I have to admit, I've never read any of her novels or seen any movies based on her mysteries, and I've only seen a couple of her plays (that tracks for a theater nerd), so I was previously unfamiliar with Papa Poirot. I found him to be a thoroughly delightful character, and this Mysterious Affair to be a well-plotted, suspenseful, and entertaining mystery. And after seven straight Christmas shows in a row, it was a nice palate cleanser from all the carols and figgy pudding and such. TRP's mysteries are quite popular and most shows are close to selling out, so if you want to catch this non-holiday offering before it closes on December 18, get your tickets soon!

Monday, November 28, 2022

"White Christmas" at DalekoArts

Taking a break from their usual tradition of original holiday* comedy plays, DalekoArts is presenting the 2008 musical adaptation of the beloved 1954 move White Christmas. It may be the biggest musical they've ever done on their intimate stage in terms of size and scope. But as usual, they've created something warm, homey, and intimate out of this big show. A fantastic hard-working cast of just 13 (less than half of the original Broadway cast), a small but mighty off-stage five-piece orchestra, and simple yet effective design bring this familiar heart-warming story to life. It simply isn't Christmas without White Christmas, and to see it live at DalekoArts, after a drive through the countryside full of lights, is a treat indeed. It plays Thursdays through Sundays until December 18, and is playing in rep with the original holiday comedy White Chrismith on Sundays through Mondays. It features popular character Chris Smith from past original comedies, so they found a way to continue the tradition and do something new.

Saturday, November 26, 2022

"Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley" at Lyric Arts

This holiday* #TCTheater season, we are blessed with not one but two productions of Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon's Pride and Prejudice fan fiction series Christmas at Pemberley. The first play in the trilogy, Miss Bennet, was first seen on local stages at the Jungle Theater five years ago, after which they co-commissioned two more plays, the latest of which, Georgiana and Kitty, is currently premiering at the Jungle. But you can also see where the story all began in Miss Bennet in a new production at Lyric Arts in Anoka. All of these plays are gems, perfectly marrying Jane Austen's legacy of female-centered stories in a man's world of property, marriage, and inheritance with modern feminist sensibilities. It's lovely to see a different take on these stories at Lyric Arts, but just as charming, funny, and heart-warming. You can visit Pemberley via Anoka Thursdays through Sundays until December 18.

Friday, November 25, 2022

"A Christmas Carol" at the Guthrie Theater

It's the Guthrie Theater's 60th season, and for about 80% of those years they've been producing Charles Dickens' classic story of redemption, A Christmas Carol. This year marks their 48th production, and my 16th time seeing it. It's obviously a beloved holiday* tradition in the #TCTheater community, one that I also love and have rarely missed in my 19 seasons as a subscriber. But why? Why do they keep doing it? Why do people keep seeing it? Why do I go back year after year? Read on for ten reasons** to see the Guthrie's A Christmas Carol this year before it closes on December 31.

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

"A Servant's Christmas" at History Theatre

For longtime History Theatre Artistic Director Ron Peluso's final show, he chose an old favorite - A Servant's Christmas. It premiered in 1980 and ran for over a dozen years. Early in his 27-year reign Ron had the idea to turn this stalwart play into a musical, and hired composer/ lyricist Drew Jansen to work with playwright John Fenn to add music to this story of servants in a grand house on Summit Avenue around the turn of the last century. The result is a lovely musical about a found family and the atypical way they celebrate the holiday* season, which can include many different traditions. The cast is chock full of fantastic singers, who also bring out all of the emotions of this story of love and longing. See A Servant's Christmas at the History Theatre in downtown St. Paul through December 18.

Monday, November 21, 2022

"Georgiana and Kitty: Christmas at Pemberley" at the Jungle Theater

It's the most wonderful time of the year* - time to return to Christmas at Pemberley at the Jungle Theater. Playwrights Lauren Gunderson (one of the most produced playwrights in the country, often writing plays about women in history, particularly in STEM) and Margot Melcon have created the most delightful Jane Austen fan fiction in this series of plays based on the characters in Pride and Prejudice. The Jungle produced the first one, Miss Bennet**, in 2017 and it was such a hit that they co-commissioned a sequel, The Wickhams, which premiered the following year. After remounting Miss Bennet in 2019 and taking a break for two years for... you know, they've done it again, with another co-commission and rolling world premiere of the third (but hopefully not last) installment - Georgiana and Kitty. Each of these plays focuses on a different Bennet sister or two, but they're all similar in their sparkling dialogue that feels both period appropriate and refreshingly modern, their centering of women in the story (continuing the legacy of Jane Austen), their fleshing out of characters who didn't get much space in the original novel, and their charming romances complete with obstacles to be overcome, just like all good Austen heroines. With Georgiana and Kitty we get not one but two new Austen heroines to love and root for in their pursuit of love, art, purpose, and happiness. Every Christmas at Pemberley is sheer delight from start to finish, and I hope the Jungle makes this a 40+ year tradition (my dream is that they'll produce all three plays in rep someday and I can see them all in one wondrous epic day). You can visit Pemberley any day except Monday from now through December 23 (click here for info and tickets).

Saturday, November 19, 2022

"The Best Christmas Show in Three Years" by Brave New Workshop at the Dudley Riggs Theatre

This spring, after a two year hiatus, the longest running sketch comedy troupe in the country went Back to the Workshop - the Brave New Workshop, that is. Now their annual holiday show is back for the first time in three years, and it's guaranteed to be The Best Christmas Show in Three Years. It may also be one of the best you see this year, especially if your tastes run more towards the salty than sweet side of things. This hilarious and lovable cast makes fun of all the silly things surrounding the holiday season, while still celebrating being together and laughing. Lots of laughing. It plays at the newly christened Dudley Riggs Theatre (honoring the founder of the company who passed away recently) in downtown Minneapolis through January 28. Click here for info and tickets.

"How the Grinch Stole Christmas" at Children's Theatre Company

I came home from a weekend down South in Nashville where it was a balmy 45 degrees to find that winter had arrived in Minnesota. And I'm not just talking about the snow and freezing temperatures. I'm talking about holiday #TCTheater that seems to start earlier and include more shows every year. But I'm here for it; it's a big season for local theater and I love all of the holiday offerings, from sweet to salty. My first of four holiday* shows this weekend, and probably about a dozen this season, is the recurring fave How the Grinch Stole Christmas at Children's Theatre Company. This is the 10th production at CTC since this beloved Dr. Suess adaptation premiered in 1994, the 5th time with the incomparable Reed Sigmund as the furry green grouch we all love to hate, and then just plain love. This show is full of such joy, humor, and nostalgia, that it's impossible not to feel your heart grow a size or two. The gorgeous design and super talented cast of all ages bring this beloved familiar story to life before our eyes. The Grinch continues through the first week of January, but it's a popular show so make sure to get your tickets early, and look for cheaper tickets with better availability on weekdays. And remember, plan to arrive 30 minutes prior to showtime because traffic and parking can be difficult in the area (pro tip: continue on 3rd Avenue south of 26th Street and look for street parking there).

Tuesday, November 8, 2022

"Othello" by Classical Actors Ensemble at Elision Playhouse

I've enjoyed Classical Actors Ensemble's summer outdoor tradition of Shakespeare in area parks since 2015. But it turns out they also perform indoors. And while their fall indoor production of Othello isn't as fun and playful as their outdoor shows (also, it's Othello), it's still accessible, understandable, and entertaining. Othello is a heavy play, one I'm not as familiar with, and not a short play (i.e., better for me to see a matinee, which I did). But the clear direction and great performances by the cast make the relevant themes of love, betrayal, trust, deception, and manipulation ring out. It continues weekends through November 20, plus a few free readings of other plays (see CAE's website for more info).

Sunday, November 6, 2022

"Pirates of Penzance" by Gilbert and Sullivan Very Light Opera Company at Howard Conn Fine Arts Center

In their first fall production, Gilbert and Sullivan Very Light Opera Company, the only local company dedicated to the silly, witty, and delightful creations of late 19th Century British librettist and composer W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan, respectively, bring us my personal favorite, The Pirates of Penzance! GSVLOC have typically just been doing one show a year, in the spring, but as their dedicated audience would agree, once is just not enough. Directed by Gary Briggle (who played the Major General in the Ordway's 2015 production), the huge cast and off-stage orchestra bring out all of the delicious silliness and gorgeous musicality of the piece. If you're looking for a traditional production of this G&S masterpiece (with an interesting note in the program about the history of the piece - the first to premiere in the U.S.), this is it. See it at the Howard Conn Fine Arts Center in Plymouth Congregational Church in South Minneapolis through November 20.

Saturday, November 5, 2022

"The Boys Room" at Gremlin Theatre

It's been nearly three years since Gremlin Theatre's last production (the dark comedy Becky Shaw in January 2020). They've of course hosted other theater companies in their Midway St. Paul space in that time (including a few outdoor productions in summer 2020). But now they're back with the family dramedy The Boys Room, which premiered at Chicago's Victory Gardens Theater a little over ten years ago. A stellar four-person cast brings this family, that puts the fun in dysfunctional, to such vivid life that it's a bit startling when it ends after 90 short minutes, with nothing really resolved, but a whole lot exposed. None of these characters are very likeable, but the actors are as they make these people, and the awkward situation they find themselves in, seem very real.