Saturday, February 4, 2023

"'Til Death" by Bucket Brigade at Art House North

For over ten years, Bucket Brigade has been presenting their original "marriage musical" 'Til Death around this time of the year (including a virtual version during the pandemic). It's an endearing little show about love, life, and relationships, both the challenges and the rewards. With the added feature that the two married couples in the show are played by two real-life married couples, adding a level of realism. Creators Vanessa and Jeremiah Gamble play the long-married couple, and two couples take turns playing the young newlyweds - Anna and Damian Leverett, and Stephanie and Nathan Cousins (I saw the Leveretts, with Anna's pregnancy adding a fun twist). They've brought in a new director this year, Craig Johnson, for a fresh eye, but the show remains largely unchanged, except for one improvement - they've removed the intermission, which makes it a perfect 90-minute show. Get there early to find street parking on the icy St. Paul streets, to eat a delicious cupcake from local bakery Bake Bread (included in the price of admission), and to enjoy a pre-show concert of love songs.

Here's my (slightly modified) review from the 2016 production:

Olivia and Ethan, a couple who has recently separated, find themselves alone in a cabin in the woods on their 15th anniversary weekend, thanks to a Parent Trap like trick. Alone, that is, until obnoxiously happy newlyweds show up at their door with car trouble. Freddy (her) and Leslie's (him) ooey-gooey overly affectionate love is in stark contrast to Olivia and Ethan's troubled marriage. But nothing is as perfect as it seems, including Freddy and Leslie's marriage. Each couple tries to help the other couple through their problems, and in doing so is somehow able to see their own problems in a new light and work through them as well, agreeing to live happily ever after... 'til death.

the Gambles and the Leveretts
(photo from a previous production)
This lovely small-scale musical features piano accompaniment by Michael Pearce Donley (who begins playing and singing 15 minutes prior to showtime). Art House North is an old church turned into an art space, which makes for a unique and intimate space to watch theater. There's no need for amplification in a small space like that, which allows the beautiful voices of the four actors to ring out clear and pure. The score is clever, funny, and tuneful, with some nice repeated themes throughout the show, a fun dance number or two (dance coach Maureen Sherman-Mendez), and even a couple of hilarious slow-mo "fight" scenes.

The former altar space of the former church has been turned into a cozy cabin by scenic designer Katie Phillips, with warmth created by lighting designer Shannon Elliot. Behind imaginary walls we see the bathroom and a bedroom, in addition to the open kitchen and living room areas, which allows for private and not so private conversations between various pairs of characters as they move around the space.

'Til Death is a funny and poignant story with catchy songs and great performances by two married couples as two married couples. These are professional actors, they don't have to actually be married to play a convincing married couple, but knowing that they are adds a level of truth to the proceedings, I imagine for the actors as well.

'Til Death continues through February 18, with a pay-as-you're-able performance on the 13th, and a special Valentine's Day show on the 14th.


Join me and my fellow Twin Cities Theater Bloggers for a special event at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres! Get $20 off the ticket price for the March 4 matinee performance of the regional premiere of the super fun and heart-warming musical THE PROM, and stick around after the show for a talk-back with some of the cast. Find more info in the Facebook event here, and purchase discount tickets using code TCTB1 or by clicking on this link (discount valid for March 4 1pm performance only).