Sunday, March 26, 2023

"SKOL!" by Collide Theatrical Dance Company at the Southern Theater

For their latest original jazz dance musical, Collide Theatrical Dance Company took inspiration from a recent scholarly finding that a 1878 archeological find that was believed to be the body of a Viking warrior is in fact female remains. There is other evidence to support the existence of female Viking warriors, which you can read about here and I'm sure other scholarly sources. Or you can go see SKOL!, which is less historically accurate than it is an imaging of a strong female leader in the Viking culture and its reflections in today's world. For the first time since the pandemic, Collide is returning to live music accompanying the dancing (their last few shows have used recorded music), and for the first time in their history, they're using original music written for this story instead of covers of pop songs. It's an ambitious task, and after 10 years of creating original dance pieces, they're up for it. If you're someone who things dancing warriors is silly, this might not be the show for you. But if you see dance/music/theater as a way to express heightened emotions, the kind that are very much presence in war, love, and family drama, head to the Southern Theater in the next two weeks to see this fun collision of dance, music, and theater to tell a story of female power.

Saturday, March 25, 2023

"What / Washed Ashore / Astray" at Pillsbury House Theatre

In just 80 minutes, playwright Benjamin Benne succinctly writes about the experience of the death of a beloved family member with raw honesty and simple beauty. Despite the odd structure of the title, What / Washed Ashore / Astray is a very human story, with a little room for play and magic. Having recently gone through this experience, this play hit very close to home for me, and I was wiping away tears throughout the show. But it's quite lovely to see one of the most fundamental human experiences depicted on stage in such a beautiful way. Combined with wonderful performances from three of #TCTheater's best actors, an incredibly detailed set design that places us right there in the seaside cottage, and some delightfully inventive shadow puppetry, What / Washed Ashore / Astray is a must see for anyone interested in thoughtful human dramas (continuing through April 16 at Pillsbury House Theatre in South Minneapolis).

Friday, March 24, 2023

"Wish You Were Here" at Strike Theater

"A one act improvised comedy about loss and friendship. Grief is sad. And funny. And everything else." Strike Theater's latest show, Wish You Were Here, is funny and silly, and also kind of profound in the way that it shows people grieving as a part of normal life, with nothing resolved or closed by the end of it. I discovered through Family Dinner that long-form is my favorite kind of improv, because I love watching characters and relationships develop in a satisfying way throughout the course of the evening. That's definitely true here as well; in fact I wish there were a second act because there were several relationships established that I'd like to see developed further. But as it is, Wish You Were Here is a funny and bittersweet hour of an improvised dramedy. Only two performances remain - Friday and Saturday. Click here for more info and to purchase the $5-10 tickets.

Thursday, March 23, 2023

Broadway tour of "My Fair Lady" at the Ordway Center for Performing Arts

The 2018 Broadway revival of the beloved Lerner and Loewe classic My Fair Lady ran for a little over a year and was nominated for ten Tony Awards, winning Best Costume Design. The tour is back in the Twin Cities for the second time, but I missed it the first time around, so I was more than happy to spend a loverly evening at the Ordway with this luscious production. While a little dated, the musical "deals with issues of class, gender, societal expectations, and the intersection of wealth and power" (to quote myself). And this production, directed by the legendary Bartlett Sher, is fully aware of all of that, with some thorny conversations about those topics between its two main characters. I wish it were shorter (three hours is tough to sit through no matter the show), but I can't think of what I would cut because even the songs that have little to do with the plot (e.g., Eliza's dad's songs) are so much fun it's hard to imagine parting with any of them. If you haven't yet seen this new production and have a fondness for My Fair Lady, you'll definitely want to check out one of the four remaining performances (limited tickets remain).

Monday, March 20, 2023

"Bakersfield Mist" at Gremlin Theatre

Head to the Gremlin Theatre in St. Paul for Bakersfield Mist, a tight 70-minute two-hander that elicits both uproarious laughter and pin-drop silence with the revelation of real emotion. Most of the humor comes from the odd couple pairing of a trailer park dwelling bartender and an art expert from the big city, and much of the pathos comes from the fact that these are two damaged human beings who open up to each other in surprising ways. You couldn't ask for a better duo than #TCTheater vets Jen Maren and John Middleton, or a better director than Angela Timberman. The result is a really funny and entertaining dramedy that also explores themes of art, legitimacy, grief, and humanity. See it at the Gremlin now through April 2, and since it's only 70 minutes, you can make a night of it with a visit to Lake Monster Brewing (and food trucks) right next door.

Sunday, March 19, 2023

"Eurydice" at Theatre in the Round

Theatre in the Round's fantastic 71st season continues with Sarah Ruhl's Eurydice, a modern interpretation of the classic myth of Eurydice. As the story goes, Orpheus travels to the underworld to try to save his wife Eurydice from death with a song. But that's not the way this world works. As they say in the Tony-winning musical Hadestown (which is also based on this story), it's an old song, it's a sad song, but we sing it anyway. With its themes of grief, love, and loss, it's a story that's still relevant and worth telling. Especially with this well-written script and inventive staging by director Sophie Peyton. The talented cast performs in a physical theater style like I've never seen before at Theatre in the Round. It's a beautiful and magical 90-minute song, bringing new life to this old story. Playing weekends through April 2 at the oldest theater in Minneapolis.

Saturday, March 18, 2023

"By the Bog of Cats" by Theatre Pro Rata at the Crane Theater

Some people drink green beer, I celebrate St. Patrick's Day (and any other holiday, or just a regular day) by going to the theater. I had no idea how appropriate By the Bog of Cats would turn out to be as a St. Patty's Day observance. Written by Irish playwright Marina Carr, it's a tragically beautiful and beautifully tragic story in that specific Irish way (see also recent Oscar nominee The Banshees of Inisherin by another Irish playwright, Martin McDonagh). It's a great choice for Theatre Pro Rata, which has a penchant for making bold, interesting, unusual choices. With haunting live music, strong performances by the large and talented cast, and lovely design, it's an exploration of motherhood, grief, generational trauma, and what it means to be human. See it at the Crane Theater in Northeast Minneapolis weekends through April 2.

Friday, March 17, 2023

"Born with Teeth" at the Guthrie Theater

As the perfect companion to the Guthrie Theater's upcoming 60th Anniversary production of Hamlet, they're presenting the Alley Theatre production of the new play Born with Teeth. Based on a recent scholarly finding that Shakespeare might have collaborated with another great playwright of the time, Kit Marlowe, on the Henry VI plays, playwright Liz Duffy Adams imagines those meetings between the two men and what might have transpired. But this is no dull history lesson. It's an enthralling, dynamic, quick-witted, modern, fascinating two-hander that feels like the best tennis match I've ever seen (note: I've never seen a tennis match). The design is beautiful, but all this play needs is this brilliant script and these two gifted actors who make us feel like we're in the room with two of England's greatest playwrights as they match wits with each other, and who comes out on top may surprise you. I don't often read plays, but I just ordered this script from the Guthrie Store, because this 90-minute play is overflowing with clever, hilarious, mind-boggling lines and plot points that I want to read, study, and devour (to borrow one of those lines). If you're fan of Shakespeare, or smartly written two-handers, or historical fiction, or really great acting, Born with Teeth is a must-see (continuing through April 2 on the Guthrie's proscenium stage).

Thursday, March 16, 2023

"5" at the Jungle Theater, a co-production with Trademark Theater

"Trademark Theater tells bold stories by creating, developing and producing new works that challenge, entertain and inspire audiences." Check, check, and check. Trademark's latest new work is a co-production with Jungle Theater, a play called 5 written by #TCTheater artist JuCoby Johnson. It's creative and inventive, grounded yet fantastical, a story of friendship that deals with relevant issues like gentrification. Combining Trademark's talent for fostering new work with the Jungle's excellent production and design values results in a wildly entertaining and engaging night at the theater. 5 plays Tuesdays through Sundays at the Jungle Theater in Uptown until April 16, but don't wait too long - the small theater has a tendency to sell out especially for hot shows like this one is sure to become.

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

"Diesel Heart" at History Theatre

Several years in the making, the new play Diesel Heart is now on stage at History Theatre. Adapted from the autobiography of the same name by Melvin Carter, Jr., one of St. Paul's first Black police officers (and father of the current mayor), this is a story of the history of America. Specifically, the migration of Black Americans from the rural South to Northern cities (like Minneapolis and St. Paul), the displacement of Black communities through the building of interstate freeways (see also History Theatre's 2017 play The Highwaymen), the violence faced by many Black men and women growing up in this country, and the perseverance through those hardships into a better future. Melvin Carter, Jr. is an ordinary and extraordinary man living an ordinary and extraordinary life, that's beautifully brought to life on stage by the talented cast and creative team. See it at the History Theatre in downtown St. Paul now through April 2.

Saturday, March 11, 2023

"Calendar Girls" at Lakeshore Players Theatre

Just in time for Women's History Month, Lakeshore Players Theatre is bringing us the true story of a group of women in the UK who bared it all in a calendar to raise money for cancer research after one of the women lost her husband to the disease. Calendar Girls is a story of female friendship and support, of ordinary women defying expectations, taking a risk, and making a difference. It's funny and poignant and a little risqué, with a genial cast that makes you root for these women and their friendship. See it in the beautiful Hanifl Performing Arts Center in White Bear Lake now through March 26.

Wednesday, March 8, 2023

"Musical Mondays" at LUSH, March 2023

Great news, my musical theater loving friends: Musical Mondays is back at LUSH Lounge and Theater in Northeast Minneapolis! After a nearly three-year pandemic-induced hiatus, this fabulous monthly showcase of #TCTheater talent returned in December of 2022. I finally was able to attend this past Monday, the 83rd Musical Mondays since BFFs Max Wojtanowicz and Sheena Janson started it some ten years ago, and the 18th I've attended. It felt so great to be back in LUSH's spacious event space (remodeled a year or two prior to the pandemic) in a room full of music, love, and friendship. There's a real atmosphere of fun and camaraderie at these events, amongst the cast and the crowd (a great place to spot local "celebrities"). But of course, the focus is the music, and it's spectacular. Every casting director in town should attend these shows to find some new talent, especially the next one, on April 10, that will feature "fresh faces" (new to MM and/or to #TCTheater). And if you're just a music-theater lover like me, it's a great place to go hear some showtunes, both familiar and new, fantastically performed by our local talent.

Sunday, March 5, 2023

"Feast" by Walking Shadow Theatre Company at the Black Forest Inn

Walking Shadow Theatre Company's newest production Feast is aptly titled. Yes, you are served a meal in the event space at the Black Forest Inn, a German restaurant on Nicollet in Minneapolis, but that's not the feast I'm talking about. This is a feast of theatrical storytelling delights. This solo play written (and originally performed) by Megan Gogerty is a retelling of the classic story of Beowulf from the point of view of the mother of Grendel, the monster slain by Beowulf. Naturally, the story is a lot different from the perspective of a grieving mother, and the script brilliantly ties this ancient story into modern issues and themes. As director Allison Vincent notes in the playbill, "Sometimes plays speak to the current state of our world. Megan Gogerty's Feast screams at it." Isabel Nelson fully embodies this character, and even though it's only March, I can confidently say that this will prove to be one of the best performances in #TCTheater this year. I recommend getting your tickets now; seating is limited in the space, and word of mouth is going to spread as more people see this show. It continues through April 1 but with only a few performances each weekend, and trust me, you do not want to miss this unique experience.

Friday, March 3, 2023

"Misery" at Yellow Tree Theatre

If you're looking for an on-stage delicious thriller, that's creepy but also funny at times, and beautifully acted, look no further than Misery currently playing at Yellow Tree Theatre's cozy Osseo theater. Stephen King's 1987 novel was adapted into the popular 1990 movie, for which Kathy Bates won an Oscar. It was adapted into a play (by original screenwriter William Goldman) just ten years ago or so. It's been a long time since I've seen the movie and I don't think I ever read the book, but I knew the general gist of the story. Still, I was delightfully surprised at some of the twists and turns in the play. The tension in Yellow Tree's intimate space is palpable, and the excellent cast and creative team handily take us on this terrifying (but also fun) journey. 

Thursday, March 2, 2023

Broadway Tour of "Tina - The Tina Turner Musical" at the Orpheum Theatre

The latest jukebox bio-musical to hit Broadway, and now the Orpheum Theatre, is Tina - The Tina Turner Musical. It premiered on Broadway a few months before the long covid intermission, and received a full dozen Tony nominations in the covid-shortened 2020 season. The show resumed performances in 2021 and ran for another year, and is now hitting the road. With book by acclaimed playwright Katori Hall and a score entirely pulled from pop music (Tina's songs and others), the musical is a mix of songs performed in context (concerts and record studios) and sung by characters speaking to each other. You might get whiplash as we cover Tina's long life and prolific career, with topics like child abuse, domestic violence, drug abuse, racism, sexism, and ageism all touched upon but not dug too deeply into. I admit to not knowing much about Tina Turner other than a few of her hit songs, but came away from the show truly impressed by this music icon who had a second career as a single Black woman over the age of 40, when most of the music industry saw her as a has-been. With stunning performances by the huge cast, Tina Turner fans are sure to love this show, and those who aren't will like develop a new appreciation for her. This one's sticking around for two weeks, so you have a little more time to catch Tina before it closes on March 12 (click here for more info and official ticket site).