Friday, September 29, 2023

"Dark Sisters" by Journey North Opera Company at the Southern Theater

I don't go to opera very often; I just don't have time with all of the plays and musicals happening in town that usually take priority. But when my fellow Twin Cities Theater Blogger Carol from Minnesota Theater Love talked on our podcast about how excited she was to see Dark Sisters by Journey North Opera, and then I was invited to a dress rehearsal, I couldn't resist. Written in 2011 by Nick Muhly with libretto by playwright Stephen Karam (The Humans and Sons of the Prophet), Dark Sisters is about women in a polygamous FLDS sect. I prefer my opera modern, in English, and on the shorter side, so this show (running about 90 or so minutes with an intermission) definitely fit the bill. It doesn't hurt that I'm a little obsessed with cults, including Jon Krakauer's book Under the Banner of Heaven about the history of Mormonism (recently turned into a mini-series on Hulu). Dark Sisters is indeed a fascinating story, a unique one for opera, and it's also a beautiful modern score that's gorgeously played by a 13-piece on-stage orchestra and sung by a seven-person cast, six of them women (Journey North is committed to having at least 50% of their casts be women or non-binary, a rarity in traditional opera). It plays for one short weekend only, so head to the Southern Theater (a gorgeous place for opera both aesthetically and acoustically) to take a journey with these Dark Sisters.

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

"The (Almost) Complete and (Mostly) Accurate History of Alcohol" at Bryant Lake Bowl

Favorite local funny man Josh Carson and friends have put together a sketch comedy show about that great elixir and social lubricant - alcohol. Ironically, I saw the show about four weeks into a six-week break from alcohol (and caffeine), which I started as part of my marathon training. And even though an injury got me off of the marathon track, I stuck with the alcohol break just to see if I could do it (and I am still in training, if only for the much less physically demanding half marathon). It's an interesting experiment and has made me more aware of how prevalent alcohol is in our society and our social lives. It hasn't really been that hard for me, but there have certainly been days where I wanted a drink to smooth out the edges of a rough day, or just to taste a delicious concoction on a night out. This group of very funny writers and performers have taken all of these ideas, as well as stories of alcohol throughout history, and created about a dozen silly, funny, relatable sketches. You can see it at Bryant Lake Bowl (with dinner and yes, drink service before and during the show) through September 30 only (click here for info and tickets).

Sunday, September 24, 2023

"Falsettos" by Theater Latte Da at the Ritz Theater

I fell in love with the musical Falsettos, which premiered on Broadway in 1992, when I saw a filmed version of the 2016 revival at a movie theater. The gorgeous and complex score, along with this love story about a messy and complex family, really appealed to me. The national tour came to the Ordway in 2019, and I loved it even more live (natch). At the time I wrote, "I'm hoping that the success of this revival leads to a local production or two in the coming years; I'd love to see some of my #TCTheater faves tackle these rich roles, perhaps with a staging of this intimate story that's more intimate." I didn't have to wait too long for my wish to come true, and there's no theater I'd rather see take on this gem of a musical than Theater Latte Da (although the NE Minneapolis community theater Morris Park Players beat them to it with a lovely and heartfelt production a year and a half ago). This is the first Latte Da show since the departure of founding Artistic Director Peter Rothstein (who likely had a hand in planning the season before beginning his new job at Asolo Rep*), and the first under the reign of new Artistic Director Justin Lucero. I'm happy to report that this production of Falsettos is every bit the Theater Latte Da we know and love - beautiful and relevant storytelling wrapped up in gorgeous music, a brilliant and mostly local cast, with impeccable attention to detail in every facet of design and creation. Falsettos runs through November 5, but don't snooze on getting tickets.

Saturday, September 23, 2023

"Passage" by Exposed Brick Theatre and Pillsbury House + Theatre

Two theater companies are joining forces to bring us Passage by Christopher Chen, loosely based on the 1924 novel A Passage to India. The central question is: is it possible for two people to be friends when one is a citizen of a colonized country and the other is one of the colonizers? Colonization has been a part of world history for hundreds, even thousands, of years, but awareness and discussion of its injustices has never been at a higher level. This play puts a human face on the sometimes abstract issue, and places the audience squarely in the shoes of both the colonized and the colonizers. For more on how this collaboration between Exposed Brick Theatre and Pillsbury House + Theatre came to be, listen to episode 2.3 of the Twin Cities Theater Bloggers' podcast Twin Cities Theater Chat, in which my blogger friends from Minnesota Theater Love and I interview the co-directors of this piece, longtime friends and synchronized swimming teammates Signe V. Harriday (Pillsbury House's Artistic Director) and Suzy Messerole (co-Artistic Director of Exposed Brick). Then get your tickets and head to "the jewel of South Minneapolis" to see this thought-provoking and engaging play.

Thursday, September 21, 2023

"The Importance of Being Earnest" at the Guthrie Theater

My 20th season as a Guthrie Theater subscriber begins with a play that was part of my 7th season - the Oscar Wilde classic comedy The Importance of Being Earnest. This is the fourth production in Guthrie history, the most recent being in 2009 (the year before I started this blog, so no record of my experience exists). Earnest is an absolute confection of a play, full of delicious language, ridiculous characters, and silly situations. This new production is absolutely delightful, from the three gorgeous sets, to the scrumptious costumes, to the fantastic performances by familiar faces and new. See it on the Wurtele Thrust Stage now through October 15.

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Broadway tour of "Beetlejuice" at the Orpheum Theatre

Beetlejuice is another in a long line of movie-to-musical adaptations. But as such, it's a pretty good one. I usually prefer more intimate character-driven musicals (that's what Theater Latte Da is for), but it's also fun sometimes to see a big, bold, loud, outrageous, over-the-top musical. And that's what Beetlejuice is - over the top in every way. Costumes, sets, puppetry, slight of hand tricks, performances - everything is big and loud and in your face. And it works; the crowd (some of whom were dressed in costume) was super into it on opening night, and it's a fun and wild ride. The 2019 Broadway production was nominated for 8 Tony Awards, but didn't stand much of a chance against the brilliant Hadestown, which was nominated for 13 and won 8. It closed on Broadway in January, and this tour has been running since just before then. It stops in Minneapolis for one week only, so if you're a fan of the movie, or musicals about death, or loud and fun musicals, click here (and only here) to purchase tickets for this limited run.

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

"Rich Dogs" by WeAreMarried at Jungle Theater

We're just two weeks into the new #TCTheater season, and we've had classics and new plays, and now something entirely different. WeAreMarried's original play Rich Dogs is experimental, absurdist theater in which dogs rule the world and humans are their servants. With the way people love their dogs, it doesn't seem like much of a stretch. I'm a cat person (quelle surprise, and yes I have been binging Emily in Paris) so it's a little different, but there are times when I feel like the cats are in charge and I'm the butler - feeding them, cleaning up after them, disposing of mouse carcasses. The talented creative team at WeAreMarried has taken this idea and used it to explore themes of societal norms and structures, classism, capitalism, maybe even art and theater itself. At least I think they are, I'm not entirely sure what this piece is supposed to be about, but that's OK too. Rich Dogs is a captivating, fascinating, perplexing, and wholly unique 90 minutes of theater.

Saturday, September 16, 2023

"The Three Musketeers" at Lakeshore Players Theatre

Lakeshore Players Theatre's ambitious 71st season began in August with the one-weekend-only regional premiere production of the smart, funny, poignant play What the Constitution Means to Me (which is being remounted tomorrow, September 17, and for a few dates in January). They're following up that excellent debut with a super fun swash-buckling spectacular - The Three Musketeers. Playwright Ken Ludwig, whose adaptations of the Robin Hood legend and Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express have been seen around town lately, applies his trademark wit and speed to this story for a fun, fresh, and modern take on the 19th Century French novel that is a familiar part of pop culture. The large and talented cast performs some mightily impressive fight scenes in this simple story of good vs. evil, with a true spirit of "all for one, and one for all." See it at the Hanifl Performing Arts Center in charming White Bear Lake now through October 1.

Sunday, September 10, 2023

"Arsenic and Old Lace" at Theatre in the Round

The 72nd season at the oldest theater in Minneapolis, Theatre in the Round, is a mix of new plays and classics, and they're starting with a classic - the 1939 dark comedy about sweetly murderous sisters, Arsenic and Old Lace. The 1944 film adaptation starring Cary Grant is a popular one, but of course it was a play first (and not surprisingly I've only seen it on stage). Theatre in the Round has gathered a large and talented cast to portray these oddball (but sometimes lovable) characters, with a detailed design in their in-the-round space, and beyond. It makes for a fun and entertaining night at the theater, continuing through October 1 (click here for info and tickets). Content warning: murder.

Saturday, September 9, 2023

"A Chorus Line" at Lyric Arts

A Chorus Line is the quintessential musical about musicals, telling the true stories of Broadway chorus dancers. It's one of only ten musicals to win the Pulitzer Prize, in addition to winning many Tonys and running for 15 years on Broadway (the 7th longest in history). But despite these credentials, it's not done very often regionally. Maybe because of the large cast (26), maybe because of the serious dancing required, maybe because of the unique structure of the show. But the #TCTheater community absolutely has the talent to support this show, as evidenced by the spectacular production that just opened at Lyric Arts, a little theater in the 'burbs that doesn't shy away from challenges (they consistently produce regional premieres, including two this season - 9 to 5 and Kinky Boots). This is a rare chance to see this iconic award-winning show live, and there's simply nothing like it. The music, the choreography, the characters are all brilliantly brought to life on Lyric's Main Street stage in Anoka, and if you're a fan of music-theater, get your tickets now to see this show before it closes on October 1 (or sells out).

Friday, September 8, 2023

"The Chinese Lady" at Open Eye Theatre

If Open Eye Theatre's production of the new play The Chinese Lady is any indication, 2023-2024 is going to be a stellar season of #TCTheater. Written by Lloyd Suh, whose play Bina's Six Apples was seen at the Children's Theater last year, The Chinese Lady is a fictionalized account of the first Chinese woman in America. Known as Afong Moy, she was brought to New York City in 1834 at the age of 14 by a couple of traders in Chinese goods and put on display amongst said goods, in order to increase desire to buy the goods. History lost track of the real Afong Moy after about 15 years, but the playwright imagines her growing old in America, and ties her story to the stories of Chinese Americans, including the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and violence against Asian Americans throughout the past few centuries. Brilliantly told in 80 minutes, the play is funny, charming, fascinating, devastating, and ultimately hopeful. With excellent performances and gorgeous design, The Chinese Lady is the first must-see of the season (continuing through September 24, click here for info and tickets).

Sunday, September 3, 2023

"Naive. Super" at Norway House

Last night I saw a play that was unlike anything I've ever seen before. That's an unusual occurrence for someone who's been writing about theater for 13 years. #TCTheater artist Kurt Engh's adaptation of the 1996 Norwegian novel Naive. Super is unique not just in the fact that it's a solo play in which a different actor performs the piece each night of the run, but also in its use of technology. Because a dozen people are not going to memorize a 90-minute solo play for a one-night-only performance, the entire script of the play is on stage in some form, either in video projections, or on transparancies on an overhead projector (remember those?), or in notecards or physical pages on the set. It's a fascinating, trippy, thought-provoking story told in a fascinating, trippy, thought-provoking way; I can think of no better way to adapt this work. Whenever you go to the theater, you're going to experience something different every night, but that's never been more true than here, where you have a different actor bringing their own perspective and background to the work for something truly unique every time. What's more exciting than that?! Naive. Super continues at Norway House* through September 17 (click here for a list of performances and performers and to purchase tickets).

"The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie" by Dark & Stormy Productions at Gremlin Theatre

At first glance, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie seems like an odd choice for Dark & Stormy Productions, a company that over the last ten years or so has made a name for themselves doing modern, small cast, one act, darkly funny or darkly disturbing plays in non-traditional locations. This is a period piece (set primarily in the '30s), premiered in 1966 (based on the 1961 novel), two acts and two and a half hours long, with a cast of ten, presented in the traditional thrust space at Gremlin Theatre (D&S gave up their NE Minneapolis studio space during the pandemic). But it's still dark, more on the disturbing than funny side. And the title role is a good one for founder and Artistic Director Sara Marsh - a complicated woman that I'm never sure if I'm supposed to like or not. Upon closer examination, this production, which also features some great performances by current or recent U of M theater students, some making their professional debuts, fits right in with Dark & Stormy's repertoire of smart, intriguing, well done, and yes, dark plays. You can see it at Gremlin Theater in St. Paul (next door to Lake Monster Brewing with daily food trucks) through September 17.