Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Ticket Giveaway for the Broadway Tour of COMPANY at the Orpheum Theatre!

The five-time Tony-winning revival of the late, great Stephen Sondheim's 1970 musical Company is coming to the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis for one week only. The musical features Bobbie (originally a male character and now female) as she celebrates her 35th birthday, and explores love, life, and relationships through vignettes with her married friends (read my review of the Broadway production here). It opens the day after my 16th 35th birthday*, so to celebrate, I'm offering one lucky reader two free tickets to the show on November 14! Simply fill out this form by November 3, and that lucky reader could be you!

Company has 8 performances at the Orpheum Theatre in downtown Minneapolis, November 14-19. Click here for more info on the show and to purchase tickets.

*Let me do the math for you: it's 50. I'm turning 50! And how many times do you get to celebrate turning 50?!

"Mariology" by Critical Mass Performance Group at Mixed Blood Theatre

For their first full production since the retirement of founding Artistic Director Jack Reuler a year and a half ago, Mixed Blood Theatre, now under the leadership of Mark Valdez, is bringing us the work of the L.A.-based theater company Critical Mass Performance Group. Mariology is a surreal, absurdist, high concept exploration of the idea of the Virgin Mary in religion and culture. To be honest, it's a little too weird for me; I need at least a little bit of realism to connect to a play (which I didn't get until the final scene). But it is an interesting concept, with thoughtful design and consistent performances in this surreal style. You can see it for yourself at Mixed Blood now through November 12 (all tickets pay-what-you-can, beginning at $0).

Sunday, October 29, 2023

"Fetal" at Frank Theatre

For their first show back from the pandemic, Frank Theatre is bringing us a world premiere new play written in reaction to the Supreme Court's 2022 decision that overturned Roe v. Wade. Fetal puts a personal face (four personal faces, actually) on this issue that has long been used as a political cudgel, with little regard to how decisions and laws affect actual humans. In just 80 minutes, we go through this journey with four fictional women who represent countless real women whose choices have been taken away from them in the last year and a half. And it's a smart, thoughtful, engaging, and inspiring play, just what I've come to expect from Frank Theatre. They're performing it in their intimate (read: tiny) studio space which means seating is very limited, so make your plans and get your tickets soon. Performances continue Thursdays through Sundays until November 19, and if you attend the Sunday matinee you also get to attend one of the best post-show discussions in town, in which experts on the topics discuss how the issues of the play affect us in real life.

Saturday, October 28, 2023

"Life Sucks" by Girl Friday Productions and Open Eye Theatre

Girl Friday Productions holds a unique niche in #TCTheater. Specializing in large-cast classics, they typically do just one production every other year. They skipped their 2021 production due to the pandemic (although they did create a really lovely virtual winter cabaret show - still available to watch here), and now they're finally back - four years after their last production. They're also stepping out of this niche, co-producing a play with Open Eye Theatre that was written in this millennium with just a seven-person cast. But Life Sucks by Aaron Posner is loosely based on Chekhov's Uncle Vanya, so I guess it counts in the classics department. And a seven-person cast is quite large for Open Eye's stage, which is the smallest and sweetest stage in town, so the cast to square footage ratio is still quite high. Maybe it's not such a leap for them after all, and it's consistent with their past work in that it's perfectly cast, thoughtfully constructed, and epic in themes if not in size. They've just extended their run through November 12, and you would be wise not to miss this funny and profound rare offering from Girl Friday and Open Eye (click here for info and tickets).

Friday, October 27, 2023

"For the People" at the Guthrie Theater

About a month ago, I had the opportunity to sit in on a rehearsal for a world premiere new comedy at the Guthrie. To watch the creation process at one of my favorite theaters, where I have been a subscriber for twenty years, is an opportunity I would jump at no matter what! But as I learned more about this piece, and finally had the chance to see it last night, I realized just how special this opportunity was. For the People is a special kind of play, one like I've never seen before. It was written by Native playwrights, stars an almost all-Native cast, and features stories of our own Native community, which sadly is a rare thing. Too long Native voices have been stifled, even though they've been around on this land for the longest. But happily, there seems to be a renewed focus on telling Native stories lately, from TV shows like Reservation Dogs and Rutherford Falls, to plays like For the People. Much like those series, this play shows modern Native people in all their complex humanity, just going about the business of living their lives. It's a wonderful opportunity to support Native artists and our local Native community, and it's also a really funny and engaging play featuring some great performances and thrilling technical effects. See it in the Guthrie's proscenium theater now through November 12.

"Sisters in Law" at Six Points Theater

Things look pretty bleak in the Supreme Court these days, with recent decisions walking back the rights of women and people of color that we've had for decades. But the new play Sisters in Law, based on the 2015 book of the same name, harkens back to a time of hope, although not without struggle, with the appointment of the first woman to the court, and then the second. Sandra Day O'Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg were very different women – in their politics and in their personalities – but they became allies as the only two women in a position long held exclusively by men. The play explores their work and their friendship, and ends with a reminder that their work is not done. The excellent production of this two-hander at Six Points Theater is close to selling out, but select tickets remain through November 5 to see this incredibly relevant, inspiring, and moving play.

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

"The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" at Artistry

Artistry produced the 2005 two-time Tony winning musical The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee back in 2014, when they were still known as Bloomington Civic Theatre. But this hilarious, irreverent, and surprisingly sweet musical is worth revisiting. Directed by #TCTheater favorite Tyler Michaels King and featuring a fantastic cast, it's so playful and fun, and also gives you the warm fuzzies about this group of loveably oddball kids just trying their best to spell and be happy. There's only one weekend left to attend the Bee - don't miss it!

Monday, October 23, 2023

"Re-memori" at Penumbra Theatre

Inspired by her own life and family history, playwright Nambi E. Kelley has written this solo play about a woman dealing with generations of trauma and resilience. In a tight 75 minutes, we travel with Memori through time as she pieces together her history. It's a powerful, affecting, and engaging piece that's very fitting for Penumbra, which is not just a theater but also a Center for Racial Healing. See it at the St. Paul theater now through November 5.

Sunday, October 22, 2023

"The Boy Wonder" at History Theatre

I had never heard of Minnesota's youngest governor, Harold Stassen, before seeing a virtual reading of the musical The Boy Wonder as part of History Theatre's Raw Stages new works festival a few years ago, when I declared it to be "Minnesota's Hamilton." A progressive Republican elected at the age of 31 in 1938 who resigned during his third term to enlist in the Navy and serve in WWII, and later ran for president a record nine times, Stassen is a perfect candidate for a History Theatre original. Recently retired Artistic Director Ron Peluso wisely asked Keith Hovis, whom one might call the "boy wonder" of #TCTheater musical theater creators, to write his story as a musical. It's finally receiving its world premiere at the downtown St. Paul theater, and it's a wonder indeed. A historical piece that feels timely and relevant, at a time when there's such divisiveness, corruption, and turmoil in our government and political process, it makes one long for a government and elected officials that work for the people instead of for themselves. But this is no staid period piece or preachy sermon, it's a dynamic, modern, exciting musical for today. Well-written, well-acted by a dream cast, with smart and sleek design, it's another in a long line of hit original musicals from History Theatre. You only have one weekend left to catch this fantastic new locally created musical - don't miss it!

Saturday, October 21, 2023

"The Pavilion" at Lyric Arts

After opening their 2023-2024 season with the smash hit sell-out quintessential musical about musicals A Chorus Line, Lyric Arts is bringing us something quieter and more intimate, but no less meaningful, and no less deserving of sell-out crowds. Written by Minnesota screenwriter and playwright Craig Wright, The Pavilion is a lovely, funny, and bittersweet play that's filled with beautiful, poetic, profound, airy language, interspersed with very real and grounded scenes of average humans at their 20-year high school reunion. The story itself is not very original (in life or literature) - high school girl gets pregnant, boy leaves her to deal with it alone, forever changing both of their lives. The original thing about this Pulitzer Prize nominated play is that this very common idea is used as the seed to explore themes of time, regret, happiness, letting go of the past, and second chances. It's funny and earthy at the same time that it's deep and philosophical.* The talented three-person (plus one musician) cast and creative team do a beautiful job of bringing this story to life on Lyric's stage. They're already halfway through their short three-week run, so don't miss out on seeing this lovely show before it fades into the past.

Thursday, October 5, 2023

"The Rats & The Wasp's Nest" at Yellow Tree Theatre

About halfway through the first of a pair of one-act Agatha Christie mystery plays at Yellow Tree Theatre, it started to seem familiar. At intermission I checked cherryandspoon.com (which is much more reliable than my memory) and found that I had indeed seen these two plays before. They were part of a triptych of plays at Park Square Theatre in 2019 called Agatha Christie: Rule of Thumb. The director of that piece, Austene Van, has brought two of these plays to Yellow Tree Theatre, of which she is now the Artistic Director, to begin their 16th season in their warm and cozy space in a strip mall in Osseo. Each one of these plays is under 45 minutes long, and both are wonderful examples of tight and concise mystery storytelling. It's like a mini Agatha Christie repertoire festival, but it only takes you less than 90 minutes on one night to see the shows. You will be rewarded by great performances in these murder stories that are more light and funny than dark and scary. A perfect way to ease into October (continuing through October 29).

Tuesday, October 3, 2023

"The Great Gatsby" by Collide Theatrical Dance Company at Luminary Arts Center

To begin their 10th anniversary season, Collide Theatrical Dance Company is not simply remounting their 2018 jazz dance musical adaptation of The Great Gatsby, they're bringing us a new updated version of this familiar story. The narrative structure is different from the previous version, and it's a little longer (about two hours including intermission). But what's the same is the incredible dancing, accompanied by a live band and singers performing well-chosen pop songs. As the name implies, Collide brings us a collision of dance, music, and theater, and conveys story, character, and emotion simply through movement. It's a beautiful thing to witness. You can see it at the gorgeous Luminary Arts Center (formerly the Lab Theater) in Minneapolis' North Loop neighborhood for the next two weekends only.

Sunday, October 1, 2023

"The Gospel According to Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens and Count Leo Tolstoy: Discord" by Bucket Brigade at Art House North

My favorite kind of play is a two-hander - just two people sitting in a room talking. The awkwardly titled The Gospel According to Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens and Count Leo Tolstoy: Discord one-ups that model - it's just three people sitting in a room talking. Specifically, three historical figures, great writers and thinkers, who are discussing deeply philosophical issues. But despite the deep issues discussed, it's actually a very funny and light-hearted play. Deep thoughts, humor, great performances, 95 minutes no intermission, a cozy and intimate space, and free cookies and coffee before the show - what more could you ask for? See Bucket Brigade's production of this smart, funny, thought-provoking, and engaging play now through October 14 at Art House North in St. Paul's West 7th neighborhood.

"Berhardt/Hamlet" by Theatre Pro Rata at the Crane Theater

These days, it's pretty common to see women playing traditionally male roles, especially in Shakespeare, in which most of the good roles, and roles in general, are male. This is partly due to the fact that women weren't allowed on stage in Shakespeare's time, and they are now (hooray!). But even though it's common, but people still sometimes put up a stink about it. French actor Sarah Bernhardt was doing it over a hundred years ago, so one can imagine the controversy and drama surrounding that. In the new play Bernhardt/Hamlet, currently receiving it's regional premiere by Theatre Pro Rata, playwright Theresa Rebeck imagines just that, telling the story of Bernhardt rehearsing to play Hamlet, and how her friends and colleagues reacted to it. As I said in this week's episode of the Twin Cities Theater Chat podcast, Theatre Pro Rata always brings us interesting choices of plays that we probably wouldn't otherwise see, and this is a prime example. Also as always, it's well-cast and well done, for an entertaining and thought-provoking evening of theater. This funny, dramatic, historical, romantic, and relevant play continues at the Crane Theater through October 13 only.