THEATER REVIEW | Rude Mechs' "The Method Gun" at the Walker Art Center: Avant-garde mockumentary

Video by ArtsEmerson

The Method Gun, the work by Rude Mechs that's currently opening the Walker Art Center's 2013 Out There series, is a mockumentary-style tribute to the fictional theater guru Stella Burden. Like the films of Christopher Guest (This is Spinal Tap, Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show, A Mighty Wind), The Method Gun both pokes fun at and pays tribute to its subject—in this case, collaboratively created theater.

Burden, we're told by the Rude Mechs performers, was an American theater artist who developed a cult following in the 1960s, then abruptly disappeared in 1972, leaving her troupe in the midst of a nine-year rehearsal period (Burden believed in giving a production plenty of time to find itself) for the single 1975 performance of what was to be their final show: Tennessee Williams's A Streetcar Named Desire, performed without the characters Stanley, Stella, Blanche, or Mitch. The Method Gun includes descriptions of Burden's method as well as recreations of both the rehearsals and performance of Streetcar.

The show's title refers to a loaded pistol that Burden habitually kept in the rehearsal space "to remind us that we could all kill each other at any moment." Just how literally she meant that is a question that becomes highly pertinent near the end of the show. It's one of many absurd theatrical devices imagined by playwright Kirk Lynn and portrayed with energy and dry humor by the five (or six, depending on how you count) performers onstage. There's a dance with packing tape, an all-cast crying practice, and an unforgettable moment involving nudity and helium balloons.

The Method Gun culminates in a vignette of virtuoso theatricality, precisely choreographed by director Shawn Sides. Like many shows selected by Walker curator Philip Bither for the Out There series in recent years, The Method Gun deconstructs theatrical devices with rapier wit; unlike some other troupes who have been in the series, though, Rude Mechs are gratifyingly willing to acknowledge why we're all there in the first place. Whatever the method, when the magic of theater works, it works.

Correction: This review originally misidentified the fictional character Stella Burden as "Stella Adler." This hopefully understandable error has been corrected.

TCDP TOP PICK | Rude Mechs present "The Method Gun" at the Walker Art Center

01/10/2013 - 8:00pm
01/11/2013 - 8:00pm
01/12/2013 - 8:00pm

TCDP TOP PICK: The Walker Art Center's "Out There" series, a mainstay of the local performing arts scene for a quarter-century, always feels like a palate cleanser for the new year: four brave and new (like, genuinely brave and new) artists from around the world visit Minneapolis to present works that sometimes engage, sometimes enrage, but never bore. This year's series kicks off with Texas troupe Rude Mechs, who explore the lengths to which "method actors" will go. - Jay Gabler

1750 Hennepin Ave.
Minneapolis, MN 55403
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Jay Gabler's picture
Jay Gabler

Jay Gabler (@JayGabler) is a digital producer at The Current and Classical MPR. He was arts editor at the Twin Cities Daily Planet from 2007-2013.


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Loved it

I saw the show Thurs and loved it, too. But I noticed a small error in your review. The fictional guru was called Stella Burden. Stella Adler was a real acting teacher. Burden is supposed to make us think of Adler, of course.


Good catch; thanks.

Further info

The name "Stella Burden" is indeed intended to make the audience think of the famous acting teacher Stella Adler. Funny you never heard of her, Jay. She's merely one of the three or four most famous American acting teachers. The other person the name invokes is Eric Burden, one of the six or seven most famous American performance artists. Funny you never heard of him either. But keep on writing about theater, Jay. Keep on being theater editor for TC Daily Planet. Keep on hiring your family members and (apparently) random homeless people to write reviews. Theater reviewers don't need to know anything. The daily papers have been proving that for years.

Stella Adler

I had indeed heard of Stella Adler, though I can't claim to be intimately familiar with her work; I should have caught the mistake I made when I accidentally substituted her name for that of the fictional Stella Burden, and I apologize for that error.

Additionally, I will continue hiring family members to write for the Daily Planet, since this is a citizen journalism project that exists for the purpose of giving voice to those who would not otherwise be heard in the world of mainstream journalism—including, yes, homeless people. You and your own family members are invited to contact us if you would like to contribute to our coverage.

snarky info

unfortunately, in your haste to correct Jay, you got it wrong. It's not Eric Burden, it's Chris Burden.