THEATER REVIEW | “Witness for the Prosecution” twists and turns at Theatre in the Round

Murder mystery fans are in for a treat at Theatre in the Round’s current production of Agatha Christie’s Witness for the Prosecution. Set in post-war London of the 1950s, the play is a “who done it” with numerous plot twists and turns that keeps the audience guessing until the very last scene. Lynn Musgrave directs the play in vintage-style, letting the audience follow the unraveling of the mystery. The story begins with a seemingly affable and apparently dim witted young man named Leonard Vole. Vole is a war veteran who brought home a German wife named Romaine. He is currently unemployed and he and Mr. Mayhew, his solicitor (a general purpose attorney), visit Sir. Continue Reading

THEATER REVIEW | “33 Variations” crescendos at Park Square Theatre

There are few times when a play production achieves true theatricalism. But Park Square Theatre’s production of 33 Variations accomplishes this elusive target in its crescendo scene during the half-way point of the show. This scene, alone, renders this production worthy of both your attention and attendance.Moisés Kaufman’s play centers around the question of why the famous classical composer Beethoven became obsessed in the last four years of his life with “The Disabelli Variations” which were based on a mediocre waltz written by music publisher Anton Diabelli. The less-than modest Diabelli requested that the 50 greatest composers in Vienna submit their own variations on his waltz to be published in one book. Instead of providing one variation, Beethoven delayed some of his greatest compositions, including the Ninth Symphony, to write a total of 33 variations over a period of four years. Kaufman’s play interweaves two parallel stories with overlapping themes. Continue Reading

THEATER REVIEW | “The Marriage of Bette and Boo” a catch at Theatre in the Round

Christopher Durang is fast becoming one of my favorite living playwrights and the appeal of his morbid comedy is amply demonstrated by Theatre in the Round’s current production of Durang’s play The Marriage of Bette and Boo. Director Randy Reyes and a very effective ensemble tackle this complex comedy/tragedy emphasizing the family angst told through a lifetime of family gatherings. The play begins with the joyful event of Bette and Boo’s wedding nuptials, but it soon becomes a dissection of how the marriage failed along with the despairing lives of their family members. The shows narrator is Matt, the only child of Bette and Boo who survived birth. Bette soon learns after the birth of her first child that due to RH negative blood issues, it is likely all of her other pregnancies will result in stillborns. Despite this knowledge, she repeatedly gets pregnant and the play’s cruelest humor is the running “dead baby” joke. Continue Reading

THEATER REVIEW | Mu Performing Arts takes on Stephen Sondheim’s “A Little Night Music” at Park Square Theatre

Mu Performing Arts offers an ambitious and enchanting operetta-like version of Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music at Park Square Theatre. With Sondheim’s music and lyrics and Hugh’s Wheeler’s book, this musical inspired by the Ingmar Bergman film Smiles of a Summer Night, is essentially a bedroom farce about misfit couples. Although happy endings occur in the end, much of the musical dwells on the characters’ regrets and longings.The story concerns a middle-aged attorney, Fredrik Egerman, who recently married a young 18-year old girl named Anne. Anne adores Fredrik, a man she has known since she was a child, but she has yet to consummate the union. Anne flirtatiously teases Fredrik’s son Henrick, who is only a year older than Anne. Continue Reading

THEATER REVIEW | “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” flood the Minnesota Centennial Showboat with melodrama

Here comes the showboat.Here comes the showboat.Puff, puff, puff, puff, puff, puff, puffin’ along.The puffin’ of the summer Showboat was delayed until the Fourth of July weekend due to the heavy rains and the flooding of Harriet Island. But now that the rain has subsided, the traditional melodrama and musical olios continue. Director Peter Moore has crafted a tight performance of the classic Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The show successfully engages the audience to provide the indispensable cheers and boos for a true melodrama.When I attended the Showboat last year, the musical olios clearly outshone the melodrama. This year the opposite is true. Continue Reading

THEATER REVIEW | Illusion Theater portrays a slice of prairie life in “My Ántonia”

I have never read anything by the acclaimed writer Willa Cather who wrote many novels about life on the American prairie, but I had heard great things about Illusion Theater’s previous production of Allison Moore’s adaption of Cather’s book My Ántonia. Illusion Theater’s latest mounting of this production proves to be an absorbing slice of life on the prairie.The play revolves around the title character Ántonia, a 14-year old Polish immigrant, and Jim, her childhood friend who is also the narrator. Both characters arrive in Black Hawk, Nebraska, at the same time. Ántonia and her family are struggling to survive on a dirt-poor farm while Jim moves in with his grandparents who appear to be more affluent. Although Antonia is four years older than Jim, they become fast friends spending much of their free time together. Tragedy strikes early when Ántonia’s father commits suicide. While Jim goes on to attend school, Ántonia’s brother hires her out as a farm hard. Continue Reading

THEATER REVIEW | “Naked Darrow” at the Illusion Theater: Who is Clarence Darrow?

“Who is Clarence Darrow?” This is a question I often hear from the students in my college law class. Because he is largely unknown today, I wondered when I approached this production of Naked Darrow at Illusion Theatre on Thursday, April 3 if it could answer this question in a way that would be meaningful for those who do not know about Darrow’s accomplishments. The answer is a resounding yes–the production provides great insight to this amazing and flawed man.Darrow was the first and biggest of the celebrity lawyers. He could be described as a cross between William Kunstler and F. Lee Bailey. Continue Reading

THEATER REVIEW | “Cyrano” brings humor to Park Square Theatre

Cyrano opened Friday, March 21 at Park Square Theatre. Director Joe Chvala provides a theatrical romp with much emphasis on the play’s humor. The original play, Cyrano de Bergerac, was written by the French playwright Edmond Rostand. Probably the best known English translation was done by Anthony Burgess which I saw in the 1970s with its world premiere at the Guthrie Theater. The production at Park Square Theatre was translated by Michael Hollinger and adapted for the stage by Hollinger and Aaron Posner. Continue Reading

THEATER REVIEW | “Mary T. & Lizzy K.” at Park Square Theatre: It’s complicated (in a good way)

The complicated relationship between the First Lady of one of the most important Presidents of the United States and a former slave and dressmaker is the fascinating premise of Park Square Theatre’s production of Tazewell Thompson’s play Mary T. & Lizzy K. Richard Cook directs an enthralling version of this unlikely duo, which emphasizes the rich poetry and imagery of the play.The closeness between Mary Todd Lincoln and her dressmaker, Elizabeth Keckly, seems unlikely on the surface. Their often codependent relationship becomes understandable when Mary’s mental illness and angry outbursts distance her from the women of Washington D.C.’s elite. The two women are very different: Mary grew up in a well-to-do Illinois family while Elizabeth was born a slave but because of her sewing talents, was able to buy her own freedom. Both women, however, share the bond of motherhood and loss. Mary had four sons, two of whom had died from illness prior to the time of the play, while Elizabeth had one son who died as a soldier in the Civil War fighting for the Union. Continue Reading

THEATER REVIEW | History Theatre’s “Baby Case” over-satirizes the Lindbergh kidnapping

Media sensationalism surrounding crimes and trials are the norm these days, the O.J. Simpson case being one in recent memory being. But even O.J.’s cased paled in comparison with the frenzy that erupted in the pre-television days of the 1930s with the kidnapping of the Lindberg baby. An ambitious production of Baby Case currently playing at the Minnesota History Theatre seeks to recreate musically the media obsession with the kidnapping and death of Charles Lindberg’s young child.It is hard to imagine today a person who comes even close to the almost mythical international acclaim that was accorded to Charles Lindberg following his solo flight across the Atlantic. From the time of this flight, the media was obsessed with Lindberg. After Lindberg’s storybook marriage to Ann Morrow and the birth of his son, Charles Lindberg, Jr., the media went ballistic when his son was kidnapped. Continue Reading