THEATER REVIEW | Brave New Workshop rounds up their funniest skits in “Attack of the Best of the Brave New Workshop”

Brave New Workshop is celebrating its 55th year (making it the third longest running theatre in the Twin Cities behind Old Log Theatre and Theatre in the Round) with its new “best of” show titled Attack of the Best of the Brave New WorkshopIt is a hilarious rendition of sixteen of the workshops’ skits from the last few years.

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THEATER REVIEW | The Jungle Theater’s “Deathtrap”: A “who hasn’t done it” thriller

A washed-up playwright, a supportive wife, an aspiring young playwright who has written a top notch thriller, a secluded location and a wall decorated with death instruments. These are the key elements of Jungle Theater’s production of Deathtrap, each harboring a clue to a mystery. While parodying the thriller genre, the play also effectively surprises and shocks. It is virtually impossible to share more about the play without spoiling the suspense.  
The Ira Levin play first opened on Broadway in 1978 where it had an extremely successful four-year run. Consistent with its tradition of doing one suspense thriller a season, Jungle Theater presents a well-done production which is more about who hasn’t done it than who did it. Bain Boehlke directs this comedy thriller for maximum effectiveness, oftentimes with a tongue-in-cheek approach which at times can still be chilling. Suffice it to say the show has numerous twists and turns, several of which are not foreseeable and one of which nearly had me jumping out of my seat.   
The production boasts some first-rate acting. Steve Hendrickson does a masterful job of playing the washed up playwright, Sidney, who is desperate to get another hit so as not be financially dependent on his wife. He is arrogant about a writing talent that he seems to have lost. Continue Reading

THEATER REVIEW | “Courting Harry” entertains and educates at History Theatre

Although Justice Harry Blackmun is best known as the author of the Roe v. Wade decision that gave women the right to abortion on demand, he always stood out for me as the only U.S. Supreme Court justice whose hand I had the opportunity to shake. It occurred when I was attending an argument by a colleague at the Supreme Court in 1990. I was surprised when I saw Blackmun having lunch in the Court’s public lunchroom with his law clerks. He apparently was the only justice who made a practice of doing so. An acquaintance from the Solicitor General’s office volunteered to introduce me and I was struck by Blackmun’s graciousness when I interrupted his lunch. My colleague lost her case, but Blackuan dissented from the ruling. Similarly, when a case I worked on three years later resulted in a partial loss, Blackmun was also part of that dissent.Playwright Lee Blessing has crafted a very entertaining drama about Blackmun and his 80-year relationship with the other Minnesotan on the Court, Chief Justice Warren Burger. The two men who were often referred to as the Minnesota Twins on the Court met when Blackmun was  five and Burger was six. They grew up in the less than fashionable St. Continue Reading

THEATER REVIEW | Brave New Workshop’s “Babe Lincoln and the Vajazzled Badge of Courage” falls flat

Babe Lincoln and the Vajazzled Badge of Courage opened February 1 at the Brave New Workshop. The talented duo of Lauren Anderson and Katy McEwen wrote, directed and performed in this two-woman review. The title conjures images of Abe Lincoln (the skit with President Lincoln lasts for only a few minutes), but the show is actually targeted as a “girls night out,” but has humor that works for both genders. Although the show has definite high points, it is not up to the usual Workshop standards. Among the highs are some sharply tinged political skits. The show starts out with a very hilarious rap ode to pantsuits and Hillary Clinton. Continue Reading

THEATER REVIEW | “Laughter on the 23rd Floor” at Park Square Theatre relives the glory days

Park Square Theatre’s Laughter on the 23rd Floor is a witty and, at times, manic comedy. Neil Simon wrote this play in the 1990s reliving the glory days of television comedy writing for live TV. The play is about his time as a script writer for Sid Caesar’s Show of Shows from 1950 to 1954. The play’s main attraction is the raunchy interchanges with some of the best comic geniuses of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. 

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THEATER REVIEW | “Coco’s Diary” at History Theatre: Being thirteen is a universal experience

A delightfully charming slice of life in 1920s Minnesota is offered in the Minnesota History Theatre’s presentation of Coco’s Diary. The play was sparked by the discovery of 13-year-old Clotide (“Coco”) Irvine’s diary which was transformed into a book. Peg Meier, formerly of the Star Tribune and author of numerous Minnesota History books, brought the book to the attention of History Theatre’s Artistic Director Ron Peluso.  Peluso and Bob Beverage adapted the book for the stage under Peluso’s direction.

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THEATER | “1968: The Year that Rocked the World” at History Theatre is eye opening still

“I became aware this year.” A line from The Who’s 1969 rock Opera Tommy aptly describes the year 1968 for both myself and countless others. The watershed events of this year led to the creation of the History Theatre’s production of 1968: The Year That Rocked the World which opened last weekend at the Minnesota History Center in tandem with the 1968 Exhibit. The play is a compilation of seven miniplays highlighting certain events of the year, including assassinations, the Vietnam War and the election of Richard Nixon.

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THEATER | “The Soul of Gershwin” at the Park Square Theatre: Music with Yiddish roots and modern influence

A parsing of the musical influences on George Gershwin’s brilliant body of work is the essence of “The Soul of Gershwin” presented by Park Square Theatre this holiday season. The audience is treated to enchanting renditions of Gershwin’s songs and a celebration of the origins of his musical genius in immigrant cantor music.

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THEATER | “Sister’s Christmas Catechism: The Magic of the Magi’s Gold” at the Ordway McKnight Theatre: Generational humor for Catholics

Be on time if you are attending Sister’s Christmas Catechism: The Magic of the Magi’s Gold, or be prepared to face Sister’s wrath. This is doubly true if you are Lutheran. But inevitably someone walks in after the performance begins and the poor victim’s fortune becomes the opening joke in this latest incarnation of Late Nite Catachism shows by Entertainment Events Inc., which opened last week at the Ordway McKnight Theatre.

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THEATER | “Miracle on Christmas Lake II” at Yellow Tree Theatre: A superior sequel

For its holiday play this year, Yellow Tree Theatre is presenting Miracle on Christmas Lake II, a sequel to its very successful Miracle on Christmas Lake I which has been shown for the last three years. Both plays are written by Yellow Tree cofounder Jessica Lind. The other cofounder, Jason Peterson, directs the production. Having seen both shows, I can affirmatively state that this is one of those rare times when the sequel surpasses the original. 

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