THEATER REVIEW | Buoyant Group’s “Chief” gets real

The Buoyant Group’s presentation of Jason Zabel’s Chief is at once whimsical and touching, irreverent and thought-provoking. With quips and pop references aplenty, Zabel’s script sets this tone immediately, drawing the audience into a world that is fascinating in both its familiarity and difference from the one they return to at the end of the performance. Still, it’s the physicality of this performance—the space, set, and roaming audience—that instantly makes Chief a uniquely enjoyable and memorable theater experience.Chief centers around the plight of Chief Robert Marble (Tyler Stuckey), a young boy who, through a confluence of unfortunate events (including the death of his grandmother), finds himself living in a fire truck parked in a backyard belonging to a vodka-swilling grump and her daughter Doll (played by the show-stealing Kelsey Cramer). I know, I know. Stay with me. Continue Reading

MUSIC REVIEW | The National make you feel better at the Roy Wilkins Auditorium

About halfway through The National’s performance last night at Roy Wilkins Auditorium lead singer Matt Berninger explained that though some of their songs are sad, others love songs, they’re all intended to “make you feel better.” I fully expected the set to slay me emotionally, and made sure my plans for a post-show drink with friends were only tentative should I need to sit alone and feel all the feelings. But that wasn’t necessary. While it is easy to listen to Berninger’s arresting baritone and hear angst and depression, there’s an underlying optimism that trouble may find you, humiliation happens, but in the end–to borrow a phrase–it gets better. This subterranean positivity was palpable throughout the performance.The evening’s set (below) spanned five albums and nine years, leaning heavily on the band’s most recent album, Trouble Will Find Me, and the popular High Violet. Berninger and company easily traversed their varied repertoire – one minute contemplative and understated, the next angry and aggressive. Continue Reading

THEATER REVIEW | Roiling Rothko redux “Red” rules at Park Square Theatre

Park Square Theatre’s production of John Logan’s Red is as aggressive, complex, and poignant as you would expect any play based on the life and work of painter Mark Rothko to be. Raising questions of allegiance, patronage, succession, and intimacy, Red provides the time and context for its audience to consider these timeless tensions both as they took place in Rothko’s studio and as we know them today.

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MUSIC REVIEW | Coldplay put on a potent performance at the Xcel Energy Center

Coldplay has, for many people my age, developed a reputation for being the musical equivalent of a wine cooler. Now included in “adult contemporary” and “easy listening” radio, the angst-ridden appeal the band had in the early 2000s has morphed into something strangely suburban that is, quite honestly, a little too easy to swallow. Seeing Coldplay at the Xcel Energy Center, however, I was stunned by the group’s individual and collective charisma, as well as their energetic performance.

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Project Opera’s “The Giver” at the Minnesota Opera Center revisits less-simpler times

Just about 20 years ago when Lois Lowry’s The Giver was published, there was no “dystopian rage.” Today, when The Hunger Games trilogy is taking today’s youth by storm and the movie is grossing a gross amount of money in the box office, I still stand by The Giver. Sure, I think The Hunger Games is an entertaining-enough read and broaches an interesting modern topic, but it doesn’t have the depth that The Giver does. But even while the novel has held its relevance since 1993, I can’t help but think that it isn’t reaping at least a smidge of the benefits from The Hunger Games’ success (there’s talk of a 2013 film starring Jeff Bridges). And to that I say … hooray! Continue Reading

THEATER REVIEW | Mixed Blood’s “Learn To Be Latina” asks many questions, offers few answers

The satire and impropriety of Mixed Blood’s production of Learn To Be Latina are not for the faint of heart. The show is, however, for anyone ready to laugh and groan at the absurdity of race in media, and in American culture more generally. One moment a campy slapstick comedy, and the next a thoughtful commentary on individual identity and responsibility, Latina builds naturally on the themes raised in Mixed Blood’s season opener Neighbors, and delivers the audience an experience that is not merely entertaining, but truly challenging in its content.

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