THEATER REVIEW | “Jonah and the Whale” wows at the Guthrie Theater

Jonah and the Whale: A New Musical, now playing in the Dowling Studio at the Guthrie Theater, is the fourth production by local company 7th House Theater. I saw the words “bluegrass musical” and the lovely image of Jonah in the water on the Guthrie’s website and knew I had to see it. Those few things I knew about it were all such bold statements it was bound to be either a train wreck or amazing and just had to know which it was. I won’t draw this out for dramatic effect: It’s on the amazing end of the scale and the show runs through December 28th so don’t wait to get your tickets.Any doubts I had were gone after seeing the stage when I walked in to the room. The set is a conglomeration of well worn, unremarkable items arranged meticulously around what you will learn is the town clock. Continue Reading

MUSIC REVIEW | Gillian Welch serves beefsteak, whiskey and heaven at the Weesner Family Amphitheater

The Minnesota Zoo boasts loudly that their annual Music at the Zoo concert series happens rain or shine. Attendees of the Gillian Welch show last night on July 7 were treated to a test of that weather hubris. While my friend and I ran through a downpour and ankle deep water across the parking lot, wondering seriously if a horrible crash was a lightning strike somewhere on the same pavement, I had my doubts that the show could go on. But we found a bench to sit and watch the penguins do what penguins do until it was time to get our tickets. I’ll give the Zoo the benefit of the doubt and assume that the extra 30-minute wait for will call without any explanation, watching ticketed attendees walk past us, had something to do with the weather. Continue Reading

THEATER REVIEW | Minnesota Opera showcases the magic in Mozart’s “The Magic Flute”

To call the Minnesota Opera’s current production of The Magic Flute “a reimagining” would be a gross understatement and a disservice. “Outstanding” would be a better word, “revelatory” another, and “hopeful” maybe the best yet. A friend working on the production told me that at the final dress rehearsal last Friday a huge crowd of students “screamed at the end like it had been a One Direction concert.” I think Mozart would have been very proud to see this production, even if he wouldn’t know who Harry Stiles is.For the last decade when I’ve told my twenty-something friends that I attend the opera on a regular basis they’ve either assumed I was kidding or been completely confused. I don’t speak the languages they’re written in and I am not a member of AARP—what could I possibly be doing there? Continue Reading

THEATER REVIEW | “The Sun Serpent” enchants and educates at Mixed Blood Theatre

I didn’t look at the program before The Sun Serpent began on Saturday, March 8 at Mixed Blood Theatre, but at the end I could have sworn there were at least six people in the cast. It turned out that only three actors received the audience’s fervent praise at curtain call: Andrés Alcalå, Adrian Hernandez and Andréa Morales. The three-person cast embody the arrival of Cortés in modern day Mexico and the chaotic stew of clashing cultures that followed. It’s a ridiculously huge task. And aside from a few distractions the production not only pulls it off, but depicts a surprisingly complex period of history rather than the expected story of conquerers and the conquered.Over the course of the show, the actors speak in three different languages representing the Spaniards, Aztec, and other native peoples. Subtitles aid those of us not so well versed in the languages and add a whole other dimension of the distance between cultures and creates an incredible sense of uniqueness about the production a. The illusion of three people representing entire armies is helped by truly outstanding costuming. Continue Reading

B.J. Novak In Conversation with Kerri Miller at the Fitzgerald Theater: What happens when Hollywood comes to Minnesota

The crowd wasn’t large but it was palpably excited to see B.J. Novak In Conversation with Kerri Miller at the Fitzgerald Theater on Wednesday, February 26. I loved Novak’s newly released first book of shorts called One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories and was prepared for an evening of mutual admiration. Novak tweeted earlier in the day about being excited to perform “in the shadow of Garrison Keillor” and walked out in a blazer and jeans, delightfully similar to what Miller was wearing. I wrote down “adorable and respectable” of Novak, and that’s about where my comfort with the evening ended.First, know that Novak’s book is very sharp—the stories, while hilariously funny at times, are frequently unsettling and embedded with the small moments of dissatisfaction in life. He even includes discussion questions at certain points for good measure. Continue Reading

THEATER REVIEW | Transatlantic Love Affair’s “Ash Land” finds life in the Dust Bowl at Illusion Theater

Ash Land, the third gorgeous production by local group Transatlantic Love Affair, has blown onto the stage of the Illusion Theater and it’s absolutely in your best interest to go see it before it drifts drifts away on February 22nd. The production is based loosely on the story of Cinderella set in the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. Unlike most stories about the Dust Bowl, though, this does not center on the atmospheric disaster. It’s a love story, several times over—love of work, love of the land, of people, and the grief when those things are ripped from you.The remarkable experience of seeing a Transatlantic Love Affair performance begins with the first breath of the company. As an ensemble, they use that breath and the whole of their bodies to create not just the scenery of a farm house or a bank, but whole lush fields of grain swaying in a summer breeze that transform into a wasteland of blowing dust. Continue Reading

MUSIC REVIEW | Die Antwoord at First Avenue: Low brow meets lower brow

Die Antwoord is one of two things: either a brilliant satirical performance art group  exposing the world to the post-apartheid slum culture of South Africa, or a tragi-comic trio of white people trying to cash in on their racially confused delusions of grandeur and pure weirdness. There are plenty of vocal proponents for each stance, but regardless of what you think they might be, what they are is unarguably one of the most bizarre and visceral mashups of rap, tribal beats and rave culture happening anywhere in the world right now.

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