THEATER REVIEW | Maximum Verbosity’s “Tales from Wonderland”: Beware the jabberwock

There’s one really great piece in Maximum Verbosity’s Tales from Wonderland at the new Phoenix Theater, and three others that are… not so great. One could be thankful that the really great piece, phillip andrew bennett low’s stage adaptation of Bruce Holland Rogers’ Lewis Carroll-infused short story “A Common Night,” is the piece that comes last, for they say if you end well, the audience will forgive you anything.  Well, almost anything. One could also, unfortunately, despair by intermission that Lewis Carroll would ever prove stage worthy. I, for one, fall in the grateful camp. I also wish there’d been more time to develop Tales from Wonderland in the vein of “A Common Night.” If more of the evening had been theater inspired by Carroll and less reader’s theater trying to recite Carroll, Tales from Wonderland might have been more successful.“I teach poetry.”“I’m not surprised. Continue Reading

THEATER REVIEW | Mixed Blood Theatre’s “Hir” an extremely queer play

You should go see Mixed Blood’s current production of Taylor Mac’s comedy Hir, under the direction of Niegel Smith. It’s a chameleon of a play that can look different to everyone who watches it. Regardless of whether it ends up bewitching you or just weirding you out, it’s still a heck of a lot of fun to watch in action.“I want to know how far down I have to go before I can drag you back with me.”Isaac (Dustin Bronson) returns home, dishonorably discharged from the military during wartime, to find his childhood home transformed into a dump. His mother Paige (Sally Wingert) has taken over and is finally running the place the way she sees fit. His father Arnold (John Paul Gamoke) is adjusting to life after a debilitating stroke, which Paige sees as an opportunity to reform his behavior. Continue Reading

THEATER REVIEW | Open Window Theatre’s “The Potting Shed” questions religion and faith

I’m starting to wonder if Open Window Theatre is critic-proof. Because it almost doesn’t matter what I say here. If you’re a fan of Open Window Theatre, then you’re already going and you’re not going to be dissuaded. Now in the middle of their fourth season, they’re expanding their space and operating on a budget of nearly $250,000. They’ve got a strong base of audience support. Continue Reading

THEATER REIVEW | “In The Age of Paint and Bone” still evolving at Nimbus Theatre

There’s a fascinating sequence in the middle of Nimbus Theatre’s latest production, In The Age of Paint and Bone, exploring some of the modern history of studying the ancient paintings of cave dwelling people on cave walls. In one of the cavemen sequences in the past, an ensemble member actually creates a cave painting while we watch. It’s a tricky balance of an actor interacting with video projected on a screen inserted in one of the set’s cave walls. Caitlin Hammel’s video is cartooning in this drawing, based on research of actual cave paintings. But the actor is working in tandem with the video, creating the impression that the painting is coming out of the caveman’s brush. Continue Reading

THEATER REVIEW | Walking Shadow Theatre Company’s “The Coward”: The ladies draw blood, a lot of blood

“We have a blood trough!” A member of the artistic team for Walking Shadow’s current production of The Coward was sharing with me after the show was over and they were quite giddy about it. A blood trough. They were so happy that I couldn’t help but be happy for them. After all, if there was ever a play that needed a blood trough at the bottom of its raked stage, it’d be The Coward.“These things can be awful but they’re necessary. How else can we know who the best men are?”Nick Jones’ dark comedy of manners explores men’s obsession with violence as a way of proving worth and honor by casting all the male roles with women. Continue Reading

THEATER REVIEW | Public Theater of Minnesota’s “I And You” piggybacks Walt Whitman

I became a big fan of Lauren Gunderson’s writing when Theatre Pro Rata produced her play Emelie: La Marquise Du Chatelet Defends Her Life Tonight back in 2013. When I learned the Public Theater of Minnesota was going to be mounting another of her plays, I And You, I was naturally very curious. In many ways, I And You has a lot of the same Gunderson hallmarks as Emelie—strong female lead role, smart funny characters saying clever things about big ideas. But in just as many ways, Gunderson shows her range in creating a play that is so completely different.“That’s what you get for homework-bombing a sick girl.”I And You takes place in the present, for starters. Rather than adults, the characters are both in their high school years. Continue Reading

THEATER REVIEW | Frank Theatre keeps us on our toes with “Love and Information”

God bless Caryl Churchill and Frank Theatre. They just keep screwing with the art form and serving up something interesting. Frank’s latest production of Churchill’s latest play, Love and Information, is one of the more peculiar, intriguing, mind-bending pieces of theater I’ve seen in a while. Churchill’s script doesn’t trouble the theater company with things like stage directions or characters. There’s just text lined up as if it were almost an epic poem. Continue Reading

THEATER REVIEW | Mu Performing Arts’ “F.O.B.”: Haunted by ghosts of the past

I’m conflicted.  F.O.B. is an Obie Award-winning play. It’s David Henry Hwang’s first significant play. It launched his career and laid the groundwork for everything he wrote that followed, from The Dance and the Railroad to M. Butterfly to Yellow Face and many others. It also deals head-on with the poisonous and self-defeating issue of racism within ethnic minority groups in a way that’s so honest it’s sometimes hard to listen to (in a good way, because it should be uncomfortable). “They’re yellow ghosts.”One of the problems with being a pioneer and leading voice like Hwang, though, is that all the plays that come after yours—build on and copy and riff off of yours, including plays you write yourself—sometimes make revisiting that very first play an awkward exercise. F.O.B. won the Obie in 1980. Hwang was a good writer then but he’s become an even better writer in the 35 years since. Continue Reading

THEATER REVIEW | Theatre Novi Most’s “Rehearsing Failure” at Southern Theater: Theater porn (in a good way)

I’m glad that Theatre Novi Most’s latest production Rehearsing Failure is part of the new ARTshare program at the Southern Theater. Since I’m a member, I can go back whenever I like and see it again.  And I’d like to, very much. This production bears repeated viewing, as there’s a whole lot going on in any given moment.”I am the beam that holds up your house.”When the performance of Rehearsing Failure was over, my theatergoing companion turned to me and asked, “How do you write about something like that?” Excellent question. Because you can’t describe a production like Rehearsing Failure literally. Continue Reading

THEATER REVIEW | Swandive Theatre’s “Defying Gravity”: Lost in space

Jane Anderson’s play Defying Gravity is NOT about the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger, and it IS about the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger. That, in a nutshell, is the problem. It feels like the playwright is trying to have it both ways. She doesn’t want to be bound by the literal facts of the disaster, but she wants to piggyback on all of its traumatic emotional resonance for an audience. The script and the production by Swandive Theatre (to my recollection) never mention the Challenger by name, but they also use images and audio from the 1986 mishap. Continue Reading