THEATER REVIEW | Sally Rousse and Noah Bremer pay tribute to August Strindberg with “Kom Hit!” at the American Swedish Institute

Johan August Strindberg is known mostly as a prolific author of plays, novels, poetry and essays; he also painted, married around four times and was mentally unstable. His most produced play is likely Miss Julie (1888), a naturalistic and class-criticizing piece. He dabbled in philosophy and the occult and wrote novels considered to be Sweden’s first modern literature. He was also fond of photographing himself (see ASI’s exhibit ” The Image of Strindberg”). The American Swedish Institute is presenting an array of events to acquaint us with the work of this enigmatic figure. You are given a mustache to wear upon arriving to see Sally Rousse and Noah Bremer’s Kom Hit! (which translates to Come Here!). Continue Reading

THEATER REVIEW | “Ghost The Musical” flashes more than shines at the Orpheum Theatre

What is the key to a successful movie-to-musical transformation? Ghost (1990) was a sleeper blockbuster and is now considered a classic. The story is a bitter-sweet, cliché-ridden good vs. evil, embellished by the spirit world and ultimately crowned by the satisfying power of love. The movie starred Patrick Swayze at the height of his career, Demi Moore donning a cute pixie haircut and tearing up on demand, and Whoopie Goldberg, who won best-supporting-actress Oscar for the role. Ghost The Musical is anything but quiet or intimate, but remains true to the story. Wall Street banker Sam, murdered in a botched mugging, is stuck on earth as a ghost to help his artist girlfriend Molly who is in danger. Continue Reading

THEATER REVIEW | Ghostbridge Theatre’s surreal “Drowning” floats

The Twin Cities is full of little theater companies run by people committed to their concept and the chance to produce their work. Despite general interest and my diligence following theater here, I am still amazed at the new companies I continue to discover. This week I found a sweetly experimental “dedicated to the performance-of-original-work” theater company Ghostbridge Theatre performing Jeff Nichols Drowning at the Cedar Riverside People’s Center Theater. The show was originally developed at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale and later performed at the Kennedy Center’s American College Theater Festival before coming here. Nichols and Ghostbridge Theatre offer up about  a show a year, restaging and reworking pieces that he had in his back pocket. Based on the images from their website, each new reworking looks and feels different, as the actors and designers alter and develop the concepts in each production. Continue Reading

ARTS REVIEW | “Song of Jasmine” at the Walker Art Center: Ragamala Dance and Rudresh Mahanthappa fuse Indian and American cultures

Ragamala Dance’s directors Aparna Ramaswamy and Ranee Ramaswamy collaborate with jazz saxophonist/composer Rudresh Mahanthappa for the Walker Art Center’s newest commission entitled Song of the Jasmine. According to their website, Ragamala Dance studio draws “from the myth and spirituality of our South Indian heritage to make dance landscapes that dwell in opposition–secular and spiritual life, inner and outer worlds, human and natural concerns, rhythm and stillness–to find the transcendence that lies in between.”  The jasmine flower goes to the heart of sensorial worship in India, used not only for hair ornaments (as the dancers wore in this production) but also in worship rituals and even to bathe deities. This piece captures the essence of the flower, addressing and visualizing the poet Andal’s longing and the religious desire to connect, multisensorially with the god Vischnu–on the road to surrender.This newest commission from the Walker Art center draws on the poetry by the 8th Century Tamil mystic poet Andal. In 143 verses, called the Nachiar Tirumozhi (sacred sayings of the goddess), she wrote of her intense longing for Vishnu, the Supreme God in Vaishnavism Hiduism. Song of Jasmine expresses the poet’s intense longing for Vishnu. The songs are commonly used in rituals and serve as guidance how one can attain a state of bliss by surrendering body mind and soul to the Divine Existence (from a translation provided in the program).The tension created on stage comes from the refined movement and the relentless rhythm that drives the dancers on towards Vishnu, perhaps. Continue Reading

Sibyl Kempson’s “Potatoes of August” at the Red Eye Theater makes you think

Some theater experiences require that you leave your expectations at the door. Walk in, sit down and when the lights go down, (or not) you need to just settle in and as director of Potatoes of August Steve Busa says, just let it “flow over you.”Potatoes of August is just one of many forays of the playwright Sibyl Kempson in the Twin Cities in recent years. She was here for a residency sponsored by the Walker and the Playwrights Center last year spring. Two weeks of intense writing and readings culminated in the preview production of Fondly, Collette Richland in May 2013. Elevator Repair Service (ERS), known for their six-hour Gatz performed at the Walker in 2006, created the preview performance of that play at the Walker. Continue Reading

Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival 2014: New festival vibe and recommendations for the final weekend

The Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival‘s vibe is different this year. I am not really sure how to describe it–maybe a veneer of professionalism. Less rough and tumble, more polish, less scrappy local flair, but still the clear commitment to the diversity of the film world. One thing remains, unlike big festivals, there are no press conferences with visiting filmmakers and actors, but rather a cozy Q&A in the cinema. They did however add the logo-laden backdrop common at big festivals to the area behind the  panelists.  As I chatted with the staff, one clear technical change this year is that there are no 35mm prints being shown. Last year there were six. The year before, I remember one filmmaker worried about the safe projection of his 16 mm film. Shipping of 35mm prints is extremely expensive, so a world of film options is open in this brave new world of technology. The world is officially 100% digital. Continue Reading

Melissa Birch’s “Flying Nuns” move as live art

Last May when I covered Bedlam’s Tenfest, I was most mesmerized by the piece by Melissa Birch that involved linen and white-cotton-clad movers–dancers/characters who connected and climbed over each other and implied inequality, power games, gender games. They functioned like moving pieces of a puzzle that would come together to make a statement–only to disperse again and start the next collection of pieces that would re-converge and show you a new puzzle and statement.  Continue Reading

REVIEW | Morgan Thorson’s “YOU” officially opens the Bedlam Lowertown space

As Sheila Regan reported at the beginning of this month, Bedlam has had access to the space in Lowertown Saint Paul directly across from the Union Depot for almost two years. The slow renovation process she describes is ostensibly almost finished (to wit, the paint and floor were off-gassing this evening, as part of the festive atmosphere). With Morgan Thorsonn’s dance production YOU, the space is officially open for business and there will be more soft openings as they add a bar and full kitchen to complement the performance space.Bedlam’s offerings always embody the independent spirit of their mission. The theater space is extremely flexible with all variations of seating available to fill the wide-open space – seating plan on demand. For this show, the seating was layered with the front row of low slatted, just-off-the floor seating supplied the beach-chair feeling. Continue Reading

THEATER REVIEW | Gremlin Theatre gets cozy with “A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur”

After having lost their lease at their previous theater space, last week, Gremlin Theater’s A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur (directed by Jef Hall-Flavin) lost its venue at the 11th hour because of a St. Paul zoning snafu. The stage manager, Sarah Bauer, explained how the artistic director, Peter Christian Hansen, spent hours with city officials looking for a loophole that would allow the show to go on in the house owned by St. Clements Episcopal Church in Saint Paul. Unbeknownst to the company and the church, the Blue House at 897 Portland Avenue was apparently not zoned for public events. Continue Reading