Throughout history, but perhaps particularly in the last century, theater has been used as a medium for political expression. From Brecht to Bread and Puppet to Minneapolis’s own Bedlam Theatre, theater has provided a structure to entertain, educate, and provoke change.
And yet, making theater that is political can be tricky. A company can go about it with subtlety, or they can take the jackhammer approach. I would say the Flower Shop Project’s latest endeavor, 515, probably falls into the latter category, but they do it with such earnestness, with such style, and with such specificity that I enjoyed the evening and felt more aware of the issues that the company brought to the table.
|515, presented at patrick’s cabaret through october 10. for tickets ($12) and information, see theflowershopproject.com.|
The title of the piece comes from the nonprofit organization Project 515, which aims to change all the laws that are discriminatory against LGBTQ couples. Instead of advocating for same-sex marriage, the organization wants to eliminate each law that doesn’t allow LTBTQ couples the same rights as heterosexual married couples.
The most poignant story line was a series of scenes, written by Daily Planet contributor Matthew A. Everett, concerns two cops who were partners (work partners and life partners) before one of them died in the line of duty. Everett draws an achingly sad story of the loss that is left for the partner who survives, which is multiplied given the injustices he faces, such as not being able to receive his partner’s benefits and not having final say about what happens to his partner’s body. Shannon Troy Jones, who plays the one left behind, does a marvelous job portraying the character. His work is sympathetic and specific.
I also really liked another one of Everett’s scenes, which also was the shortest piece of the play. Called Three Men, it explores, in less than seven lines, two barriers facing gay men. In the first part of the scene, two men hold hands, and one asks the other if that’s okay. The other says it’s okay, but that if they were to kiss, that would be weird. In the second part of the scene, two men kiss, and one asks the other if its okay, with the response being that if they were to hold hands it would be weird. It’s a provocative contrast.
There is also a great scene by Sarah Howes called Fishing for Love, about two lesbians who want to get a joint fishing license and are told they can’t because you have to be married to get one. Sarah Wojciechowski-Prill is hilarious as Margie, the fishing license bureaucrat with the Northern Minnesota accent. I liked the scene because it was funny, but also because it made me aware that the stupid law exists.
Not all of the scenes are winners. There are a few that drag, or get overly sentimental. But for the most part I thought that the scenes were well done, and I liked that the Flower Shop Project made the decision to take on the topic. The production is a rallying cry for political action, and it dramatizes the issues in a way that’s entertaining and educational.