Guthrie Theater: Love it or hate it?


Well, it’s been around long enough now for most of us to form an opinion, reconsider that opinion and perhaps, form a new opinion.

When the Jean Nouvel-designed building opened last year, here’s what Nicolai Ouroussoff of the New York Times wrote: “The new Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis should offer comfort to those who miss the 1980’s Nouvel. Rising at the edge of the Mississippi, its confident forms are rooted in a vision of a muscular industrial America, and its structural bravura will certainly please the techno-fetishists. As a thoughtful response to the American city’s evolving role as a haven for cultural tourism, it also coaxes new meaning out of a haggard landscape.”

For links and more, go directly to Building Minnesota, Todd Melby’s personal blog.

In his recently released book, AIA Guide to the Twin Cities, Larry Millett had this to say: “Large, dark, and rather mysterious, this new riverfront landmark is like a play full of wonderful moments that doesn’t quite achieve its full dramatic potential.”

Adds Millett, “The new Guthrie … conveys a sense of mass and power, so much so that you could [imagine] real electricity , as opposed to the theatrical kind, being generated here.”

Terry Teachout, Wall Street Journal and Arts Journal theater critic, complained about getting lost on his first trip to the new building: “I’m not an architecture critic, but I do spend a lot of time in theater lobbies, and this one didn’t do a thing for me: The low-ceilinged public areas are dark, oppressive and laid out with irksome illogic. Rarely can there have been a theater whose interior was less well suited to the purpose of making its occupants feel festive and expectant. The process of getting from the street to the Wurtele Thrust Stage, the largest of the three performance spaces, is so protracted — not to mention confusing — that I briefly had trouble focusing on the revival of Neil Simon’s ‘Lost in Yonkers’ that had lured me to town.”

A friend of mine couldn’t agree more with Teachout. He likens the whole Guthrie experience to walking through an airline terminal. Long escalator rides. Blaring directions from loudspeakers. A sense of unease.

So, what do you think? Is the Guthrie an inviting place to see theater? How does the design enhance or detract from the experience? Other thoughts?