How to have a romantic night at the theater…with a pope


by Cyn Collins | March 5, 2009

Dear Cyn,

I want to impress my girlfriend by taking her out to a play, but I’m more of a movie guy and the only theater I’ve been to is the Guthrie, where my mom dragged me for A Christmas Carol when I was in junior high. I want to do this right…what are the best smolderingly romantic places to go for a night out at the theater?


Dear Mike,

No worries, you’re in a theater town, with lots of wild, romantic venues to choose from. You may learn you like theater as much as movies—unless you’re mainly into films of the Transformers and Terminator ilk, but you wouldn’t want to take her to those unless she’s like me, with a need for kung fu, speed, and explosions once in a while.

The Guthrie’s Christmas Carol is a huge, polished production…it’s no wonder you felt dragged. There are many hotter, more controversial, more heart-thumping productions out there. When you go with small, radical theaters, the chances of seeing simulated sex, bawdiness, irreverence, and perhaps even nudity increase significantly. You can see some scathingly indecent, over-the-top plays that will send you through the gamut of emotions.

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Bedlam Theatre is one of the hottest places in town to catch shows; it’s a place filled with surprises and revelry. It doesn’t get much hotter than Lamb Lays with Lion’s Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (March 19-April 5). Set in the Mississippi Delta, 1955, the play focuses on a turbulent relationship between a wife and a husband. You’ll feel much better about your own relationship, unless you over-identify. Though the play is 2 1/2 hours long, the Bedlam serves excellent wine and and beer and Polish-fusion food and pizzas. (I recommend the Pope John Paul, or the pierogies, with a Zywiec beer!) It’s loose—you can bring food and drink in the theatre. Even if you don’t like the play, you can have fun—get drunk before, during, and after, and make out on the couches upstairs in the “living room” or out on the beautiful patio on the roof, with the most romantic view of the city you can imagine.

You’ll drive her crazy with love/lust if you are cool enough to take her to the Electric Arc Radio Show (March 21 and April 11) at the extraordinarily beautiful Ritz Theater. Take her over to Erte for their phenomenal martinis first, and treat her to dinner at the Modern Café next door! Drink specials and live music at the 331 Club later. The Electric Arc Radio Show is written, produced, and acted by some of the best local writers. It’s the bawdiest, most irreverently hilarious “radio show” in town, about a dysfunctional group of writers in their 30s.

Also definitely “smoldering” is burlesque! There’s more burlesque around than you can shake your stick at! At the Ritz on March 20th, Foxy Tann and the Wham Bam Thank You Ma’ams return with “asses, afros, and attitudes! The bad girls of burlesque…they smoke, they drink, they swear, they light your fire!” And yes, even if your girl is so not down with stripper shows, this may inspire her to give you a private burlesque show later. Also, on April 10 at the Ritz, Lili’s Burlesque Revue presents American Burlycue, a benefit for Detroit legend Toni Elling and the Burlesque Hall of Fame.

And give the Guthrie another chance…specifically, try the relatively intimate Dowling Studio, where Frank Theatre is presenting By the Bog of Cats from March 12 through April 5. Any show by Frank Theatre is a high-impact, visceral, and often heart-wrenching (or gut-wrenching) experience. It’s raw, real-life stuff—you’ll have much to talk about with your sweetie as you cuddle together, happily realizing your lives are (most likely) more blissful than you knew, by comparison. Or, commiserate in the misery.

“Set in rural Ireland, By the Bog of Cats mixes the trademark dark humor of the Irish with an uncompromising tale of abandonment and shocking self-sacrifice. Hester Swane (Virginia Burke) is an Irish ‘tinker,’ a woman born of gypsies, and tied to the bleak landscape of the bog where she has lived her whole life. Her younger lover, Carthage Kilbride (John Catron), with whom she has a daughter, is on the verge of a marriage to another woman that will bring him land, wealth and respect. Refusing to acknowledge that Carthage could ever leave her, Hester grips more tightly and tragically to the life she believes is rightfully hers.” I know, it’s tragic, but experiencing such theatre is bonding, I swear.

Further out, but not to be missed: Venus, a musical by Chan Poling (the Suburbs and the New Standards). It’s playing from May 2-24 at, yet again, the Ritz. (I can’t help it, the Ritz is hot.) “Filled with magic and love, thrilling music, sexy dance, and nutty humor, Venus is a contemporary, x-chromosome spin on Jekyll and Hyde…and a tender love story…Dr. Margaret Kennedy, known to her friends as Maggie, has discovered the Fountain of Youth—an elixir that transforms her into Venus: a version of herself that is many years younger, worlds sexier, and suddenly, magically, popular and talented. Through a series of comedic bumbles and mistaken identity, Venus is immediately catapulted to become the world’s biggest supermodel pop star, leaving behind her boyfriend Harry, her best friend Jo, and Maggie herself in the rush.” Not the Guthrie, this. Catch it before it heads to Broadway.

Other theatres to watch: the theatrical wizardry of legendary Michael Sommers and the crew of the Open Eye Figure Theatre in one of the most romantic spaces in town; the vaudevillian, risqué Patrick’s Cabaret; and the thought-provoking performances at the Interact Center. These are a good start to not only impressing your girl, but learning there’s more to love about theater than you knew.

Have fun, and see you at the wine bar at intermission!


Photo of Minneapolis skyline as seen from Bedlam Theatre, by Staciaann Photography (Creative Commons).