With dozens of compelling but under-attended shows presented each year, I assumed that the independent theater community in the Twin Cities had lifted every stone in search of audiences. When I entered the Bryant-Lake Bowl theater to find myself among a crowd of middle-aged knitters, I realized that the ever-entrepreneurial Joseph Scrimshaw had proven me wrong.
For information on upcoming productions by Joseph Scrimshaw, see josephscrimshaw.com. For information about upcoming shows at the Bryant-Lake Bowl—including Joseph Scrimshaw’s Adventures in Mating—see bryantlakebowl.com.
It was a sold-out closing night for Scrimshaw’s latest romp: Stitch, Bitch, n’ Die, a comic murder mystery. (Scrimshaw has announced plans to revive the show later this year.) The show is set in the basement of KUI (Knitting Under the Influence), a knitting shop and wine bar. A bitter artiste-turned-screenwriter (Scrimshaw himself) visits KUI’s stitch ‘n’ bitch group to research a made-for-TV movie he’s writing, and manages to offend each of the group’s four members. When the writer is murdered during a power outage, a detective (Scrimshaw again) arrives to investigate the crime.
|Also in the Daily Planet, read Jay Gabler on Joseph Scrimshaw’s Fat Man Crying.|
Actors and directors love the BLB space for its informal coziness, but for this particular show, the theater’s most essential feature may have been its brisk cocktail service. The audience, sipping and knitting along with the characters onstage, started chuckling the moment the stage lights rose, and Scrimshaw’s characteristically rapid-fire script kept them—forgive me—in stitches for the show’s full 75 minutes. Scrimshaw was eager to show he’d done his homework, dropping knitting lingo and, in a climactic scene, violently felting a scarf.
With Scrimshaw caricaturing the critic and the detective in strokes broader than 8-gauge yarn, the remaining cast members took the cue to make similarly merry with their characters—gulping at box wine and sarcastically sniping at one another. Kevin McLaughlin was particularly amusing as the group’s lone male member, who becomes steadily more exasperated as the screenwriter and the detective repeatedly forget that the group is co-ed. “Hello!” he fusses, pointing southward. “Penis here!”
Dismissing the screenwriter’s work for the stage (including the multi-hour epic My Father, My Father, My Father), one character refers to plays as “expensive movies starring ugly people.” However Scrimshaw compares to George Clooney, the BLB audience seemed to have no regrets about dropping a few more bucks than they would have spent to see Leatherheads. You may be able to bring your needlework to the Southdale 16, but no one’s going to serve you a Bloody Mary.
Jay Gabler is the Daily Planet’s arts editor.