Saturday, January 31, 2015

Opening Night at F.O.B. - Synergy and Samosas!

Mu Performing Arts just opened their production of F.O.B. last night, January 30. The show, which is playing at Mixed Blood Theatre, runs through February 15.

I wasn't familiar with the play going in, other than knowing that F.O.B. meant "Fresh Off the Boat" and referred to recent immigrants. David Henry Hwang's play debuted in 1979, and the immigrants here are recent and not-so-recent arrivals to Los Angeles from China.

In the course of the three-character play, set in a Chinese restaurant, we hear about the experiences of immigration in different eras and the levels of distinction from the F.O.B.s to those who have been in the country for years to A.B.C.s - American-Born Chinese. The play also involves Chinese gods and heroes, who have their own struggles.

Although I didn't necessarily get all the connections in this play, particularly between the realistic and mythic realms, it was beautifully performed by Michael Sung-Ho, Meghan Kreidler, and Randy Reyes, who also directed. The sound and lighting, along with the acting, made the larger-than-life characters come to life, which was a lot to accomplish in a brief, 70-minute play.

Mu toured this production to Chinese restaurants around the state last summer, and now that they're playing in a theater space, they've brought the restaurant with them. For an additional $6, you can add to your ticket an individual takeout box of noodles to eat at your seat! It looked like a good number of people took up that offer on opening night.

The theater is partnering with three Chinese restaurants to bring in food for the shows. January 30-February 1, the catering is by the ChinDian Cafe. February 5-8 is Keefer Court Bakery & Cafe, and February 12-15 will feature food from the Tea House. Each Saturday night, the restaurateurs will also participate in a post-play discussion.

One of my favorite things about seeing this show is the amount of collaboration and cooperation happening. Mu is performing in Mixed Blood's theater, they are partnering with all of these local eateries, and there's a display in the theater on Chinese immigrants in Minnesota that was put together by the Minnesota Historical Society. And on opening night, they had more food from ChinDian, wine (which I didn't catch the provenance of), and beer from Town Hall Brewing. It's just great to see the synergy, and I hope it catches on with other theaters.

I think I'd better read up on the show and what it's all about, but that's something I appreciate in theater--a show that makes me want to learn more.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Review: Still Standing You performed by CAMPO

Two men, bare stage, no music except their own vocalizations.

(Photo taken from Walker Art Center promotional material. Photographer: Phile Deprez)

Yep - it is week two of the Out There series at the Walker Art Center. As stated previously, a lot of publicity about the shows don't really tell you much. And that is the joy of exploring this series. So, what was last nights performance about? what did it entail?

It was 50 minutes of near non-stop movement by two men - Guilherme Garrido and Pieter Ampe. As the audience walked in Pieter was on his back towards the front of the space, legs up in the air, and Gui was sitting on his feet. The audience got settled and Gui started telling stories about traveling, jet lag, introducing Pieter - all the while it was becoming clear that Pieter was having problems holding him up. Then it began.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Hothouse at Dark & Stormy Productions

A cold January night, so cold. What better way to spend part of it other than seeing an early Harold Pinter comedy. Yes, you read that correctly - a Pinter comedy. The Hothouse was early in his career - the second play that he wrote in 1958, after his first three all written in 1957. If you are aware of Pinter's style, you can rest knowing that yes - his famous pauses, and silences are part of this piece. And yet it was funny.  So unlike the Pinter's scripts that I know.

Pinter is known for plays that are dark, edgy, and disconcerting. They typically take place in a location that is unknown with a power struggle of some sort between characters that may or may not have names. The Hothouse has characters with names, and yes - there are power struggles, and an unknown location, and yet there is humor. The production was by Dark & Story Productions in partnership with Artspace. It was performed at the Artspace Grain Belt Bottling House in NE Mpls. What a great location. A large open atrium with a single staircase, and a balcony around the sides. It has a great echo and so the audience was given headphones that were tuned directly into the microphones that the actors were using. It allowed for perfect understanding of the play, and yet you could still hear the echo a bit which gave it an eery quality...perfect for a play like this.

And what is the play about? well, I'm sure it is a play where each member of the audience will have a different answer. For me? I feel that it took place in a hospital, or a prison. It starts with the news of one patient/prisoner (only known by a number) passing away, and another giving birth. The very basic plot was trying to find out who is the father of the child. However, there is so much more going on in this work. There is a link towards the bottom that has more of a full review. Suffice it to say that it was a really enjoyable evening, yet through provoking. Exactly what I want when I go to the theatre.

And I was introduced to a new producing company - one which I will go see again. The cast of Robert Dorfman, Mark Benninghofen, John Catron, Sara Marsh, Bill McCallum, and Bruce Bohne was...I'm going to say it...perfect. Funny, intense, sexy and thrilling.