Saturday, September 27, 2014

Marcus, or the Secret of Discovering New (to me!) Talent

One of the things I love about Minnesota theater (as opposed to say, New York) is that when I see an actor whose performance wows me, I am reasonably sure that I'll be able to catch them in another production soon.

I just had this delightful experience while watching Marcus, or the Secret of Sweet, a Pillsbury House Theatre and The Mount Curve Company co-production at the Guthrie Theater (playing now through October 5--go see it!)

This final installment of Tarell Alvin McCraney’s acclaimed Brother/Sister Plays featured an amazing ensemble cast.  A unique aspect of this play is that the cast often sat in chairs on the side of the stage and watched the action when they weren't in scenes.  Watching them watch the action was an unexpected delight.  So, on to the cast!

Mikell Sapp, Nathan Barlow and Aimee K. Bryant (
Some of the actors I had seen and enjoyed in theater around town, like Aimee K. Bryant (loved her most recently as Marian the Librarian in Ten Thousand Things' The Music Man), Thomasina Petrus (love her AND her cashew brittle), James A. Williams and Nathan Barlow.

But there were a few actors that were pretty new to me that I am definitely putting on my don't-miss list:

Mikell Sapp (Terrell) - There are some actors who capture your attention so completely when they're onstage and Mikell Sapp is one of those actors.  He has an amazing energy and wonderful timing. Saw him first in The Ballad of Emmet Till at Penumbra Theatre, where he stood out in that excellent cast as well.

Lauren Davis, Nathan Barlow and Joy Dolo (
Joy Dolo (Shaunta lyun) - I've never seen Joy Dolo before (although her local appearances are extensive--I'm a little ashamed to have missed her), but will keep an eye out for her work.  She is incredibly funny and quite poignant as well.  Marvelous performance.

Lauren Davis (Osha) - Lauren Davis (and Joy Dolo) so perfectly embodied the characters of teenage girls, it was hard to believe they weren't straight out of a local high school.  Davis, in particular, was so uncannily accurate that her character gave me some interesting insight into my library's teenage patrons.

And just for fun, here's a cute Star Tribune blog post (with pictures!) about McCraney's visit to the Guthrie to see Marcus.  From the post:
Playwright Terell Alvin McRaney McCraney said that he often is fully engaged, sometimes in call-and-response style, when he watches his shows.
"It's supposed to be fun," he said.
To wit, he laughed out loud during Saturday's evening performance of "Marcus," sometimes talking back (encouragingly) to the actors.
“That’s it,” he said during a musical number called “Sun Shower,” performed by Nathan Barlow as Marcus and Lauren Davis and Joy Dolo as his friends Osha and Shaunta.
McCraney was vocal during turns by all the performers, especially Thomasina Petrus as under-her-breath cusser Elegua, James A. Williams as funerary marcher Ogun, Jamila Anderson as bible-reading Oba, and Mikell Sapp as Marcus' funky school friend Terrell.
How much fun would it have been to see it with McCraney?  SO fun.  No shushing the playwright!

Monday, September 1, 2014

September 2014 Theater - What I'm Looking Forward To

After a bit of a theater-dry summer, the fall theater season is upon us.  My personal goal this year: more plays by smaller theaters that are new to me. I also want to see productions that feature actors and creators of color (#weneeddiversetheater) to back up my endless complaints about plays with white people shouting at each other.

So here's what I'm looking forward to in coming weeks and why. Listed in order by start date, not excitement. (For my most eagerly anticipated show, you'll want to go straight down to Mixed Blood's Colossal).  Did I miss something amazing opening in September or October?  Tell me in the comments!

The Mystery of Irma Vep - Jungle Theater
August 29 through October 19
Why: Because even though I get frustrated with the Jungle's love for doing the same shows over and over again, I do love this play, love Bradley Greenwald, and am intrigued by Stephen Cartmell after seeing him in Ten Thousand Things' Dirt Sticks.  
"Set on a "dark and stormy night," Lady Enid and her husband arrive at a haunted estate complete with werewolves and mayhem, as well as an impromptu side-trip to the tombs of Egypt! Don't miss this farcical thriller and gender-bending tour-de-force!" (Jungle Theater)

Sexy Laundry - Park Square Theatre
September 5 through September 28
Why:  I always find John Middleton really interesting to watch.
"Alice and Henry have to make a change. After twenty-five years of marriage, three children and stalled careers, the couple has fallen into the same old dull routine. They desperately hope a staycation at a fancy hotel – and a copy of Sex for Dummies – will cure all that ails them. Can the once-happy couple reignite a passion that’s more than skin deep?" (Park Square Theatre)

altStrumply Peter - Open Eye Figure Theatre
September 11 through September 25
Why: Because the first time I went to Open Eye, Michael Sommers drove by and gave us parking advice.  Also, I love their intimate space and German cautionary tales.
"Strumply Peter, a Toy Opera, is the latest original creation from Open Eye Figure Theatre, inspired by the cautionary poems 19th century German physician Heinrich Hoffman composed to entertain his children. Where but on the Open Eye stage can Strumply Peter whisk away children to make them sweeter? This cautionary Toy Opera is a flourish of amusements with puppetry, larger than life characters, and a miniature music hall band." (Open Eye Figure Theatre)

The New Electric Ballroom  - Frank Theatre
September 12 through September 28 - New Century Theater
 Because Enda Walsh's Misterman was super weird and original.
"Set in a small fishing town on the west coast of Ireland, two aging sisters re-enact a night in the early 60s with a seductive rock singer as a cautionary tale for their younger sister. Party dresses, sponge cake, rock n’ roll and regret swirl into a fantasy-fueled night of storytelling in this beautiful and devastating play of broken hearts."  (Frank Theatre)

Marcus; or the Secret of Sweet - The Guthrie Theater presents a Pillsbury House Theatre and The Mount Curve Company co-production
September 12 through October 5 - Dowling Studio
Why:  Because I'm ashamed that I haven't seen the other two of Tarell Alvin McCraney’s “Brother/Sister Plays.” Theater slacker.
"Sixteen-year-old Marcus is haunted by his dreams and dogged by doubts from his friends and family. Days before an ominous storm on the Louisiana bayou, Marcus journeys to discover who he is and where he comes from by unraveling the secrets of his deceased father Elegba. As Marcus pieces together his own ancestral legacy with help from his tightly-knit, intergenerational community, he realizes the special power that being “sweet” brings." (Guthrie Theater)

Middle Brother - Mu Performing Arts
September 12 through September 28 - Southern Theater
Why:  Because Mu's work with Park Square Theater has introduced me to so many talented actors--I'm excited to see one of their own shows.
"The plan was so simple.  1.) Eat Korean food.  2.) Drink Korean beer.  3.) Live and work in the homeland for the first time in 22 years.  But only days away from moving back to the Midwest, Billy is unexpectedly reunited with his Korean birth brother and must somehow reconcile his modern American life with his newfound Korean past." (Mu Performing Arts)

The Heidi Chronicles - Guthrie Theater
September 13 through October 26, 2014 - Wurtele Thrust Stage
Why:  Because although I've never really taken to Wendy Wasserstein, I LOVE Kate Wetherhead in Submissions Only.  
"Witty, insightful and poignant, The Heidi Chronicles traces the coming of age of Heidi Holland from high school in the radical ʼ60s to her career as an art historian in the heartless ʼ80s."  (Guthrie Theater)

Gabriel - Walking Shadow Theatre
September 26 through October 11 - Minneapolis Theatre Garage
Why: Because sometimes a premise just sounds intriguing.
Gabriel horizontal image"A tiny, rocky island in the middle of the English Channel. A bitter winter night, two years into the German occupation. A young girl calls on ancient fairy magic, and a beautiful, naked young man washes up on the mine-filled Guernsey beach. Is he an English pilot? Or a Nazi officer? For the women who found him, Gabriel could either be their savior, or the biggest danger they've ever met."  (Walking Shadow Theatre)

Eating Raoul - Minneapolis Musical Theatre
EATING RAOUL POSTEROctober 3 through October 26 – New Century Theatre
Why:  Because ... what?  Eating Raoul the Musical?  I mean, what?  
"Meet Mary and Paul Bland, a couple who just want to open a restaurant in 1960s Los Angeles. But they’re broke…until an accidental death by frying pan fills their pockets with cash. The bodies begin to pile up, but they need to team up with Raoul, their sexy building superintendent, to get rid of the evidence. Raoul turns their lives upside down, both financially and sexually. But this murderous partnership cannot last…and one of them will pay the ultimate price." (Minneapolis Musical Theatre)

Master ClassMaster Class - Theater Latte Da
October 8 through November 2 - MacPhail Center for Music
Why: Because I love Theater Latte Da and I've read much about Master Class, but have never seen it.
"Master Class is a fictionalized account of the series of classes the glamorous and commanding Maria Callas, the most influential vocal artist of the 20th century, instructed on the art of performing opera." (Theater Latte Da)

Colossal - Mixed Blood Theatre
October 10 through November 9 
Why:  Because holy cats, read the description!  Also, Stephen Yoakam.  And, I haven't been to Mixed Blood in ages.
"Performed in four 15-minute quarters with a half-time show, featuring a dance company, a drum corps, and a fully-padded cast, Colossal is an epic event that simultaneously celebrates and attacks our nation's most popular form of theater: football. A star football player–a pro prospect, one of the most graceful runners in the world, and a man in love with a teammate–struggles to move forward in the wake of a catastrophic spinal cord injury. With a cast of two dozen men, and full contact choreography, this play about love, ability, and extraordinary feats of strength tackles definitions of masculinity and the male body as a vehicle for language, violence, and silent expression through dance, football, and disability." (Mixed Blood Theatre)

Gridiron play: 'Colossal'

Romeo & Juliet - Ten Thousand Things 
October 10 through November 2 
Why: Because it's Ten Thousand Things and hardly anything but actual physical illness keeps me from their shows.
"A diverse cast takes on Shakespeare's tale of finding love when surrounded by family and societal cultures of violence." (Ten Thousand Things)

So MUCH theater, so little time!  Happy theatergoing!