Arts Spotlight: 437

By John Townsend February 23, 2012

Categories: Arts & Culture, Our Scene

Buzzer
Through Mar. 18
Pillsbury House Theatre, 3501 Chicago Av., Mpls.
(612) 825-0459
www.pillsburyhousetheatre.org

We’re not yet a post-racial society where color doesn’t matter and only the content of your character does, but we are an interracial society wherein if you cannot get along with racial difference you are probably not helping yourself. But getting along can be a challenge sometimes, even among diverse people who know each other well and who even care about each other. Through what Buzzer director Marion McClinton describes as “the intimacy of three friends, playwright Tracey Scott Wilson cuts to the very heart of the matter.” A perfect piece to launch socially conscious Pillsbury House Theatre’s 20th anniversary.

Buzzer involves an interracial straight couple -Jackson (Namir Smallwood), a black lawyer and Suzy (Sara Richardson), a white schoolteacher- and Jackson’s white friend the past, Don (Hugh Kennedy) a former drug addict. When Jackson buys a nice condo in his old neighborhood, various prejudices and stereotypes emerge.

Richardson says that in what for Suzy is a new neighborhood “she definitely does not belong. She has to deal with her growing feelings of discomfort in her new home and how it challenges her perception of who she is and how she thinks. Her problems there are specific to her being a white woman, and would not be the same if she were a man.”

Smallwood notes that “for Jackson, race and class are major contributions to who he is and who he is becoming. He is a young black man from a rough neighborhood. However, he used education as an escape. His class has changed as a result of the education but he learns the valuable lesson that all the money and education in the world cannot change who you are.”

Class also tugs at Suzy. Richardson observes that “though she grew up in a better neighborhood than Jackson, she went to more average schools and makes not very much money as a public schoolteacher. Their old friend, Don, is of a class her mother would have loved her to date and he is white. I believe that Suzy finds more boundaries for herself than she is expecting to find or that she previously has found and it shakes up her idea of who she is.”

Don is fresh out of his seventh rehab stint. Kennedy reflects that “a cycle of bad habits coupled with his life-of-the-party persona have led him astray over the yers, transporting him to a world devoid of pleasure – just deep dark thoughts and unshakable demons, lifelong resentments and irreversible regret. As he comes up for air he tries to cling tightly to his former friends, Jackson and Suzy, the only ones willing to give him a last chance.”

 

The Lark
Through Mar. 4
Theatre in the Round Players, 245 Cedar Av., Mpls.
(612) 333-3010
www.theatreintheround.org

Joan of Arc looms as one of the most fabled figures of world history. Her legend has captured the imaginations of other legends such as Shakespeare, Shaw, and as Theatre in the Round reminds us, Jean Anouilh and Lillian Hellman whose adaptation of Anouilh’s version resonates of the McCarthy Era in which she was blacklisted.

Director Randy Reyes muses “what makes The Lark such an enduring classic play is our fascination with this girl, who after hearing heavenly voices proceeded to change the history of a struggling nation. Who is this girl? Did she really talk to angels? How was she able to convince the nations’s leaders to believe her? And why did that same nation that she saved, destroy her? These are the questions that The Lark explores. And though Anouilh wrote a beautifully theatrical, not completely factual, version of the story, and Lillian Hellman’s adaptation is clearly inspired by her trials in the 1950s communist witch hunt in the U.S., it is the story of a girl named Joan that continues to capture the imagination and illumnate the possibilities of the human spirit.”

 

Picnic on the Battlefield
Mar. 2 – 18
Southern Theater, 1420 Washington Av. So., Mpls.
(800) 838-3006
www.brownpapertickets.com

Russian and American aesthetics are at play in Theatre Novi Most’s antiwar piece co-directed by Lisa Channer and Vladimir Rovinsky. In a joint statement they say “Picnic is a clown-infused show with lots of funny interactions between the characters as they struggle with the absurd ‘rules of war’. But ultimately it is about the horrendous ripple effects of war on all of us. The characters are entertaining us trememdously, but they are doing so on top of a nightmare landscape of the battlefield. The play let’s us enter the dark, tragicomic humor of two ‘battlefields’: both the public space of World War I trench warfare and also the intimate and insipid battles that rage within our personal intimate relationships with others, particularly family. Perhaps one fuels the other? The characters are walking that tightrope and they are doing their best to keep laughing and playing as they do. They laugh to keep from crying. Soldiers, wherever they are, understand this.”

 

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice
Through Mar. 4
Open Eye Figure Theatre, 506 E. 24th St., Mpls.
(612) 874-6338
www.openeyefiguretheatre.org

Youth, aging, and power are central themes in this new puppet theatrical created by Michael Sommers who intrigues with this comment: “the Sorcerer conjures his final spell, adding the last chapter to his book of knowledge. His long journey on the path to understanding draws to an end. He is ready to pass on to his new Apprentice his legacy. Who in our lives becomes our Apprentice? What, after our final spell do we add to our final chapter?”

 

T Bone N Weasel
Mar. 3 – Mar. 18
Gremlin Theatre, 2400 University Av., St. Paul
(612) 874-9321
www.theatreprorata.org

According to director Amber Bjork, this comedy is a mix of light and dark. She says if you see this story of two ex-cons as simply “trying to get a leg up on their luck, it comes off too light. Start of with the lurking themes of prejudice, racism, of ignorance and color-blindness, and it sounds dark. There’s really a fine line between how much ugliness you actually choose to see and how far you are willing to go to deal with it. But Jon Klein’s script creates this beautiful balance between laughing at human flaws and cringing at them. He does it with ease and truthfulness.” Produced by Theatre Pro Rata.

 

We, the Others
Mar. 9-11
Cowles Center for Dance & the Performing Arts, 528 Hennepin Av., Mpls.
(612) 206-3600
www.thecowlescenter.org

The Stuart Pimsler Dance and Theater artists engaged in lengthy discussions about difference, exploitation, margianlization, appropriation, stereotype, race, and privilege.The result is a performance at the prestigious Cowles Center.

Artistic Co-Director Pimsler says ” the research for We, the Others began over a year ago, during a month long residency at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota and the creation of a new work called All of the Others, for a cast of dance and theater students. This early research explored the ways in which individuals reside on the ‘outside’ of moments in their lives based on gender, race, and age. In this new company work, notions of marginalization have become more personalized and intimate, looking at expectations relating to ‘roles’. We, the Others begins with SPDT’s signature wit in questioning who from the company is best suited to play the role of one of the missing artistic directors.” SPDT’s other Artistic Co-Director is Suzanne Costello.

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