On the Townsend

By John Townsend December 4, 2007

Categories: Arts & Culture, Our Scene, Uncategorized

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A Christmas Carole Petersen. Photo by Rick SpauldingA Christmas Carole Petersen

Through Dec. 29

The Sound of Music

Through Dec. 30
Ordway Center
345 Washington St., St. Paul
(651) 224-4222
www.ordway.org

One of the gayest Christmas shows ever, Theater Latte Da’s A Christmas Carole Petersen moves to the Ordway’s medium-sized McKnight space this year. It’s yet another indication that Tod Petersen’s affectionate biocomedy of life in Greater Minnesota has broad crossover appeal.

Director Peter Rothstein continually is amazed at how the show, in his words, “would play year after year to such a diverse audience. Moving to a larger venue is the next extraordinary step. Jamie Rocco [Ordway Artistic Director] and I met shortly after he moved here. In a short amount of time, he has made an enormous difference at the Ordway, providing a wealth of opportunities for local talent. He had seen our work, and approached me about Theater Latte Da producing a show in the McKnight Theatre. A Christmas Carole Petersen was the perfect fit. It will be fun to build the show in a new room—and such a beautiful room!”

Across the lobby on Ordway’s main stage, another local luminary also steers the ship. Indeed, there has been much buzz about Wendy Knox directing Ordway’s The Sound of Music. Her image: She deals with dark plays, and controversial subject matter in sex, gender, mysticism, and politics. But let’s not forget that she directed the stunning Kalevala musical nine years ago for Frank Theatre; the labor musical The Cradle Will Rock, which made Lavender’s 2003 Top 10 list; and the antiwar music play Mother Courage and her Children, which this column named Best Production last year, as well as naming Knox Best Director.

Lost Love

Through Dec. 16
Bedlam Theatre
1501 S. 6th St., Mpls.
(612) 338-9817
www.bedlamtheatre.org

In Lost Love at Bedlam, natural disasters and turbulent human relationships seem to go hand in hand. Playwright Peter Papadopoulus even has penned a lesbian couple in the piece, portrayed by Heather (Foxy Tann) Wilson and Maren Ward.

Wilson says, “The dynamics of the two very well could be in a heterosexual relationship. Craziness and enabling isn’t dependent on sexual orientation. And as we know, anyone—hetero or homo—cheating in a relationship is disastrous. I don’t know if disastrous in a hurricane kind of way is appropriate, but I definitely feel that there are storms both inside and outside in Lost Love. It is how these specific characters deal with storms in their lives, whether they be physical or emotional. How do they express themselves when they are put in extraordinary circumstances with improbable partners?”

Nice ’n Naughty Letters to Santa

Friday evenings through Dec. 28
Bryant-Lake Bowl
810 W. Lake St., Mpls.
(612) 825-8949
www.bryantlakebowl.com

We see too little of bisexual characters onstage, but the versatile comic actress Janelle Ranek strikes again with her signature character, Gloria, cowritten with Jules Weiland.

As Ranek explains, Gloria is “the consummate bisexual. She’ll go wherever the audience goes. She’s lived a very eclectic life. She will flirt shamelessly with women or men, and you never know some sort of lap dance could be involved.”

The 1940s Radio Hour

Through Dec. 30
Hennepin Stages
824 Hennepin Ave., Mpls.
(612) 673-0404
www.ticketmaster.com
Why does the Big Band sound of the 1940s and the sassy majesty of the Gershwin Brothers still captivate us today? Why do people of all ages still sway and shimmer to the creamily elegant sounds of that time? No wonder the new Eightball Theatre’s revvin’ up those tunes in its inaugural production of The 1940s Radio Hour.

Director Matt Sciple muses, “Music is a doorway to memory, and 1942 is a time people associate nostalgically with the kind of clear-cut decisions and national cohesion that we’ve lost in the last several decades. The show helps remind us of the context, placing the songs between live ads, comedy routines, announcements about the war, and the ‘backstage’ workings at the lower-end radio station trying to put on the show.”

Call it a slice of history.

The Diana Play

Through Jan. 6
Lowry Lab
350 St. Peter St., St. Paul
www.urbansamuraipro.com
If you caught last year’s enormously enjoyable film The Queen, you likely were touched by Helen Mirren’s Oscar-winning turn as Queen Elizabeth II, and forgave the monarch for the cold shoulder she gave the memory of Princess Diana after her death in a Paris car crash.

However, Helen Turnbull’s lyrical and lovely verse play, The Diana Story, questions Elizabeth’s unquestioned likeability. This new work speculates on the passionate friendship between Diana and Mother Teresa, who died within a week after Diana’s death. Their friendship was born of activism over the brutalizing permeation of land mines throughout the world. In Turnbull’s view, Elizabeth dissed this activism. No, Turnbulll isn’t into conspiracy theories. But had Diana lived, a far tougher dialogue on the issue most likely would have taken place.

Sweet William

Dec. 11-22
Guthrie Theater
818 S. 2nd St., Mpls.
(612) 377-2224
www.guthrietheater.org
Michael Pennington brings his one-man show on the life and work of William Shakespeare, Sweet William—a hit in London—to the Guthrie. In this piece, Pennington weaves not only his own personal love affair with the Bard’s glorious canon of plays, but also channels various characters in that canon to render a sense of life and society under the tense and punitive rule of Elizabeth I and her successor, James I. It’s something that some historians think may account for why Shakespeare’s views on certain subjects are so hard to pin down. After all, when what you say might get you drawn and quartered before a drunken crowd, you tend to watch what you say. Think McCarthy Era to the 10th power!

Festival of Lights

Dec. 13 -23
Illusion Theater
528 Hennepin Ave., Mpls.
(612) 339-4944
www.illusiontheater.org

The Magic Dreidels

Through Dec. 21
Hillcrest Center Theater
1978 Ford Pkwy., St. Paul
(651) 647-4315
www.mnjewishtheater.org

Two of the region’s first-rate theater companies with reps for hard-hitting sociopolitical drama are celebrating the holiday season from a point of view atypical of standard “American” Christmas fare.

Various Jewish playwrights are showcased in Illusion Theater’s Festival of Lights, created by the talented David Jordan Harris and Michael Robins. The occasion of course, is the eight-day celebration of Hanukkah.

Robins, who reveals that the piece was inspired largely by his grandmother, shares, “She wanted to celebrate that holiday being an American, but also really wanting to make sure we remembered the traditions where we came from.”

Minnesota Jewish Theater presents The Magic Dreidels, by Jenna Zark. A dreidel is a four-sided top, with Hebrew letters on its sides, spun in a Hanukkah game.

Both shows surely will charm, sensitize, and give you a feel for Judaic spirituality.

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