Arts Spotlight: 593

By John Townsend February 15, 2018

Categories: Arts & Culture, Featured - Home Page, Our Scene

Cardboard Piano. Photo by Petronella J. Ytsma

Cardboard Piano
Through Feb. 18
20 W. 7th Place, St. Paul

Park Square is presenting Hansol Jung’s acclaimed drama of forbidden love between two girls; one, Ugandan, and one, the daughter of an American missionary, directed by Signe V. Harriday. In a spirit reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet, they are secretly married.

Playing one of the pair is Kiara Jackson. She shares, “As a young lesbian Ugandan woman, Adiel is essentially putting her life at risk by being in a relationship with Chris, the missionary pastor’s daughter. If anyone were to find out she was a lesbian, it would be a death sentence for her, so the stakes for keeping this love a secret are very high. That is what is so beautiful about seeing the love these girls have for one another. In the midst of the dangers of a war-torn country, and the added danger of being discovered, the love they have for each other is so strong, so powerful, that they are literally willing to risk it all for each other.”

Adelin Phelps, who plays Chris, adds, “Something that Signe has talked about with all of us is this fire that lives within all of the characters. Each one has a very specific, personal, fire in burning them.  When I first read the play, I immediately felt that fire in my stomach, and it felt connected deeply to Chris. I like Chris’s brain, and her passion, and intensity.  And the fact that she is a fighter. Her love for Adiel is true—deep in her bones. This story is about the deepest, darkest, brightest, most painful, and the most beautiful parts about being a person.”


Dancing with Giants. Photo by Lauren B Photography

Dancing With Giants
Through Feb. 24
Illusion Theater, Cowles Center, 528 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis
(612) 339-4944

Broadway and Guthrie Theater veteran actress, Tovah Felshuh, returns to Minneapolis in a new work by her acclaimed playwright brother, David Feldshuh. In Dancing with Giants, Tovah crosses the gender divide as New York boxing manager Joe “Yussel the Muscle” Jacobs. David also directs this world premiere set in the years preceding World War II. The cast includes some top tier local actors: Sam Bardwell as German boxing champ Max Schmeling; Ricky Morisseau as American World Boxing Champ Joe Louis; and James Cunningham as the man manipulating them all, the infamous Dr. Joseph Goebbels, the insidious Nazi propaganda chief of the Third Reich.


The Toxic Avenger. Photo by Unser Imagery

The Toxic Avenger Musical
Through Feb. 25
Phoenix Theater, 2605 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis

A man pushed into a vat of toxic waste by a villainous mayor is transformed into a superhero called The Toxic Avenger. True love, crossgender performances, and a score, script, and lyrics by the makers of the Tony-winning Memphis take the stage in this Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Off-Broadway Musical 2009.

Ryan Grimes has directed the musical for Minneapolis Musical Theatre. He says, “At first glance, The Toxic Avenger Musical appears to be just an over-the-top camp fest based on a 1980s cult movie classic of questionable quality. However, in additions to cultural references to Michelle Bachmann and Oprah Winfrey, that are suddenly once again relevant, the heart of the show is a boy trying to do right by a girl and the world, which has taken on new meaning in 2018. What is beautiful? What is ugly? Is love blind or does it see all? And does any of it even matter if we can’t save our planet?”


The Ravagers. Photo by Anna Schultz

The Ravagers
Feb. 9-March 3
The X Lab at Can Can Wonderland, 755 Prior Ave. N, St. Paul

In 2011, Savage Umbrella astonished the local theater scene with a breathtaking original production based on The Suppliants by the fabled Father of Western Drama, military commander Aeschylus—wherein a daughter questions obedience to her father, the commander created from a clearly circumscribed view of gender. The production seven years ago definitely portrayed that in a brutal way. However, the troupe has re-conceived the piece to reflect current attitudes.

Co-writer Laura Leffler co-wrote the original with Blake E. Bolan and the same pair now returns with revisions. Leffler explains, “We are presenting this story, which takes place in a very gendered and very binary world. So we’re trying to be really careful at all stages of production to honor all the ways we as a company and we as a cast/production team are non-binary. We’ve purposefully cast queer and trans actors, and are searching for ways to subvert gender expectations in the production, so that we’re commenting on the super binary world of the play.”

The co-writer adds, “Power and gender are always intertwined, and we’re trying to tease apart all the different ways power works in this story. In this cultural moment, in the wake of Aziz Ansari, Harvey Weinstein, and the #metoo movement, we’ve found ourselves telling this unbelievably relevant story about breaking out of cultural indoctrination and enacting your own agency to change your life, to save your life.”


Peter and Alice
Feb.10-March 4
Fallout Arts Initiative, 2601 2nd Ave. S, Minneapolis

Childlike wonder emanates from two of fantasy literature’s most enduring characters: J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan and Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. Playwright John Logan imagines a conversation between not the authors, but the two actual people who modeled the writers’ protagonists, “Peter” and “Alice.” Candid Theater director Justin Kirkeberg remarks that Peter and Alice also has gay undercurrents involving the life of Peter Davies, played by David Wasserman.

Meri Golden, who plays opposite Wasserman, says of her role: “Alice Liddell Hargreaves is an 80-year-old woman caught between the fantasy of Wonderland and a life not quite as ‘magical.’ In an encounter with Peter Davies, upon whom Peter Pan is based, she relived some of the childhood that inspired Lewis Carroll’s book, and comes face to face with some ‘truths’ she had not admitted to herself. Golden afternoons and melancholy memories intertwine in the stories she shares as she grasps with her present reality.”


The Resistance of My Skin. Photo by Hillary Olson

The Resistance of My Skin
Feb. 16-24
Crane Theater, 2303 Kennedy St. NE, #120, Minneapolis

Shannon TL Kearns and Ashley Hovell are the actors who portray the problem of dating in The Resistance of My Skin. Kearns, who also wrote the play, relates, “Dating is hard. But it’s especially hard for folks whose bodies are on the margins: transgender people, plus-sized people, and anyone who doesn’t fit the mold the media has crafts about who is desirable. I wanted to write a play that puts bodies on stage that we don’t normally see and allows those characters to be sexy and vulnerable and conflicted and flawed and human. This is the story of one date, but it’s also the story of anyone who has had to fight to be loved and to love themselves.”


Pink Floyd. Photo courtesy of Classic Albums Live

Pink Floyd – Dark Side of the Moon
Feb. 24
Ordway Center, 345 Washington St., St. Paul

Classic Albums Live recreates the original sounds of iconic music albums from the 1960s and ’70s to uncanny effect. The Ordway Center’s 2017-2018 Concert Series features the Toronto-based project that replicates the sound without even using tape or computers! Founder and music director Craig Martin says, “We hope that sometime during the performance, you close your eyes and dream of both the future and the past. And that you realize you have grown up with one of the greatest pieces of music ever made.”




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