Arts Spotlight: 425

By John Townsend September 8, 2011

Categories: Arts & Culture, Our Scene

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The Pride — One of Britain’s recent acclaimed gay dramas gets its area premiere. Playwright Alexi Kaye Campbell juxtaposes gay life in 1958 when homosexuality was still illegal in the UK with the vastly more open gay life in the UK in 2008. Three actors play characters who go by the same names and who, one might say, share psychic traits in both periods, though they are clearly different beings and characters.

In 1958, children’s book illustrator, Sylvia (Tracey Maloney) is married to realtor, Philip (Matt Guidry). After she introduces him to Oliver (Clarence Wethern), her employer, the two men quickly deepen their connection. Guidry shares «it’s not just once or twice that they get together. They get together two or three times a week over a period of four months, so it’s a full-fledged relationship. And then Philip stops it cold.”

Maloney senses that the Sylvia «knows somewhere in the back of her head that her husband might be gay. It’s not spoken. It’s not out loud. Somewhere in the back of her mind she knows something might be in the realm of that but she can’t quite come to that consciously.”

In the 1958 segments, the actors say there is as much unsaid as is actually said. Director Noel Raymond observes, Something that’s difficult and fun about this play is that innuendo and subtext are the primary things going on.” (Classic gay films set in the same era–Victim and Brokeback Mountain–come to mind.)

But in 2008, destigmatization ironically creates a new set of problems. Raymond points out, «It’s post-Sexual Revolution, where the self-hatred that is turned inside Oliver in 1958 is externalized. Philip participates in a lot of anonymous sex and he cannot seem to stop it.”

Wethern says Oliver «goes to the internet, parks, and just meets up to have sex. Specifically, the dynamic is dominant/submissive. He likes to be dominated and controlled–an oppressor/oppressee dynamic. He sees things that he does with strangers as just a basic bodily function.” What Raymond calls divorcing sex from love.

Through Oct. 16 • Pillsbury House, 3501 Chicago Av. S., Mpls. • (612) 825-0459 • www.pillsburyhousetheatre.org

August: Osage County — If you were to say Tracy Letts’s 2008 Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winner was the best thing to come out of American theater in a generation, I wouldn’t argue with you. What’s especially thrilling is that the tragicomedy’s first Upper Midwest professional production stars the splendid Barbara Kinsgley who understudied the lead role of Violet in the awesome national tour which starred the awesome Estelle Parsons.

I told Kingsley that I see Violet as harsh. But having dug deeper than I, of course, Kingsley replied, “She has come to cling to her set of truths and one person’s truth can be brutal and brutalizing.” Through Oct. 2 • Park Square Theatre, • 20 W. 7th Pl., Mpls. • (651) 291-7005 • www.parksquaretheatre.org

Cinematic Titanic — The Minnesotans who brought us Mystery Science Theater are back here from LA with their acclaimed new project, Cinematic Titanic, where corny movie gems Rattlers, War of the Insects, and Doomsday Machine get totally riffed! When musing about the public’s enduring appetite for scary B-movies, project creator Joel Hogsdon muses “You wanna be taken away into that world and forget yourself and when movies are done well, we all kind of share in a waking dream. And when they’re not done well, there’s something real tantalizing about it because all the elements are there but they’re not quite assembled right.” Sept. 15-17 • Parkway Theatre, • 4814 Chicago Av., Mpls. • (612) 822-3030 • www.theparkwaytheater.com

Bus Stop — Tennessee Williams (1911-1983) tends to top lists as the 20th century’s greatest gay American playwright. And, indeed, he does deserve his giant outdoor image at the Guthrie. But William Inge (1913-1973), to many, is second best, rivaling Edward Albee (born 1928). Director Robert Goudy shares that in Inge’s 1955 comedy “An empty loneliness resides at the center of the play, as each character seeks in their own way, to reach beyond that void and make a connection.” • Thought Oct. 2 • Theatre in the Round, 245 Cedar Av., Mpls. • (612) 333-3010 • www.theatreintheround.org

The Book of Liz — The Freshwater troupe revives the Sedaris siblings, Amy and David’s, ‘01 spoof on “Americana” as seen through the eyes of Liz (Mame Pelletier), an endearingly naive, non-judgemental Amish woman. When she befriends two gay men, Duncan (Joel Raney) and Donny (Michael Sung-Ho), at a restaurant where she works, her world view expands. Raney says, “It teaches us cultural acceptance through the kindness Liz shares with everyone she encounters in the big outside world.” Through Sept. • 25 Nimbus Theatre, • 1517 Central Av. NE, Mpls. (612) 816-8479 • www.FreshwaterTheatre.com

Despair Be Damned: Music and Dance from the Congo — Walker Performing Arts Curator Philip Bither says, “This two-part series demonstrates how artists often provide a remarkable degree of hope, healing, and political courage, even in the most desperate of national circumstances.” At the Walker, the Studios Kabako dancers choreographed by Faustin Linyekula will physically interpret recent global uprisings. At the Cedar, Staff Benda Bilili, a collective of self-taught, disabled street musicians, some formerly homeless, will make what Bither calls “a distinctive, joyous sound.” Sept. 22-27 • Walker Art Center, 1750 Hennepin Av., Mpls. & Cedar Cultural Center, • 416 Cedar Av. S., Mpls. • (612) 375-7600 • www.walkerart.org

Rumblings — As the Cowles Center begins its mission to provide space for homegrown dance performances, it’s fitting that the Minnesota Dance Theatre reprises its acclaimed Blues Ballet, Rumblings. Choreographer Lise Houlton says that revisiting the piece has been an “exhilarating collaboration of powerful, sensuous company dancers, composer/arranger/pianist Tom Linker and the sumptuous voice of Harley Wood.” You may recall Wood’s fabulous performance in Cardinal Theatricals’ Rent last year. He says “I am very honored.” Sept. 30 – Oct. 9 • Cowles Center for Dance & the Performing Arts, 528 Hennepin Av., Mpls. • (612) 206-3636 • www.thecowlescenter.org

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