On the Townsend

By John Townsend November 20, 2008

Categories: Arts & Culture, Our Scene

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Blackbird
Through Nov. 30
Guthrie Theater
818 S. 2nd St., Mpls.
(612) 377-2224
www.guthrietheater.org

Stephen Yoakam and Tracey Maloney electrify in Pillsbury House’s staging of the Olivier-winning Blackbird at the Guthrie’s Dowling Studio.

Director Stephen DiMenna, who agrees with playwright David Harrower that the play is not about sexual abuse or pedophilia, says, “It’s really about two lost souls who 15 years ago were lost—she as a 12-year-old, he as a 40-year old. For whatever reasons, they felt a void in their lives. And it didn’t become sexual until the last day of those three months. It was platonic, of sorts, up to that point. And though it was highly inappropriate and eventually illegal for Ray to let things go so far, it happened not because of sex, but because of emotional need on both their parts. Now, 15 years later, they find themselves at a similar place—lost in big emotional voids—and they reconnect, and go through a roller coaster of emotions in the 90 minutes of their confrontation. They both share power back and forth—she as a victim/survivor, he as a perpetrator. Then, they shift. The power shifts constantly in this play. Sometimes, she uses her sexuality as a power tool. Sometimes, she uses his guilt. He does the same to her, blaming her for what happened—not really taking responsibility for his actions.”

Death and the Maiden
Through Nov. 30
Minneapolis Theatre Garage
711 W. Franklin Ave., Mpls.
(651) 229-3122
www.nimbustheatre.com

When the late Augusto Pinochet rose to dictatorship in Chile in 1973, he began a reign of secret terror that still is felt. As we watch certain Bush officials end their tenure with anxiety over the possibility of being arrested for crimes overseas, it’s worth noting that President Richard Nixon’s Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, now definitively implicated in Pinochet’s ascent, also must avoid certain foreign countries for fear of arrest. That’s the historical background of Ariel Dorfman’s Olivier-winning Death and the Maiden, a play that reveals how geopolitical evil implants itself in the psyches of regular folks.

Nimbus Theatre Director Liz Neerland muses on the relationship between Paulina and Gerardo, the play’s married couple: “It is obvious he wears the pants, and they have a fairly ‘traditional’ relationship. She cooks breakfast. He has the high-powered job. This is all upended when she picks up a gun, and takes a man hostage. At times, I believe Gerardo is more frustrated at his inability to control his wife than he is at the man tied up in his living room. Gerardo is used to Paulina doing what he says, not necessarily submissively, but with the understanding that his is the last word. Now that she won’t listen to him, he is completely unmanned. He has no idea how to handle a situation where his usual tactics have no effect, and she is almost startled with the amount of control over him the situation creates.”


TU Dance Fall Concert

Nov. 21-23
O’Shaughnessy Auditorium
College of St. Catherine
2004 Randolph Ave., St. Paul
(651) 989-5151
www.ticketmaster.com

The TU Dance aesthetic is created through the integration of multiple dance forms, like ballet, Horton Technique modern dance, and African.

Artistic Director Uri Sands relates, “Our mission is to reach through these diverse dance traditions, and uncover the connective power of dance for audiences, students, artists, and the community. Whether the work is literal or abstract, our work is ultimately about the human experience. Be it through the music you hear, the performance you see onstage, or the person sitting next to you in the audience, when you leave the theater, your dance experience with TU Dance should have had some reflection on you.”

Wicked
Through Dec. 7
Orpheum Theatre
910 Hennepin Ave., Mpls.
(612) 673-0404
www.HennepinTheatreDistrict.org

Donna Vivino’s glorious rendition of “Defying Gravity” in Wicked two nights after President-elect Barack Obama’s triumph surely ranks as a bona fide cosmic experience. The Orpheum audience was ecstatic. But then, the whole show is a gorgeous bleak vision bathed in black and green that ultimately triumphs with true love and the power of personal integrity.

Vivino, as the vindicated green-skinned Wicked Witch of the West, Elphaba, is riveting. Katie Rose Clarke is resplendently bitchy as white-skinned Glinda, the “Good” Witch.

Indeed, Wicked questions just what we call “good”: What happens when Emerald City’s police force turns on civil liberty, when professors are fired simply for being born with a socially unacceptable quality, or when education becomes a pretext for popularity coronations?

Wicked is a consummate look at stigma, and how the state can overrule individuality—an ideal choice for marking World AIDS Day.

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