On the Townsend

By John Townsend August 28, 2009

Categories: Arts & Culture, Our Scene

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After Juliet / Through Aug. 30 / Theatre Or, 4330 Cedar Lake Rd., Mpls. / (612) 227-1188 / www.tctwentypercent.org

Do you recall the beginning of Romeo and Juliet, when Romeo yearns for his cousin, Rosaline? Playwright Sharman MacDonald speculates on an immediate and horrific aftermath sprung from the double suicide of the star-crossed lovers. Rosaline calls Juliet’s action a “selfish suicide,” because it puts the nurse, the friar, a servant, and the apothecary in dire jeopardy. The Prince’s admonition for all to bury the hatchet at the end of the play cannot extinguish the vengeful mess left behind.

Claire Avitabile, who codirects the 20% Theatre Company Twin Cities production, says, “After Juliet’s many women represent an eclectic mix of stereotypes, as well as resistance to them. Juliet was the perfect girl, held up on a pedestal for all to admire and strive to assimilate. Rosaline [Anika Taylor] is the spitfire protagonist, outspoken and intimidating. She has no wish to be a man, but dons men’s clothing to ‘fight more easily.’ There’s also Alice [Claire Loyd], the Southern belle who acknowledges that she was a ‘born bitch,’ and that it will take ‘a lifetime to overcome it.’ Livia [Caitlin Ray], the bookworm lesbian, stands up for what she thinks is right. Rhona [Danielle Silver] is the goody two-shoes with a sense of righteousness that runs deep and even angry. Helena [Katrina Hawley] is the one forced to grow up too fast. But ultimately, it’s Rosaline’s internal battle with herself, her grief, and anger, with her desperate need for both revenge and discovery of self-peace.”


Ella / Through Sept. 6 / Guthrie Theater, 818 S. 2nd St., Mpls. / (612) 377-2224 /
www.guthrietheater.org

Tina Fabrique triumphs in this biomusical of scat singer extraordinaire Ella Fitzgerald, conceived by Dyke Garrison and director Danny Holgate. Fabrique’s complex, mind-boggling, multisyllabic delivery may not be as high-pitched as Fitzgerald’s, but the style, the spirit, and the rhythms of the First Lady of Song are channeled to exhilarating effect. Fitzgerald’s 1966 concert in Nice, France, serves as a catalyst that triggers personal regrets and joyous memories. John Lasiter’s lighting achieves transcendent moments on Michael Schweikhardt’s elegant night- club-style set. Some may feel the show should address issues of racism more forthrightly, but the focus on Fitzgerald’s inner emotional voice, and how it attuned to the important people in her life and her external singing voice, nonetheless makes for a marvelous theatrical experience that will please and enlighten a wide audience.

Ashesh Barsha, Unending Monsoon / Sept. 10-13 / Southern Theater, 1420 Washington Ave. S., Mpls. / (612) 340-1725 / www.south
erntheater.org

The wild distortions of insurance companies about health-care reform may be part of a larger pattern. The carbon emissions of poor women in the Third World preposterously are compared to the megapolluters to their north. Outrage over that distortion fuels Ananya Dance Theatre’s newest work, Ashesh Barsha, Unending Monsoon.

Choreographer Ananya Chatterjea explains that such comparisons are “shocking to us. Ashesh Barsha takes off on such inequities, yet is also inspired by the work done by primarily women’s communities to propose equitable solutions to the problems of climate change. In particular, the idea of affecting a paradigm shift in the ways in which we think about energy usage is explored through ideas of female sexuality and intimacy, through the building of relationships to each other. The women dance to articulate the pain of finding themselves in a social structure where the overconsumption of energy is continuously corroding their ability to live in balance with their environment; their rage of realizing that information has been made inaccessible to them; the courage to persist in efforts to reconnect with lost indigenous knowledge; and the despair that comes from constantly searching for solutions and building community together. We articulate the multiple facets of women’s work around climate and energy justice.”

Mary Poppins / Through Sept. 20 / Orpheum Theatre, 910 Hennepin Ave., Mpls. / (800) 982-2787 / www.HennepinTheatreTrust.org

Iconic gay choreographer Matthew Bourne exudes ethereal sexuality and dark wit in his box office blockbusters Swan Lake, Car Man, and Edward Scissorhands. He does the same in Mary Poppins, whose Broadway tour now plays Minneapolis. You’ll hear many of the fab Sherman Brothers tunes from the film, as well as new ones by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe.

In the weeks after Mary Poppins hit Broadway en route to many Tony nods, I chatted with Bourne, who described the new tune “Temper Temper,” based on one of P.L. Travers’s stories not included in the film: “It’s Mary’s night off. The kids have lost their temper, and they’ve been rude to their father and mother. There’s a lot going on in the house. Everyone’s unhappy, and she leaves them with the words ‘Temper. Temper. No supper for you tonight.’ And what happens in the nursery is, their toys come to life, and put them on trial for treating them badly. I love the idea of toys putting kids on trial, because they do sort of bash these toys around all the time, and you see that constantly. It’s a bit spooky and a bit scary. I would say it’s absolutely joyous and moving and touching.”

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