On the Townsend

By John Townsend September 11, 2009

Categories: Arts & Culture, Our Scene


Into Temptation / Now Screening at Local Cinemas

Those who thirst for compassionate views of Christianity will find succor in local filmmaker Patrick Coyle’s absorbing new film, Into Temptation, which David Doyle shot entirely and splendidly in Minneapolis. Law and Order’s Jeremy Sisto and Wicked Tony-winner Kristin Chenoweth captivate as a socially conscious priest and a suicidal sex worker. Numerous other terrific turns by local actors include two African-American goddesses of the Twin Cities stage, Greta Oglesby and Isabell Monk O’Connor. Brian Baumgartner (The Office), who devastated as a bi movie mogul in Hidden Theatre’s area premiere of The Dying Gaul a decade ago, delights as Sisto’s buddy priest. In his latest, Coyle—whose Detective Fiction played Sundance 2003—muses on how we stigmatize sex and poverty. Exquisite are Sisto’s scenes with John Skelly as a young man troubled by homosexual feelings. Coyle derails the fatuous notion to “let bygones be bygones,” current in both politics and countless personal relationships today. But as Chenoweth’s victimization shows us, cruelty unrepented can be catastrophic.

My Name is Rachel Corrie / Through Sept. 19 / Open Eye Figure Theatre, 506 E. 24th St., Mpls. / (612) 423-2741 / www.emigranttheater.org

Finally, the decade’s most controversial play opens here. On the heels of a dynamic 2005 world premiere at London’s preeminent Royal Court, New York Theatre Workshop “postponed indefinitely” the US premiere. Alan Rickman and Katherine Viner, dramatic editors of Rachel Corrie’s diaries and e-mails, then pulled their permission to produce it. The play ultimately was staged at Greenwich Village’s Minetta Lane. Though it has taken a while for an area premiere, local readings staged by the late Fran Ford kindled passionate interest. My Name is Rachel Corrie is the true story of a young American mowed down by an Israeli military bulldozer in 2003 while protesting the decimation of Palestinian homes in the Gaza Strip.

Emily Gunyou Halaas, who plays the solo title role, says, “The only way for me to approach Rachel as a character is to be true to her spirit, and try to marry it with my own spirit. As a result, I have fallen head over heels in love with her—her writing, her love story, her hope and love of life. Also, her failures, her vanity, and her desperate humanness.”

The Mary Tyler Moore Show / Through Sept. 26 / Theatre Garage, 711 W.
Franklin Ave., Mpls. / (952) 929-9097 / www.torchtheater.org

Some top local actors are performing classic episodes live onstage from The Mary Tyler Moore Show, that fabled TV sitcom set in Minneapolis. David Mann directs them as a full-run Torch Theater fund-raiser.

Enhancing MTM’s ’70s sensibility is Stephen Herzog—better known to many as Barbie “Q,” Miss City of the Lakes 1997 and Miss Trailer Trash—who shares, “Although I completed a wig internship at the Guthrie in 1995, I decided to stay behind the chair, and work mainly with hair that talks back. I do occasional commercial work, and I’ve been Miss Richfield’s hairstylist since she got out of pigtails. When David mentioned wigs for the MTM show, I was immediately interested. I studied the whole cast every Saturday night while munching popcorn on the den floor for years. Did he want a dark flip for Mary, or the later, shorter Mary with the highlights? Well, it turns out they need both looks. And Phyllis, Sue Ann, Georgette, and Ted hair, too! It’s a lot of work, but I think back to when I was 8, and if I knew then that I would one day be making these wigs, I would have thought: Being a grown-up might be pretty excellent!”

Also featured: Into Temptation actors Linda Kelsey and Julie Madden, and director Patrick Coyle.

The Romance of Magno Rubio / Through Sept. 27 / Mixed Blood Theatre, 1501 S. 4th St., Mpls. / (612) 338-6131 / www.muperformingarts.org

Randy Reyes has charmed with crossgender and other sophisticated turns at the Guthrie and Ordway, but he now stands in stark contrast in the title role of Lonnie Carter’s play about Filipino migrant workers in the 1930s.

Reyes describes “a social hierarchy within this particular group of Filipino men. They’re as much at odds with each other as they are with the white men they work for. Nick [Kurt Kwan], the ‘college boy,’ gets a certain amount of respect because of his intelligence. Then, there’s Magno [Reyes], who can’t read or write, and has to rely on Nick to write letters to the woman he’s in love with, yet has never met. Magno is considered the lowest on the social ladder, but his unflinching optimism lifts the men’s spirits.”

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