On the Townsend

By John Townsend September 24, 2009

Categories: Arts & Culture, Our Scene

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Million Dollar Museum / Through Oct. 3 / Bedlam Theatre, 1501 S. 6th St., Mpls. / (612) 341-1038 / www.bedlamtheatre.org

Imagine a kitschy tourist attraction, a haunted house, and a museum in the desert, and you have the setting of Josef Evans’s new absurdist comedy.

Director Maren Ward says it’s about “breaking out of or challenging forced conventions and realities—waking up, looking at your surroundings, and recognizing the need to change. While it’s very absurd and abstract, there’s an underlying theme of questioning American identity and historical narrative.”

Tom Lloyd, who plays a mannequin character who sings a musical number in sparkly clothes, and tries to get out of the basement, remarks, “It reads like a mannequin discovering their inner drag queen.”


Aphra’s Attic
/ Through Oct. 4 / Lowry Lab, 360 St. Peter St., St. Paul / (866) 811-4111 / www.theatreunbound.com

For the first time in four years, our premier women’s theater troupe is presenting great short plays by women from the past under a rubric named in honor of iconic 17th-Century Restoration playwright Aphra Behn. But the two actual offerings were penned in other centuries. The Coach (c. 1540), by Queen Margaret of Navarre, an advocate for social and religious reform, reflects her anger toward abuses in traditional marriage. Alice Gerstenberg’s Overtones (1916) was a breakthrough in American drama because of its radical inquiry into the subconscious. Both plays are given contemporary reinterpretations.

Artistic Director Stacey Poirier points out the plays’ “agelessness,” adding, “This is a rare opportunity to see work by remarkable, unsung writers.”


Super Monkey
/ Through Oct. 4 / Tales from the Book of Longing / Oct. 8-18 / Guthrie Dowling Studio, 818 S. 2nd St., Mpls. / (612) 377-2224 / www.guthrietheater.org

Once again, the Guthrie presents two sharp local performance groups.

Jon Ferguson Theater creates original, highly physicalized collaborations. Its latest, Super Monkey, explores envy and status anxiety. Set in a posh condominium, the cast of 12 portrays characters who long for not only what the others have materially, but also internally. It muses on the liberating possibility of living beyond the aching pull of want to live without excess.

Director Jon Ferguson points out that we are “always longing to be somewhere else, to have more money, to be more beautiful. We desire objects that we think might fill a void, and long to be living at a higher status. It’s about the facade of self, work, relationships, and the places we live. In most cases, we work very hard to be sure that the facade is perfect, while behind it is a house of cards.”

Stuart Pimsler Dance’s Tales from the Book of Longing draws from the ethereal transgender sensibility of Antony and the Johnsons. Chris Cunningham is designing the soundscape.

Choreographer Pimsler observes, “Antony’s music seemed like the ideal accompaniment for this new work, which resounds in an episodic landscape of sinuous moments out of reach and quiet scenes of missed chances.”


Homeland Prayer / Through Oct. 11/ Sabes Jewish Community Center, 4330 Cedar Lake Rd., St. Louis Park / (612) 396-2025 / www.urbansamurai.org

This year, audiences hungry for movies about the Iraq War have Kathryn Bigelow’s jolting The Hurt Locker. Now, playgoers seeking the same have Homeland Prayer, by Jeff Carter. The haunting long arm of Vietnam weighs in, as Darden (Mark Kreger), a veteran of that war, grapples with the conflicting passions of country versus family when his son is critically injured in Iraq.

Urban Samurai Productions Director Matthew Greseth notes, “For every soldier that has been killed or wounded, there are many loved ones here at home whose lives will never be the same. Homeland Prayer tells the story of a family whose world has been turned upside down by a roadside bomb. Casualties of the war are not limited to the battlefield.”

Marisol / Oct. 3-18 / Gremlin Theater, 2400 University Ave. W., St. Paul / (612) 874-9321 / www.theatreprorata.org

Playwright Jose Rivera goes wild when a guardian angel plans a rebellion against God.

Theatre Pro Rata Director Carin Bratlie calls Marisol “a wild ride down a rabbit hole, where Rivera takes a number of traditional roles, and turns them on their heads. Those who don’t have power on earth have power in heaven. Men can have babies. Women lead battles. It’s a postapocalyptic Blade Runner-esque world riddled with political, spiritual, and sociological themes. Part of the beauty of the play is the absolute chaos of it all.”

It’s no wonder that when Rivera was a small child, the only book in his home was the Bible, though he loved watching The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits on TV. The literary master of magical realism, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, later mentored him at the Sundance Institute. Rivera was the first Puerto Rican to be nominated for the screenwriting Oscar for The Motorcycle Diaries.

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