On the Townsend

By John Townsend November 6, 2009

Categories: Arts & Culture, Our Scene

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Judy Garland: Born in a Trunk / Through Nov. 14 / Camp Bar Cabaret Theater, 490 N. Robert St., St. Paul / (651) 290-2290 / www.actorsmn.org

If Greta Grosch can write a sequel to Church Basement Ladies reminiscent of Chekhov, you know damned well she can make magic with Judy Garland. The acclaimed Alicia Renee stars.

Grosch says of Garland, “This woman had the ability to get inside a song—to bring it to life like no one else could. She could find places to get softer than most people—and definitely louder—but there was still always so much behind it. She was always struggling to fit in—to be good enough—and that’s something we can all relate to. We can now look at her, and say she had a chemical imbalance and needed counseling. But instead, she sang. I want to live my life like she sang.”

Chemical Imbalance: A Jekyll & Hyde Play / Through Nov.15 / Lowry Lab, 350 St. Peter St., St. Paul / (612) 721-1186 / www.theatreunbound.com

One of Lavender’s Top Theater Artists of the 1990s, Kim Hines, genderbends Lauren Wilson’s stage spoof on Victorian repression, based on Robert Louis Stevenson’s novella, for the Halloween season. Hines has reset the play in the 1930s Great Depression. In turn, sound designer Dixie Treichel draws from vintage horror films.

Hines notes, “I’m a director that tries to think outside the box in regards to casting and staging, without ruining the intent or integrity of the script. I love to challenge my actors—by nontraditional casting, not only gender, but also age. I’ve given my actors some wonderful opportunities to be creative, and to show off their artistry.”

Moonlight and Magnolias / Through Nov. 15 / Hillcrest Center, 1978 Ford Pkwy., St. Paul / (651) 647-4315 / www.mnjewishtheatre.org

Ron Hutchinson’s farce muses on film producer David O. Selznick locking director Victor Fleming in his office with Jewish screenwriter Ben Hecht radically to rewrite the script for 1939’s Gone With the Wind—on a diet of bananas and peanuts. Worse still, Hecht hasn’t even read Margaret Mitchell’s novel, on which the film is based, so Selznick and Fleming act out the story for him.

Jaime Kleiman, who enjoys playing Selznick’s nutty secretary, Miss Poppenghul, explains, “I’ve definitely worked from nothing, whereas the guys have historical record.”

And part of that record is gay.

Director Scott Rubsam shares, “A supposed but real assignation which happened between Clark Gable [who plays the male lead, Rhett Butler], and George Cukor, the initial director of Gone With the Wind—a tawdry tryst in a men’s room—is mentioned briefly.”

The play also veers into issues of anti-Semitism and race.

Adjusted for inflation, Gone With the Wind remains the most popular film ever, this year celebrating its 70th anniversary.

Short Fall / Nov. 12-15 / Lab Theater, 700 N. 1st St., Mpls. / (612) 333-7977 / www.thelabtheatre.org

ARENA Dances always is queerly sensuous, and its latest includes two segments you can’t miss.

Choreographer Matthew Janczewski’s new solo piece, Damn this wild young heart, in his words, is “about working through pain of loss, of wanting to care for someone, and knowing it’s the furthest thing you can do—knowing to take care of oneself before others. It truly is me trying to remember what it was like to be fresh, full of new love, wonderment, and excitement. I am working with ’80s music, when I just was discovering sex, lust, curiosity, and my own sensuality.”

Janczewski describes Huddle, a quartet, as “incredibly homoromantic and erotic, with a sense of men working together, perhaps building a home with each other—men working together bonding relationships with one another, working towards the same goals.”

Landscape of the Body / Nov. 6-21 / Theatre Garage, 711 W. Franklin Ave., Mpls. / (800) 838-3006 / www.prufrocktheatre.org

The “Bag Murders” of gay men in the 1970s S&M scene was a primary source of inspiration for what many consider to be John Guare’s greatest play, Landscape of the Body. Prufrock Theater’s inaugural production will be an ideal follow-up to Halloween, because it deals with grisly murder and ghostly reflections from beyond the grave.

Director Leah Cooper calls the play “a rabbit-hole of a journey that takes us into the surreal to find the truth, and down into vicious grit to discover hope. It’s a story that uncovers both depravity and beauty in our human yearnings. It’s Guare at his craziest and cruelest, but at his most poetic and inspiring.”


Ruined / Through Nov. 22 / Mixed Blood Theatre, 1501 S. 4th St., Mpls. / (612) 338-0937 / www.mixedblood.com

Sexual and gender ethics stunningly are thrashed out in Lynn Nottage’s Pulitzer Prize-winner, exquisitely directed by Aditi Kapil for Mixed Blood Theatre. Regina Marie Williams, in a magnificent lead performance as a pragmatic madam of a Congolese brothel, has us consider that prostitution is a comparatively safe alternative in a war zone where women routinely are raped and mutilated in their pelvic regions (hence the play’s title). In recent years, military torture and human trafficking have hit mainstream radar. As well, rape has come to be known widely as a standard procedure for warfare and military psychological operations (AKA “psy ops”), and not just in Africa. Therefore, Nottage’s masterpiece is quintessentially emblematic of our time.

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