On the Townsend

By John Townsend February 12, 2010

Categories: Arts & Culture, Our Scene

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Filmmakers in Conversation: Ellen Kuras / Feb. 17-20 / Walker Art Center, 1750 Hennepin Ave., Mpls. / (612) 375-7600 / www.walkerart.org

The Walker’s Expanding The Frame: Journeys series continues with cinematographer/filmmaker Ellen Kuras, one of queer cinema’s true luminaries. You can adore her beguiling black-and-white camera work in Swoon, director Tom Kalin’s stunning film about gay kidnappers/child murderers Leopold and Loeb. Admire her gritty realistic color work in another true crime story, I Shot Andy Warhol, directed by Mary Harron, an inquiry into the mind of lesbian Valerie Solanas (Lilli Taylor). In Julian Schnabel’s Lou Reed concert film Berlin, Kuras’s gritty sensibility also shines through. A major Kuras highlight is The Betrayal, the Oscar-nominated 2008 documentary she codirected with Thavisouk Phrasavathan, an intimate look into the covert US war in Laos. The great woman herself will be interviewed live at the Walker during An Evening with Ellen Kuras. See you there!

Drama A Comedy Or: Apocalypse Tuesday / Through Feb. 21 / Sabes Jewish Community Center, 4330 Cedar Lake Rd., St. Louis Park / (612) 396-2025 / www.urbansamurai.org

In his latest, Aaron Christopher, local playwriting’s King of Mean, looks into, as he puts it, “a destructive mental cycle I like to call spiraling. We fixate on one issue, or a possible issue, and then, we expand our worries into worse and worse scenarios fed by fear and informed by ignorance until we’re incapable of functioning as rational people. For instance, say your partner is late coming home, and you can’t get a hold of them, so you start to worry that maybe they ran out of gas, their phone is dead, and they’re stranded. Then, ‘What if they got carjacked?’ And then, ‘What if they got in an accident?’; ‘What if they’ve been kidnapped by some crazed serial killer’; ‘What if they’re cheating on me?’ So, you sit there, letting your mind’s gears grind on themselves until you are almost hysterical. And then, your partner comes in the door, and you explode at them.”

Christopher’s new farce portrays a range of possible horrific scenarios: being asphyxiated from a gas leak; being robbed, raped, killed by illegal immigrants; and being assaulted by international terrorists—perfectly suitable for our current culture of fear.

The Homecoming / Through Feb. 21 / Gremlin Theatre, 2400 University Ave. W., St. Paul / (651) 228-7008 / www.gremlin-theatre.org / Mojo / Through Feb. 27 / Red Eye Theatre, 15 W. 14th St., Mpls. / (612) 375-0300 / www.walkingshadowcompany.org

The ghost of Nobel Laureate Harold Pinter is hovering around the Cities this winter. Gremlin is reviving his 1967 Best Play Tony-winner The Homecoming in St. Paul. Director Matt Sciple’s ensemble delves into power struggles involving five men related to one another and one of their wives. Sticky sexual tension galore.

In Minneapolis, catch Walking Shadow’s Mojo, the play that won the 1996 Olivier—UK’s equivalent of the Tony—for Best New Comedy. It penetrates London’s 1958 rock ’n’ roll scene.

Playwright Jez Butterworth has shared that Pinter had “a ginormous influence on me.”

Just because five men but no women inhabit this play doesn’t mean a lack of comparable tension, as director Amy Rummenie notes: “There is a fair amount of speculation about the motives and sexuality of each other—usually using the questioning of sexual motives as a way to get a dig in at someone. It’s full of the posturing and preening of these young guys thrown against the frustration of being cooped up with each other. Their camaraderie breaks down, and a lot of ugly truths come floating to the surface.”


Expecting Isabel / Through Feb. 28 / Lowry Lab Theater, 350 St. Peter St., St. Paul / (612) 721-1186 / www.theatreunbound.com

Infertility is the subject of Lisa Loomer’s acclaimed comedy. Christine Winkler Johnson and Eric Knutson play Miranda and Nick, a hetero couple not getting any younger, and feeling frustrated in their efforts to reproduce.

Director Rebecca Rizzio says the play reveals cynical Miranda’s “discovery of the capacity that she has within herself to truly love a child. Loomer forces us to ask the question: How far do we push science to have our own biological children? And, can we not love the same way a child that is not of our bodies?”

Of course, that’s a question many gay and lesbian couples also are wrestling with nowadays. Loomer, being in sync with the times, includes a gay couple——portrayed by David Schlosser and Dwight Gunderson —in the play’s “adoption support group.”

Theatre Unbound, a first-rate feminist theater now in its 10th season, is known for its comic flair. Knutson tied with the late great Charles Nolte for this column’s Best Actor 2008.

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