On the Townsend

By John Townsend July 16, 2010

Categories: Arts & Culture, Our Scene


The Keys Experiment
July 29-Aug. 1
Artery Festival Twentyten, Soap Factory
514 2nd St. SE, Mpls.
(612) 623-9176

Named for lead scientist Ancel Keys, the Keys Experiment, also called the Minnesota Starvation Study, researched conscientious objectors during World War II who volunteered as human guinea pigs to starve themselves, so that more might be understood about the nature of famines expected after the war’s end. While in high school, performer/writer Sheila Regan learned about it when undergoing treatment for an eating disorder.

Regan says her multimale-character solo performance piece makes “the connection between the war happening over in Europe at this time and the inner war happening to the men as a result of starvation. I think of war as being ‘male,’ so by setting the characters in my own body, I guess I’m trying to imagine what I would have done if choosing whether to fight was ever a decision I had to face. These very altruistic men were unwilling to fight because of their beliefs, but they were willing to go through the extreme sacrifice of starving themselves for this study. They wanted to help mankind in some way, and this was how they did it. At the time, COs were really looked down on for not fighting in the war.”

The Drowsy Chaperone
Through Aug. 7
Minnetonka Theatre, Arts Center on 7
18285 Hwy. 7, Minnetonka
(952) 401-5898

This 2006 Tony-winner for Best Musical follows flights of a lonely gay man’s imagination, as he listens to a vintage recording of a roaring Jazz Age musical fictionally titled The Drowsy Chaperone. The characters come to life in his flat. They flesh out the action right onstage through dream sequences and mistaken identities. Greta Grosch stars.

Choreographer Michael Matthew Ferrell shares, “The ’20s are one of my favorite periods. There is a freedom and wild abandonment that drives the movement. It is also sassy, sexy, and unexpected. The challenge in all this is to organize and refine what might easily turn to chaos. With two gay characters, we are well-represented: Trent Boyum as ‘The Man in Chair’ and Kathleen Hardy as Trix, the Aviatrix. The very nature of the show lends itself to crossing the lines of gender. And in the gaiety of it all, it is totally acceptable for men to dance with men, and women to dance with women.”

Toyota! The Runaway Musical Hit!
Through Aug. 14
Brave New Workshop
2605 Hennepin Ave. S., Mpls.
(612) 332-6620

I was expecting these comics to floor the satirical accelerator, with all the excess of brazen corporate corruption and human tragedy that has been made unmistakably clear. Though the show is fun, the heinous Toyota scandal never is addressed. Instead, it has some dizzy vignettes about people trapped in runaway Toyotas—one is Lauren Anderson as a teen passenger who upsets her driver dad (Josh Eakright) by listening to lurid rock lyrics, not truly realizing their meaning.

Non-Toyota content actually rules here. Zany Ellie Hino sparkles as easy target Michele Bachmann—spouting some of the Congresswoman’s most fatuous quotes. But I wanted Hino to flesh out a more fully realized impersonation, like Tina Fey’s Sarah Palin. And Hino has the chops to do it.

Ditto Bobby Gardner’s drag turn as last year’s overnight middle-aged sensation, Sarah Boyle. His imitation convinces, but it needs to go somewhere. After all, the media circus around her is rich in irony.

Gardner shines more fully in the Musical Terrets segment, where a man is assumed to be gay because he breaks into song from classics like The Sound of Music and A Chorus Line. This piece charmed me, but the “terrets” aspect is potentially dubious. Is this at the expense of the plight of persons with disabilities? Though I’m the last to deny that gay men love musicals, as I see many of them, many straight men attend, and love them, too.

Toyota!’s best scene spoofs a Christian heavy metal band. Jesus warns: “Don’t have sex!” Eakright’s raspy voice and reptilian tongue action as a Satanically possessed drummer brought the house down the night I was there. This vignette cuts the edge, as the controversial Christian rock scene is starting to hit the broader radar.

The Talent Show
Through Aug. 15
Walker Art Center
1750 Hennepin Ave., Mpls.
(612) 375-7600

Curator Peter Eleey makes us acutely aware of how one’s personal image too easily can be owned by others in one’s own egotistical quest for recognition. Andy Warhol’s proverbial 15 minutes of fame notion sets the tone for this unique exhibit. As we enter, his Screen Test: Robin, shot in the mid-1960s, projects a close-up of a young woman simply being. Who she is exactly is unknown.

In the slide presentation Freefotolab, Phil Collins has selected rolls of undeveloped film sent to him under condition that the photographers relinquish all rights to him. The results are often mundane, but sporadically, something like two young women together in a bubble bath pop up, or a happy head of a young man cradled by a pair of thighs.

Museum patron-as-voyeur continues with Gillian Wearing’s arresting Dominick, which at first look is a hip airbrushed painting of a pretty young man. But ask the gallery monitor to adjust it for you, and behind the painting, you’ll see ordinary photos of the actual subject in which he was far more attractive, not to mention a bit more rugged—as both the monitor and I agreed.

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