On the Townsend

By John Townsend August 27, 2010

Categories: Arts & Culture, Our Scene

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The Art of Aging
Through Sept. 5
Minneapolis Central Public Library
300 Nicollet Mall, Mpls.
(952) 847-8000
www.hclib.org

As you enter this numinous exhibit, you see two large photographs by Bette Globus Goodman that look right into the faces of a woman confronting cancer and a woman with many wrinkles. It sets the tone for a viewing experience that makes no apology for looking at aging candidly. A wistful edge to it all recalls the distant faded past.

Karen Searle uses cord and clothespins to signify a clothesline, with little-girl dresses knitted from copper wire and painted. Another clothesline displays little-girl images like those you’d see in a locket.

In contrast, Jody Stadler’s charcoal and pastel works are frank and grimly stubborn depictions of women getting older, tougher, and more existential. Her arresting Annie Angry and Annie Resigned are the kind of works that make you wonder about just who the subject is and what she’s like.

Lucy Rose Fischer’s Faces Like Road Maps also has a toughness, though the reverse paint on blown glass softens things somewhat. It also resonates with other dreamy Fischer pieces displayed that celebrate older women as global and galactic forces to be reckoned with.

Just because a woman gets older doesn’t mean sexuality and sensuality must recede. Goodman’s nude and partially nude Women in Jars series attests to that with wondrous surrealist flair.

Across the room, Searle’s dynamic Not-So-Shy Angel emanates a feral quality, with breasts protruding, and long hair streaming into space, like Lady Godiva asserting herself into the body-hating moralism of Western culture. She breaks through with crocheted, recycled telephone cord and rayon ribbon.

The Dixie Swim Club
Through Sept. 11
Old Log Theater
5185 Meadville St., Greenwood
(952) 474-5951
www.oldlog.com

Lynn Musgrave was named 2008 Theater Artist of the Year and Sally Ann Wright was named 2008 Best Nonmusical Actress in this column. They’re now in one of the best-kept-secret hit shows in Twin Cities history. This new comedy by Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope, and Jamie Newton has been packing ’em in for six months at one of the state’s most beloved and historic hideaway theaters.

Musgrave shares, “The Dixie Swim Club is more than just a funny little play about five women friends. When I read the script the first time, I immediately ‘knew’ these women—some better than others for sure—but the playwrights have written ‘truth.’ Certainly, it’s funny. Certainly, it has its sitcom moments. But the arc of these five women’s lives touches nearly everyone who sees it. And we’re discovering that women are coming back for the second and third times. Nearly every night, on the way to the parking lot, we’re stopped by audience members who say, ‘You’re my friend, Jane,’ or ‘You’re my sister, Kate.’”

Wright calls it “a wonderful opportunity to work with other talented women in a woman-focused piece. Although my character is the ‘loser,’ I love her to pieces, because nothing gets her down! Vernadette’s hope and common sense keep her going, even in crisis. And I think she may be the funniest woman I’ve ever portrayed.”

Therapy and Resistance
Sept. 2-19
Dreamland Arts
677 Hamline Ave. N., St. Paul
(651) 645-5506
www.dreamlandarts.com

Carlyle Brown is a brilliant dramatist historian. His Are You Now or Have You Ever Been? searingly views Langston Hughes’s victimization in the McCarthy Era. Brown’s latest, Therapy and Resistance a solo play in which he plays a draftee in the decade following McCarthyism, has an atypical perspective to a period that has become rote in how it’s marketed.

Brown muses, “One of the many things that the Vietnam War was: a distraction from the Civil Rights Movement, the cause for social justice in America that the status quo claimed to be bringing to the people of South Vietnam. We must remember that in 1968, both Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy were both assassinated merely two months apart. There was a war going on right here in America. As the character is trying to get a deferment as a ‘manic-depressive schizophrenic with paranoid tendencies,’ the story is also about the proclivities of the human mind. Through his journey, he comes to appreciate what it means to have reason and will, the capacity for decision, and the ability to choose.”

Wicked
Through Sept. 19
Orpheum Theatre
910 Hennepin Ave., Mpls.
(800) 859-SHOW
www.HennepinTheatreTrust.org

In its third local run, Wicked is more vivid and crisp than the two previous productions, surely owing to Natalie Daradich as “good witch” Glinda and Vicki Noon as “bad witch” Elphaba. They clearly treasure their roles for all they’re worth. These young women are mind-blowing.

Wicked overturns The Wizard of Oz’s notion of who the villain really was. Green-skinned Elphaba is misunderstood, and strives for ideals. White-skinned Glinda, a grandiose narcissist, strives for fame. It becomes a remarkable examination of a female friendship’s complexly-layered bonds.

As well, Wicked is a spectral vision of how ego and fear have turned Emerald City into a surveillance state. The Wizard, played pitch perfectly by Don Amedolia, is both monstrous and congenial, as he would have Elphaba docilely surrender her ideals to espionage in service of fascism.

Act II, in which this conflict plays out, never has been as powerful as in this tour. Act I, as usual, is glorious. The two acts together utterly defy gravity.

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