On the Townsend

By John Townsend November 4, 2010

Categories: Arts & Culture, Our Scene

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A Disappearing Number
Nov. 6
Guthrie Theater
818 S. 2nd St., Mpls
(612) 377-2224
www.guthrietheater.org

Though the Twin Cities is a theater mecca, it’s impossible to have local productions of all the major plays available. Thankfully, you now can go to the Guthrie periodically to catch a high-def transmission of a London show that won’t tour here. The next NT Live offering is the only Upper Midwest screening of the United Kingdom’s National Theatre staging of A Disappearing Number. Simon McBurney’s play, which has been an international hit for two years, will be revived in London and Tokyo later this year. It’s about unlikely love between a great mathematician and a penniless Indian Brahmin.

My Name is Asher Lev
Through Nov. 7
Hillcrest Center Theater
1978 Ford Pkwy., St. Paul
(651) 647-4315
www.mnjewishtheater.org

The heretical conflict: a devoutly-raised Jewish youth is interested in Jesus, crucifixions, and nudes.

The scene where elderly Jewish mentor Jacob (David Coral) tells young painter Asher Lev (Logan Verdoon) that he must reject totally the unquestioning rigidity of his Hassidic upbringing is one of the most spellbinding I’ve seen in years.

But then, this entire riveting production, directed by Miriam Monasch, exudes great scenes. The splendidly endearing Verdoon deeply manifests the struggle of anyone of any suffocating tradition who must choose either to break out or utterly to be destroyed. Coral and the poignant Elena Giannetti crackle in various roles.

Aaro Posner powerfully has adapted Chaim Potok’s acclaimed biographical novel for the stage.

Spring Awakening
Nov. 6-7
Orpheum Theatre
910 Hennepin Ave., Mpls.
(800) 982-2787
www.HennepinTheatreTrust.org

It has been 120 years since Germany’s Frank Wedekind wrote the watershed drama upon which this enthralling 2006 rock-musical adaptation is based.

This bold inquiry into adolescent sexuality has chilling resonance with today’s headlines about gay teen suicides, and Tea Party candidates calling for banning sexually-active women from teaching and contraception.

Still astounding are its depictions of tender gay love; destructive ways in which girls often are misinformed about sexuality; and ignorance about masturbation.

For those who think they won’t care for the rock concept in preference to the original, think again. Composer Duncan Sheik makes it work magnificently. It won eight Tonys for a reason.

Evita
Through Nov. 14
Ordway Center for the Performing Arts
345 Washington St., St. Paul
(651) 224-4222
www.ordway.org

Theater Latte Da director Peter Rothstein and his astonishing lead actress, Zoe Pappas, ingeniously have navigated the paradoxes in this towering, political, music-drama classic.

Composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyricist Tim Rice shape Eva Peron as a vindictive megalomaniac with rage toward upper-class arrogance. Ironically, once “Evita” and her husband, General Juan Peron (portrayed by magnetic Kevin Leines), seize power, they loot Argentina’s treasury in the name of “the people” and unions.

However, this numinous production elicits the humanity between the lyrics and within them. The ruthless language of political imaging and propaganda sears through Rice’s lyrics, realized viscerally through Denise Prosek’s music direction.

Jessica Frederickson devastates as The Mistress victimized by the Perons’s ambition. A fierce Jared Oxborough compels as narrator Che Guevara.

Michael Matthew Ferrell’s choreography, matched with Rich Hamson’s costumes, which cryptically dress the brilliant ensemble, create menacingly beautiful formations on Rick Polenek’s stately set.

This breathtaking and hauntingly-majestic production vastly outdistance the Madonna film version.

10 Virgins
Through Nov. 21
Lowry Lab
350 St. Peter St., St. Paul
(612) 721-1186
www.theatreunbound.com

Congratulations to Theatre Unbound (TU) and Artistic Director Stacey Poirier for beginning their second decade. It is now the longest-running women’s theater in Minnesota history, surpassing At the Foot of the Mountain (AFM), led by Artistic Director Martha Boesing from 1974 to 1984.

Sychronistically, TU’s upcoming show is reminiscent of the mystical fare AFM often produced. Laura Jacqmin’s 10 Virgins is set in a mythical realm, with marionettes made by Sarah Schmidt Boldon.

Director Natalie Nocacek says, “In the man-free world where our virgins live, there are many questions about what makes a man and what roles men play. When Marchen [Delta Giordano] has a dream of what’s underneath the skirts of the witch of the bog, Jenny Greenteeth [Julie Ann Nevill], she befriends her in the hope that she can learn more about men and the world outside the swamp. Jenny, interested in developing a masculine relationship with Marchen and her sisters, plays at being father. When that fails, Jenny takes on a male lover’s persona, and deflowers our eldest virgin.” John Townsend

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