You have to be hiding under a rock if you don’t know that the Twin Cities is one of the top professional theater cities in the nation and that the Guthrie Theater is a testing ground for great talent. But those Guthrie actors don’t act exclusively at the Guthrie even though most theatergoers associate them with the Big G.
However, if you want to see some of your Guthrie favorites in an intimate setting in top form, up close and very personal indeed, start putting Dark and Stormy Productions on your ‘to see’ list. In just a few years this troupe has created some dynamic productions that rely on language, sharp wit, and highly entertaining scripts. Their current production of The Receptionist by gay playwright, Adam Bock, is definitely right up their alley. It plays at an unusual but effective performance space, the Traffic Zone Center for Visual Arts, in Minneapolis’s Warehouse District.
Bock’s kinetic comedic style has a dark underside dealing with privacy rights that takes excellent acting craft to pull off. Sally Wingert has been named on Lavender’s Favorite and Best of Year Lists so often it would take a focused archives search to recall all of them. She plays the leading role of Beverly, a receptionist for a bureaucracy of dubious constitutionality. Wingert shares that the role “is a very different character for me to play in a number of ways. (Director) Ben McGovern has the challenging task of teasing a slightly prim, physically rather awkward, shyer person out of me. She’s funny and rather cute and a little self righteous. She keeps a lot of compartments in her head separate and locked from each other. The space we’re performing in is super intimate. The language is very real and the verisimilitude is challenging.”
Bill McCallum wowed audiences recently as the heteroflexible financier in Skiing on Broken Glass at the Guthrie. In The Receptionist he plays Martin Dart, a charming visitor from ‘the Central Office’. McCallum says “without giving away too much, what is interesting about Dart is that he is very sincere, kind, vulnerable, and charming, but is at the Northeast office (where the play is set) on some very serious business, and we learn throughout the course of the play that he is not quite as benign as he appears. The play works the same way – it is disarmingly and delightfully banal, and just when you think you know what is happening, a new piece of information emerges that makes you reconsider everything you thought you knew.”
Harry Waters Jr. is not known so much for his Guthrie credits but he has given sterling performances at the prestigious Penumbra and Pillsbury House Theatres. He also played Belize in the original Broadway production of Angels in America and as the lead band man in the classic film, Back to the Future – after Michael J. Fox, he’s the character that most people remember best.
Waters points out “being African American, gay, and a ‘senior’ now -turned 60 this year- the opportunities are few and far between. Given that the landscape here is full of young straight-identified productions it is a challenge to find work that I can directly identify with. This particular play is outside of the norm.”
Through Jan. 4
Traffic Zone Center for Visual Art, 250 Third Av. N. Suite 500, Mpls