On the Townsend

Old Wicked Songs. Photo by George Byron Griffiths.

Old Wicked Songs
Through Oct. 5
Guthrie Theater
818 S. 2nd St., Mpls.
(612) 377-2224
www.guthrietheater.orgThe title is from the final song of Robert Schumann’s Dichterliebe: “The old, wicked songs, the dreams wicked and grim, let us bury them.”

Theatre Latte Da Artistic Director Peter Rothstein, who has staged the show at Guthrie’s Dowling Studio, calls it a “song about healing, liberation, redemption. Set in Vienna in 1986 on the election of Kurt Waldheim, a former Nazi, this play by Jon Maran is about the friendship between two men: Josef [Raye Birk], an old Viennese voice teacher, and Stephen Hoffman [Jonas Goslow], a young American piano student. I found it incredibly witty, profound—and, of course, musical.”

Through Oct. 4
Chanhassen Dinner Theatres
501 W. 78th St., Chanhassen
(952) 934-1525

Sean Cercone’s staging of Swing! bursts with robust sensuality and Big Band stylishness that oozes the feel of a ritzy nightclub circa World War II. Kate Margaret and Fred Steele spark a tingling chemistry in the beguilingly funny “Bli-Blip”—given Chan’s mainstream audience, it was great to see this interracial number delight the crowd. Alison Solomon’s choreography is sexy ’40s glamorama, flickering brightly with ensemble precision. George Maurer’s swing band is perfection. Only one nitpick: Songs about Harlem are served more convincingly by a nonwhite singer.

Through Oct. 5
Theatre in the Round
245 Cedar Ave., Mpls.
(612) 333-3010

We stand by aghast at the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers; the bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac; and the takeover of Bear Sterns by JP Morgan Chase. So, consider Power, by Nick Dear.

Director Lynn Musgrave says it’s “about the irresistible attraction of power, often for its own sake, at the expense of everything else. France in 1661 was bankrupt, while capitalism thrived. The haves acted with impunity, while the have-nots either struggled for their very existence, or depended upon those with money to ‘lend’ at an exorbitant and uncontrolled interest.”

Power considers what happens when an obsessively religious accountant also is obsessed with taxation. Will you as audience member accept his narrow interpretation of the law, and subsequent pious conversion of the King? What if this cost-cutting were to set up the questionable imprisonment of a benefactor of arts, engineering, and science? What has this to say about the free-market mania of our own neocon era?

The Sisters Rosensweig
Through Oct. 5
Park Square Theatre
20 W. 7th Pl., St. Paul
(651) 291-7005

The late great feminist playwright Wendy Wasserstein’s most autobiographical comedy plays Park Square.

Director Mary Finnerty notes, “Wasserstein offers us the best of well-made plays, like You Can’t Take It With You, seasoned with the wit and self-deprecation of a Woody Allen film.”

John Riedlinger, one of the top local Generation X actors, portrays Geoffrey Duncan, described as an “internationally renowned director and bisexual.”

Wasserstein, true to form, looks into the problem of a woman in love with a bi guy.


Oct. 2-5
Southern Theater
1420 Washington Ave. S., Mpls.
(612) 340-1725

In copperhead, Bessie Award-winning choreographer Karen Sherman draws from Terri Jentz’s writings about women brainwashed by Charles Manson.

The piece examines, in Sherman’s words, “how victim and aggressor become forever linked by their shared violent experience, an event to which they are both witnesses. By subtracting violent action, and focusing instead on the social experience of personal trauma, copperhead probes the ways in which coercion requires intimacy, physical assault confronts our common anatomy, and violent exchange is a transmission of more than action—also feeling, intent, and state of mind.”


Through Oct. 12
Cedar-Riverside People’s Center
425 20th Ave. S., Mpls.

Touch, by Toni Press-Coffman, probes the psychological aftermath of rape and murder.

Director Paul Von Stoetzel points out that the rape reminds surviving loved ones of “the horror that a loved one endured.”

Regarding sex-worker-character Kathleen [Mykel Pennington], Von Stoetzel remarks, “She illustrates how women are not just commodified by their bodies, but how commonplace it is. She epitomizes the strong woman, as she recognizes and is completely aware of men’s weaknesses when confronted by stark sexuality. Sex—pure sex—with no contrivances around it is what she embodies, and it scares men.”

Vinegar Tom
Through Oct. 5
Ritz Theater, 345 – 13th Ave. N.E., Mpls.
(612) 436-1129

Behold a ‘Palin’ horse! Wendy Knox’s ominous staging of Caryl Churchill’s horrific  music drama of witch hunt hysteria synchronistically resurges just as ugly details of VP candidate Sarah Palin surface. Just as Palin was okay with rape victims shelling out for their forensics test, so rape is what many poor women of 17th century England came to expect as fate. Cheryl Willis is rivetingly monstrous as a Christian dominatrix who relishes torturing women conveniently accused of witchcraft. (Harbinger of Linde England.) The official thug she assists, played potently by Christopher Kehoe, brings to mind dynamics at Abu Ghraib prison and in bondage porn. Vinegar Tom reveals the eroticized violence that underlies religious fanaticism. The show begins with one of the most insidious post-rape scenes ever written.

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