On the Townsend

God Save Gertrude
Through Feb. 10
Playwrights’ Center
2301 E. Franklin Ave., Mpls.
(612) 332-7481, ext. 20

The hot local music scene and theatrical tradition join hands, kiss, and sing with Workhaus’s God Save Gertrude, by Deborah Stein. Gertrude as in Hamlet’s Mom—Shakespeare’s most mysterious female figure. Is she just a slut, or a victim scared to death about her son’s safety?

Annie Enneking, who plays Gertrude, says, “The two biggest differences between this Gertrude and the one from Hamlet are: one, this Gertrude gets to explain her actions; two, this Gertrude, once a famous punk rock star, gets to sing with a live punk band!”

Live with The Shortcuts and various guest bands!

The Poetry of Pizza
Through Feb. 10
Mixed Blood Theatre
1501 S. 4th St., Mpls.
(612) 338-6131

If you can weather Act One’s overdose of inanity, The Poetry of Pizza at Mixed Blood ends up gratifying, but long. This safe yet lively look at love between a Kurdish pizza chef and nerdish American poetry prof revels in dubious stereotypes. However, it delivers laughs, and at least takes baby steps toward addressing real cultural differences.

Ron Menzel and Stacia Rice are wonderful as the lovers, though playwright Deborah Brevoort avoids digging into their mutually bigoted misconceptions. It boils down to his disgust at her pubic hair and her snobbishness over his reading capacity. And t’would have been nice if director John Miller-Stephany had allowed the pair some real sensuality, rather than just speaking—frigidly face forward, no contact at all—when they finally start to make love. A misguided nod to Bent?


Through Feb. 10
Park Square Theatre
20 W. 7th Pl., St. Paul
(651) 291-7005

hen AIDS struck in the 1980s, queers got active not only politically, but also alternatively. Meaning, we inquired aggressively into alternative medicine and how the mind affects health. Performance collaborators The Five Lesbian Brothers certainly were influenced by that disturbing period, and their own Lisa Kron wrote Well, a 2006 Broadway hit. Though it’s not about AIDS, it is about how we interpret illness, and how sex and love can be a part of healing.

At Park Square, area premiere director Michael Bigelow Dixon has mulled over Kron’s ideas, calling Well a “theatrical exploration of illness and health in the community. The main character doesn’t buy into her mother’s explanation of her illness. Kron strips away theatrical convention, and shows the role that empathy plays in our search for connection in our lives. Her unique brand of humor is a self-deprecating wit of social humiliation.”

Sweeney Todd

Feb. 5-10
State Theatre
805 Hennepin Ave., Mpls.
(612) 673-0404

What an opportunity! You can catch a lauded Broadway revival at the State and its stunning new film version on a local screen. The national tour of Sweeney Todd, now at the State, won 2006 Tonys for John Doyle’s direction and Sarah Travis’s orchestration.

The orchestration rocks, because in this minimalist take on the bloodiest of musicals, actors double as accompanying musicians. David Hess commands the title role of a vengeful barber who slashes customers’ throats. Judy Kaye is Mrs. Lovett, who dutifully turns their innards into meat pie filling.

Tom Hoch, President of presenter Hennepin Theatre Trust, remarks of the gore, “It’s more figurative than literal, and the violence comes through much less than in the movie. That said, I thought the movie was great, and it gave me some new insights into the stage production. And I think that if more people would see both, they would get a lot more out of each of the approaches to presenting that story.”

Bud, Not Buddy
Through Feb. 16
Children’s Theatre
2400 3rd Ave. S., Mpls.
(612) 874-0400

Bud, Not Buddy at Children’s Theatre is both subversive and broadly accessible. This tale of a homeless black orphan during the Great Depression touches and charms with a crackling lead performance by Nathan Barlow. It was adapted for stage by Reginald Andre Jackson from Paul Curtis’s Newberry Medal-winning novel.

From a foster home run by a sadistic matriarch to ramshackle tent cities (“Hoovervilles”) that sprang up during President Herbert Hoover’s administration to the ’30s jazz scene, this production offers American cultural history as juicy entertainment.

Director Marion McClinton’s actors not only glory in gritty wit, but also find poetic beauty. For instance, in one passage, faces at a Hooverville campfire are described not as racial types, but as different shades of orange. And when you find out the roots of an old man’s bitterness, get out the Kleenex.

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