On the Townsend

Disordered (Thy Name is Teenager) / Aug. 23 / First Baptist Church, 499 Wacouta St., St. Paul / (612) 481-2234 / www.blankslatetheatre.org

Don’t stereotype this teen-created collaboration’s First Baptist venue as reason to dismiss it. That would be a mistake. This work addresses the limiting and dehumanizing aspects that come from labeling personality and behavior in terms of such things as depression, anxiety, and body-image disorders, not to mention queer identity.
Director Adam Arnold, who wrote his master’s thesis on queer youth, stresses that the show’s queer monologues and discussions are included “not because identifying as lesbian or gay is indicative of having a ‘disorder’—although many in the mental health field still tragically feel this way—but rather to expose some of the pain queer youth may be feeling. Queer youth are trying to balance transitioning from childhood to adulthood, AKA adolescence, with managing a stigmatized sexual identity, AKA queer. The coupling of these two entities leads to staggeringly high rates of depression, suicide, substance abuse, bullying, and homelessness in queer youth compared to those who identify as straight.”

Raqs Nouveau: Turath wa Jadid / Through Aug. 23 / The Southern Theater, 1420 Washington Ave. S., Mpls. / (612) 340-1725 / www.southerntheater.org

The title means “dance new” in Arabic and French. The subtitle means “heritage and new.”

Cassandra Shore, Artistic Director of the beloved Jawaahir Dance Company, explains that it is presenting women’s dances in this show because the company is composed of all women. The dancers will perform women characters, as well as personifications of abstract ideas.

Shore shares, “In Arabic-speaking countries where this dance originated, there is a fairly clear delineation between dances by gender in public. Men perform men’s styles, and so on. However, in private, men often perform women’s dance, and vice versa. Usually, this is done in the spirit of great humor and satire toward the opposite sex.”

Lauded Lebanese violinist Georges Lammam and his acclaimed ensemble accompany, with lighting by ever-evocative Jeff Bartlett.

This marks Jawaahir’s 20th anniversary, and its 15th season at the Southern. In a time when images of Middle Eastern cultures have proliferated so negatively, here’s an op to see a different side of the coin.

The Syringa Tree
/ Through Aug. 30 / Lavender Out and About Night: Aug. 13 / Jungle Theater, 2951 Lyndale Ave. S., Mpls. / (612) 822-7063 / www.jungletheater.com

The past year has beamed in some truly great films about childhood and innocence, with Slumdog Millionaire, The Secret Life of Bees, and The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. Onstage locally, we’ve seen the wrenching Iqbal at Children’s Theatre, as well as various theatrical youth programming that seems to be tapping into a similar vein in today’s global consciousness.

Add to that the Jungle’s reprise of last year’s smash The Syringa Tree, by Pamela Gien. Sarah Agnew’s masterful solo performance is launched through the eyes of a child during Apartheid in South Africa—Apartheid is the term for systematized racial division. This box office hit, for all its hard political content, has a magical way of appealing to a mainstream audience with vulnerability, tenderness, and wit, through multiple characters played beautifully by Agnew.

When We Are Married / Through Aug. 30 / Guthrie Theater, 818 S. 2nd St., Mpls. / (612) 377-2224 / www.guthrietheater.org

J.B. Priestley’s bright 1938 comedy, When We Are Married, may not appear to be as socially conscious a play as his best-known work, An Inspector Calls. But in John Miller Stephany’s always historically savvy directorial hands, we are placed in full presence of the rigid class structure and strict marital protocols of the 1908 Northern English setting of When We Are Married. It’s an often-staged popular classic in the UK.

Three couples of wide-ranging degrees of stuffiness suddenly must grapple with the likelihood that they actually were not married by a legitimate man of the cloth. Hence, they tailspin into identity crisis, social-register panic, and primal doubt about whether they really love the one they wedded a quarter century earlier. Sure, it’s hilarious, but it’s quite reflective, too.

Barbara Bryne and Maggie Chestovich delight with rowdy wit as two servants who show two couples up to be the pompous phonies they are (echoes of An Inspector Calls). Icons from past Guthrie decades also shine: Helen Carey, Patricia Connolly, Peter Micahel Goetz, Sally Wingert—and, of course, Bryne.

Whatever Works Area Cinemas

Get real! Woody Allen wrote the screenplay decades ago—as if novelists, composers, etc., never return to past drafts of their work years later. So what! Allen made his glorious comeback four years ago with Match Point, then wowed us with his lovely 2008 meditation on female sexuality and bisexuality, Vicky Cristina Barcelona. But here, he’s a house on fire like never before—and that includes his earlier harsh masterpiece dramas, Interiors and Crimes and Misdemeanors. Though Whatever Works isn’t drama, it’s acid comedy at its most ruthless, with the hard-ass political commentary—absolutely relevant today—for which many of his fans have yearned for years. It’s also a penultimate tale of middle-aged sexual awakening, with Oscar nod-worthy Larry David and Patricia Clarkson. Whatever Works has Allen’s best-ever gay male subplot, with Ed Begley Jr. and Christopher Evan Welch.

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