On the Townsend
No Child / Through Mar. 14 / Pillsbury House Theatre, 3501 Chicago Ave. S., Mpls. / (612) 825-0459 / www.pillsburyhousetheatre.org / Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire / Area Cinemas
Sonja Parks was named this column’s Best Solo Actor 2009 for No Child, by playwright Nijala Sun. This monologue, revived by Parks and Pillsbury House, relates Sun’s personal transformation in the 2000s while teaching in a largely African-American high school, as well as the transformation of those around her. See it along with another riveting look at inner-city schools, the Oscar-worthy Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire.
An Evening with Stephen Sondheim / Mar. 5 / State Theatre, 805 Hennepin Ave., Mpls. / (800) 982-2787 / www.HennepinTheatreTrust.org
Stephen Sondheim—mentored as a boy by Oscar Hammerstein II; wrote the lyrics to Gypsy and West Side Story as a young man; and won more Tonys than any other composer (nine)—will grace the stage where the Tony-winning revival of his classic Sweeney Todd played just a few years ago. Just thinking of tunes like “Being Alive” from Company or “Losing My Mind” from Follies can send one into ecstasy.
The Burial at Thebes / Through Mar. 7 / Theatre in the Round Players, 245 Cedar Ave., Mpls. / (612) 333-3010 / www.theatreintheround.org
Theatre in the Round seldom has been as mythic and ritualistic as in this dreamy staging of Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney’s take on the Antigone legend. Director Rob Goudy’s impeccable cast uses primal group vocals and raw emotion skillfully channeled to tell the tale of a woman who buries her brother in lethal defiance of an edict that brands him a traitor. Julie Kurtz crackles in the lead role. Seth Patterson is dynamic as authoritarian King Creon. Amber W.R. Miller’s set, Nicole Fierce’s lighting, and David Philip Norris’s sound design splendidly evoke the pagan ceremonial roots of Greek drama. Kim Sheree Mason’s costumes shrewdly transmit a sense of military contractors in a corporate state.
Teatro del Pueblo Political Theatre Festival / Through Mar. 13 / Gremlin Theatre, 2400 University Ave., St. Paul / Intermedia Arts, 2822 Lyndale Ave. S., Mpls. / (800) 838-3006 / www.teatrodelpueblo.org
The region’s premier theater for Latino drama offers three intriguing plays by Playwrights’ Center star Dominic Orlando: American Civil Liberties, Embassy of the Americas, and The Free Market. They examine ethical issues involving immigrant workers, documented and undocumented.
Pangea World Theater joins the fest with guest artist Teo Castellano, known for addressing HIV/AIDS issues. He solo-performs his award-winning NE 42nd Avenue, a kinetic observation of diversity in Miami.
Black Pearl Sings / Through Mar. 14 / Penumbra Theatre, 270 N. Kent St., St. Paul / (651) 224-3180 / www.penumbratheatre.org
Is it win/win or exploitation? Susanna (Stacia Rice), a 1930s white music researcher bent on tracing the roots of a song from slavery days, needs Pearl (Crystal Fox), an incarcerated black singer, to help her out. It’s a quandary surely made by the muses for music drama. Rice calls Fox’s talent “incredible.” Penumbra dramaturge Sarah Bellamy notes that President Franklin Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration (WPA) supported interest and interviews in slave history—like those initiated by Susanna—but blacks were recompensed poorly for their efforts.
Somebody/Nobody / Through Mar. 14 / Mixed Blood Theatre, 1501 S. 4th St., Mpls. / (612) 338-6131 / www.mixedblood.com
Director Jack Reuler has a gift for bright satire, so Jane Martin’s new spoof on the cult of celebrity is a natural fit. Consider such lines as: “I would give up eternal life to be something barely noticed in Hollywood”; or “Your erotic fragility, profound neurosis, and damaged angel looks make you the preeminent whore victim of your era!” Martin also swims the waters of cultural diversity.
As Reuler observes, “Cultural identity in America has evolved—no longer being easily defined by race, culture, and geography. It is fluid and individual, getting a different focus than in previous decades, centuries, and generations. Somebody/Nobody puts that on display between the lines.”