On the Townsend

Celeste & Starla Save Todd & Win Back the Day
Through May 15
Theatre Garage
711 W. Franklin Ave., Mpls.
(612) 227-1188

Francesca Sanders says her whimsical gender-bending detective play “is supposed to make you think about how we laugh in society when men dress as women, but squirm when women dress as men.”

Director Claire Avitable notes Celeste (Danielle Siver) “woefully learns that her ‘future husband’ is actually in love with a handyman. While she is sad that she did not, in fact, find her soul mate, she is simply jubilant that two other people in her life have found love.”

Celeste also must reflect on her gender prejudices.

With this production, 20% Theatre Twin Cities continues its strong commitment to queer-themed work.

May 14-16
Orpheum Theatre
910 Hennepin Ave., Mpls.
(612) 339-7007

Speculation long has raged about the suppressed homosexuality or bisexuality of Nobel Poet Laureate T.S. Eliot (1888-1965). That may explain the torment found in even his Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, which Andrew Lloyd Webber adapted to majestically pagan effect in 1981 for the West End musical stage. The dark iridescence of Cats flickers with tunes like “Old Deuteronomy”  and the immortal “Memory.” Eliot’s bleak words resurge in another towering Tony-winning hit, August: Osage County (2008).

Our Country’s Good
Through May 16
Mounds Theatre
1029 Hudson Rd., St. Paul
(651) 645-3503

Starting Gate Productions mounted great queer stagings of Jeffrey, Boys in the Band, and Anton in Show Business. Sadly, the company is going dark, but is leaving us with crossgender performances in Timberlake Wertenbaker’s moving play about Australia’s penal colony past.

Director Richard Jackson felt “our final show should make a statement to our patrons and friends. Our Country’s Good addresses many human issues, but it is, above all, a play about the redemptive power of theater. It allows us to reaffirm our strong belief that this medium has the power to transform lives.”

Best wishes!

South Pacific
Through May 16
Ordway Center
345 Washington St., St. Paul
(651) 224-4222

Rodgers and Hammerstein blew the lid off Broadway in 1949 with this bold jump into transnational love between whites and between races. Lincoln Center’s revival, directed by former Guthrie Company Director Bartlett Sher, won seven Tonys.

Dance Captain and Associate Choreographer Joe Langworth observes that Christopher Gatelli’s choreography caters to the different dance backgrounds of the actors playing the hunky sailors.

As Langworth explains, “Our goal was to make it look like these characters were moving naturally to music. It flows beautifully from the scene work—an extension, into the choreography.”

Puppetry of the Penis
May 21
Pantages Theatre
710 Hennepin Ave., Mpls.
(800) 982-2787

Simon Morley’s phallic performance “piece” is a global sensation.

Aussie puppeteer Rich Binning, who performs with Chris Cannon at the Pantages, muses, “Because we steer clear from making sexual or lurid remarks, it allows the audience to relax and feel more comfortable. It’s probably the asexuality of the show that gives it such mass appeal. Laughing at two naked men onstage contorting their penises is a very universal thing, I’m learning. The show is probably least attended by straight men, but the same can most likely be said of all theater. In my experience, the girls and the gays come expecting to love it, and they do, but the straight man whose wife dragged him to the theater is usually the one who will be showing dick tricks to his buddies at the bar the next weekend.”

Bright Ideas
Through May 23
Sabes Jewish Community Center
4330 Cedar Lake Rd. S., St. Louis Park
(612) 396-2025

How far would you go for your child?

Rainbow families take note: Director Jimmy LeDuc remarks that in Eric Coble’s satirical comedy, Josh and Genevra, parents of little Mac, “are certain that getting Mac into Bright Ideas Early Childhood Development Academy will set him on the path to success in life. But the pressure to get him to the ‘perfect’ school so that he can have the ‘perfect’ life gets out of hand.”

The assumption is that if Mac is admitted, he’ll fit in. Hence, his parents will heighten their social position. What a hell of a burden to put on a kid!

Queens of Burlesque
Through May 23
History Theatre
30 E. 10th St., St. Paul
(651) 292-4323

At the Gay 90’s bar in Minneapolis six decades ago, pretty women graced the stage with artfully titillating striptease for straight men. David Mann’s lovely new play, Queens of Burlesque, now in a fabulous production, examines the struggles of four fictional Gay 90’s burlesque artists and their vaudevillian supporting men in 1953.

Director John Miller Stephany’s sparkling cast captures the grit, anxiety, and pluck it took to withstand stigmatization from a judgmental town packed with prudish Lutherans. Nonetheless, Mann’s “broads” survive, maintaining their dignity and wit.

Greta Grosch, splendid as Gladys, the oldest, waxes movingly on the erotic spirituality of the female form. Stacia Rice crackles as Blaze Comet, a tough cookie whose explicated distinctions between “nude” and “naked” would have impressed Alfred Kinsey himself.

Gina Louise Woods’s authentic burlesque choreography is innocently cheesy, yet charmingly seductive.

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