Arts Spotlight: 557
Through Oct. 15
James J. Hill House, 240 Summit Ave., St. Paul
The boundary-breaking Combustible Company theater troupe (Herocycle) returns to one of the world’s drama classics. That most emblematic of feminist plays written by a man, Norwegian Henrik’s Ibsen’s A Doll’s House is the source of their latest adaptation. The iconic story of the disintegration of Nora and Torvald Helmer’s marriage plays on site at St. Paul’s James J. Hill House, a mansion which, like the play’s Scandinavian setting, evokes the constricted opulence of Victorian Era wealth. A few years back Lex-Ham Community Arts staged Eugene O’Neill’s The First Man, evoking a similar effect. Combustible goes one stretch farther by staging their show throughout the mansion, promenade-style.
Director and play adaptation writer Kym Longhi says, “Nora’s fight to become human is not only a woman’s struggle, but also a human struggle; the struggle to bring yourself fully into the world when social systems and labels keep telling you who you are. How can we have real intimacy with anyone if we hide behind a mask of femininity or masculinity created by others? By contextualizing the emotional abuse in Ibsen’s play through the lens of Bluebeard’s compulsive violence, I hope to reveal the violence of gender stereotyping in intimate relationships. The murders that occur in Bluebeard’s Dollhouse are murders of the self, the deaths that are required of us when we conform to the dominant culture’s social dictums. How do we break the oppression of the sanctioned walls of the dollhouse? Perhaps we must venture into the forbidden room and risk encountering the unthinkable in ourselves. In the room of secrets, we are confronted with a critical choice: accept and reconcile our secrets to our daylight lives, or cut ourselves off from vital parts of our psyche. I see Nora’s struggle to leave the dollhouse as a movement toward freedom within the self to bring about personal transformation and social change.”
Through Oct. 16
Spring House Ministry, 610 W 28th St., Minneapolis
Theatre Coup d’Etat continues to be a significant destination where young artists show they have something relevant to say through the form of major classic drama (Miss Julie, Hamlet, The Glass Menagerie, Equus). Director and play adaptation writer Meagan Kedrowski points out that the Antigone story immortalized in the Greek tragedy by Sophocles is a classic of good versus bad. However, she says, “Moving away from those clear black-and-white boundaries makes it more interesting to a modern audience. I wanted to dive deeper into the humanity of each character, especially Antigone, herself, as they struggle with asking the larger questions that the show presents: What is it to be a moral human being? What are you willing to die for? What does it mean to sell your soul to serve as a political leader versus holding on tight to, and fighting for, our personal beliefs? I chose this play because we find ourselves still in the position of facing the battle between having a broad sense of morality versus the entitlement of power. We are encouraging our audience to leave thinking about their own struggle with these questions.”
Through Oct. 16
Mixed Blood Theatre, 1501 S 4th St., Minneapolis
John O’Hara’s satirical comedy has been said to make us ponder if there is an African American equivalent of white so-called “trailer trash.” Crack, prescription drugs, and whiskey swirl about a family barbecue that actually disguises an intervention for a sister whose addictions have spiraled out of control. The notion of misery as a favorite entertainment outlet for Americans (think Jerry Springer or Steve Wilkos) is called into question. And that’s a very important question, to be sure! This area premiere features an interracial cast, which points to the reality that the U.S. is an interracial society.
Mixed Blood Theatre artistic director Jack Reuler says, “Barbecue is comically electric, incisive about racial politics, without the obvious pretense of social commentary. A sharp comedy that dares to take risks, with insightful language, characters, and situation. Barbecue manages to engage and entertain while maintaining its razor-edge observations about racial dynamics in the age of celebrity.”
Sense and Sensibility
Through Oct. 29
Guthrie Theater, 818 S 2nd St., Minneapolis
Sense. Sensibility. Just what do these two words mean and, perhaps more important, what does Jane Austen have to say about them? The Guthrie is staging Kate Hamill’s new adaptation of Austen’s classic novel wherein the two Dashwood sisters separately embody these two qualities. When their father dies and they are left relatively impoverished in 1790s England, these qualities, or perhaps better said, these characteristics dictate the choices they make in how they navigate life and the world they live in.
At the Guthrie you’ll see Elinor (Jolly Abraham) following the rules and restraining her thoughts, opinions, and emotions while sister Marianne (Alejandra Escalante) expresses in a way that nowadays some label as “unfiltered.” Though the original novel was published in 1811, the balancing of these two qualities remains necessary in order to keep a balance in how we respond to others. This election year we have seen voters and candidates on both and various sides of issues get swept up into passion that was felt to be right at the time as “telling it like it is” but then having to awkwardly walk back what they originally stated. And I’m not just talking about one single candidate and their voters, either.
Sense makes us react with forcefulness, which can definitely be the right thing in some circumstances. But sensibility helps us to grasp the bigger picture and, when necessary, weigh the options so that we might respond in a measured and constructive way as opposed to a reckless way. Guest directed at the Guthrie by the new Jungle Theater artistic director Sarah Rasmussen.
In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre, 1500 W Lake St., Minneapolis
Bart Buch is nothing less than a puppetmaster genius. At In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre he has beguiled with queer-themed puppet performances like Kid Enkidu and Ode to Walt Whitman which also celebrated Federico Garcia Lorca at Intermedia Arts.
He is now turning his talents toward work that is still universal but which reflects the concerns of the Phillips and the GLBT-oriented Powderhorn neighborhoods. The new Music Animated project blends puppetry, video projections, and music in a way that promises to be well worth seeing.
Buch shares that he is “exploring the in-between land of music and puppetry, where these two forms dance together to evoke spirit and poetry. As a queer artist, I’m drawn to and comfortable with the in-between lands where things are neither and both to find other unique, beautiful queer places. Many queer people are gifted at finding and teasing out that unique beauty, poetry, and spirituality of situations and the world needs these gifts now. With the inaugural Music Animated concert I wanted to work with Martin Dosh, a longtime collaborator, because we have developed a language with music and puppets that creates an immersive experience and evokes simple, yet lush, moods, full of heart. Music Animated will blend Dosh songs with visual imagery reflecting stories of positive, passionate work in the Phillips and Powderhorn neighborhoods. Working with neighborhood youth apprentices, I collected 28 “neighborhood helper” interviews this summer and these interviews will serve as the inspiration for the concert.”