On the Townsend

Burn This
Through Dec. 19
Gremlin Theatre
2400 University Ave., St. Paul
(651) 228-7008

Lanford Wilson’s 1990 drama probes the mourning phase of friends and relatives left behind after the death of Robbie, a gay dancer. Wade Vaughn and Katie Gunzel play Robbie’s beloved roommates.

Director Ellen Fenster explains, “We learn early on that he was shunned by his conventional New Jersey family. It is ultimately the intense regret and deep grief of Pale [Peter Christian Hansen], Robbie’s older brother, that brings the characters together in a surprising and passionate exploration of who they are and who they want to be.”

Naked Stages
Through Dec. 11
Pillsbury House Theatre
3501 Chicago Ave. S., Mpls.
(612) 825-0459

This avant-garde stage series launches with Body Parts: Reflections on Reflections, directed by Harry Waters Jr.

Performance artist Andrea Jenkins says it examines “the objectification and hypersexualization of transgender and women’s bodies, while reflecting our own image back to us. Transgender bodies are the last target for close-minded bigots, religious zealots, cultural clowns, Hip-Hop artists, and comedians. They are fair game for sexual exploitation and employment discrimination. Transgender individuals who live their lives openly or otherwise are tortured by their families, their children, their communities—and sometimes, by themselves.”

All is Calm
Dec. 16-19
Pantages Theatre
710 Hennepin Ave., Mpls.
Christmas on the Radio
Dec. 17-22
Various Twin Cities Locations
(612) 435-0055

The resplendent Cantus ensemble has two holiday offerings.

All is Calm, set in World War I, relates a Christmas when French and German troops laid down their arms to unite in peaceful celebration.

Christmas on the Radio nods to Cantus’s being Minnesota Public Radio’s 2010-11 Artists in Residence. It will premiere Brian Schmidt’s “O Magnum Mysterium,” as well as other pieces new to Cantus: Rachmaninoff’s “Pridite” and the Muskogee Tribe’s “Heleluyan.”

Fully Committed
Through Dec. 19
Jungle Theater
2951 Lyndale Ave., Mpls.
(612) 822-7063

Masterful and dazzling Nathan Keepers reprises his 2002 solo triumph about a harried reservationist and the multiple snobs he wrangles with at a ritzy Manhattan restaurant. That performance was six years before the 2008 economic collapse, and then today’s grim unemployment stats. This time around, he and director Casey Stangl have elicited darker textures about the authoritarian mentality that rules some restaurant management and the vindictiveness of its elite clientele. Becky Mode’s incisively-hilarious script resonates even more vividly now than it did before.

The 39 Steps
Through Dec. 19
A Christmas Carol
Through Dec. 30
Guthrie Theater
818 S. 2nd St., Mpls.
(612) 377-2224

Joel Sass directs a snappy, stylish, and uproarious spoof of Alfred Hitchcock’s classic film, The 39 Steps. A crackerjack design team and cast capture the essence of the 1930s. Luverne Seifert gives what is perhaps his best performance ever in multiple roles that cross the gender divide, and tickle the funny bone.

For the past 35 years, the Guthrie has staged Barbara Field’s adaptations of Charles Dickens’s holiday classic. This year marks a shift, with British playwright Crispin Whittell’s new adaptation. Obie-winner Daniel Gerroll plays Scrooge. Joe Dowling directs.

The SantaLand Diaries
Through Dec. 31
A Don’t Hug Me Christmas Carol
Through Jan. 2
Hennepin Stages
824 Hennepin Ave., Mpls.
(800) 982-2787

In The SantaLand Diaries, Joe Leary, who wowed us in History Theatre’s gay drama Farm Boys, and takes the reins as a Macy’s “elf” in “SantaLand,” shares, “The gay sensibilities are just incidental to the story, which is one of those things that I really like and identify with in David Sedaris’s work. He talks about the upside of being outnumbered by elves who are college students. They’re young, cute—and one of the job perks is getting to see them in their underpants.”

Fabulous funny boy Doug Anderson, who is back with a madcap Minnesota take on Dickens in A Don’t Hug Me Christmas Carol, remarks, “It’s such an energy boost to work in a show where there is a necessity to figure out how to stay in character while you wait for the audience to stop laughing. I play Knute Gunderson, the Donald Trump, if you will, of Bunyan Bay—the owner of a number or successful outlet stores who never grew out of his naïveté, and doesn’t realize how self-absorbed he is.”

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