On the Townsend

The Odyssey
Through Feb. 6
Park Square Theatre
20 W. 7th Pl., St. Paul
(651) 295-7001

Playwright William Randall Beard has adapted Homer’s Ancient Greek epic with an eye to star quality. This production glistens with some of the finest local actors, including some who have been named among Lavender’s annual Best and Outstanding Performances of the Year in past years: Cathleen Fuller, Robert Gardner, Shawn Hamilton, Emil Herrera, Jodi Kellogg, and Nora Montanez. Two actors beloved for their work in GLBT-themed theater also appear: Sasha Andreev and Dale Pfeilsticker. Richard Cook directs, with set design by Joel Sass.
Shrek The Musical
Feb. 1-6
Orpheum Theatre
910 Hennepin Ave., Mpls.
(800) 982-2787

Whoa: Hold your donkeys! Before you even think of writing off this spectacular musical based on a hit kids film, check out who are behind it: David Lindsay-Abaire, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright of Rabbit Hole (now a terrific John Cameron Mitchell film); and Jeanine Tesori, the composer who gave us Caroline, or Change, the musical that ruled the Guthrie’s 2009 roost. Jason Moore, who staged Broadway’s Avenue Q, is the director. Shrek The Musical became a reality because stage and film director Sam Mendes (American Beauty) was so smitten with the original film, he suggested it to DreamWorks Animation’s Jeffrey Katzenberg. Neal Street Productions, Ltd., of which Mendes is a major partner, has produced the show with DreamWorks Theatricals.

Feb. 11-12
Form + Content Gallery
210 N. 2nd St., Mpls.
(612) 436-1151

This wrenchingly-beautiful piece on homophobia in the US military was one of 2010’s most luminous performances. Remounted by its original solo dancer, Justin Leaf, for Form + Content’s Wee Cabaret series, it has been choreographed once again by John Kelly. Gay identity and selfhood movingly are revealed when the military trappings thrust upon a soldier ultimately are cast off. Leaf and Kelly’s collaborative rehearsal period transpired mostly at New York City’s Park Avenue Armory, where a National Guard regiment recently returned from a tour of Iraq.

Feb. 9-12
Whitney Fine Arts Center
Minnesota Community and Technical College
1424 Yale Pl., Mpls.
(612) 659-6118

Celebrate Black History Month with what some call The Great African-American Play. 1987’s Pulitzer- and Tony-winner crosses the racial divide with universal insights on parental inflexibility. Payton Woodson plays Troy Maxson, arguably the most coveted male role in African-American drama. Antonio Banks plays his son, Cory. Penumbra Theatre Company member Kevin West directs.

Producer Michael Robertson, who saw the original Broadway production, says, “I was overwhelmed, and wept several times watching it, as the power of the father-and-son relationship related to my own issues with my father in Iowa.”

Penner Vs. The Hydra
Feb. 4-12
Cedar Riverside People’s Center
425 20th Ave. S., Mpls.
(952) 926-6728

Phillip Andrew Low, who wrote last year’s splendid Minnesota Fringe hit comedy A Nice Guy’s Guide to Awkward Sex, is quite savvy about matters sexual.

Low relates about his newest work, “The primary action of the play revolves around a heterosexual polyamorist named Penner, played by myself, struggling to create a legal definition of love. Much of the comedy emerges from the absurdity of trying to create such a definition at all, let alone attempting to legislate and enforce it. While the play doesn’t contain a portrait of homosexual relationships per se, the parallels to the gay-marriage debate are clear, and actually explicitly drawn by several characters. A police officer laments ‘the loss of simplicity,’ and one of the monster characters mentions the Matthew Shepard killing.”

Tara King of genderbending dance trio Mad King Thomas choreographs comic numbers interspersed throughout.

Vampire Lesbians of Sodom
Feb. 11-26
Lowry Lab
350 St. Peter St., St. Paul
(612) 991-8729

Brazen Theatre is doing the local GLBT community a great service by reviving plays of one the great gay camp comedy playwrights of recent years: Charles Busch. Though it’s wonderful that more mainstream theaters are producing GLBT work as a matter of course, Brazen, under Mark Hooker’s artistic direction, has cultivated a distinct style matched with an expert grasp of camp and crossgender acting that benefits from an intense focus on our camp tradition. The upcoming late-night run of those diabolical diva dykes with fangs promises to be a delightful dive into Busch for those who know his work—or not. Busch’s own first novel, Whores of Lost Atlantis, influenced Vampire Lesbians of Sodom. The original production was at the Limbo Lounge in New York City’s East Village in 1984, and went on to play the Provincetown Playhouse for five years. It’s a cult classic, to be sure.

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