Theater

Reviews of theater productions, both traveling and originating in Minnesota.

Theater Mu’s The Princess’ Nightingale Is a Dazzling Flight of Fancy

Delightful. That’s the word that captures the experience of seeing The Princess’s Nightingale, directed by Randy Reyes of Theater Mu at SteppingStone Theatre in St. Paul. Incorporating singing, dancing, and fighting (plus writing), the show will grab your attention from the moment the curtain rises and hold it throughout. Though a loose adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale “The Nightingale,” The Princess’ Nightingale is given its own voice by playwright Damon Chua. In fact, despite the two stories...

Rated G: The Improvised Family Friendly Musical Is Rated H For Hysterical

One of the great things about improv is that it results in shows that are never the same twice—which really takes the pressure off a reviewer vis-à-vis any possible spoiler infractions. More surprising to those unfamiliar with the form is how, in the hands of skilled artists, what results from a simple topic suggestion is a strangely coherent melange of a show that is astonishingly fun for both audience and actor alike. Rated G: The Improvised Family Friendly Musical,...

In Fearless Five: Conspiracies, They Are Out to Get You—to Laugh

As soon as I walked in out of the frigid February night and saw the vintage Simplex film projector in the lobby of the Mounds Theatre, casually aimed at a signboard displaying a poster for A Klingon Christmas Carol, I thought I was in a pretty nifty theater. When I moved into the auditorium itself and saw the full-size TARDIS, door invitingly ajar, I knew that this was my kind of place. If you’re wondering whether I immediately ran...

Dance and Theater Combine for A Rap on Race, Revamped

It was a simple conversation that changed the nation. Two people, black author James Baldwin and white anthropologist Margaret Mead, sat down and talked about race back in 1970. Nearly five decades later, that moment in time is being brought back to life in the form of an arts hybrid of sorts by Spectrum Dance Theater out of Seattle. The troupe is now on tour with its take on A Rap on Race, and that tour stopped at the...

The Way Out Experiment Lives Up to Its Name

Arriving early so I could get a good seat, I sat, knees practically touching the stage. The Bryant-Lake Bowl theater slowly filled up to the accompaniment of unsettling music: a soft bell tolling in the distance, anxious descending strings, alarmed horns, and occasionally that most disturbing instrument (at least to Americans), the accordion. The red curtain moved back and forth as if a tremendous beast lay breathing on the other side. All in all, a fit setting for the...

Farewell, Mary Jo Pehl (Until the Next Time)

If you’re a fan of Mystery Science Theater 3000, you surely know the manic and maniacal Pearl Forrester, played with incessant intensity by the hilarious Mary Jo Pehl—or you’ve spotted Pehl in one of her smaller parts, like Jan in the Pan, Magic Voice, or Minnewegian Amazon. Her presence has been felt even when she wasn’t in front of the camera, as she was also one of the show’s funniest writers. Those who missed MST3K in its heyday might...

Adam Savage and Michael Stevens Satiate the Mind with Brain Candy Live

For generations, being interested in science made you an outcast—forced into the depths of basement laboratories, backyard telescopes, and dusty library sections. But over time, popular science started to break through to the masses, with shows like Mr. Wizard, Beakman’s World, and Bill Nye the Science Guy. The last decade in particular has seen a science boom in what is cool, thanks in large part to Mythbusters on television and Vsauce on the interwebs. So in some ways, it’s only natural that hosts...

Klingons, Gender, and Disability on the Feast of the Long Night

The concept of transformative works is not new; it dates back as far as history goes. Typical examples include the Gospels (written hundreds of years after the life of the historical figure of Jesus) and Dante’s Divine Comedy (a self-insert version of the author palling around with his favorite poet, Virgil). In the 20th century we have Sherlock Holmes fans writing their own eccentric-genius stories (the Baker Street Irregulars through Laurie King), Star Trek fans writing licensed tie-ins and...

Imagination Is the Ultimate Escape in The Terror Fantastic

There’s something refreshing about attending a play put on by a smaller theater company. Larger productions can certainly be dazzling, yet they can also feel a trifle overproduced. The expensive sets, the slickly tailored costumes, the perfect sound and effects can actually distance an audience from the immediate experience, and the show becomes more akin to television—something experienced at an emotional remove. Not so with 20% Theater Company’s world premier of The Terror Fantastic by Nicole Jost at the...

The Marriage of Figaro Is a Modern Story of Class Struggle, Dressed in Wigs

Overdressing, cross-dressing, undressing, and a healthy dose of social critique are just a few of the delights offered by the Minnesota Opera’s production of classic opera The Marriage of Figaro. Figaro, our charismatic hero and the personal valet to Count Almaviva, just wants his wedding day to go smoothly. However, his capable fiancée, Susanna, senses trouble afoot. Their boss wants to claim his droit du seigneur: the master’s right to sleep with a servant on her wedding night. To make things...
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