“Other desert cities” at the Guthrie: A definite win

“Other desert cities” at the Guthrie is quite good – see it while you can!

“Other desert cities” with Sally Wingert as Polly Wyeth and Christian Conn as Trip Wyeth

WeatherGrrrl and I capped off our day in the Twin Cities yesterday with showing of “Other desert cities” at the Guthrie Theatre. With one exception, the play was quite splendid. The opening section of incredibly funny in a quite dark sort of way, as a family reunited for Christmas dance and spar with each other as a prickly kind of getting reacquainted. It then gets increasingly serious, tense, and emotionally wrenching as both the past and the future of the family are explored in ways that are in turns explosive and tender.

The director and five person cast does a great job with an intelligent and perceptive script, conveying rich complex characters that could easily become stereotypical and 1-dimensional. The set did a wonderful job of capturing the spirit of a well-heeled, old-guard GOP operative home in Palm Springs, and gave the proscenium space a real depth and scale.

My one nit to pick is the very end scene. Without saying much because I don’t want to spoil, I found the last scene to be weak and lacking the emotional punch of the rest of the play. I’m not even sure it was all that necessary, and could perhaps have been left off altogether. While it’s unfortunate to end on a weaker note, the vast majority of the play is quite excellent and totally makes up for that thin spot.

The play ends this weekend (24 March), so get tickets while you can!

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An excellent time at the Minnesota Fringe!

Promo shot for Speech! at the Minnesota Fringe

Tom and I are living in the Cities for 9 days while he’s in the Shakespeare workshop at the Guthrie Theater, and quite happily our first week coincided with the last week of the Minnesota Fringe Festival. We saw some great shows, and with a little luck you can still catch some of the awesomeness, either tonight or as one of the encore performances tomorrow, where the best selling show at each venue gets one more show.

Tuesday we saw James T. Wilson, a two person show including Stanton Pavlicek in the title role. We know Stanton and his family from Morris (his dad was a huge help in building an enormous frame to hold up our gargantuan honeysuckle vine), and it was cool to see two 18-year olds just out of high school in this setting. The show itself was still struggling to become, and while there was a of potential, it’ll need some more work to realize that possibility.

Thursday we saw Speech!, an absolutely hilarious comedy about the goofy (and often twisted) world of high school speech competitions. The writing and performances were tres sharp, and the audience was rolling in the aisles from the start to finish. This show has received a number of well deserved nominations, including a best male performance for our friend and UMM alum Tim Hellendrung! Tim’s did lots of cool improv back at UMM (as well as being an excellent manager for the campus radio station), and has continued to develop at Comedy Sports in Minneapolis. It was great to see him do such a fine job in a great ensemble production like this. Big congratulations to Tim and the entire cast and crew!

Last night (Friday) we saw what will sadly be our last show, because we head back to Morris this afternoon so Tom can hang with his friends some before we come back to the Cities Sunday night. We went out with a bang, though, catching the amazing O(h) by casebolt and smith, a two person show unlike any dance performance I’ve ever seen before. They combined some great dance with liberal splashes of spoken word and singing, providing a rich piece of performance than transcended any simple notion of genre. There was wonderful (often comedic) commentary on both culture in general and dance in particular, creating a really fun experience that was also chock full of food for thought. They also received a number of nominations, and our group (two straight guys and a woman) all agree that a sweaty Joel Smith in Superman briefs is hot!

Promo shot for O(h) at the Minnesota Fringe Festival

There’s a great section in this performance about intellectual property that inspired a long enough commentary that I’ve moved to it’s own post. It’s not often in my experience that a dance performance explicitly opens these kinds of doors, so check it out.

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