Oliver Rea, co-founder of the Guthrie Theater, making a recommendation to the company’s board of directors in 1962.
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One of the reasons he chose to adapt Ivan Turgenev’s 1859 novel Home of the Gentry, playwright Crispin Whittell says in a program note, was that the story has “all these wonderful parts for women.” Such as? The part of the shallow and pretentious mother who wants to marry her daughter into high society! The part of the wisecracking single Woman of a Certain Age who’s not afraid to get real! The part of the sex-crazed maid! The part of the vain and manipulative married woman who can’t keep her hands on her own husband! And then of course, the part of the virginal and (natch) “intelligent” young girl who can’t marry the sketchy-but-philosophical older man she loves instead of the cocky young ass her mother would prefer!
“Previewing the return to Minneapolis of the 2006 Broadway adaptation of Disney’s Mary Poppins, Rohan Preston of the Star Tribune wrote a feature about the enduring myth of the British Supernanny.
“That’s only one of the cultural tropes on display through April 28 at the Orpheum Theatre. Others include the Happy Poor, the Burdened Rich and the Abused Toys. There’s some Sigmund Freud (Mr. Banks was symbolically castrated by his overbearing nanny), some Adam Smith (Mr. Banks holds firmly to the labor theory of value) and some Michel Foucault (I’ll let you conduct your own post-colonial analysis of the Caribbean immigrant who sells - literally sells - the word supercalifragilisticexpialidocious to Mary and her charges).
“With all that theory to chew on, adapter Julian Fellowes seems to have concluded that leaving feminism in the mix would be a bit much. In contrast to the 1964 Disney film, in which Mrs. Banks was a spunky suffragette, this Mrs. Banks spends the entire show trying to convince her distant husband that she’s worthy of his attention. By the end, she decides to abandon her acting career because, she declares without a whiff of irony, she’s found her favorite role: Mrs. Banks. I guess Fellowes decided the Friedan-era movie was just too progressive for a story centered on a magical woman who solves everyone’s problems and refuses any pay.”
Kid enkidu by In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre. Read Carrie Lorig’s review.
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I was standing in the lobby of the Jungle Theater on February 1, wondering how I was going to summarize my reaction to Venus in Fur, when Bain Boehlke—the theater’s artistic director—approached me with a microphone, a cameraman shooting over his shoulder. I struggled to finish the massive shrimp in my mouth in time to answer Boehlke’s questions, all of which I answered honestly but…diplomatically. Finally, Boehlke asked what I thought of the ending, whether I was surprised. I said something noncommittal, which Boehlke managed to summarize succinctly. “It didn’t turn you around,” he said, “because you weren’t sure where you had been led.” I nodded. Yes, that was it.
David Ives’s 2010 play contains many reversals, so some confusion—on the part of both the characters and the audience—is by design. Director Joel Sass’s Jungle production, though, leaves the audience in a form of confusion that fades into indifference. These characters are so mercurial and unsympathetic that, by the play’s would-be shocking conclusion, we just don’t care who’s holding the chain and who’s wearing the collar.
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Staging a show within a show as a critique of theatrical methods and conventions is not uncommon in experimental theater circles, but it’s not very often you see a company that has the courageto actually put a good show within a show for satirical deconstruction.
There’s even more than that to the very impressive Ganesh Versus the Third Reich, now being presented at the Walker Art Center by Back to Back Theatre. The titular show is a resonant and visually striking parable about the Indian god Ganesh going on a quest to reclaim the swastika—a symbol that originated in ancient India and was realigned and repurposed by Hitler. Adding a layer to that show is the fact that it’s performed by actors with intellectual disabilities…and then Back to Back dramatizes the process of that show’s creation, with a director who does not have a disability (Luke Ryan) becoming increasingly frustrated as cast members raise ethical objections. This, of course, is the show we’re “really” watching.
Ganesh operates on many levels, and works on all of them.
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Jay Gabler reviews Trajal Harrell, Cecilia Bengolea, François Chaignaud, and Marlene Monteiro Freitas in (M)imosa/Twenty Looks or Paris is Burning at the Judson Church (M).
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She She Pop’s Testament is unforgettable. It’s indulgent, starchy, often boring, and deeply moving.
The German group “is a female collective,” states its program note. “The existence of male members and collaborators has but little influence on this fact.” Sorry, guys…or congratulations? Anyway, the male members onstage with Fanni Halmburger, Lisa Lucassen, and Ilia Papatheodorou for this production include Sebastian Bark along with Joachim Bark, Peter Halmburger, and Theo Papatheodorou—the fathers of Sebastian, Fanni, and Ilia.
Shakespeare’s King Lear, a tragedy that involves a dying king dividing his property among his three daughters (it goes poorly), is Testament’s inspiration. Here, there are three fathers to go with the three daughters (or, rather, two daughters and one son), and a raft of real-life concerns to address.
Much of the show’s substance concerns the fathers’ (presumably genuine) concerns about the lives of avant-garde performance art that their children have chosen, but at least in this instance, these three fathers are amazingly game to play along. They sing, strip half-naked for the storm scene, and end up in a human pile on the floor along with the four troupe members. When the fathers are performing a work-dance to “Daddy’s Working Boots” while their children jump frenetically around them wearing headphones—perhaps to dramatize their youthful indifference to their fathers’ efforts—you wonder whether the dads are just there to prove a point. “See? I told you this performance-art stuff sucks, and then you asked me to be in your show, and I did, and it sucked.”
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The Method Gun, the work by Rude Mechs that’s currently opening the Walker Art Center’s 2013 Out There series, is a mockumentary-style tribute to the fictional theater guru Stella Adler. Like the films of Christopher Guest (This is Spinal Tap, Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show, A Mighty Wind), The Method Gun both pokes fun at and pays tribute to its subject—in this case, collaboratively created theater.
Adler, we’re told by the Rude Mechs performers, was an American theater artist who developed a cult following in the 1960s, then abruptly disappeared in 1972, leaving her troupe in the midst of a nine-year rehearsal period (Adler believed in giving a production plenty of time to find itself) for the single 1975 performance of what was to be their final show: Tennessee Williams’s A Streetcar Named Desire, performed without the characters Stanley, Stella, Blanche, or Mitch.
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