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Five neighborhood theaters that do more with less

Stage setup for Black Nativity at Penumbra Theatre

Stage setup for Black Nativity at Penumbra Theatre

Some of the best places to see shows in the Twin Cities lie well beyond the glittering marquees of Hennepin Avenue, the ornate lobby of the Ordway, and the vertically scrolling lights of the Guthrie. Here are five theaters, outside the downtown centers of Minneapolis and St. Paul, that you shouldn't miss making a trip to.

Jungle Theater

2951 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis

It's amazing how many people stumble past the Jungle in south Minneapolis without ever actually setting foot inside. The Jungle is a small but elegant theater that brings you much closer to the action than the vast proscenium stages you'll find downtown. And under the direction of its newly appointed leader, Sarah Rasmussen, the action is well-worth seeing. If you're looking for a Lyn-Lake escape, whether from the howling winds of winter or the sultry summer air, try grabbing a seat at the Jungle.

Penumbra Theatre

270 N. Kent St., St Paul

After hearing about Penumbra's international reputation for excellence, you might find yourself surprised when your GPS leads you to an unassuming community center. Yes, you're at the right place. Walk through the doors of the Hallie Q. Brown Community Center and you'll see Penumbra's inviting, recently remodeled lobby. Beyond that is a flexible and intimate theater with seats rising around a stage that's perfectly suited for the compelling storytelling this African-American company has made its specialty for four decades.

Open Eye Figure Theatre

506 E. 24th St., Minneapolis

If you drive to Open Eye, you'll likely find yourself parking against the thundering I-35W freeway wall. Practically hidden behind heavily draped curtains in a Phillips neighborhood storefront space, Open Eye Figure Theatre has a tiny stage where the company and visiting artists work wonders with puppetry, acting, and live music. Once the show starts, you'll be amazed how many surprises this little theater can hold.

Capri Theater

2027 W. Broadway Ave., Minneapolis

In 1979, Prince played his first solo show at this north Minneapolis landmark: a multipurpose 250-seat theater, built in 1927 as a movie house, that's now owned and operated by the adjoining Plymouth Christian Youth Center. At the Capri you'll see everything, including youth Shakespeare productions, dark comedies, soul singing, chamber music, and open-mic nights. Pick a program that suits you and make your way to this essential venue.

Off-Leash Area Micro-Stage

3540 34th Ave. S., Minneapolis

"Micro-stage" is an accurate name for this singular space — and so is the other name it's been called: "Our Garage." Paul Herwig and Jennifer Ilse, the married couple who co-direct the interdisciplinary performance company Off-Leash Area, turn this Longfellow residential garage into a completely immersive space for intense, original shows that defy conventional definitions of what theater can be. Herwig and Ilse also mount regular tours that bring theater to garages throughout the metro area, but their home base is their original must-see theater garage.