Food, merriment, punk rock in the cards with King Arthur

Grant Schumann as Oswald, Peter Middlecamp as Sir Gawain, Cassie McNally as Clovis in King Arthur.
Grant Schumann as Oswald, Peter Middlecamp as Sir Gawain, Cassie McNally as Clovis in King Arthur.
Photo by Ty Sassaman

The latest picnic operetta created by Mixed Precipitation goes places the company hasn't gone before. The operatic music, created by composer Henry Purcell, is sung in English. And the other songs? They're drawn from the songbooks of the likes of Strummer, Jones, Rotten, and Stooge. 

Honestly, what other group would, or could, open a summertime picnic show with a raging version of the Stooges' "Seek and Destroy?"

See also:
Picnic Operetta: "It gives people an abundance of warm summer fuzzies"

As you can guess by the title, Purcell's play is set in the court of Camelot, where good King Arthur rules. This time out, he is threatened by a horde of Saxons at the gate. These youth are broke, unemployed, and want to tear the system down.

Sound familiar?

In the hands of director Scotty Reynolds, creators Mike Harris and Marya Hart, and the cast, this becomes a battle between the stodgy establishment and the angry youth. Both sides are played for comic effect. King Arthur (a perfectly cast Jim Ahrens) is obsessed with his image and his hair, worrying as much about finding the court photographer as about his armor when heading out to meet the Saxons.

The Saxons, led by Oswald (played by assistant director Jacob Miller the evening I saw the show, but otherwise by Grant Schumann), have called on the forces of darkness to stop the Britons in their path and prevent the construction of a new mega-jousting stadium (insert favorite Vikings stadium joke here).

Part of the experience is the setting, as performances are held in community gardens and like spaces around the Twin Cities. A perfect night certainly helped to make the experience a lot of fun, as did the food created by chef Nick Schneider. The dishes reflected the scenes, so moments in a fetid swamp led to a dish called compost -- a mixed of fermented vegetables -- while a scene when the fields and all of the citizens are frozen in place came with a popsicle made with half of a frozen plum coated in ginger.

The interplay between Purcell's elegant sounds and the harsh attack of the Clash ("Death or Glory") and the Sex Pistols ("God Save the Queen") works extremely well, as does the finale, a moving version of Patti Smith's "Frederick."


King Arthur: A Picnic Operetta
Through Sept. 21
Various outdoor locations
$10-$20 donation
For reservations and information, call 1.800.838.3006 or visit online.

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