Put simply, this one-woman show exploring the reproductive lives of three generations of Northern Irish women is spectacular. In a sparsely decorated kitchen set, the talented Naomi Cooke creates three very different and very vibrant characters with nothing more than the change of a hair piece. "The things that have been carried out of this house wrapped in newspaper," reminisces Shawna as she savagely slices away at a mass of bloody liver and scrapes the eyes out of potatoes. Time spent assisting Mom through 17 births and countless miscarriages hasn't dimmed lusty Shawna's appetite for sex--or, for that matter, dinner. Mother, on the other hand--who starts out the play cringing "I can still hear his breath in my ear,"--has never once enjoyed sex, and daughter Theresa is on the verge of becoming a bona fide Virgin Mother. Between the three women, plenty is said on the subjects of doing the do, birth control, abortion, and being a good Catholic woman, and not without a great deal of sympathy and humor. $7. Thursday 9 p.m.; Friday 7:30 p.m.; Saturday 6 p.m. Loring Playhouse, 1633 Hennepin Ave., Mpls. (Amanda Ferguson)
Lucy Swings Both Ways
You guessed it: This isn't a play about baseball, but it is a production filled with Gen-X gender preference cliches. The plot spins around switch-hitter Lucy, a blonde dingbat who brings home a horny doctor, and her aggressive dyke friend, Brandy, who vies with the doctor for Lucy's attention. Why would Lucy pick a man (so obviously out for a lay) over her footsie-playing friend in pink pajamas? Who knows, because the characters are never fully developed, and the shallow script never addresses the complicated triangle-issues at work. An informal poll taken after the production yielded that no one understood why three men were playing hanky panky in an offstage bathroom (their dialogue was piped through the sound system throughout the play). Frankly, no one really cared. $3. Thursday 6 p.m.; Saturday 3 p.m. Mpls. Women's Club, 410 Oak Grove St./15th St. Entry, Mpls. (Christina Schmitt)
Willie the Spook
Set in 1934, Willie the Spook brings us W.B. Yeats in his late sixties, feeling frustrated that his poetic vision is less vivid than it once was, as he becomes the subject of a cosmic chess game. The Divine Instructor is playing for Yeats to remain a poet while the Diabolical Frustrator is playing to tempt Yeats' slightly famished ego into using his linguistic skills to become more instrumental in pre-WWII politics. Wondering whether or not the charming and occasionally befuddled Yeats enjoys flirting with fascism feels a little like watching your grandfather get teased into telling a story that no one wants to hear; exploiting someone's fragile ego is always a nasty business. In this production, however, the nastiness is pure joy. $6. Thursday 9 p.m.; Friday 7:30 p.m.; Saturday 4:45 p.m. Ballet of the Dolls Dance Studio, 1627 Hennepin Ave., Mpls. (Ferguson)
Local actor/director/playwright/experimentalist John Troyer sure is getting a lot of use out of his old white lab coat. You might have seen him in it alongside his Praxis Group colleagues during last month's unsolicited clinical evaluation of the Mall of America (Culturata, CP 5/14), and last year amidst the weird science of Xperimental Theatre's Praxis II: The Condemned, which he directed. The latest prop to emerge from Troyer's artillery is the MemREE v-500 memory cultivation bio-chip implant, a device he puts to good use in his one-man show Grave Marker. This breakthrough in bereavement technology allows Troyer to revive, via the body of his lab-coated seminar leader, three dead performance artists. It's all an extended plug for Unknown Acres, a cemetery designed as the future resting place for all the insignificant performance artists not yet dead. That's surely a chunk of real estate that some people wish would fill up more quickly. But Troyer's altogether funny and occasionally, er, cryptic show raises some intriguing questions about what constitutes artistic significance, and confirms that he shouldn't go shopping for a plot in Unknown Acres any time soon. $5. Wednesday 6 p.m.; Saturday 3:15 p.m.; Sunday 4:45 p.m. Ballet of the Dolls Studio. (John Pribek)
Surf some juggling-related Web pages and you'll find Fritz Grobe and Morten Hansen, the postmodern-juggling team of blink, referred to as "legends." Alas, such lofty status still lands them squarely on the fringe circuit; I guess notoriety is a relative concept in the realm of pomo juggling. Nevertheless, blink appears to deserve the praise--their show features truly kick-ass juggling complemented by fun philosophical musings, good characterization, and great electronic and African-style music. The fellas weave in and out of each other's paths, sometimes to the point where it's not clear who exactly is tossing and catching all of those objects, most of which are dodging the rafters. blink displays amazing physicality; in one sequence, Grobe stands on Hansen's shoulders to form a two-story tower of juggling prowess. As for the more subtle stuff, Grobe is able to walk the stage with a ball balanced on his head. (He also does a contortionist piece near the end that's not for the squeamish.) The occasional dialogue, which dips into issues of physics, metaphysics, and existentialism, seems informed more by humor than angst, despite the straight-faced delivery. Avant-juggling may not be booked into arenas in the near future, but based on the audience response the night I went, these guys could make the jump yet. $5-$7. Thursday 7:30 p.m.; Friday 6 p.m.; Saturday 8 p.m.; Sunday 5 p.m. Mpls. Women's Club. (Pribek)
It would have been perfect to see this play mounted outdoors, in the thick, strong heat it so evocatively captures. Adapted from the eponymous short story by Joyce Carol Oates (and premiered here), Heat is an exercise in memory for a grown woman trying to narrate the decades-old rape and murder of twin girls. But more than making a piecemeal story of scattered childhood impressions, Oates creates an America of small-town rumor, Southern gothic scandal, and hollow platitudes. The narrator, as played by Sarah Phemister, is convincingly reticent, strained, and occasionally shrill as she fights, succumbs to, and battles again the memories that were given to her, and those she has had to make for herself. $4-$6. Thursday 7:30 p.m.; Saturday 3 p.m.; Sunday 3 p.m. Whitney Fine Arts Museum, 1424 Yale Place, Mpls. (Cecily Marcus)
The Diary of Samuel Pepys
Craig Johnson begins by reading at a clipped pace from the diary of Samuel Pepys, a 17th century commoner who wrote unabashedly about his everyday life. There are so many sharp, loaded entries (Pepys wrote six volumes containing 1.25 million words, and this play represents but a smattering of them) that Johnson has little choice but to become Samuel Pepys. Pepys blows through learning multiplication, the Plague, the crowning of Charles II, the Great London Fire of 1666, and countless domestic loves and squabbles. And Mr. Johnson does Pepys's diary a fine turn in lending it his body and voice. $6. Wednesday 9 p.m. The Loring Playhouse. (Ferguson)
My Therapist Told Me I Sounded Bitter
Kim Allen attempted suicide as a teenager, but it was "No big deal. I was a drunk. I was gay. I was in the theater. At least one attempt upon my life before the age of 20 was, I felt, required of me." Ha ha. You're supposed to laugh at that--Allen does. He assures us at the start that this one-man show will not be about alcoholism, and will not use words like "process." These are, however, integral elements of an autobiography riddled with addiction, self-loathing, freaky therapists, recovery ("I got sober before it became fashionable"), mass extermination during the '80s in San Francisco (the "Carnage by the Bay"), and a bout with grief-induced dementia. Somehow, Allen makes it funny and theatrical--this is no amateurish masturbation--with a long section on his super-flamboyant grandmother and an instinctual aversion to earnestness. $7. Thursday 7:30 p.m.; Friday 6 p.m.; Sunday 9:30 p.m. Ballet of the Dolls Studio. (Kate Sullivan)
Loring Playhouse Theatre Co.
There should be rules for portraying human brutality: Either make it insightful like Kafka, or cool like Tarantino, and if you can't do either, at least make it short. BLASTED tries, but ultimately fails on all three counts. The play opens with racist Ian (John Townsend) and mentally challenged Cate (Bean Girl's Stephanie Dickson) holed up together in a motel room/bunker. Ian divides all of his time between his paranoid obsession with guns, vices, fucking with Cate's head and finally her body. While I can applaud the production's ambient soundtrack and forgive Ian for losing his faux British accent as he writhed on the ground with blue balls, I was ready to leave by the time the piped-in fog came rolling out. Really, after watching Ian repeatedly play with himself (and bare his flaccid phallus), I just didn't need to see another rape scene (even if Ian is the one being raped), or watch him eat a baby. Ech. $7. Thursday 7:30 p.m.; Saturday 9 p.m.; Sunday 7:30 p.m. Loring Playhouse. (Schmitt)
The Minnesota Fringe Theater Festival runs through June 29. For general info call 748-8727.
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