Eric Knutson and Sara Richardson.
Photo by Richard Fleischman
When you do a show only every couple of years, like Girl Friday Productions, it's vital to pick the right piece. Since Street Scene two years ago, producer Kirby Bennett and the Girl Friday team read a number of plays before landing on Camino Real, a lesser-known Tennessee Williams piece.
"I liked the scope of it. It is our most adventurous piece to date. It has a big ensemble cast and it continues our theme of American literature," Bennett says. "It has less of a traditional narrative and more of a dreamscape. There's also a theme of human resilience and hope."
"It falls into that whole group of shows that take a look at the American experience in the 20th century: who we are as a society and how we interact with other people," says Craig Johnson, who has directed shows for Girl Friday in the past and is now making his acting debut with the company as the quintessential dreamer Don Quixote.
It's also the most modern show Girl Friday has tackled -- though it is 60 years old. The play was a major flop when it opened on Broadway in 1953, but has gone on to a number of successful revivals since then. Part of that could have been the surreal storytelling, where characters from literature -- such as Don Quixote, Casanova, and Camille -- mingle on a road to a mysterious port city.
"It's a dreamy, more poetic, and slightly twisted version of Street Scene. The audiences will be challenged," says actor Sam Landman. "That's great. It has the Tennessee Williams heft, but it is something very different."
The play came after a string of successes for Williams, including The Glass Menagerie and A Streetcar Named Desire. "He was inspired when he was in Mexico. He had a fever and was stuck in a town where he couldn't get out. He was alone and had an intense sense of loneliness," says Eric Knutson, who plays American Kilroy in the play.
Director Ben McGovern and the company of actors have worked hard to bring the surreal street life of Camino Real to life. "Stylistically, it has some of the same accents as other Girl Friday shows. There is group movement and musical accents. There are great singers and movers in the cast, which is exciting for us."
As many of the characters are drawn from literature, there is additional material for the actors to consult outside of the play. "For Prudence, there was not a lot to go on in the Tennessee Williams play, so I looked into the source material to see who she is," says Kimberly Richardson. "Balancing that with the play is a part of the process -- how much do we hold on to these references?"
"Ben wants us to boil things down more. At first, there is a wide swath of experiences and passions and references. That informed the play from that point on. It was a good start, but he wanted us to pull away and boil it down to the essence. There doesn't need to be this extraneous stuff," Landman says.
All of this should make for a thrilling, if challenging, evening.
"I love the idea that there is this force that is controlling the town that you never quite know. I love not getting answers in stuff," Landman says.
Friday through July 27
Minneapolis Theatre Garage
711 W. Franklin Ave., Minneapolis
For tickets and information, call 612.729.1071 or visit online.