Nimbus opens space with 'The Balcony'
Considering what has happened in Egypt in the last two weeks, along with the general instability in the Middle East, and the political unrest in neighboring Wisconsin, it's certainly prescient of Nimbus to tackle Jean Genet's The Balcony as the inaugural piece in the company's new northeast Minneapolis space.
Then again, reducing this 20th-century epic about revolutions and the slippery nature of our societal icons to mere politics is really doing the work a disservice. The politics behind the ongoing revolutions in the play's nameless city are meaningless--both the establishment and the revolutionaries talk mainly in metaphors. Instead, the idea of acting out roles in society sits front and center.
Though the decades have stripped away much of the play's transgressive energy--the public actions of real heads of the establishment are far worse than anything presented here--Genet's work still plays with the mind in thrilling ways, and despite an uneven set of performances, the Nimbus Production plays off that with real gusto.
Primarily set in a brothel, the story follows clients as they partake in elaborate fantasies, pretending to be heads of state. As the revolution boils outside, led by the image of Chantal, one of the prostitutes who escaped the clutches of owner Irma, several clients (and Irma herself), are forced to take on the roles they have played to reestablish the state.
Descriptions really don't do the show justice, however. Genet's script plays with audience expectations throughout, presenting plays-within-plays, including lengthy metaphor-driven discussions on the nature of the iconic figures of the state and revolutionaries driven by a desire for "reality" who take on the same style of meta characters as the rest.
In other words, this isn't an easy play to produce or to watch. Director Josh Cragun and the company reward audience with a production that feels both playful and insightful. But sometimes the acting loses the first element, as moments full of absurdity fall flat. The actors also seem to be unsure of the acoustics of the brand-new space, which can make it hard to understand all of their dialogue sometimes.
That aside, the whole production, featuring a terrific set by Zach Morgan and some pretty amazing costumes from Lisa Conley, carries plenty of energy and insight.
The Balcony runs through March 6.
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