Spotlight: Freezing Paradise

Kevin Kling
Courtesy of Guthrie Theater

It takes a while to feel as though one belongs in Minnesota. After spending a decade up here, and writing two novels that used the place as a setting, I feel like I might have earned the right to, say, give someone directions to Lake Calhoun. In this show Kevin Kling delves deep into the mystic lore of the lifelong Minnesotan, what he calls "our stories." Alternating between a lectern and an armchair on a Persian rug, Kling works through two hours of consistently warm, smart, and funny recollections on the particular experience of a life lived in the Upper Midwest. So we have stories of Kling and his brother in their insane "pre-Jackass" attempts to do themselves in, and fantastically drawn images such as watching funnel clouds twist from the roof of the family home, or the time a beaver wandered down the street and stopped outside the Uptown Bar. One baroque and particularly hilarious story involves an ill-conceived foray into taxidermy and Kling's Boy Scout troop's subsequent creation of a travesty against nature and all that's right. Kling laces his stories with all kinds of weird edges and facial expressions that undermine or complicate the ostensibly wholesome heart of his narrative universe. Matters inevitably drift to Kling's 2001 motorcycle accident, which has left him in chronic pain and with a nerve-severed arm that he has yet to regain use of after numerous surgeries. Kling matter-of-factly explains his considerable predicament with restraint and no loss of the power of his storytelling spell-weaving. If we are left with the sense that Kling is in the middle of a struggle, we also see that it has involved no diminishment of his art. He comes around to a couple of rather homely truths--namely that while he feels "rudely stamped," he must battle against the bitterness that could transform him into a rage-filled Richard III, and that in the face of life and death one must feel gratitude for each moment we're granted with the one we love. Neither insight is presented as more than it is, and of course both ideas, in different degrees, are made of profound truth. For Kling they seem particularly hard-won.

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