Spotlight: The Falls
The debut production in the Guthrie's new mini-theater, The Falls, shifts back and forth through time, mixing up identities and histories in a depiction of the people who have inhabited the shores of the Mississippi in what we now know as Minneapolis. It uses the St. Anthony Falls below the Guthrie's windows as a metaphor for existence (things are always the same, yet different, you know), and manages to throw in some theoretical physics to hammer home the point. Wait! Come back! In playwright Jeffrey Hatcher's hands, the result is an intellectually rigorous show with an excess of heart that rewards the viewer—until it runs on a bit too long. It's more a series of riffs than a unified narrative. That said, this production and its 35 actors(!) weave the various stories together so seamlessly that there are moments when one experiences a dizzy sense of all time occurring at once. We have the stories of a gung-ho female 19th-century settler (Sarah Agnew, typically funny and magnetic) and her disaffected husband (Ned Rousmaniere), young sausage-maker Kramarczuk (Peter Howard) and his scary knife-wielding business partner (Chris Carlson)—all these tales put time through a kaleidoscope. The space itself remains unchanged, of course, and in the present day we hear the tale of a young fatherless Somali family, an unhinged-on-Sunday Vikings fan (Carlson) and the hipster he desires (Maggie Chestovich), and the dramatics behind a school field trip to the falls. Professional actors and civilians mix in this production, though recruiting the audience for a State Fair sing-along at the end feels like a mistake. For my part, I felt at the intermission that I had seen a nicely crafted little gem of a show, and then I returned for a second act that introduced few new ideas or perspectives and had the feel of overtime. Drift if one must in the eternal now, but please don't drift too long.
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