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'The Pride' dives into difficult issues

​Get ready to strap in for the latest ride from Pillsbury House Theatre, as the company -- well known for its challenging works -- presents The Pride, a complex and intense examination of relationships across the decades.

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Company Co-Artistic Managing Director Noel Raymond, who also directs the production, learned about it from her fellow company co-director, Faye Price.

"We were on a work-related trip to St. Louis. She started to read the play, and was in tears by the end of it. Then I read it. It was so powerful and it came off the page so well. It also fit in perfectly with the esthetic of what we do, so we put it on the schedule."

Alexi Kaye Campbell's script examines gay relationships in time periods of the late 1950s and today. While a show on this topic has a hard time not being political, Raymond found that the script "lets the audience draw their conclusions about the issues. It also humanizes issues that have been sort of dehumanized into sound bites; into rhetoric that doesn't have a face or a heart or a brain," Raymond says. "It's not easy and not pat. It sort of puts the issues in the audience's lap to deal with it. And it doesn't let the characters off the hook either."

The company includes Tracey Maloney, Matt Guidry, Paul de Cordova, and Clarence Wethern. The actors "have been really great. They are all brave, go-for-it type of actors," Raymond says.

That willingness is important, as the play has a reputation for being a frank examination of the issues, which occasionally explodes into violence. "They've had a willingness to go there, even when there is brutal, horrible stuff. Often after rehearsals everyone is really spent," Raymond says.

At the center of both relationships are men named Oliver and Philip, whose face different packages of expectations and prejudices in the 50 years between their stories. "One of the things that spoke to us about the play is that it is one that gets under your skin and sticks with you," Raymond says.

And the show had been selected for the season long before several current issues, including the amendment for a gay marriage ban in Minnesota and the legal right to marry in New York, came to the fore. 

"All that really current stuff that makes the issues really important," Raymond says. 

The Pride runs Friday through October 16 at the Pillsbury House Theatre.