The experimental Red Eye Theater and a tradition-bound musical wouldn't seem to go together, but The Secret Lives of Coats binds the two like peanut butter and, if not chocolate, then at least apple slices.
The show, created by Stephanie Fleischmann and Christina Campanella, takes us to the coat check of a swank New York restaurant, where a trio of women spend their evenings taking the coats of the rich, famous, eccentric, and everything else under the sun.
They still have their hopes and dreams, of course. That can include the simplicity of a woman making money for her grandchildren's college fund or dreams of stardom onstage. Fleischmann embraces the cliches at the heart of the script, ramping them up to almost soap-opera levels.
Lisette is in danger of losing her job unless she can find a diamond-studded broach that disappeared on her watch. Lila's lover is a regular customer, Mr. Robinson, who has lost his memory. Leanne is writing a novel -- two pages a night -- and covering up a lot of family-related pain.
These knowing nods get twisted and turned throughout the show, giving director Hayley Finn plenty of places to turn things to the absurd, such as a Latin-flavored dance using coat hangers for percussion. For you Gen Xers out there, it has the vibe of Twin Peaks: The Musical (though no one gets wrapped in plastic).
Conceptually, it's a lot to keep in the air, and it does lag near the end as the resolutions -- pretty clear to all -- get dragged out and threaten all of the good charm generated by the piece. If it were 15 minutes shorter, The Secret Lives of Coats would be fantastic. As it is, the musical is a charming look into all the absurd humans and the beloved garments they wear.
IF YOU GO:
The Secret Lives of Coats Through October 26 Red Eye Theater 15 W. 14th St., Minneapolis $10-$20 For tickets and more information, 612.870.0309 or visit online.