Red Eye opens its 32nd season with an often intriguing, sometimes puzzling piece that deconstructs a famous 19th-century play and offers some jazzy dancing to boot. In other words, business as usual in Minneapolis theater.
The Slow Motion Carnival looks at the process of making theater through the lens of Miss Julie, August Strindberg's naturalistic classic. In fact, for the first 10 minutes, it appears to just be a run-through of the first scene of the play, until the other characters start to pipe in.
There's the playwright Paul, who has been asked to update Strindberg's piece, with his wife in the lead. There's the producer, decked out in leather pants and offering platitudes on how this production is going break new ground. And there's the director, offering puzzling platitudes to motivate the actors.
Along with the Strindberg, writer Katharine Sherman also looks to Jean-Luc Godard's Contempt, a classic film-within-a-film piece, for additional inspiration. The thing is, a play about making a play certainly isn't a novel idea (Jane Martin's Anton in Show Business comes to mind) and the process of playmaking doesn't hold nearly as much mystery as it once did.
Then there are the dances. Set to a bouncy, jazzy tune, the company occasionally steps out for some '60s-like steps. While initially entertaining, they do wear out their welcome by the four or fifth iteration. The meaning of these is unclear, and the repetition gnaws away at our appreciation for the show.
That doesn't mean there isn't good to be found on the Red Eye stage. Miss Julie is a terrific, gripping play, and the scenes drawn from Strindberg's work are well produced and acted. There are also enough clues dropped from the other scenes to fill in the gaps to help follow the psychology of what's happening in the kitchen set on Midsummer's Eve in those moments, and the interplay among Brian Coffin, Anna Sutheim, and Tamara Clark work well.
Sporting a shark-like intensity, Dustin Valenta as the producer makes the strongest impression of the remaining characters. He's pretty bald-faced about wanting to make money, which may make him the only honest character in The Slow Motion Carnival.
IF YOU GO:
The Slow Motion Carnival
Through October 25
Red Eye Theater
15 W. 14th St., Minneapolis
For tickets and more information,call 612-870-0390 or visit online.