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Best Of 2003

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Best Of :: Arts & Entertainment

BEST INDEPENDENT THEATER

The Mary Worth Theatre Company produces strange, hypnotizing plays. Plays that don't necessarily make their meaning explicit but always seem to burrow into your consciousness and hang around long after the production has come and gone at one of the vagabond company's temporary homes (the Cedar-Riverside People's Center, the Playwrights' Center, the scene shop (!) of Theatre de la Jeune Lune). After acclaimed 2002 productions of Lisa D'Amour's 16 Spells to Charm the Beast and W. David Hancock's The Race of the Arc Tattoo, Mary Worth began 2003 with Crazyface, a darkly comic fantasy by playwright and horror-movie director Clive Barker. Like similarly inventive local theaters such as Frank and Bedlam, Joel Sass and Co. have a knack for milking a limited budget for all it's worth. For Crazyface, the company made a simple canvas backdrop suggest something ominous and otherworldly, and costume designer Mary Anne Culligan combined circus-like makeup with rags and hand-me-downs to create some wonderful getups. The play followed an innocent dreamer through a sometimes bloody, medieval coming-of-age quest, putting him in contact with a string of silly and spooky characters (generally both). It was grotesque at times, but also sweet, and full of memorable scenes and images. Mary Worth has no regular season, and will sometimes spend a year or more working something up. Like Heinz ketchup or that certain someone, they're worth waiting for.

214 E. 19th St., Minneapolis, 55403
MAP
612-341-3855
BEST ACTOR

Over the past year, Terry Hempleman has brought graceful technique and thoughtful interpretations to several area productions. He played a disintegrating cuckold in the Jungle Theater's premiere of Craig Wright's Orange Flower Water and a lovable loser in the Actors Theater of Minnesota's The Weir, and he earned high marks for his turn as Selig in the Penumbra Theatre's Joe Turner's Come and Gone. In his current role in Eye of the Storm's Dinner with Friends, Hempleman plays Gabe, an emotionally guarded food writer in his early 40s whose wife Karen serves as his editor. When Gabe and Karen's best friends get a divorce, Gabe starts to examine both the flaws of his own marriage and the superficiality of his friendships. Hempleman conveys these troubling examinations in a variety of wise and subtle ways--with a well-placed sigh, a telling glance, or a line infused with just the right amount of sarcasm. He makes his character sympathetic but doesn't gloss over his faults. In an interview with City Pages, Jungle artistic director Bain Boehlke got at some of Hempleman's gifts when he noted the actor's ear for "nuance" and "air," for the layered meanings behind words and the important silences between them.

BEST ACTRESS

While Rice has been a local theater presence for a few years, it was her preternaturally focused portrayal of the titular "Cat" in Fifty-Foot Penguin Theater's Cat on a Hot Tin Roof last winter that inspired critics to start the search for superlatives. Indeed, her fluid, feline Maggie might very well have set Tennessee Williams himself to waltzing around Playwrights' Heaven with the first available angel (or whatever it is they have up there). Though Rice has the range to go from the roof to a gutter comedy, she brings expressive eyes and carefully calibrated physical energy to all her roles. And there are a lot of them: Rice is prolific as hell, meaning those unfortunates who haven't yet seen her perform will have ample opportunity to do so in the coming year. Rice is already slated to appear in productions by Pig's Eye Theater, Pillsbury House, and Fifty-Foot Penguin. So get with it, already!

BEST AM RADIO PERSONALITY

We hesitate to give this award to Ron Rosenbaum. After all, the one flaw in his intelligent, provocative morning radio show is that he has a tendency to be, well, an arrogant blowhard. Any number of times over the last year we've been consumed by a desire to drive down to the KSTP headquarters and clamp down on Rosenbaum's tongue with a pair of pliers because he won't stop interrupting a guest. That said, we'll risk further inflating the attorney-turned-talk-show-host's ego, because he deserves the accolades. Not only did Rosenbaum (along with his morning cohorts John Wodele and Mark O'Connell) finally rid the Twin Cities airwaves of the noxious Barbara Carlson, he's also created a highly entertaining, news-oriented talk show that doesn't pander to KSTP's close-minded, conservative base. His knowledge of the Middle East is extraordinary, and he scrutinizes each new issue with a rigor and thoroughness that's indicative of a legal background. One last reason to cheer Rosenbaum: He has the audacity to point out to his audience that Ann Coulter is an obnoxious, dim, tedious media whore.

BEST ART CINEMA
Walker Art Center
Walker Art Center

In his two-and-a-half year tenure as film/video curator at Walker Art Center, the Belgium-born Cis Bierinckx imported a distinctly European aesthetic of cinema programming. The philosophy amounted to this: Give the audience what they can't get elsewhere--world cinema of the highest (and rarest) order in particular--and without compromise. (No Tom Hanks or Jonathan Demme dialogues in the Bierinckx era.) There were times when this brand of curatorial contrariness baffled more than it enlightened. Did we really need a retrospective of films whose soundtracks were created by the late Jack Nietzche? Did anyone happen to see a single worthy feature in the "DIG.IT" series of digital-video cinema? But in hindsight it seems clear that Bierinckx was doing exactly what he should have been: using the ample resources of the Walker to challenge its audience--to risk losing that audience, even. And in the last 12 months of his work, Bierinckx unspooled a mix of high and low from here and there that was both essential and utterly unpredictable: Highlights included films by American choreographer Bob Fosse (several months before Chicago), Russian minimalist Alexander Sokurov (several months before Russian Ark), and Dutch documentarian Heddy Honigmann; a startling series of new Latin American cinema; and sneak previews of The Fast Runner (Atanarjuat), Domestic Violence, and Gerry, which are some of the best movies in years. Though the curator has already moved away from Minneapolis, his final program--four blood 'n' guts shoot-'em-ups by Tokyo bad boy Takashi Miike (June 4 to 18)--will guarantee that Bierinckx goes out with a bang.

1750 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis, 55403
MAP
612-375-7600
BEST ART GALLERY
Joan of Art

Like a great book or movie, a great art gallery creates a world of its own. Disbelief is suspended and new rules are put in order. In the alternative universe of Joan of Art, the law of gravity is sometimes defied. What goes up at this two-year-old gallery also comes down, but not everything inside is meant to be viewed with somber eyes. "I want art to bring joy into people's lives," says Kimber, the sculptor and painter whose jubilant work dominates the gallery. In fact, the gallery itself is one of her works. The two-story gallery/studio/home (Kimber lives upstairs with her partner, Lori) practically jumps up and down on Franklin, begging passersby to stop passing by. It's hard to say whether the row of large bronze Humpty Dumpty eggs sitting atop brick columns will grab your attention first or whether it'll be the melee of yellow, red, blue, green, orange, pink, and purple painted on this art funhouse. Once you're lured inside, you'll find a kitschy-cool poke at a former governor called "Jesse the Yolk"--it's a copy of one of the eggs sitting by the street--and "Statue of Limitations," a six-foot-high fi-gurine/fountain. You might also spot "Ain't That Good News," a bronze mobile of four robust--maybe even rowdy--female nudes dancing beneath a sun, and other works echoing art deco, Henry Moore, and African folk art. The selection available for viewing varies as new pieces are added by the prolific artist-in-residence and as pieces are sold. The gallery also exhibits work by other local artists; a show featuring the political surrealism of painter Jane Evershed will run through June 1.

3020 E. Franklin Ave., Minneapolis, 55406
MAP
612-338-2511
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BEST INDEPENDENT THEATER: Mary Worth Theatre Company

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