Best Of :: Arts & Entertainment
Even though it got blasted by critics for lacking any discernable plot, Maria de Buenos Aires was the sexiest, most arresting opera production to come along since, well, Jeune Lune's production of Carmen last year. With a seven-piece tango orchestra, gorgeous singing (and singers), and visual trickery, Maria packed an exotic and visceral punch. Even though the music was bare-bones alongside the more athletic singing of Minnesota Opera's Maria Padilla or, for that matter, Theatre Latté Da's production of La Bohème, Jeune Lune served up this hooky pop-opera with just the right amount of spitfire and spice. Its regular pack of vocalists, an all-star bunch that includes Christina Baldwin, Jennifer Baldwin Peden, and Bradley Greenwald, fronted a low-tech spectacle of red-hot costumes and vivid mosaics. As high-heeled señoritas cavorted with their lovers, a ragtag ensemble of street instruments--accordion, guitar, upright base, and the like--pulsed and stomped to the beat of an Argentine marketplace. Meanwhile, the gorgeous-but-gloomy Maria eluded the grasp of our understanding. In their tag-team roles as Maria, the Baldwin sisters shimmied, stretched, and whirled until Maria swelled larger than an individual woman. While the imagistic, poetic libretto of Maria didn't always make sense to our narrative-thirsty heads, Jeune Lune's realization was nothing short of a sensory feast.
Kilbourne has earned a lot of notice on Twin Cities stages in recent years, most prominently in Hapgood at the Jungle in 2002 and The Love Song of J. Robert Oppenheimer with Frank Theatre in 2003. It was in playing Langley Collyer in Richard Greenberg's The Dazzle, though, that he delivered a haunting performance that set him apart from the pack in 2004. This Jungle production was a portrait of a downward spiral that generated all kinds of weird psychic electricity, and Kilbourne was the conduit for a uniquely disturbing vision of the senses gone haywire. He played Langley, a talented pianist with no skill for living in the world, as a wide-eyed aesthete so in love with everything that he could contemplate a piece of garbage for hours on end. Abetted by Stephen D'Ambrose as brother Homer, and Bain Boehlke's set, which comprised a mountain of found objects, Kilbourne gave us a man so adoring of reality-- and so out of touch with it--that, at the end of the work, he carefully arranges the position of his brother's dead body. Charismatic, creepy, off-putting, and enthralling, his work in The Dazzle shone with a bizarre light that left no one without illumination.
The mark of a great actress is her ability to inhabit her role convincingly in any part or production, and Parks possesses this ephemeral quality. The last year has seen her in two Children's Theatre shows: the Somali/African American collision Snapshot Silhouette and the eco-warning Splash Hatch on the E Going Down. She played characters younger than herself in both productions, but Parks manages to combine youthfulness with bite--she never plays a character as a type, and she brings a sparkling authenticity to the tumult of adolescence. In the same span of time, she played a mother in Pillsbury House's Bel Canto and took on the role of Roxanne in Ten Thousand Things' Cyrano, two of the more well-received shows in the Twin Cities in 2004. She was a standout in both, though her performance as single mom Bessie in Bel Canto was especially memorable. In a show that gave her every opportunity to overemote, Parks gave a powerfully bittersweet performance opposite co-star Will Sturdivant, evoking the national hangover of the '70s while imparting a sense of a life gone in directions unforeseen. Whether onstage for children (as in the stripped-down Ten Thousand Things) or in more conventional productions, Parks combines craft with evident depth of heart.
Patrick Reusse has become a ubiquitous presence on KSTP-AM (1500). The crotchety sports pundit pops up hourly on Bob Davis's maniacal morning show, regularly visits with Ron Rosenbaum and Mark O'Connell during the midday hours, and comes back again to chat with his old chum Joe Soucheray during drive time. Then there are the weekends, with Reusse putting in another four hours behind the microphone. Considering that he also pens at least three columns per week for the Star Tribune, it's tough not to wonder about the status of the guy's home life. We're not complaining, though: With his high-pitched rasp of a voice and unhinged cackle, Reusse's a delightful old coot, making everyone around him (even Soucheray) seem more likeable. Reusse's folksy, meandering discourses can range in topic from his own disastrous golf game to the genius of Johan Santana to the bumpkins that land courtside seats at Milwaukee Bucks games. And unlike most of his sports-gab counterparts, he doesn't pretend to be discussing theoretical geometry. Reusse understands his area of expertise: men (and occasionally women) playing with balls.
Frank Theatre treated this local unveiling of Suzan-Lori Parks's play like the lopsided treasure it was, staging it on the floor of an empty machine shop and applying layers of dread, panic, and tempered affection to a prickly and unforgiving storyline. Shá Cage was both appealing and frightening as Hester, an abortionist living in a backwoods dystopia and dreaming of freeing her son from prison one day. The imagery came in streams, with a crooked mayor, corrupt vigilantes, and bursts of Brechtian song creating a knife's edge amid the waters of surrealism. Along the way, Gregory Stewart Smith's Butcher provided a crucial innocence that kept things from turning too harsh. This was a perfect wedding between Parks's wild and daring play, Cage's depth and energy, and director Wendy Knox's go-for-it style. Nathaniel Hawthorne had no fucking idea what he was getting himself into.
To celebrate its 10th anniversary, our local museum of the moving image is reeling in the years, spending three weeks on a dozen and a half of its best-attended, best-loved repertory titles: Hitchcock's Vertigo (May 11-12), Kurosawa's Yojimbo (May 9-10), Godard's Breathless (April 29 through May 1), and the Maysles brothers' Grey Gardens (May 11-12). It's a reminder not only of the theater's history (or the cinema's), but of the unique virtues of film projection in the DVD era--including the company of strangers. We love Oak Street's new habit of stretching director retrospectives (e.g., Renoir and Ozu) across two months with screenings on Sunday mornings and afternoons. (Better to take one's time pondering the masters than to cram half an entire oeuvre into a busy week of binge auteurism.) Recent weeklong runs of new material have included a few soon-to-be-classics: the Senegalese Moolaadé, The Lizard from Iran, Infernal Affairs from Hong Kong. The pair of series devoted to noir and screwball comedies were way too canonical for our taste, but not so the monthlong "Gotta Dance!" wherein Purple Rain and Moulin Rouge shared the floor with Top Hat and Silk Stockings. Would the Oak Street promise to make the "Jewish Holiday Chinese Buffet Extravaganza!"--Broadway Danny Rose with sweet and sour in the lobby--an annual event?