Best Of :: Arts & Entertainment
"We're just doing whatever," the voice on the radio says. "I can't believe they're letting us get away with this." Without looking, you know that the dial is set to KFAI. What other station could it be? For 28 years, this loose experiment in freeform community radio has erred on the side of permission: The late-night DJ in question could be voicing her station's credo. Outside of deciding what shows to air and when, nobody programs KFAI. You can't say this about even the best local stations not larded with commercials—KMOJ (89.9 FM), the Current (89.3 FM), and the partially FM-expanded Radio K (770 AM/100.7/106.5 FM). KFAI is all specialty shows, all the time, which means DJs and news anchors are also programmers and producers. No wonder the music shows are totems of their scenes, from the blues of House Party (Wednesdays at 3:00 p.m.) to the garage rock of Radio Rumpus Room (Fridays at 9:00 p.m.) and the hip hop of RSE Radio (Saturdays at 9:00 p.m.). Arguably no better radio in the world exists between the hours of midnight and 5:00 a.m., from the rare metal of The Root of All Evil (early Sunday mornings at 1:00 a.m.) to the rare dub reggae of The Echo Chamber (early Wednesday mornings at 2:00 a.m.). It's obvious that large private music collections power KFAI, including those of Hmong, South Asian, and African tastemakers. One longs for more cooperation between these agendas, more call-in opportunities, more concert simulcasts, and more flexibility in scheduling—though KFAI does make extra time, when needed, for run-over of the nationally syndicated Democracy Now! news program (Monday through Friday at noon, and 5:00 a.m. Sunday through Thursday). But such hopes are inspired by the fervent ambitions of a station to be something for everyone—ambitions shared by no other radio in town.
Her work can run the gamut from manic to imperious and from opaque to exposed—often in the same scene—and her name on a playbill in 2005 usually guaranteed the prospect of a fresh and unique performance. Early in the year, she played Dionyza in the weird Pericles at the Guthrie Lab, at times striking with regal beauty, at other times with absurdity. She didn't manage to single-handedly salvage His Girl Friday at the Guthrie later in the year, but her Mollie Molloy was a standout in a meandering show. In David Mann's Godfather-meets-Shakespeare Fringe epic Corleone, she brought her tragicomedy chops to the character of WASPy Kay. Finally she starred in the title role of Antigone for Ten Thousand Things, and, stripped of her comedic powers, came through with a moving and deep take on Antigone's tragic pig-headedness. We think she should land a role on SNL—while still doing serious stuff on the side, of course.
No one stalked the indie stage with more éclat in 2005 than Bob Malos, who utilized his imposing frame and sonorous voice to provide characters who were tortured by their own greatness and dogged by the Reaper's impending embrace. In May he starred as Capt. Larsen in Hardcover Theater's adaptation of Jack London's The Sea Wolf, and captured a scary sense of nihilistic menace and intellectual savagery that shivered numerous timbers in the audience. Come July he stalked the stage in Girl Friday Productions' excellent An Empty Plate at the Café du Grand Boeuf, mixing humor and despair in his portrayal of a wealthy, death-obsessed cynic. Then a month later, he appeared in the Fringe as doomed James Garfield in The President, Once Removed. In all three performances, Malos radiated a sense of bittersweet awareness combined with a thoughtful recognition of his characters' power and the different ways it could be applied. At times humanitarian and at others downright Nietzschean (not that there's an inherent dichotomy), Malos delivers dark clouds interspersed with dingy sunlight.
Does anyone even know when T.D. Mischke is on the air anymore? The geniuses running KSTP-AM (1500) have twice shifted his time slot in the last three years, first to late nights and now to drive time. The 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. shift is an odd fit for Mischke's strange, hilarious, truth-bending monologues. After all, during the evening commute, most people are looking for accurate information about weather, traffic, and the day's news headlines. Plus, the drunken callers who've always been a staple of Mischke's show aren't nearly as entertaining in the daylight hours: They're just kind of sad. But Mischke's such a peculiar genius that we're willing to adjust. His rambling tirades against modern technology, encounters with regular callers such as Undertaker Fred, and bastardized news reports are superbly entertaining at any time of day. Plus now we get the added bonus of listening to Mischke antagonize traffic reporter Kenny Olsen on a daily basis.
Mixed Blood's production of Richard Greenberg's baseball drama Take Me Out saw Darren Lemming (Lindsay Smiling), a rich, arrogant, and handsome young baseball pro, declare his homosexuality to the world. Amid the controversy, his team sank in the standings; then backwoods pitcher Shane Mungitt (Zach Curtis) turned the tide—or would have, were it not for a John Rocker moment on live TV that revealed his extensive knowledge of disparaging epithets and his casual willingness to use them. Smiling played the pro athlete as icily uninterested in the affairs of mortals and indifferent to their perception of him—until a semi-friendship with his accountant Mason (Edward Williams Jr.) compels him to break out a convincingly limited degree of warmth. Under Stan Wojewodski's direction, Take Me Out depicted sports and modern life with depth and cynicism, teasing out the humdrum truths and diffused sense of hollowness throughout the world it portrayed.
Oak Street: 1995-2006. R.I.P.