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BEST INDEPENDENT THEATER Minneapolis 2002 -

It's been a year of transformation for this half-decade-old company, cofounded and overseen by the pathologically overworked Zach Curtis: They grew more professional, switched venues, and gained greater visibility. We've commented on their shows throughout this past year, such as the Matt Sciple-directed Escape From Happiness. This production took a tricky script by George F. Walker and, through keen casting, managed to highlight both the play's bewildering, near-hysterical comic sensibility and also each character's deepening regrets. Melancholy and mirth rarely mix well, but here they played sharply against each other, so that the saddest of moments seemed inevitably comic, and vice versa. But the company's standout show of the past year was its Fringe Festival entry The Murderer and the Martian, two monologues written and performed by Bill Corbett (as the Martian) and Jeffrey Hatcher (as the Murderer). The project sounds as though it began as something of a lark, but the scripts by both writers were exceptionally funny--sometimes savagely so--and director Sarah Gioia brought out both writers' easy charms as storytellers.

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