In "Tales from Hollywood" the exiled writers who fled Nazi Germany form a community in Los Angelos. They're trying to write in a foreign country using a foreign language with foreign ideals and concepts. And, all the while they're trying to make sense of this cruel world and eek out an existence. Bertolt Brecht questions why he is writing for the screen when he is a playwright in a medium where there is no interaction with the audience. In an interesting use of light and sound, the creative team at The Guthrie Theater projects scenes from the play onto screens as the backdrop.
"Buccaneers" has all the elements of a great show for older elementary students through adults. It does have some scary images that might be disturbing for younger kids. I heard one mother say that her preschooler wanted to leave after the opening scenes on board the ship. The captain looks and sounds scary and he doles out some harsh punishments. The boys who attended the show with me, ages 11 & 13, loved the show. They thought it was exciting, said it was, "Awesome," and were really engaged with the show.
The best thing about watching plays at The Guthrie Theater Studio is that they offer something new. Not that all the plays are brand new. I saw "Julius Caesar" there last year, but done in a contemporary way. Other shows have been quite new from lesser known, still alive, playwrights, that have more diversity. "The Brothers Size" by Tarell Alvin McCraney is a modern play about brothers who live in a community in Louisianna where life is a struggle. People don't have much, and what they have, they've had to fight to keep. This includes relationships.
"Brighton Beach" memoirs, playing through July 28 at CLC theatre in Brainerd, is a play of historical merit and themes that connect with a modern day audience. This is my second viewing of a Neil Simon play in less than a week. Simon does know how to create a captivating script. His characters are real, humorous, and deal with issues that are relevant through the ages. Director Patrick Spradlin did an excellent job of casting this show. I thought that Caleb Christiansen, who plays the lead character Eugene, and Jen Anderson, who plays his mother Kate, were outstanding.
In "The Sunshine Boys" by Neil Simon, the comedic team of Lewis and Clark were once the hit of Vaudeville, the times before radio and television, when people had to leave their houses to find entertainment. Comedy was quick, witty, and full of sight gags. The costumes alone caused a chuckle. So, what happened to the legendary Lewis & Clark? They split up after an appearance on the "Ed Sullivan Show", and haven't seen or spoken to each other in 11 years.
"Anytown" is a dance performance by the Shapiro & Smith Dance Company using the music of Bruce Springsteen and E Street Band members Patti Scialfa and Soozie Tyrell, playing now at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. It tells stories of American life, the working class, the hardships, the relationships, the emotions of a lifetime.
Roman Holiday, playing through August 19 at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, is a delightful stage production inspired by the 1953 movie starring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck. The creative greats at the Guthrie really know how to produce good, old-fashioned, visually stunning musical theatre with the help of author Paul Blake and the musical genius of Cole Porter. The set was gorgeous. The dancers were amazing. The stars were delightful, and the secondary characters brought pizzazz to the stage.
The mood of "Amen Corner" was established the moment we took our seats at the Wurtele Thrust Stage. We can see into the church, and the housing unit below. Someone is lying on the street. People walk by. Kids run, giggle and play. A man is pick-pocketing someone. Then, a cop appears. We feel like we're in a rough neighborhood. This is a glimpse of life in a city, in a place where everyone is doing what they can to survive. Some people turn to crime, to alcohol, and others to extreme religion.
"Grown-ups have lived their lives and made their wars. We kids didn't start these wars or make these messes. We deserve a chance to live our lives." This is a paraphrase from Anne's line in "The Diary of Anne Frank" at the Park Square Theatre in St. Paul. I attended this performance as a chaperone with about 200 eighth graders from Forestview Middle School. It was stunning. The cast of characters were exactly how I have pictured them through my readings, imagings, and visit to the Annex in Amsterdam.
"Pippi Longstocking" is a high-energy, rollicking good show. Katie Adducci, who plays Pippi, is so athletic. I chatted with a woman at intermission who has seen several productions of "Pippi". She thought Kate was one of the oldest girls to play Pippi. (She seemed youthful to me.) I said she looked like she's a good gymnast. The woman replied, "That's probably why they chose her." She's everywhere on stage. Big movements. Animated dancing. My heart rate went up from watching it!