Saturday, March 4, 2017

King Lear

Madness. Power. Jealousy. Love. Betrayal. Greed. Violence. Shakespeare's King Lear delivers the best and worst of human nature in a little less than three hours. The Guthrie's current production showcases the quick and dangerous tumble in store for those that rely on the gossip of the greedy, and how tragic a fall awaits those who mistake flattery for love. 

Lear is a shared role between  Stephen Yoakam and Nathaniel Fuller, with the skilled Guthrie veterans tackling the role on alternate performances.  I had the pleasure of attending the show when Yoakam manned the king's descent into madness and he delivered an expert turn of what has always seemed to me to be one of Shakespeare's trickier roles. It's difficult to make that tenuous line of perpetrator/victim credible.  Lear roams the stage in the early scenes as a villain, proud and powerful. Yoakam handles his descent into infirmity and heartbreak with care, allowing the audience the opportunity to recognize the ease with which we all may walk that line under the right circumstances.

Orchestrating that fall are the jealousies of Goneril and Regan, Lear's two eldest daughters played deftly by Kate Nowlin and Sun Mee Chomet.  Wielding their own weapons, sensual and literal, each fights for power with a viciousness and intellect matching the greediest of men onstage. These are not sympathetic characters, but there's a great truth there.  The potential for power is equal for men and women in Lear; the pursuit differs, but the calculation and passion behind that pursuit is well-matched. Nowlin especially paces the stage vibrating with barely controlled rage, and her scheming pulses with a sensual heat. These women will use every tool in their arsenal to claim the power they seek.

Surrounding this truly dysfunctional family is a tribe of genuine supporters and calculating manipulators. Jason Rojas and Thomas Brazzle play their roles of Edgar and Edmund, respectively, as perfect foils. Brazzle oozes bitterness and his snark provides some of the quickest laughs of the show. We all recognize that bitterness and Brazzle brings it home with ease. His conniving plots are tragically matched in naive earnestness by Rojas's Edgar, who descends (literally) into madness before emerging as his father's and Lear's attempted savior. Lear is a tragedy that works because it highlights the goodness surrounding the evil. We're always saddest to see the potential for rescue even as we witness our protagonist fail to recognize the need of that rescue.

For all my love for this production of Lear, I would also like to comment that the poster/artwork reminds me of Beeker from the Muppets.  So I'll end this post with that levity:
Related image

 Catch King Lear on the Wurtele Thrust through April 2nd. Get your tickets here.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Promise Land

Transatlantic Love Affair is a theater company with physicality at its core. The ensemble creates not only the connection between characters, but the set itself, with hinged elbows, squeaky-wheel voices, and expertly choreographed shapes. In Promise Land, those shapes lend themselves to an impoverished homeland, an ocean liner (complete with steerage and first class), a boardinghouse, and a factory full of flame and danger.

Without a scrap of set, the ensemble builds the world that brought millions to America's shores. And given today's political climate, that story feels all the more visceral. The hope in young voices is almost a burden to hear, knowing the risks and wounds that surely lay ahead. And as we watch the dangers unfurl and the promise of America dim with the slap of reality, it's easy to wonder how closely the story onstage mirrors the stories playing out among those who make their way to the America of possibility.

Promise carries the story, all quick 75 minutes of it, and while we witness optimism's steady unraveling, we're not left in that pit. There's survival built into this promise, and a strength that seems otherworldly. Our hero and heroine emerge from the ashes with hope and possibility still firmly in their sights and that's a message we can all use these days.

Promise Land closes its run at the Guthrie on Feb 12th.  Tickets are no longer available for online purchase due to the popularity of the show but give the box office a call to check for last minute seats!

Saturday, January 14, 2017

King's Wine Bar

I admit, I've been avoiding King's Wine Bar, nestled on that delicious corner of 46th and Grand, since the ownership change and transition to a Pan-Asian menu. I loved my dear old King's and those masterful gruyere tots. 

But it was -3 last night and that bright neon sign signaling "Pho" finally made me bite the bullet and I'm SO GLAD I DID. 

The wine list is still fantastic and the list of local beers is great to see. According to the chalkboard above the still cozy, still intimate bar, a list of Trivia Mafia dates and 1/2 price wine Wednesdays make it clear this place is keeping some of the best attributes of the former haunt while they completely retool the concept.

We snacked on the spicy garlic edamame while we sipped our reds (Borsao for me). I had the Pho (I chose Korean but you can choose a host of proteins) and it was a warm, delicious, umami-packed hug on a cold night. My companion had the Korean rice bowl, piled high with delicious kimchi. We both had ample leftovers and I'm not sad about my leftover Pho lunch plans.

So if you've been like me and been wary of that neon Pho sign gracing the window of a former favorite, please do give King's a new whirl!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

I will admit to being skeptical about this play. I loved the book and it was difficult for me to imagine a play doing the unique cadence of the book justice.  I'm happy to report I may actually like the play better than the book, a curious thing indeed!

Crafting a story around a central character who engages with the world from somewhere on the autism spectrum is challenging.  It's a delicate balance between exploiting stereotypes and investing in an often misunderstood perspective. Christopher, played beautifully by Adam Langdon on the night I attended (played by Benjamin Wheelwright for alternate showtimes), is immediately recognizable as That Kid from anyone's childhood: brilliant, impossible, socially struggling. Langdon perfectly captures the physicality of Christopher's world, aided throughout by expert lighting and sound that drive home the intensity of even the smallest action when one lives life as hyper alert, hyper aware, hyper sensitive.

The play begins with Christopher's discovery of the murdered dog of a neighbor, inspiring an obsessive desire to solve the heinous crime. What begins as one specific mystery leads quickly to bigger, darker mysteries surrounding Christopher's home life and each unraveling sends Christopher spinning.  While Christopher is certainly the driver of the story, he is anchored onstage by expert turns from Maria Elena Ramirez, playing Siobhan, a loving, dedicated teacher, and Gene Gillette, playing Christopher's father, Ed. The people who love Christopher circle him, sometimes from a safe distance, and attempt to help him make sense of an often nonsensical environment.

There is no perfect resolution to this story. For that reason, it seems to beat with a real, bloody heartbeat. It's noisy, funny, heartbreaking, overwhelming, bright, and in the end, beautiful. In other words, well worth a trip to the Orpheum.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is playing now through December 4th.  You can purchase tickets online at the Hennepin Theatre Trust and don't forget the rush seats available for students and teachers!

Follow me on Twitter @TheMinneapolite

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Upton 43

Upton 43 probably doesn't qualify as a new spot anymore. But this blog is frequently evidence that getting to each and every "new" spot is a long term endeavor. 

I went to Upton 43, nestled in the beautiful Linden Hills neighborhood (yup, rough parking situation), for brunch. I'm a sucker for aesthetics and Upton 43 gets everything right on that point. Lots of natural light, muted whites, and gorgeous  stone settings. The silverware setting got its own photo. 

We ordered the fried Gouda to start, served with lingonberry and perfectly charred onion. It was so delicious I attempted some charred onions of my own that night. Imitation is the purest form of flattery, right? 

My main course was the open face salmon sandwich (not gonna try to spell the word). The combination of radish and dill will never get old for me, and paired with the perfect slather of butter on dark, toasted bread was just wonderful. I could eat that particular meal for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, happily. 

Our server was attentive and helpful, answering our questions about quirky (to us) words on the menu and sharing our love for the Bootstrap coffee they serve. I always pay special attention to how servers treat people who are waiting for a companion. I got to the restaurant a touch early so I sat at the table solo for a fair amount of time. It's easy to feel like a burden at that point, but our server was warm and welcoming and refilled my coffee cheerily. 

The clean, simple prettiness of the space echoed through the food and service. It was a truly lovely meal that I'll be happy to repeat soon. 

Saturday, May 7, 2016

The Shining

I am not a scary movie person. I don't enjoy being scared, and as a single (grown up) lady I do not like checking my closet for murderers before bed.

That said, sometimes I can muster courage for the sake of a world premier opera. Such was the case for The Shining, which I was privileged to experience on their Social Media Preview night. 

Before I started attending Minnesota Opera productions I had a very specific impression of opera. It was exaggerated, surface-driven spectacle, leaving little room for the acting craft. But many productions by Minnesota Opera have forced me to reevaluate that impression and The Shining is a shining (ha!) example of that education in the acting artistry opera provides.

I don't think I'm giving much away when I say this is a story about madness. A descent into violent madness, on the one hand, and also a shimmering picture of a more benevolent quirk of the psyche that brings us, "the shining." And because both brands of madness can produce goosebumps, the story lends itself to truly creepy imagery.

The production embraces the power of Jack's hallucinations and brings them fully to life, gifting the audience with multiple skin-crawly moments. The chorus of ghosts tends to be jovial, even providing some costume-inspired laughs, and the torment they bestow on Jack, Wendy, and Doc strengthens quickly.
Jack's final blow and the resulting denouement tie a bow on the creepiness in under 2.5 hours, quick by operatic standards. 

Sadly (but happily for this production), The Shining has no remaining seats. You may still be able to purchase standing only tickets and given the shorter duration of this show, I'd say it's worth breaking out your comfiest shoes. 

Tuesday, May 3, 2016


We've had dinner on the books for a while but only decided on Heirloom in the last few days. I'm so grateful we settled on this spot, not only because it's a small hop from my house in South Mpls, but because I needed a bit of delicious simplicity today.

A glass of rosé ( I only remember that it's from the Canary Islands) paired nicely with my plate of Interesting Vegetables. A silly name? Nope, just very simply true. Perfectly cooked, delicious, earthy, and delicate.

I chose the freshwater fish (trout today) as my main event and I could have happily eaten a bowl of that crisped skin. But it was the pungent mushroom broth that I literally slurped up (with a spoon, because I'm not totally without class). 

I loved the simple, unadorned names for the dishes. Roasted Chicken, Interesting Vegetables, Freshwater Fish, Pork
Jowl, Brisket, Chocolate Cake. Each dish was clear on who was the star, but each provided subtle supporting roles to highlight the main event.

I left satisfied but not overstuffed, the portions are reasonable and kind to a waistline. So there's plenty of room for dessert. 

Really happy to add this spot to my list of not-far-from-home gems.