2/08/2016

Underground Railways' "Convert": What's In a Name?

Adobuere Ebiama & Maurice Emmanuel Parent in "The Convert"
(photo: A. R. Sinclair Photography)

When a character is called“bafu” (“traitor”) in Underground Railway Theatre's production of The Convert by Obie Award-winning playwright Danai Gurira (In the Continuum), one doesn't need a translation (and none is given). The play was influenced by Shaw's Pygmalion, which is apparent in its content (its depiction of social stratification) and form (a welcome old-fashioned three-act work). It's the first part of a proposed cycle of plays about Zimbabwe. Gurira herself, though born in Iowa, grew up in Zimbabwe, just as her main character Jekesai (Adobuere Ebiama) does. Just how much Gurira identifies with her heroine's story is indicated by the fact that Jekesai is the playwright's middle name. It should be noted that there are scenes in the Shona language, untranslated. Not to worry, as the context makes everything reasonably clear. Gurira's themes have to do with humanity, especially the cultural structures that race, gender and religion impose upon a vanquished people, and how these affect concepts of ownership, cultural identity, right and wrong, even moral ideals. While the story she relates is specific to place and time, it's at heart a universal issue.

The play takes place in 1895 in Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia (now Harare, Zimbabwe), in which the young Shona woman Jekesai, escaping from an arranged marriage to a man with ten wives via her conversion to Christianity, is taken in by her aunt Mai Tamba (Liana Asim), housekeeper to the Christian missionary Chilford (Maurice Emmanuel Parent). Her story involves Chilford's long-ago schoolmate Chancellor (Equiano Mosieri) and Chancellor's well-assimilated fiancee Prudence (Nehassaiu deGannes), as well as Jekesai's Uncle (Paul S. Benford Bruce) and cousin Tamba (Ricardy Charles Fabre). Jekesai is given a new name, Ester, derived from the Old Testament character of Esther (who, as Ester is reminded by her cousin, declared “I will go to the king though it is against the law...and if I perish, I perish”, words that will eventually come to haunt Ester). But it's not just the name she is given that reinvents her; with this new name comes a lot of other baggage. As Director Megan Sandberg-Zakian notes in the program: “Rhodesia was founded, and ruled for nearly a century, as a colonial white settler state”, even instituting a “hut tax”, which essentially destroyed the country's economy based on livestock ownership and made the native population dependent on the victorious British. Gurira has stated that, when researching her country's history, she “really started to notice the question, who owns the history, whose version or interpretation gets voice?”. As Winston Churchill is reputed to have said, “history is written by the victors”.

The first inkling that all's not well assimilated is when Ester has to choose whether to honor a dead relative in the Shona traditional kurova guva, in which the dead are addressed and welcomed as ancestors. Chilford vehemently opposes this, as she is considered by him to be his first true protegee. There are further chinks in the armor, with references to cement floors being better than cow dung, some malapropisms in the conversion process (Mia Timba on two occasions prays “Hail Mary, full of ghosts”, or Chilford's repeated “goodness of gracious”), and some ominous portents, such as Ester's being scolded for correcting the local white priest. There are a number of subtle gestures, such as the wearing of shoes, or not, that convey the cultural clashes that are at war here. After some dramatic incidents, ultimately Ester rediscovers her birth name, determined to reinvent herself yet again, declaring that “Jekesai” means “to illuminate”. As Chilford had earlier told Ester: “In time you will learn whom your true family it is...God giveth us that right to pick our earthly family, as Jesus did with his disciples. I picked. That is how. Are you in understanding?” But her final choice is not what he anticipated, for it's central to this character's evolution that she continue to strive to effect change in the world.

Despite the length of the work (nearly three hours including two intermissions), it's a truly compelling story, largely due to the acting of the entire ensemble. Ebiama is impressively strong and Parent continues to display seemingly endless versatility. Mosieri, Asim, Bruce and Fabre are all completely believable. And deGannes is fascinating to watch with her exquisite attention to detail (such as her pointedly extended pinky at teatime). Despite some momentary melodramatic excesses, Sandberg-Zakian has fashioned a terrifically engrossing production. The creative team excels, from the Scenic Design by Jenna McFarland-Lord, the Lighting Design by Devorah Kengmana, Costume Design by Miranda Kau Giurleo and Sound Design by Nathan Leigh.

At the play's end, it may seem on the surface that there is no justice or even vengeance to be had. Yet one has the sense that these people will, as Sanberg-Zakian has written, “continue to live forward in profound faith, subversive dissent, righteous rage, and persistent hope”; as Gurira continues her cycle, one might be forgiven impatience to see how it all works out.

2/04/2016

Huntington's "Milk Like Sugar": Yo, PG Rated, Right?

Shazi Raja & Carolina Sanchez in "Milk Like Sugar"
(photo: T. Charles Erickson)

The current offering of Huntington Theatre Company is the 2011 play “Milk Like Sugar” by Kirsten Greenidge (Luck of the Irish), revised for this production and directed by Huntington Associate Producer M. Bevin O'Gara. The play's title is a bit heavily metaphorical, referring to the powdered milk offered to food stamp recipients, implying a nutrient-empty substitution. Wisely mounted in the small venue of the Roberts Studio (more like its off-Broadway version) in the Calderwood Pavilion, this is a tale of self-esteem, or the lack of it. The playwright once posed the question “where does knowledge come from?” to a variety of students, receiving radically varying answers. An under-served class responded: “from your teacher, from outside of you, so it depends on who your teacher is”. A middle class room of students answered: “from hard work”. A more privileged class pointedly offered: “from within you”. The protagonists of this play fit squarely (at least at first) into the peg of thinking esteem comes from external sources. On the surface this is a simple tale of a small group of teenaged girls and their initial promise to all become “PG” (pregnant) and their subsequent misconceptions.

Annie (Jasmine Carmichael), a sixteen year old high school sophomore, is in the process of choosing a tattoo, a birthday gift given her by her classmates Talisha (Shazi Raja) and Margie (Carolina Sanchez). All three are wrapped up with the notion of having a baby (versus actually having to raise one, not unlike being fascinated with planning a wedding as opposed to the reality of marriage, as O'Gara noted elsewhere). Annie tries to convince her astronomy-loving boyfriend Malik (Mark Pierre), his head in the stars, to conceive with her. Her born-again friend Keera (Shanae Burch) opposes it, as of course does her mother Myrna (Ramona Lisa Alexander), an aspiring writer. But tattoo artist Antwoine (Matthew J. Harris) is ever ready to assist. Annie has in mind a certain life style to which she aspires and “deserves”, echoing the mantra of modern media and culture that encourage us to believe we deserve things. She wants a baby because she wants her own family; in essence, she wants love. It's the shared desire for love that drives this story about young women and their choices, and how empowered they feel to make choices that they trust are right for them. They're considering what their options are in a manner that they haven't before. Based on a news story of a pregnancy pact in Gloucester, MA (which proved to have been a fabricated hoax), it's the sort of play that's easily described as, to coin a phrase, “ripped from the headlines”. Declaring that having a baby “isn't like real work”, they haven't a clue about what caring for it would entail.

What keeps this work from being overly metaphorical is the combination of wise playwriting, strong direction and a believable cast. One feels as though one is eavesdropping on real teenagers and their collective angst. Carmichael is superb and very natural, while Raja and Sanchez are excellent foils, with Alexander delivering a memorable turn in several chain-smoking scenes. But it's Burch who steals scenes she's in, with her complex character who's not all that she seems to be. The male characters are less developed (and Annie's father and brothers, though mentioned in passing, are never seen). The creative team work is excellent, consisting of colorful Scenic Design by Cristina Todesco, apt Costume Design by Junghyun Georgia Lee, and fine Lighting Design by Wen-Ling Liao and Sound Design by M. L. Dogg.

What the playwright has captured with her keen ear for street patois and the rhythms of teenage speech is an entirely credible portrayal of young people who can't foresee how they are choosing a nutrient-deprived “ticket” out of their environment. As is noted more than once by these trapped teens, “What else we got?”. Finding that answer may make Greenidge, a tremendously gifted talent, the future voice of her generation of theatregoers.

2/02/2016

New Rep's "Testament of Mary": Immaculate Conception?

Paula Langton in "The Testament of Mary"
(photo: Andrew Brilliant/Brilliant Pictures)

New Rep's current production is the controversial one-woman play “TheTestament of Mary”, by Colm Toibin, first performed in 2011 as a monologue, then the basis of his own 2012 novella. In this expanded version presented in 2013 on Broadway, it was nominated for a Tony Award for Best New Play. It remains a fictionalized account of the relationship of a woman named Mary to her deceased son Jesus, her love for him and her grieving after his death. The controversy surrounding the Broadway version centered on its all-too-human portrayal of a real person who was present at the inception of one of the world's great religions. True believers protested what they deemed to be blasphemous. Putting aside the misuse of the term, which when correctly used refers to sacrilege against God or sacred things, they seemed to be making the argument that any familiarization or humanization of Mary of Nazareth was inherently profane, despite the fact that, not coincidentally, they hadn't seen the show.

Since the playwright makes no claim to historical accuracy, this should lead one to an appreciation of the work as one of pure fabrication, the product of an author's imagination. Toibin himself acknowledges that he put aside not only the Gospels but all other potential sources (including oral tradition, which of course is itself notoriously subjective and factually undependable). He has attempted, he further states, to portray his view of “the tone and texture of this woman's voice on this particular day”. There are obvious pitfalls in so doing, when humanization supersedes dogma; the former is fluid and potentially theatrical, the latter rigid and immutable. The author's expressed intent was to “explore an icon rather than reducing” the woman at the center of the beginnings of Christianity.

As theater, then, rather than as doctrine, how effective is this portrayal? It certainly makes for a more approachable and demythologized depiction of a real person, who has been at times in the past  weighted down with the accumulated accretions of what has often been seen, especially by those not of any Christian faith system, as “Mariolatry”, that is, excessively ardent and even cult-like devotion to Mary. The nature and depth of such profound dedication is of course subjective. This production stars Paula Langton (no stranger to New Rep theatergoers, having appeared previously in the company's productions of Assassins, Bakersfield Mist, Amadeus, and On the Verge, and due to perform in its next mounting, Blackberry Winter). Langton, though encumbered by a cold, in a short ninety minutes, makes Mary real if not full of grace, in a bravura performance, Directed by Jim Petosa. She describes how two unidentified visitors (most likely the Evangelists St. Luke and undoubtedly St. John, based on the content of their Biblical attributions) arrived to question her, which forms the basis for her monologue. Perhaps the playwright oversteps a bit with his depiction of Mary as no longer attending services in the Synagogue, and of jarringly unorthodox (you should excuse the expression) dialogue (or prayer) with the goddess Artemis in the Roman Temple. And there are a few glaring anachronisms. On the whole, though, it works, as the author reveals quite a bit of empathy for Mary's expressed feeling of “heaviness”. On the creative end, the Scenic Design is by Ryan Bates (providing a truly weird entrance for Langton), the almost through-composed Music and Sound Design are by Dewey Dellay, the Costume Design is by Tyler Kinney and the effective Lighting Design is by Matthew Guminski.

At one point Mary confesses she wants “what happened not to have happened”. In the end, Mary and her visitors must face the question of whether or not the death was all worth it. Mary states that it was not. One thing for sure, though: the Book was better.

2/01/2016

Company One/ArtsEmerson's "Octoroon": The Definite Article

Bridgette Hayes, Elle Borders, Shawna M. James, Obehi Janice, Brandon Green & Brooks Reeves in "An Octoroon"

The play An Octoroon is the definite article, even with the slightly altered title from the play on which it's based, The Octoroon, the 1859 five-act melodrama by Irish playwright Dionysius (also known as Dion) Boucicault. This revision is currently being performed as a co-production by ArtsEmerson and Company One Theatre at the Paramount Center black box theater. Revised by Playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, author of Appropriate, it shared the 2014 Obie for Best New Play. The original Boucicault work was an antebellum melodrama second only to Uncle Tom's Cabin in popularity. It remains to be seen whether this version will find similar acceptance. Whatever its reception, it must be said that it is the definite article, a melodrama, with all that this classification entails.

In the playbill for this production, the question is asked, “why melodrama?”. The proposed answer to this query is that perhaps this is the only theatrical form that can hold the emotions so deeply felt in our country at present. The danger of utilizing this type of theater, with its absurd heightened reality, broad brush and intentionally exaggerated acting, is that a form that is already a parody to modern eyes doesn't lend itself easily to further satire. Thus we have a nearly three-hour marathon that, despite a few brilliant sparks, becomes more like camp, which can really be excruciatingly boring, rather like a vastly over-extended SNL skit.

Boucicault adapted his play from the novel The Quadroon, stirring up debates between pro-slavers and abolitionists, as well as controversy as to whether theater ought to have any role regarding politics. The earth is not so pretty at Plantation Terrebonne in Louisiana, even though a branch of the Mississippi still runs right through the estate. George (Brandon Green), heir to what he calls the “ruins of Terrebonne” left after his late uncle lost ownership of the estate, exclaims about the threat made by the evil overseer of the property, Jacob M'Closky (also played by Green) to sell off the estate and auction the slaves. Soon he meets and falls in love with the slave Zoe (Shawna Michelle James), who reminds him they cannot marry legally as she is an octoroon, that is, one-eighth black. Other characters include a Whanotee Indian chief (Brooks Reeves), the slave auctioneer LaFouche (also played by Reeves), The Playwright (Reeves again), and the slaves Minnie (Elle Borders) and Dido (Obehi Janice). Also in the cast are a mute Br'Er Rabbit (Kadahj Bennett, who also plays Ratts), Pete (Harsh Gagoomal, who also plays Paul), Dora (Bridgette Hayes), and Grace (Amelia Lumpkin). It may be of interest that none of the five women double in roles, but all four of the men do; seems it was then even more a man's world than it is now.

There are moments of insight, with reference in this land of cotton, to the impossibility of racial intermarriage (not legal countrywide until 1967). Late in the show, there is a brief but effective (though entirely predictable) video presentation. As helmed here by Director Summer L. Williams, most of the cast falls into the trap of lack of any restraint. While melodrama is hardly known for its subtlety, it can still be overdone. And the excessive frequency of f-bombs and the n-word are both offensive in different ways, the former losing its impact with such overuse, the latter at first shocking but soon apparent that it was just universally used. The creative team efforts include Scenic Design by Justin and Christopher Swader, Costume Design by Amanda Mujica, Lighting Design by Christopher Brusberg, Sound Design by David Wilson, and Vocal/Dialect Coaching by Karen Kopryanski.

Jacobs-Jenkins has stated that, in the past, melodramas gave audiences a sense of seeing something new and novel, but that today the theater is no longer a place of novelty. This is debatable, and, at least in this production, remains an open question.

1/31/2016

Fathom Events' Met Opera's "Turandot": Ice Aged

The Metroplitan Opera's "Turandot"
(photo: Met Opera)

When opera goes grand, it can be almost overwhelmingly so. In the current Metropolitan Opera production of Puccini's Turandot, this is made abundantly clear in its spectacularly ornate Set Design by Franco Zeffirelli. Along with the sumptuous Costume Design by Anna Anni and Dada Saligeri, as well as the literally brilliant Lighting Design by Gil Wechsler, it commands our attention from the moment the curtain is first raised. Ironically, the lasting impact of the work depends on how effective it is on a human scale, where a once triumphant regal, even icy, princess melts at the discovery of true love. It's a challenging demand on singers who must convey natural emotions on a supernatural canvas. Add to this the fact that the title character first appears remote and unreachable, but must ultimately reveal a touching vulnerability. All this must take place convincingly despite the ying-yang of a complex setting and a rather simple story.

In ancient China, Princess Turandot (soprano Nina Stemme) has decreed that anyone wishing to marry her must try to answer three riddles; failure will result in death. When this edict is announced to the crowds, among them are the slave Liu (soprano Anita Hartig), her blind elderly master, and Calaf (tenor Marco Berti), who recognizes the aged master as his long-lost father, Timur (bass-baritone Alexander Tsymbalyuk), defeated King of Tartary. They all watch as the latest attempted suitor, the Prince of Persia, is sent to his death by the icy princess. Awed by her beauty, Calaf strikes the gong that announces his intention to guess the answers to the three riddles, though even Turandot's three ministers, Ping (baritone Dwayne Croft), Pang (tenor Tony Stevenson) and Pong (tenor Eduardo Valdes), try to discourage him. Calaf persists, however, and correctly guesses the answers. Yet he gives Turandot a chance for a reprieve, if she is able to name him by dawn's arrival, which would send him to his death. Liu, who has always loved Calaf, refuses under torture to reveal his name, and stabs herself to death rather than do so. When they are left alone, the Princess suddenly knows love when Calaf kisses her. He reveals his name, and Turandot then proclaims she now can announce his true name, which is Love.

In this HD broadcast performance, Stemme was stupendous, icy when needed and warm at last, her singing of her aria “in questa reggia“ about the violation of her female ancestor a highpoint. While Berti may have lacked full emotional impact in the famous “nessun dorma” his signing was also exemplary. The heartfelt role of Liu, with Hartig portraying a noble sacrifice with careful attention to the composer's lush score, was lovely. Tsymbalyuk was yet another plus, as were the trio of Croft, Stevenson and Valdes. Once again the Metropolitan Opera Chorus shone under the careful direction of Chorusmaster Donald Palumbo. Conductor Paolo Carignani did justice to the lovely music, perhaps Puccini at his most effective. The capable Live in HD Director Barbara Willis Sweete made things run smoothly, as did Live in HD Host Renee Fleming.

It was a wonderfully balanced performance all around, making for a particularly memorable addition to the current season. When it works, as it certainly did here, it can be difficult to single out what made it so special, which can sometimes be an intangible mystery...and you only get three guesses.

The broadcast of "Turandot" will be repeated this Wednesday February 3rd at a theater near you.

1/29/2016

PPAC's "Cabaret": Don't Tell Mama, Come Join the Band

Andrea Goss as Sally Bowles, Randy Harrison as the Emcee and the 2016 National Touring Cast of Roundabout Theatre Company's "CABARET"
(photo: Joan Marcus)

Life is a Cabaret, old chum”, at least at the Providence Performing Arts Center, where the National Tour of Cabaret kicks off its countrywide schedule. This production evolved from the most recent very successful Broadway revival of the Kander and Ebb musical. The original show tried out in Boston in October 1966, opening in New York the following month. John Kander wrote the Music, Fred Ebb wrote the Lyrics, and Joe Masteroff wrote the Book. Kander and Ebb had previously partnered on their first musical, which also tried out in Boston, Flora the Red Menace, which introduced Liza Minelli. While Flora didn't blossom long, the first run of Cabaret surely did, for three years, with several revivals since. At the start of its original tryout in Boston, the musical had three acts, but was soon trimmed to two before it left the Shubert Theater, a wise move since the show ended up being a taut, unforgettably effective recreation of its time and place. This revival by Roundabout Theatre, which ran for six years, is a revelation. You haven't seen a production of Cabaret at its most powerful until you see this one.

The first act, as anyone familiar with the original production or the subsequent film version will recall, tells the story of Sally Bowles (Andrea Goss) meeting Clifford Bradshaw (Lee Aaron Rosen) at the Kit Kat Klub as she sings “Don't Tell Mama”. It is Germany just as the Nazis are rising to power. Based on the novel Goodbye to Berlin by Christopher Isherwood, in turn based on John Van Druten's play I Am a Camera, it takes place in the raunchy Berlin night club with a bizarre Emcee (Randy Harrison). Bradshaw, an American writer, also meets Ernst Ludwig (Ned Noyes) who offers him work and suggests he room in a boardinghouse run by Fraulein Schneider (Shannon Cochran). Later Sally arrives on Cliff's doorstep, having been thrown out of her apartment. The first act ends with a song that becomes a march with some sinister overtones, “Tomorrow Belongs to Me”. In the second act, Sally and Cliff have fallen in love, and she confesses she's pregnant. Meanwhile, Fraulein Schneider catches her boarder Fraulein Kost (Alison Ewing) with her turnstyle of admirers, but Kost reminds her she's had her own dalliance with her Jewish suitor Herr Schultz (Mark Nelson). Cliff decides to leave Berlin, but Sally chooses to stay behind for what she sees as a life of freedom, unaware of the imminent descent of the Nazi stormtroopers. As he leaves on the train, Cliff begins to write of his experiences at “the end of the world”.

One of the delights of this stage version is the reinstatement of the romantic relationship between the landlady Fraulein Schneider and her lovely songs with Herr Schultz, “It Couldn't Please Me More (Pineapple)” and “Married”, both entirely cut from the movie. Cochran and Nelson are wonderful together, and her final number, “What Would You Do?”, has never seemed so moving. As she admits, “I regret...everything”. Another aspect that was, for all intents and purposes, lost in the film version is the ever-increasing menace of the rise of the Nazi party. With this aspect restored, on both emotional and political levels, it's a much more involving experience. This makes the ultimate fate of the relationships all the more telling and poignant. There is heart to be treasured, but fleeting and doomed in the path of the politics of the era. There is also a new song written for the Broadway revival, “I Don't Care Much”, which captures the attitude of those most oblivious to reality.

In this touring version, the company has a very believable Sally and Cliff in the persons of Goss and Rosen, both of whom sing exceptionally well and have real chemistry together. Goss is especially devastating in her rendering of the title song, at one and the same time ferocious and vulnerable. Noyes and Ewing are also strong in their pivotal roles hinting at how easy it was to go along to get along. But any production of this show rises or falls on the performance of its Emcee, and Harrison is a mesmerizing triple threat, his acting fierce, his movement sinuous, his singing stunning as he hovers almost non-stop over the proceedings. One is totally blown away by the visual ending (not to be revealed here) which is unexpectedly yet logically both overwhelmingly theatrical and shattering.

The success of this brilliant rethinking of the show is in large part due to the genius of the revival's creative team headed by its original Director Sam Mendes and Co-Director and Choreographer Rob Marshall. The touring company is helmed by Director BT McNicholl with Choreography recreated by Cynthia Onrubia. The unit set by Robert Brill is versatile (most effective in the night club scenes), the Costume Design by William Ivey Long is perfect, and the Lighting Design by Peggy Eisenhauer and Mike Baldassari, as well as the Sound Design by Keith Caggiano are fabulous. Even the entr'acte has been re-imagined with a terrific turn by the onstage orchestra with an accompanying kick line by the Kit Kat Klub Kittens.

Until the clouds of storm troopers gather, there's a great deal of divine decadence on display, notably those ripped abs and glamorous gams. It's racy, raunchy, raucous and risque. It's also a whole lot of fun. Go, but, as those Kittens warn, “Don't Tell Mama”.

1/25/2016

ART's "Nice Fish": Prose with No Cons

Jim Lichtscheidl, Kayli Carter, Mark Rylance & Louis Jenkins in "Nice Fish"
(photo: Evgenia Eliseeva)

A work of ART can be a prose poem, as illustrated by their current production, “Nice Fish”, a collaborative work of Louis Jenkins (whose conversational poems are acted out) and actor Mark Rylance (who twice delivered them in Tony-winning acceptance speeches). Imbedded in prose form, Jenkins' writings are hardly prosaic, though they could easily be unrecognized as craft. They splendidly capture the dialogue of Minnesotans, whose isolation in a cold climate often gets expressed in non sequiturs. The play is compiled from more than five hundred poems rather like a jigsaw puzzle. As a prose poem is not really a poem, at least in form if not in content, so this production at first doesn't appear to be a play. On the surface, two men meet once every year on the last day of ice fishing season, searching for something deep enough to swallow them, a bit on the edge, in vast inward and outward space, imagining something swimming just beneath the surface. As the fourth wall thaws, so does the frigidity of normally accepted speech, with its inflexibility and unequivocal definitiveness, as described by Flo (the kooky Kayli Carter) the sole female in the cast, which includes three ice fisherman, Ron (the remarkable Rylance), Wayne (the witty Jenkins) and Erik (the comically laconic Jim Lichtscheidl), and an unnamed Natural Resources rep (the hysterical Bob Davis), all voicing, individually and collectively, Jenkins' views of “neighboring” one another, ultimately creating a sort of dynamic solidarity.

While creating poetry is solitary, a surreal play like this is much more of a communal effort, like a quilt stitched together from treasured remnants. This is exemplified by a cast whose take on Midwestern deadpan dialect is flawless, under Claire van Kampen's well-timed direction, her own music compositions like the sound traveling across a frozen lake. Then there are the creatively crazy settings by Todd Rosenthal, gloriously goofy costuming by Ilona Somogyi, illuminatingly lively lighting by Japhy Weideman and resoundingly ominous creaking and groaning sound by Scott W. Edwards, all coming together into an eventually coherent, terrifically entertaining whole that in the end requires the final crucial collaboration with an audience. As Rylance states in the program, an effort such as this lives or dies in the imagination and senses of the audience; thus in this free form poem, you are expected to take active part in this experience to enjoy fully this wonderfully imaginative work.

Even before the play begins, it is announced that “what happens in Minnesota leaves Minnesota” and we are urged to “kindly rely on the strangeness of others”. As the work closes, we will have been treated to polkas, dry and wry Pinteresque pauses, blackouts and vignettes. It's theater of the absurdly hilarious (e.g. “the road never snowplowed”) as the characters ice fish and hunt on a lake full of ingenious streams of unconsciousness. It becomes self-referential as the play features verbal signposts throughout, though “there is no message”, and a prospective audience member is depicted decrying that “”there's no plot” or “I didn't get it”. As one character puts it, there's gravity and then there's seriousness. This is, in the end, (and what an imaginatively ending it has!) just over ninety minutes of wild and wondrous language. There is but one logical sequela: do go down that rabbit hole; it's a wintery wonderland. See it!