Posted at 9:19 AM on December 20, 2010
by Marianne Combs
Filed under: News and reviews
It's the Monday before Christmas, and all through the news, barely a story is stirring, except these reviews...
Good reasons 'Christmas with Cantus' is a hot ticket
So you think you're having a busy Christmas season? It could be worse. You could be one of the members of Cantus, the nine-man Minneapolis-based vocal ensemble. By the end of this Wednesday evening, the group will have delivered nine performances in seven days. Six of them were presentations of their theatrical collaboration with Theater Latte Da, "All Is Calm." But the tougher ticket to secure is to one of the annual "Christmas with Cantus" concerts.
- Rob Hubbard, Pioneer Press
Soul Asylum at First AvenueIt felt like the early '90s at First Avenue again, as a packed crowd awaited the highly anticipated first show by Soul Asylum at the venue since last December.
- Cyn Collins
Heart at Mystic Lake Casino
The power balladeers of my childhood, hard rock queens of my mother's adolescence, Heart weren't just role models for generations of young American women - they helped define for me and likely for many others the role of sexual politics in our culture.
- Nikki Miller, City Pages
'Billy Elliot' dances into the Cities
The mega-musical Broadway tour show about a British boy who dreams of a life in dance soars, for the most part. But something is missing.
- Rohan Preston, Star Tribune
Julia Carlis buzzes in on 'Jeopardy!'
The Twin-Cities area designer and Theatre Pro Rata company member will attempt to become a star of afternoon TV this week when she steps onto the stage of Jeopardy!
- Ed Huyck
Robert Hedin is the author, translator, and editor of nearly two dozen books of prose and poetry. He is the recipient of numerous honors and awards for his work, including three NEA fellowships, two Minnesota Book Awards, and Bush, McKnight, and Minnesota State Arts Boards fellowships. Forthcoming books in 2011 include Poems Prose Poems and The Lure-Maker from Posio: Selected Prose Poems of Dag T. Straumsvag (co-translated with Louis Jenkins). Robert Hedin is co-founder and current director of the Anderson Center, an artist retreat center, in Red Wing.
The following poem is part of a new collection titled Low Down and Coming On: A Feast of Delicious and Dangerous Poems About Pigs. Edited by James Lenfestey, the concept for the collection came from the late poet Bill Holm.
The last time any of us saw Gustafson's prize sow
She was rising over the floodlights
Of the poultry barns, pedaling off into a sky
Dark with wreckage.
If ever a sow was beautiful
It was she - 1200 pounds of blue-ribbon pork
Rooted down deep on her wallow, her whole body
Lit with gold chaff.
By morning she was famous.
And when we found Gustafson, he was rocking
In the middle of his pigsty,
Staring west toward the county line.
And all we could hear was the rain
And its thin ticking against the leaves,
The empty swill pail still vibrating in his hands.
- "Tornado" by Robert Hedin, as it appears in the collection Low Down and Coming On: A Feast of Delicious and Dangerous Poems about Pigs edited by James Lenfestey, published by Red Dragonfly Press. Reprinted here with permission from the publisher.
"Two Pianos, Four Hands" runs through January 2 at Park Square Theatre in downtown St. Paul. Thinking about getting tickets? Then you'll want to check out these reviews:
One of the clichés of the modern world is "Failure is not an option." It's repeated in bad action movies, on endless sports broadcasts, and by politicos the world over. It seems that either you "win" or get destroyed in modern-day gladiatorial combat.
Of course, failure is more than an option--it's a reality for everyone, and often it can cause a sudden interruption of our dreams.
That theme runs beneath the surface of 2 Pianos 4 Hands, which sets out mainly to be a delightful romp through the young lives of the musically obsessed but turns into something deeper by play's end. At Park Square Theatre, a pair of terrific players take on the roles of dueling piano-playing friends who offer up great playing set pieces and dig deep into the show's considerable heart.
The play is not easily cast. It requires two mercurial pianist-actors who can not only handle Mozart, Schubert, Chopin and Billy Joel but can also conjure some 20 different characters: wounded teachers (with a host of accents), conflicted parents and other authority figures (though, curiously, no therapist). Both Peter Vitale (Richard) and Michael Pearce Donley (Ted) are extraordinary, convincingly impersonating a petrified schoolboy one moment, a doddering pedagogue the next. Very different musicians, they play well together without sounding like slumming virtuosos.
The play's slapstick opening, suggestive of Victor Borge on a bad night, seems to me a miscalculation. But thereafter Frey and his actors find a plausible balance between farce and ache. "2 Pianos 4 Hands" doesn't always take the time to plumb the depths latent in its materials; its pace can seem a bit manic. But the concluding performance of Bach's D-minor keyboard concerto -- the music that has framed the action, played, finally, for the sheer hell of it -- feels unexpectedly redemptive. Music has triumphed over its worldly entanglements; stage fright has given way to joy.
Peter Vitale (Richard) and Michael Pearce Donley (Ted) convey plenty of humor in Park Square Theatre's production as the boys make contorted, mocking faces and balk against their music teachers and parents. The two performers switch roles from music teacher to pupil and back again as adroitly as they trade pieces on the piano.
One jumps in where the other left off. They also simultaneously play dueling parts, facing each other from opposing pianos -- and take on Bach, Mozart and Billy Joel with as much determination as they take on each other.
The two grand pianos that are the primary props almost become living entities as the pianists pour their emotions into the keys, caressing them seductively or pounding them with fury.
Director Tom Frey displays a sure hand with both the comic elements and the poignancy of the material, keeping things from getting too maudlin or depressing. This is not an earthshaking drama but a small show with familiar charm.
Have you seen "Two Pianos, Four Hands?" If so, give us your review in the comments section.