Posted at 8:52 AM on April 5, 2011
by Marianne Combs
Filed under: News and reviews
John Waters to flood the Walker this summer
This summer, gleefully trashy filmmaker, author, and auteur John Waters (Hairspray, Pecker, Pink Flamingos), will try his hand at curating at the Walker Art Center.
- Jessica Armbruster, Citypages
Death and the artist: Angela Strassheim and funerary statues at the MIA
There is a lot of death at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts just now, and it is glorious.
- Max Sparber, MinnPost.com
Want someone to walk all over your words?
Poets who would like to see their words immortalized on a St. Paul sidewalk can get help from award-winning poet John Minczeski at two workshops.
- Mary Ann Grossman
Trylon Premiere Tuesdays: The Strange Case of Angelica
Watching The Strange Case of Angelica (O Estranho Caso de Angélica), the ninth project in five years from the remarkably prolific Portuguese filmmaker, Manoel de Oliveira, it's difficult not to read the narrative as a personal reflection of mortal liberation.
- Brad Richason, Examiner.com
Rogue Valley, the 4onthefloor, Birthday Suits round out a jam-packed weekend of music
April has historically been a busy time for touring bands stopping by the Twin Cities -- and if this weekend's overflowing concert calendar was any indication, we're in for a downright hectic spring.
- Andrea Swensson, City Pages
JoAnna James on LA: 'A good place to go to get your ass kicked'
From Saint Paul, Joanna first started getting people's attention in these parts in 2004 with her first self-titled release of original material and as a staple on local stages with performances that begged the question, "Why isn't this girl huge?"
- Danny Sigelman, City Pages
Animalistic lineup at zoo
More reunions from the Go-Go's and Boyz II Men and lots of interesting double-headers round out the 2011 concert schedule.
- Chris Riemenschneider, Star Tribune
Retro, rock, folk and faves It's all happening at the Zoo
From retro favorites (the Go-Go's, George Thorogood) to current hitmakers (Brandi Carlile, Sara Bareilles), the Minnesota Zoo's Music in the Zoo series offers nearly 30 reasons to see a summer show under the stars.
- Ross Raihala, Pioneer Press
J Mascis and Kurt Vile and the Violators at the Entry, 4/2/11
Two guitar virtuosos descended upon the sold-out 7th Street Entry on Saturday night, as both J Mascis and Kurt Vile delivered stirring, stunning sets in front of an enraptured overflow crowd.
- Erik Thompson, City Pages
Robbie Robertson waltzes once more
The Rock Hall of Famer approached his most personal album like a movie, with Eric Clapton leading an all-star cast.
- Jon Bream, Star Tribune
Tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano and his group Us Five
The group opened a two-night stand Monday at the Dakota and showed why they are one of the most highly regarded units in jazz.
- Dan Emerson, Pioneer Press
Off! at Triple Rock Social Club, 4/3/11
Considering the pedigree of the band, this show should have been different, better.
- Pat O'Brien, City Pages
Black Joe Lewis breaks it down at Cedar
Texas' hottest new hot-shot boogie king Black Joe Lewis did not shy away from greatness Sunday night at the Cedar Cultural Center.
- Chris Riemenschneider, Star Tribune
Toro Y Moi and Braids at the Entry, 04/03/11
The 7th St. Entry was again filled to capacity on Sunday night, as the appeal of a double-bill featuring Toro Y Moi and Braids proved to be too much to resist for Twin Cities music fans, even on a dreary Sunday night.
- Erik Thompson, City Pages
Gucci Mane and Waka Flocka Flame at Epic 4/3/11
For most people Sunday evenings tend to be a quiet night to relax but by the looks of 5th Street and 2nd Avenue outside Epic late last night, you'd never know it.
- Jen Boyles, City Pages
Gremlin Theatre copes with LRT construction
What's a theater to do when driving on its street is "just a joke"?
- Sheila Regan, TC Daily Planet
'Mockingbird' still essential
Park Square's production underscores the important place Harper Lee's story occupies in American literature.
- Lisa Brock, Star Tribune
At Park Square, "Naked Darrow" gets inside the legendary lawyer
In the 1920s and 30s, the historic attorney was America's most controversial love-hate figure. He took on racism, social injustice, the death penalty--cases other lawyers wouldn't touch--and was a labor lawyer for 17 years.
- Dwight Hobbes, TC Daily Planet
Theatre in the Round's "Hamlet" is one for the ages
If you're going to see any Hamlet, you should see this one at TRP.
- Matthew A. Everett, TC Daily Planet
Mo Perry as Sonya and Craig Johnson as Uncle Vanya in the Anton Chekhov classic.
Gremlin Theatre presents Anton Chekhov's "Uncle Vanya" through April 23. What follows are excerpts from reviews about town - click on the links to read them in their entirety.
...Centered on a modest family estate in rural Russia during the waning summer days of 1899, Uncle Vanya brings together an assortment of characters straining under repressed resentments, impossible desires, and bitter class conflicts. Until that summer the management of the estate had fallen to Uncle Vanya and his unmarried niece, Sonya. Through years of monotonous toil, Vanya and Sonya maintained the estate while sacrificing the meager profits to support Sonya's father, Alexander Serebryakov, a retired university professor living in the city with his much younger second wife, Elena. Even with few creature comforts, Vanya and Sonya seldom questioned their duties until their routine is interrupted by the arrival of Alexander and Elena, come to the country in hopes of curing Alexander's failing health. The tensions aroused by the couple's presence, further exasperated by the attentions of the local doctor, threaten to render the carefully calibrated lives into complete disarray.
In terms of storyline, Uncle Vanya resembles a uniquely pastoral soap opera, filled with familial rancor and hidden romantic longings, but bereft of any glamorous seductions. A more profound distinction can be found in Chekhov's complex characters and charged dialogue, each interaction drawing out the fraught dynamics of this fragile family. Director Janice Stone puts the figures into motion with a consistent pace that admittedly does accumulate some languidness as the work moves into its second half. Thankfully the cast pick up the slack with performances that reverberate with emotional nuance.
Craig Johnson is remarkable as the central figure, charismatically expressing Vanya's disillusion through sarcastic swipes at everything in his path. Voicing his dialogue with informal naturalism, Johnson is utterly compelling in the role, especially as Vanya reveals more of his tortured soul. By the play's confessional resolution, Johnson has done nothing short of exposing the exacting pain of a life examined too late for change.
Insightfully perceptive and emotionally involving, Gremlin Theatre's production of Uncle Vanya should be required viewing for anyone inclined to shrug off Chekhov as a dramatic chore. Though the work eschews romantic notions, the sincerity of unvarnished emotion only proves the more poignant.
If warm weekend breezes tempted you to loll idly in the sun, Anton Chekhov has the antidote.
"Work. That's what we must do, work," says the title character near the end of Chekhov's "Uncle Vanya." Stunned by recent events, Vanya desperately takes solace in the exhortations of his niece, Sonya, to go on living and working and enduring. For in this, she passionately comforts her uncle, we find our purpose and we will enjoy our reward in the next world.
Sonya's closing speech -- not to mention the mien of the actor playing the role -- indicates how a particular production intends to interpret "Uncle Vanya." For example, critic Eric Bentley -- arguing for an earthbound reality -- wrote that "work for these people is not a means to happiness but a drug that will help them to forget." Janice Stone's fine production at Gremlin Theatre wishes for itself more redemption and grace.
It is a choice that actor Mo Perry embraces with good-hearted decency and compassion. As Craig Johnson's Vanya sits exhausted and numb, Perry's Sonya cradles his head and encourages him to, yes, work and then find his rest. It is a moment of devastating poignancy that allows perhaps more hopefulness than Chekhov intended, but nonetheless seems true to his meditation on the tragic constancy of everyday life.
In "Uncle Vanya," we watch Chekhov at his best -- walking the tight wire between comedy and tragedy. Johnson rages like a harlequin; his Vanya packs a pistol during a tantrum against his pompous former brother-in-law, professor Alexander Serebryakov. Yet, in his verbal typhoons we realize that Vanya's hatred is aimed not only at this insufferable visitor to the country estate, but at himself -- for allowing his own bad choices and inertia to bully him into a wasted life.
...Throwing all of these opposing desires and frustrations together is a bit like tossing water on a grease fire -- it makes for great drama. Director Janice Stone boosts the flames, tossing any residual 19th-century-era restraint out the window as characters shout at each other, steal passionate kisses, writhe in agony and plot murder.
Some of Chekhov's characters convey modern environmental and political sensibility; the young doctor has a passion for preserving the disappearing forests of his homeland, and Vanya's mother reads political pamphlets and asserts her right to speak her opinions at a time when women couldn't vote.
But it is Vanya's character who provides a firm backbone for the theme that disillusionment and despair result from shoving aside one's dreams to support others' ambitions. Johnson vividly conveys Vanya's decline, starting with sharp, cynical humor that gives way to desperate romantic entreaties, increasing tirades against the professor and his lot, raging violence and finally numbing, suicidal despair.
However, the most moving lines in the play are not spoken by Johnson. It is Perry, as sweet, kind Sonya who evokes truly heartbreaking resignation to a dismal life with no hope of betterment. Her insistent, repeated declaration, "I have faith," sounds like she's struggling to convince herself as much as Vanya that they may find a final happiness somewhere beyond this world.
Have you seen "Uncle Vanya?" If so, what did you think? Share your review in the comments section.