Embers is the third and final play in the Guthrie Theater's Christopher Hampton Celebration. Embers is based on the novel by Sándor Márai, and concerns a friendship rent asunder, revisited decades later.
Critics are split in their reviews of this show, with some calling it "beautiful," "taut drama," and others finding it "indifferent to its audience" and barely flickering with life.
James A. Stephens as Henrik in the Guthrie Theater's production of Embers, by Christopher Hampton
Photo by Heidi Bohnenkamp
Beautiful, sad and absorbing, this is a piece to be pondered and savored - a leisurely and delicious meal of several courses, each one more satisfying than the last.
In Embers, Christopher Hampton's adaptation of Sandor Marai's World-War-II-era novel, two men who were inseparable friends for more than two decades meet after 41 years apart. The mystery of what caused the estrangement is played out in this often taut drama, centering on a solid performance from James A. Stephens as the aggrieved and supported by Nathaniel Fuller and Barbara Bryne in smaller but still vital roles.
Nathaniel Fuller as Konrad in the Guthrie Theater's production of Embers, by Christopher Hampton
Photo by Heidi Bohnenkamp
With the opening of "Embers" in the Dowling Studio, all cylinders are now engaged in the Guthrie Theater's celebration of the work of British playwright Christopher Hampton. This last work is the smallest of the lot and is also, unfortunately, the least satisfying.
Barbara Bryne has a tiny role as the maid and nurse Nini -- a few lines at the very beginning of the play and a few more at the very end. It's an extravagant, wasteful use of an actress, particularly one as revered as Bryne. But it's a good metaphor for the play: Like its central character of Henrik, "Embers" is obsessed with itself and indifferent to its audience.
Like parts of "Hollywood," "Embers" feels like a novel being enacted onstage. It does not take advantage of the unique opportunities that a three-dimensional space has to offer.
Fuller invests Konrad with some droll, morose humor. He makes this supporting character empathetic. Still, it is not enough for "Embers," a show that barely flickers to theatrical life.
Have you seen Guthrie Theater's production of Embers? What's your review?
Posted at 11:14 AM on October 17, 2012
by Marianne Combs
Filed under: Dance
Monday night choreographers from around the country gathered at the Apollo Theater in New York City to celebrate outstanding work in their field with the annual Bessie Awards, and one of Minnesota's own got to take the stage.
Emily Johnson, founder of Catalyst Dance, was singled out for her piece "The Thank-you Bar" which she performed at New York Live Arts. The piece was performed in 2010 in the Twin CIties.
Presented a Bessie for Outstanding Production, Johnson was cited as "gently and deftly coaxing an audience into a community, holding them spellbound with stories spoken and unspoken... seamlessly interweaving Blackfish's music with the magical transformations of paper into ice, and dry leaves into water ... [and] for reminding us that we all come from a place unknowable, yet known."
Posted at 10:00 PM on October 17, 2012
by Marianne Combs
Filed under: Dance
Tonight the 8th annual SAGE Awards for Dance celebrated the finest performances in the Twin Cities from the past year.
Named in honor of dancer and philanthropist Sage Cowles, the awards take place at her other namesake, the Cowles Center for Dance and the Performing Arts.
Megan McClellan looks on as Eddie Oroyan leaps in Shapiro & Smith Dance's "Family."
Photo by V. Paul Virtucio
Meanwhile, awards went to dancers Katie Johnson, Andrew Lester and Eva Mohn for exceptional individual performances.
Obtuse Crew was honored with the award for Outstanding Ensemble, and both Peter O'Gorman and Mike Grogan were recognized for their music and lighting design, respectively.
In addition Morris Johnson was praised for his work as a teacher of Afro Caribbean dance, and Lirena Branitski was given a special citation for her tenure with Minnesota Dance Theatre and the Dance Institute.
There is a very good chance that come Monday morning the two top orchestras of the region will be silenced.
Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra musicians rallied Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2012, outside the Ordway Center in an attempt to forestall a feared lock out by the orchestra's management.
MPR Photo/Euan Kerr
As MPR's Euan Kerr reports, management of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra today told its musicians that unless there is a contract agreement by 6 p.m. Sunday it will lock them out.
The deal now before the musicians is a four-year contract that sets a guaranteed minimum annual salary for current musicians at $62,500, and a base rate of $50,000 for new musicians. It cuts the size of the orchestra from 34 to 28 players and it offers buyouts to musicians aged 55 and older. West describes the cut as a 15 percent reduction.
"I understand that it is difficult for musicians to accept reductions in compensation. That's a normal occurrence. But we are where we are," [SPCO interim President Dobson] West said. "We need to reduce the cost of that contract and the musicians need to acknowledge that fact and then we will find a solution."
Musicians said they have been trying to be part of the solution and management has not been interested. A statement they released called the lockout deadline "dangerous and disingenuous." Lead negotiator for the musicians Carole Mason Smith said they have twice offered to take a pay cut so they can continue to play and talk.
"We have made proposals and they have completely ignored those proposals," Smith said.
Smith says management seems to be trying to put the musicians on the same level as other SPCO employees.
"We might be 40 percent of the budget, but we are 100 percent of the product" she said. "And their proposal does not in any way exhibit that."
If the SPCO carries out its threat, it will be the first time in history that both the musicians of SPCO and the Minnesota Orchestra are locked out at the same time.
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Lila Downs has a voice that can overwhelm an audience with varied emotions, from the exuberance of a mezcal-soaked fiesta to the lament of a woman scorned.
Photo: Ricardo Trabulsi
But as MPR's David Cazares reports, Downs' music also delivers serious messages. Her work has touched on the plight of farm workers, people crossing the border, and the drug cartels that plague Mexico.
Downs, 44, has a unique perspective on Mexico, in large part because she has long lived in two worlds. Born in Mexico to Mixtec indigenous singer Anita Sanchez and Allen Downs, a Scottish-American art professor and cinematographer, she went to school in Roseville.
"My father taught at the U of M," Downs said. "So from the moment I was born, I was taken to and fro, and that was just the way my life was ... one year in Oaxaca, one year in Minnesota and like that."
It wasn't until well after her father's death that she began to deeply explore her Mexican roots, while in college at the University of Minnesota, where she studied voice and anthropology.
She began singing several years later, winning acclaim for sensitive and versatile recordings that showcased her tremendous range and ability to master different genres, from rancheras to boleros.
Her recordings have been a mix of traditional Mexican music, indigenous styles and a fusion of other elements, from folk music, to rock, reggae, African root and jazz. Her compositions give her an opportunity to share the struggles of ordinary people.
Lila Downs performs tonight at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts. You can find more on her music here.