Well, after last week’s fiasco that was Snatch Game 2016, we have a surprisingly good episode. And I say surprising because it’s the dreaded makeover challenge, and they have a tendency of going south real quick (*cough* Justice for Pandora Boxx! *cough*). But it helped by having a great theme, which led to a fantastic runway and some surprising results.
But no time to chat as we have company, in the form of Entertainment Weekly contributor Marc Snetiker has come by to serve as a special guest judge. And why? Because “in the great tradition of RuPaul’s Drag Race,” Mr. Charles once again appropriates a famous bit of gay culture and gets it somewhat wrong. I mean, “in the great tradition of Paris Is Burning,” it’s the annual reading challenge. And “in the great tradition of Todd’s recaps for l’étoile,” I am going to turn the floor over to the legendary Dorian Corey and Venus Xtravaganza explain the fine art of (and differences between!) shade and reading (which Ru has mixed up on more than one occasion)…
THE NORMAL HEART
by Larry Kramer
by William Shakespeare
Featuring Zach Curtis, Antonio Duke, JuCoby Johnson, Torsten Johnson, Michelle O’Neill, Adam Qualls, Grant Sorenson, and Michael Wieser
Directed by Joseph Stodola
Presented by New Epic Theater
This is going to be a slightly unusual review for a number of reasons. When I had heard that New Epic Theater was planning on performing William Shakespeare’s political tragedy Coriolanus and Larry Kramer’s agitprop drama The Normal Heart in repertoire, I was surprised by the decision. At first blush, the pairing didn’t make sense. But now, having seen both plays (which will play in repertory at The Lab Theater in Minneapolis through April 16), I was stunned by what director Joseph Stodola and his brilliant company of actors (a powerhouse ensemble consisting of Zach Curtis, Antonio Duke, JuCoby Johnson, Torsten Johnson, Michelle O’Neill, Adam Qualls, Grant Sorenson, and Michael Wieser) have accomplished with these two pieces.
To explain what they managed to pull off, I will have to get very specific with this review, which will lead into major spoilers regarding how the plays are presented and staged. And I beg of you, do not read the rest of this review until you have seen both plays for this will only make sense if you see them both and see them cold. By all means, do know the plots going in if that’s your ilk, but the real power of what is going on here is if you the audience do not know what surprises lay in store with these productions. And if you can, see The Normal Heart first, and then Coriolanus.
But since this is supposed to be a review and I’m supposed to have an opinion on this matter, I’ll make this brief: Go! This is one of the most audacious theatrical experiments I’ve seen in town in a long time delivered by a top-flight ensemble that manages to take some serious risks that work.
So get over to the Lab and see both of these shows! When you’re done, come back and then we’ll talk…
Friends, it’s time that we gather under the shade tree and console one another as we raise our voices in unison and cry…
But on Snatch Game?! Continue reading
Before we begin, I think the Shade Tree has something to say about last night’s episode…
Well, last night’s episode was certainly… something. Don’t get me wrong; it was a cute episode that, despite some racial characteristic undertones, was salvaged by one good, and two great performances.
But first, let’s talk about the returning queen…
Music by Giacomo Puccini
Libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa
Adapted from the play La Tosca by Richard Condon
Conducted by Anne Manson
Directed by Andrea Cigni
Featuring Kelly Kaduce, Leonardo Capalbo, and Stephen Powell
Presented by Minnesota Opera
Given its status in the international scene as one of the biggest developers of new opera, and specializing in presenting the world and American premieres of new works, it pays to remember that Minnesota Opera can deliver fantastic productions of the standard repertoire when it chooses to. And there are few operas that embody the standard repertoire more than Giacomo Puccini’s masterpiece Tosca, which is getting a thrilling production from our local opera company in spite of a few dissonant staging decisions, and a casting choice that could have doomed the production but actually redeems it.
Well now! This was a surprisingly good episode that was full of the things that we like; lip syncing, dancing, producer manipulation, shameless Ru self promotion, and more. Even better, it had one of the best performances we’ve seen in the show, and a surprising (?) ending.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves…
Well, the season premiere taught us a very important lesson…
Never ever ever forget your herstory, henny!
And it’s an important lesson to remember as the season 8 premiere of RuPaul’s Drag Race was all about the herstory of this show. As the twelve new contestants entered the WERKroom for the premiere of the 100th Episode, it also served as an intro to the 100th queen to walk into the room and compete for the title of “America’s Next Drag Superstar.”
Spring has truly returned! How do we know this? Because, in four days, our good friend Mr. Charles will open the doors for the latest class at his Finishing School for Wayward Gender Illusionists.
And with it, comes the latest crop of fresh, young starlets that are competing to show their Charisma, Uniqueness, Nerve, and Talent to the world as they try to become the eighth person to claim the title of “America’s Next Drag Superstar.” Along with the usual amounts of glamor, shade, and shenanigans, this also heralds the return of my favorite part of the show…
… no, not THE DRAG RACE SCOREBOARD (though trust and believe that it will be back in its full glory come Tuesday)…
… no, we’re talking about the best part of the show (or, what should be the best part)…
The Lip Sync For Your Life!
by William Shakespeare
Featuring Wayne T. Carr, Brooke Parks, Jennie Greenberry, Jeffrey Blair Cornell, Michael J. Hume, and Armando Durán
Music by Jack Herrick
Directed by Gary Briggle
Presented by The Guthrie Theater
When his appointment was announced nearly a year ago, the Twin Cities theatre scene as a whole wondered what Joseph Haj would bring to the table as artistic director of the Guthrie Theater. When it was announced that he would be tackling Pericles in the middle of the season for his directorial debut, many were confused. After all, the production was an expansion of the version he did for PlayMakers Repertory Company in Chapel Hill, North Carolina (where he had just finished his term as artistic director) that was being co-presented by the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and the Folger Theatre in Washington D.C. And now, after appearing in both of those other venues, how would it hold up in the massiveness of the Wurtele Thrust Stage? Well, wonder of wonders! This production of Pericles is exactly what we should be seeing from the Guthrie; a movingly lyrical, breathtakingly beautiful, emotionally satisfying production that also happens to be a hell of a fun for the audience anchored by some smart acting, a gorgeous production design, and a smart approach to one of the oddest plays in the Shakespearean oeuvre.