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Minneapolis by Ed Huyck

Mrs. Mannerly, Incorruptible and Summer of '42

The Illusion Theater Mrs. Mannerly

Miss Mannerly
Barbara June Patterson and Phyllis Wright
Jeffrey Hatcher's latest play takes the audience back to his childhood in Steubenville, Ohio, and a manners course he took at the time. Beguiling and funny, Mrs. Mannerly is a singular work with a pair of tremendous performances.

Barbara June Patterson plays the titular character with an exhausted grace. Mrs. Mannerly has taught generations of the youth in Steubenville how to politely ask questions and which fork to use in social settings. She meets her match in young Jeffrey Hatcher (Phyllis Wright, who also plays 10 other roles in the show), who would prefer this eight-week course instead of playing Little League.

The show builds up to a grand presentation at a Daughters of the American Revolution meeting and follows young Jeffrey's work to eliminate the competition and earn the never-before-given perfect score on the final test. Meanwhile, there's a mystery about Mrs. Mannerly's background that is, rather delightfully, never fully resolved.

It's a silly show, but one that digs at quite a few truths about the face that we present to others and the real person beneath. Both Patterson and Wright give excellent performances - Patterson playing her well-mannered part to a T, while Wright brings each of her characters to full life, even if they only have a brief time on stage.

Mrs. Mannerly runs through April 12 at the Illusion Theater, 528 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis. Call 612-339-4944 or visit www.illusiontheater.org for tickets and more information.

Photo: Aaron Fenster

Old Log Theater Incorruptible

Incorruptiblee
Steve Shaffer, Patrick O'Brien and Tom Stolz
Considering a musical about a murderous barber who cooks his victims into meat pies played in Minneapolis last month, I guess a farcical comedy about a monastery and grave-robbing monks shouldn't come as much as a surprise. And Michael Hollinger's Incorruptible is presented with enough charm at the Old Log Theater - especially from the talented cast of players - that the somewhat unsavory subject matter fades from the mind.

Set in 13th-century France, Incorruptible follows a down-on-its-luck monastery praying for a fresh miracle - and the attendant pilgrims that it would bring. It's not that the order, led by the always-worried Charles (Patrick O'Brien), is looking for glory - they need the contributions of the pilgrims to do good work for the nearby village. While their monastery houses the bones of a saint, they have not provided any attendant miracles for more than a decade.

A wandering minstrel, Jack (Joshua Caleb Larson), brings them a way back to those good deeds, but it is one that may take them to damnation first. Jack lets slip that the saint's bones in a nearby town are fake - as he dug them up from the nearby graveyard. Fueled by the schemes of Brother Martin (Steve Shaffer), a plan is hatched - and the graves around the monastery are slowly emptied and the bones converted to those of the saints.

In Incorruptible, Hollinger plays a lot with whether or not the ends justify the means. Does disturbing the dead and then selling their remains under false pretenses excuse the monks, as they are feeding and housing those who have nothing? To his credit, Hollinger leaves the answer somewhat enigmatic, instead of beating us over the head with any strict message.

And Incorruptible is a funny play, especially with a team of veteran actors leading the way. Shaffer's pompous but earthly monk balances well with O'Brien's more nervous and thoughtful colleague. Tom Stolz plays Brother Olf as somewhat of a simpleton, but like so many, there's a lot more going on upstairs than he lets on.

Larson and Ben Thietje play the two younger monks with a lot of youthful energy and desires, with both actors clearly showing the struggles that are going on inside. Erika Sjogren brings good physicality and charm to her role as Marie, Jack's young bride-to-be, as does Molly Sue McDonald, who play's Marie's mother. Finally, Claudia Wilkins brings a glorious intensity to Agatha, Charles' rival (and sister). Considering Wilkins was added to the cast late in the game (she's not included in the program), she does remarkable work melding with the rest of the cast.

While wearing his director's cap, Stolz does good work as well, keeping the action sharp, clean and fast-paced for the comedic capers, but also allowing the pace to slow and the actors to have space for some of Hollinger's more comedic bits.

And the show is funny. So funny that you can easily forget the uneasy nature of the play, but who ever said ideas of faith and duty should be easy?

Incorruptible runs through June 7 at the Old Log Theater, Excelsior. For more information and tickets, call 952-474-5951 or visit www.oldlog.com.

Minneapolis Musical Theatre Summer of '42

Summer of '42
Jennifer Eckes and Cade Bittner
Summer of '42 goes back a generation for another memory play. In this case, it's about a New York teenager (Hermie, played by Cade Bittner) vacationing in Cape Cod during the summer. Though World War II looms overhead, Hermie and his pals are more interested in having fun and meeting girls. He is also intrigued by Dorothy (Jennifer Eckes), a woman whose husband has just shipped out to the Pacific.

Adapted from the early 1970s film, Summer of '42 brings a lost world to the stage. The characters exhibit an innocence from a much earlier age, though this innocence is tempered by the realities of their lives and the darker side of human nature. The musical - crafted by David Kirshenbaum and Hunter Foster - is stronger in story and character than music. The songs rarely evoke the era, though some of them are memorable. Better are the performances, especially Bittner as the confused, but sweet Hermie. Bittner and Eckes show some strong chemistry as the relationship between the two characters deepens.

Summer of '42 runs through March 30 at Minneapolis Musical Theatre, Hennepin Stages, 824 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis.

Photo: Roy Blakey


- Ed Huyck



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