Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Minneapolis/St. Paul

Menopause: The Musical and Quills

The Lab Theatre Menopause: The Musical

Comedic musicals about the foibles of aging are becoming a recognized sub-genre, but Menopause: The Musical is a particularly delightful vision. A quartet of talented performers tackle the physical and emotional changes that come when a woman ages with wit and honesty, using a truckload of reworked classic pop hits to tell their story.

The quartet of archetypes —movie star, housewife, committed business woman and hippy leftover —meet over the discount table at Bloomingdale's. They quickly become friends, especially since each is in the throes of "the change." Playwright Jeanie Linders also describes this via her lyrics, which transform the likes of "Stayin' Alive," "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" and "Heat Wave" for the new setting.

The cast is led by Cynthia Jones, who brings an impressive stage presence and commanding voice to the action. Holly Schroeder gets the evening's biggest highlight during a Marilyn-Monroe-inspired twist on "Heat Wave," which finds her up close and personal with one of the men dragged along to the show by their spouse. Brooke David and Laurie Flanigan also get their moments to showcase their own talents during the show's twenty-plus songs.

My main complaint is that Linders' script, even with all of these songs, doesn't delve too deep. There are only so many songs that can be sung about hot flashes, night sweats and memory lapses before they all start to blend into each other. Thankfully, director Michael Larsen never lets the viewers dwell on any of these questions, as the action moves quickly from scene to scene, with a number of thrilling set pieces sprinkled in along the way.

Menopause: The MusicaL is in an open run at the Lab Theatre, 700 N. First St., Minneapolis. For tickets, call 612-377-2224 or visit

Photo: Ann Marsden

Theatre Pro Rata Quills

The intersection between art, profanity and the influence both have on the reader lie at the heart of Doug Wright's Quills. His tale of the Marquis de Sade and the lengths his jailers would go to silence him get an intriguing if frustrating reading from Theatre Pro Rata. While the staging and overall direction of the production are first rate, a couple of weak performances threaten to unweave the uncomfortable spell created by the script.

Set in a 19th-century insane asylum, Quills finds the Marquis continuing to write, even while incarcerated. After a gentler method of rehabilitation fails, his jailers —the severe Dr. Royer-Collard and the more reform-minded Abbe de Coulmier —explore more Medieval methods. While Wright's metaphors lie pretty close to the surface, his script offers a glimpse into the personal hell each character finds within the Marquis' words.

As the Marquis, Pro Rata's resident artist Andy Chambers is a delightful devil, always pricking at the comfort level of the other characters, either in person or in his writings, and even as all of his comforts, then his clothes and finally any means to write, are stripped away.

J.D. Henricksen, as the Abbe, seems uncomfortable in his performance to the point of stumbling over a number of lines the evening I saw the show. This makes for some stilted scenes with his employer (the strong Joel Raney), while leaving Chambers to do most of the work in the key scenes of the Marquis and his reformer. As the show continues, Henricksen grows into the role, with his character's personal hell coming more and more clear as the play continues.

The show also features good performances from Amber Bjork as the washerwoman that the Marquis appears to actually have feelings for, and Zoe Benston as the Marquis suffering wife, who wants nothing more than to be obscure once again.

Director Zach Morgan approaches the material with real relish, never shying away from the implications of the script (and like de Sade's writing, the material here pulls no punches), while his stage design only highlights the story's madness. All in all, this Quills makes you laugh, feel uncomfortable and wonder about humanity's ability to delve into its darkest desires, sometimes within the same scene.

Quills runs through May 20 at the Loading Dock Theater, 509 Sibley St., St. Paul. For tickets, call 612-874-9321 or visit

- Ed Huyck

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