Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Minneapolis/St. Paul

The Deception, Jerry Springer - the Opera and The Home Place

Theatre de la Jeune Lune The Deception

Merritt Janson
Jeune Lune opens its 2007-2008 season with a comedy in which the passion has little to do with love, and almost everything to do with money. Adapted from Marivaux's La Fausse Suivante, The Deception peels back the layers of human relationships to dig into the inner motivations, leaving us with a show that is both quite funny and unrelentingly grim.

Starting, as so many comedies seem to do, with a case of mistaken identity, The Deception centers on three characters. Chevalier is a high-born woman disguised as a man who is trying to determine the true motivations of Lelio, the man she has been betrothed. Lelio, in turn, has entered into a contract with the Contessa, a young woman of considerable wealth - but not as much wealth as Chevalier, which is why Lelio wishes to play both of them for the most profit. He, in turn, enlists the disguised Chevalier to woo the Contessa, so the contract will be broken and he can take advantage of both women.

Unlike most shows of this type, where Lelio would get his comeuppance and the ladies would find men worthy of their hearts, there is no happy ending here. The characters are as trapped by their conflicted emotions for each other as they are by their legal obligations to each other. That comes clear in each of the performances and in David Coggins set, which traps them amid a sea of roughly painted glass panels, where the doors to escape are often hard to see.

The adaptation, by director Dominique Serrand and Stephen Epp, mixes a philosophical bent with more earthy exchanges. The trio of actors in the love-stuck roles - Casey Greig as Lelio, Emily Gunyou Halaas as the Contessa and especially Merritt Janson as Chevalier - twist and turn with each development of the plot. While Greig and Janson are afforded chances to stay on top of the plot, Halaas is trapped by all of the manipulations, and you can sense her desperation and her utter collapse by show's end.

Rounding out the main cast is co-writer Epp as scheming servant Trivelin, whose hard, cynical and money-hungry character still manages to show that he is far more honest than the rest of the household. Finally, Nathan Keepers gives a tremendous performance as the seemingly idiotic servant Arlequino. Keepers' physical performance serves as a clown for the proceedings, but the it is glimpses into the betrayed and broken heart of his character that really drive the role.

The Deception won't leave you with a good view of romance, or humanity for that matter. Yet much of its power delves from its honesty. All of us, in our deepest hearts, weigh the value of any relationship; and we most often are looking out only for ourselves. In this play, it is only Trivelin who can stand in judgment of the rest - and he does this by turning his back on the whole mess, and finally escaping the household's fishbowl.

The Deception runs through Nov. 25 at the Theatre de la Jeune Lune, 105 North First Street, Minneapolis. For more information, call 612.333.6200 or visit

Minneapolis Musical Theatre Jerry Springer - The Opera

Derek Blechinger behind Carl M. Schoenborn
A sensation when it played in London, Jerry Springer - The Opera hasn't found nearly as much traction in the United States. Still, it's a worthwhile piece for a theater willing to take on this profane musical. As promised in the title, the show tackles the phenomenon of Jerry Springer. Act one presents a typical episode of the show, complete with a cheating fiancé, a man-baby and a woman who wants to be a stripper, all highlighted by the Greek-chorus-like studio audience. Act two takes place after the aforementioned man-baby shoots Springer, and we are transported into his dying dream of a show in Hell, complete with appearances by the Devil, the Virgin Mary, Jesus and the almighty Himself.

It seems like work that is designed mainly to offend, but the MMT cast finds plenty of humanity in these characters, which helps to keep the action interesting. And the show is funny, even if the Springer aspect is a bit dated these days. And any show that uses all of George Carlin's seven words in a full-blown opera is worth, at the very least, a look.

Jerry Springer - The Opera runs through Oct. 28 at Hennepin stages, 824 Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis. For tickets or more information, call 612 373-5665, or visit

Photo: Roy Blakey

Guthrie Theater The Home Place

Richard S. Iglewski and Virginia S. Burke
In the first scene of Brian Friel's new play - receiving a world premiere at the Guthrie - we are treated to an amazing scene (a tangled outdoor garden brought completely to life by designer Frank Hallinan Flood) and the ghostly sound of the village's church choir singing in the distance. It is one of the few moments of peace in Friel's meditation on home and what it means to be truly of a place. It follows an English landlord and his Irish tenants on a tumultuous afternoon when the reality of his place in the community comes into clear focus.

The Home Place is fueled by the strong performances of Simon Jones as landlord Christopher Gore, Richard Iglewski as his quack relation Dr. Richard Gore and Sarah Agnew as Margaret, who both runs the house and provides a link between the English and Irish worlds of the play. Director Joe Dowling goes for a pace that often lingers between meditative and just dragging, but the sights, emotions and messages of the different characters haunted me days after seeing the show.

The Home Placeruns through Nov. 25 at the Guthrie Theater's McGuire Proscenium Stage, 818 S. 2nd St., Minneapolis. For tickets or more information, call 612-377-2224 or visit

Photo: © Michal Daniel, 2007

- Ed Huyck

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