Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Minneapolis/St. Paul

Ordinary Nation, Cabaret and The Ballad of Josef K

Also see Elizabeth's review of French Twist

Chanhassen Dinner Theatres Married Alive

Robb McKindles, Nicole Fenstad, Tod Petersen, Seri Johnson
The set for Married Alive in the Fireside Theatre of Chanhassen Dinner Theatres features a giant wedding cake, while signs of the various signposts of matrimony, from bills to children to in-laws, are hung.

Great - another show that does little more than scratch the easy surface of relationship jokes.

Yet the opening scene cheered me, as a young couple traded self-written vows so preposterous ("our love is like the dolphins") that they could have only been crafted by the lost or insane; and it's followed up by "Stupid in Love," when an older couple explains what horrors the couple really is going to face.

Finally - a show honest enough dig deep.

Yet this doesn't last. A few minutes later, they're talking about debt, and soon after that - how men and women can't communicate. That's how Married Alive goes: flashes of real insight surrounded by jokes that would have been rejected from 'Til Death or King of Queens or any number of a million marriage-related sit-coms.

Against all of this, a talented quartet - made up of Tod Petersen and Seri Johnson (also featured in the last show at the Fireside, the epically awful Respect) as the older-if-not-wiser couple and Nicole Fenstad and Robb McKindles as the younger pair - and production team do their best to make an entertaining evening. Though the sketch format doesn't help them at all, each actor is able to carve out his or her own place in the show.

Those characters may not be necessary for a bit about having a baby (the quite funny "Oh, Knocked Up!") or the trials of teenagers (the not-nearly-as-good "That's Right, Sucka!"), but they help the show in its quiet moments - from the long-distance love of "Fly to Me" or the loss of communication in "It Isn't Important" or an older couple looking back at their lives in "We Haven't Come So Far." They do such a good job that I wanted to watch that show instead of another one with Viagra jokes.

Director Michael Brindisi does solid work, even when the book and lyrics by Sean Grennan or music by Leah Okimoto let him down. Still, there is little that could be done to save the toxic in-laws/holidays sketch that acts as concrete shoes for the entire second act. Married Alive offers some pleasures and insights; you just wish the creators had dug as deep for their humor as they did for their insight.

Married Alive runs through Sept. 6 at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres. Tickets (with dinner) are $50 and $60 and reservations are recommended. Show is intended for adult theatergoers. For information, call 952-934-1525 or visit

Photo: Act One, Too LTD © 2007

Ordway Center for the Arts Cabaret

This latest version of Kander and Ebb's famed musical about love and loss in pre-Hitler Germany goes back to glitzier basics. In place of the topless heroin-chic Kit Kat Klub dancers are more traditional, Fosse-like creations. Whatever the costumes of the cast, the story remains intact, as do all of the glorious songs that the duo wrote for the show. Tari Kelly is Minnelli-like, but still OK as Sally Bowles, and Louis Hobson is rather bland as American Cliff Bradshaw, but the real star here is Nick Garrison as the Emcee, who keeps the action alive during the slow moments and helps to fuel the show's set pieces. Cabaret runs through May 18 at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, St. Paul. Call 651-224-4222 or visit

Milwaukee Mask & Puppet Theatre The Ballad of Josef K

How do Kafka and puppets mix? Very well, as it turns out in the Milwaukee Mask & Puppet Theatre adaptation of The Trial. As a musical - at least, this musical - it doesn't work nearly as well. Kafka's tale of ultimate alienation - where a young man is persecuted by a mysterious, nameless court - takes form under the careful guide of director Rob Goodman and a top team of puppeteers, who bring the myriad of bizarre characters to life. The music was written and performed by Twin Cities group Thunder in the Valley. The music is fine and sometimes engaging, but doesn't match the growing madness of the action. I wanted music as mad as the surrounding story, not pleasing tunes drawn from American folk and blues. The Ballad of Josef K runs through May 18 at the Illusion Theater, Minneapolis. For tickets, 612-339-4944 or visit

- Ed Huyck

Be sure to check the current schedule for theatre in the Twin Cities area

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