Friday, April 22, 2005

Go See - The Presence of Children at Emigrant Theater

They've only got two performances left, tonight and tomorrow, Friday and Saturday, April 22 and 23 at 8pm, but if you can go, go.

The play takes place in an old warehouse at 2609 Aldrich Avenue South in Minneapolis, behind the CC Club.

It has the most basic of lighting. Bare bulbs, some of them colored.

Exits and entrances in full view of the audience. Suspension of disbelief is in full effect here.

The set is simply a bed, a very long table and a whole lot of chairs, plus the cage that was part of the space when they rented it.

Four actors, a script that's a cascade of language.

And it's brilliant.

The playwright is Matt Di Cintio.

The acrobatic feats he was attempting with language in The Valets for Outward Spiral at last summer's Fringe - this time, in the service of a completely different story, he nails it. And then some.

It's a play that actually defies easy description or plot summary, but their publicity blurb is as good a synopsis as any:

"An absurdist comedy with thirty invisible children, a father who knows worst, a mother caught in a fairy tale, and a .45 atuomatic. Who's happy ever after?"

The cast - Nick Harazin, Catherine E. Johnson, Erik Pearson, and Katie Willer - are wonderful. They ground peculiar characters and situations in very human souls.

The director - Jessica Finney - guided them expertly in decoding this script for an audience.

That set - designed by Jason Brown - is deceptively simple, and like the script, takes basic elements and makes them more significant than you expect. Even the chairs the audience sits in play a part in drawing you further into the action.

Empty shoes have never carried so much weight for me.

And a gun has never made me more nervous.

It's silly, sad, scary, uplifting, and very, very sharp. It makes you work, but it rewards your effort.

It's the kind of play that leaves you with one feeling in the watching of it, and then has you mulling it over for days afterward.

In part, it's about how the world is sometimes (perhaps oftentimes) a frightening and overwhelming place, never more so than when you feel the responsibility for someone else's safety and happiness - as a parent or a spouse, a friend or a sibling. And whatever it takes to keep putting one foot in front of the other, living despite the odds and less than perfect circumstances is often the most hopeful and courageous thing a person can do.

By sidestepping kitchen-sink realism (not that there's anything wrong with that, it's usually my stock and trade), the play becomes about things much larger than the individuals and plot points presented to the audience.

It's the kind of thing you always hope theater will do in the process of entertaining you, but so rarely actually get from a production.

And this is their first production.

I can only imagine what heights they're going to hit when they get up a head of steam.

They just moved to the top of my Fringe viewing list - they'll be back with Carson Kreitzer's play "Dead Wait" with Jason Brown in the directing chair this time, and Catherine E. Johnson I believe is back as part of that cast as well. I've already commented on it a bit in the Ping Pong Ball Awards - I've A Feeling We're Not In Kansas Anymore, Part 2. I anticipate it even more after this experience.

So, kudos all around.

[Personally, it depressed me a little. They're all so young and talented, I felt very, very old - and wondered what the heck I've been doing with my life. A decent night's sleep fixed some of that. The positive impression the production left remains.]

So check out the play, bookmark their website, and get in on the ground floor with this company. They're poised to do great things. Or should I say, more great things.

Visit them online at

(For more of my writing - plays, past blog entries and more - visit

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