1 Gremlin Theatre’s staging of Clifford Odets’ rarely seen 1938 play “Rocket to the Moon” crackles with raw energy at the New Century Theatre. Every actor brings an urgency to characters who carry within their small human lives a frustrated aspiration for happiness. Odets’ dialogue, his canny observations, his turns of phrase and crisply imagined perorations remind us of his place among the top rank of American playwrights. With such a deliciously funny, poignant and memorable play, this is indeed a singular opportunity. www.gremlin-theatre.org
2 It’s a funny title, but Sturgill Simpson’s album “Metamodern Sounds in Country Music” is seriously one of the more moving and elegantly produced traditional/old-school country albums in recent memory. The Kentucky-reared, Nashville-based, baritone-voiced tunesmith is a shoo-in for any Waylon Jennings tribute concert, but he breaks plenty of new ground on his sophomore record, including a surprisingly heartbreaking, twang-coated cover of the ’80s pop hit “The Promise” by When in Rome. That’s not as funny as it sounds, either. Simpson plays the State Fair Aug. 29-30
4 Once more rare and costly than gold, porcelain is now as common as the clay from which it is made. The medium’s high-style heritage gets updated by five contemporary ceramicists — Chris Antemann, Shenny Cruces, Jane Irish, Tim Berg and Rebekah Myers — who inject modern spin, candid sexuality and political commentary into the glitzy luxury goods and coy styles of bygone eras in “A Gilded Age” at Northern Clay Center. www.northernclaycenter.org
3 “Bellweather Rhapsody” is not as dark as you might think, considering that it begins with a murder-suicide and ends with a murder that might be a suicide. In between, there are multiple flashbacks to abuse, angst and trauma. And yet Kate Racculia’s second novel is warm, funny and endearing. It centers on teenage twins, both musical prodigies, who travel to the stately, ancient Bellweather Hotel with hundreds of other high school students for an annual music competition. A blizzard paralyzes the town, a girl disappears, a ghost might appear, and love blooms — and is dashed. Racculia has a quirky style and great affection for her oddball characters.
5 The popular food truck Hola Arepa has scored itself a permanent address at 35th and Nicollet in south Minneapolis. And it’s added a Latin-inspired bar program engineered by top local cocktail gurus Birk Grudem (Hola Arepa, Bradstreet Craftshouse), Dan Oskey (the Strip Club) and Adam Harness (Cafe Maude, Town Talk Diner). They are concocting such drinks as the Argentine staple fernet y cola and a Manhattan with a splash of añejo tequila and toasted coconut bitters. The new joint is jumping, and its patio is abierto. holaarepa.com
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