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British 'Streetcar' at the movies this week

Posted by: Claude Peck Updated: October 7, 2014 - 11:34 AM

Gillian Anderson in "A Streetcar Named Desire" at the Young Vic in London. Photo by Tristram Kenton.

A recent London production of "A Streetcar Named Desire" that stars Gillian Anderson ("The X Files," "The Fall") as Blanche Dubois elicited rave reviews from critics.

It can be seen Tuesday and Wednesday (7 p.m. Oct. 7 & 8) at St. Antony Main Theater in Minneapolis as part of the NT Live series. Tickets are $20. The play runs about three hours.

Directed by Benedict Andrews, this "Streetcar" also stars Ben Foster as Stanley and Vanessa Kirby as Stella. It takes place in a contemporary milieu on a slowly rotating set, with music that includes songs by Patsy Cline and PJ Harvey.

The reviewers heaped praise on the production and on Anderson's turn as Williams' most famous heroine, calling her and the show "hypnotic" (Hollywood Reporter), "electrifying" (Evening Standard), "an absolute knockout" (Telegraph) and "powerful" (The Guardian).

Netrebko sings Lady Macbeth, live from the Met in HD

Posted by: Claude Peck Updated: October 6, 2014 - 3:59 PM
Anna Netrebko as Lady Macbeth at the Metropolitan Opera. Photo by Hiroyuki Ito.

Since making her Met debut in 2009 in Donizetti's "Lucia di Lammermoor," Russian soprano Anna Netrebko has sung regularly on the Met stage, and on the popular livecasts from the Metropolitan Opera.

This Saturday (noon, Oct. 11), Netrebko will appear as Lady Macbeth live in "Macbeth," Verdi's opera based on Shakespeare's blood-soaked tragedy. Her Macbeth is Ċ½eljko Lucic in a production that also stars Joseph Calleja as Macduff and René Pape as Banquo. Fabio Luisi conducts this revivial of Adrian Nobles' modern-dress 2007 production.

Netrebko gave a "riveting performance dispatched with artistry and fearless intensity," said the critic at Bloomberg news. In a recent interview, Netrebko talked about the challenges she faces as she takes on more dramatic opera roles.

In recent years, Netrebko has sung in such Met operas as "Lammermoor" (2009), "Don Pasquale" (2010), "L'Elisir d'Amore" (2012) and "Eugene Onegin" (2013).

For these events, crowds gather at movie theaters across the United States on Saturday afternoons to watch and hear big-name singers in big-deal operas, without having to pay for trips to New York City and tickets to the Opera House at Lincoln Center. The live telecasts are usually repeated in the evening on the following Wednesday.

To get tickets for this Live in HD event, which is beaming to seven metro-area movie theaters on Saturday, go here. Next up, on Oct. 18, is Mozart's "Le Nozze di Figaro," conducted by James Levine.

'The Nance,' starring Nathan Lane, coming to PBS

Posted by: Claude Peck Updated: October 3, 2014 - 5:11 PM

"The Nance," starring two-time Tony winner Nathan Lane as a bawdy gay entertainer in the waning days of burlesque in New York City, is coming to "Live from Lincoln Center" on PBS.

Locally, TPT, Channel 2, airs it at 8 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 10.

The show, which played at the Lyceum Theatre on Broadway in 2013, tells the story of Chauncey Miles, played by Lane, whose broadly comic stage shows are jam-packed with swishy double entendres that make him a minor star and allow him to fly under the radar until censors take note and pressure theater owners to get rid of Miles and his fellow performers. Offstage, Miles falls in love with Ned (Jonny Orsini), a romance that must be kept secret.

The play takes place in 1937, on a revolving set (by John Lee Beatty) that turns to reveal a burlesque stage, the backstage area, an Automat frequented by gays, and Miles' apartment. Other cast members include Lewis Stadlen, Cady Huffman, Jenni Barber and Andrea Burns. Jack O'Brien directs.

"The Nance," by Douglas Carter Beane, was nominated for five Tony Awards, including a Best Actor nod for Lane.

McPherson's 'The Night Alive' opens in Chicago

Posted by: Claude Peck Updated: October 2, 2014 - 3:42 PM

Helen Sadler and Francis Guinan in "The Night Alive" at Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago. Set design is by Todd Rosenthal. Photo by Michael Brosilow.

Steppenwolf Theatre, the Chicago playhouse that has a knack for birthing hit plays, some of which have gone on to Broadway runs and Tony wins, just opened "The Night Alive," by Irish playwright Conor McPherson.

I saw the production in previews in September, and can't wait for the play to arrive in the Twin Cities. The Jungle Theater, which has produced such other McPherson plays as "The Seafarer" (2009) and "Shining City (2007), would be great home for this darkly amusing meditation on violence, mortality, charity, friendship, illusion and dreams deferred.

As directed at Steppenwolf by Henry Fishcamper (who is a resident artistic associate at Chicago's Goodman Theatre), "The Night Alive" takes place in the extremely messy, bare bones rented room of Tommy (Francis Guinan, marvelous), whose landlord Uncle Marice is played by veteran character actor M. Emmet Walsh.

One night, Tommy, one of the most lovable losers ever to have graced a stage, brings home Aimee (Helen Sadler), a young woman who has taken a beating. Their growing relationship plays out alongside Tommy's dim sidekick Doc (Tim Hopper), Maurice, and a malevolent Kenneth (Dan Waller).

While the action and plot are wonderfully grounded in quotidian detail -- dented cups of tea, piles of dirty laundry, a travel poster of Finland -- the script leaves open the possibility of multiple metaphoric interpretations. This became abundantly clear in the post-play discussion with Steppenwolf's Martha Lavey and Fishcamper, which raised more questions about the play than were conveniently answered.

Chicago critics praised the play as "raw and beautiful" (Tribune) and said Guinan is "just about perfect as Tommy." (Reader).

"The Night Alive" continues at Steppenwolf through Nov. 16.

Francis Guinan, M. Emmet Walsh and Tim Hopper in Steppenwolf's "The Night Alive," by Conor McPherson. Photo by Michael Brosilow.

Garrison Keillor: Out of surgery and on to orange Jell-O

Posted by: Tim Campbell Updated: September 26, 2014 - 3:44 PM
Photo by Ann Heisenfelt, Associated Press

Garrison Keillor reports he is "feeling good" after surgery Thursday at Mayo Clinic in Rochester.

"The IV went in and night fell and a couple hours later I woke in Recovery, no fuss, with a very pleasant nurse who gave me some ice to chew on and we chatted like old pals and at noon I got wheeled up to my room for a lovely lunch of vegetable broth, coffee, cranberry juice, and orange Jell-O," he posted on Facebook.

The Minnesota writer and "Prairie Home Companion" host has not disclosed the precise nature of the procedure, but earlier this month when he announced he was canceling Saturday's "PHC," he wrote: "If you've noticed my upstairs bathroom light go on at 10 p.m., 10:10, 10:25, 10:40, etc., you know all you need to know."

No word on when he'll leave the hospital. In his Facebook post he joked, "The Scot in me says, 'you will pay for this someday' and maybe so but meanwhile I am having a very good day, made all the better by a funny phone call from my daughter. Who reminded me that long ago in this hospital coming out of a tonsillectomy she stuck her tongue out at me. Despite anesthesia she remembered that I was the Judas who took her into the OR."

Keillor, 72, is scheduled to return to the Fitzgerald Theater stage Oct. 4 for a "Prairie Home" show featuring bluegrassers the Gibson Brothers and local singer/songwriter Ellis.

But don't be surprised if he makes an appearance this weekend at the History Theater in St. Paul, where his playwriting debut, "Radio Man," opens Saturday night.

(In the photo at right, Keillor clowned with actor Pearce Bunting, who plays his alter ego in "Radio Man," during a rehearsal earlier this month. The play has a preview staging Friday night.)

P.S. After this was posted, a friend shared a letter to the Anoka County Union that Keillor wrote two weeks ago after an outing to his old high school. It's quite sweet:

To the Editor:

Last Friday, I drove up to Anoka for the Anoka-Coon Rapids football game and sat in the bleachers about 10 feet below the pressbox where, as a 14-year-old kid, I sat and wrote up the games for the Anoka Herald.

Goodrich Field looks so much the same as it did back then and off to my right was a student cheering section, about 300 strong, distinguished by wearing odds and ends of white, white shirts, headbands, caps, one boy in a white off-the-shoulder toga, tossing white streamers, setting off white smoke bombs – a solid block of high spirited goofiness and tumult and swaying and dancing in the stands – in their whiteness, the opposite of goth, more like moths fluttering at a porch light, and so utterly different from the self-conscious solemnity of the Fifties teenager. I know alcohol and this was not alcohol: this was joy and humor and hormones. The band got to play the Fight Song a couple times and I joined the throng in the end zone and the game ended, Anoka up 14-6, and the kids in white bolted for the field and a huge mash-up of bodies at midfield, arms in the air, chanting the Fight Song, and then headed for the exits, a river of youth with a happy alumnus of 72 in their midst. If these folks represent what it’s like to be young now, I am all in favor of it.

A joyful September night in my old town and the downtown cafes crowded and my old stately junior high standing big and proud on Second Avenue, where my dad graduated in 1931. Go, Tornadoes.

Garrison Keillor, St. Paul

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