Small theater fills in the cracks

  • Updated: August 16, 2012 - 5:41 PM

Three small shows are filling the gap as Twin Cities theater slides from the Fringe Festival to the opening of the fall season.

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Alayne Hopkins, Catherine Johnson Justice, Sara Marsh and Ryan Lindberg in "Outside Providence"

'Outside Providence'

Actor Sara Marsh is making a stab at doing something about the paucity of theatergoers younger than 35. Marsh is christening her new company, Dark & Stormy Productions, with three one-acts by Rhode Island playwright Edward Allan Baker. With "Outside Providence," Marsh explores a new model -- an evening of short plays and pop music performed in a venue never intended as a theater.

"I asked my friends -- not my theater friends but my regular friends -- 'How many plays do you see?'" Marsh said. "They said maybe the occasional musical on tour like 'Lion King' but they had no interest in seeing regular, straight plays."

This problem is not unique to the Twin Cities, and Marsh was able to get the attention of Jill Anderson, general manager of the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center. Anderson agreed to chair Dark & Stormy's board and move the initiative forward. She helped Marsh connect with Baker and this first production was assembled with director Matt Sciple and actors Alayne Hopkins, Catherine Johnson Justice and Ryan Lindberg. They open Friday in the Engine for Social Innovation at 91 S. 10th St., in downtown Minneapolis.

"It's a big, open office space and we're using the environment that's already there," Sciple said. "There's a kitchenette that we'll use for one of the plays, and we'll move the audience around."

Baker writes slice-of-life dramas pulled from the low-income fringes of his hometown, stuff that Sciple describes as "Southern Gothic from the East Coast."

After the 90-minute string of three plays, the "Outside Providence" evening continues with live music from Minnesota bands. The Sudden Lovelys are on slate for Friday's opening, with Skunk Hollow on Saturday.

Marsh is producing the shows under an Actors Equity Showcase contract. That reflects her long-range interest in making Dark & Stormy Productions a venue for Equity actors, and her short-range need to launch the company with an understandable degree of uncertainty.

"It's a leap of faith," Marsh said, "but I'm passionate about it."

7:30 p.m. Fri.-Mon.; 91 S. 10th St., Mpls.; www.darkstormy.org.

GRAYDON ROYCE

'Trick Boxing'

In the decade since Brian Sostek and Megan McClellan debuted "Trick Boxing" at the 2002 Minnesota Fringe Festival, they have taken their dance-filled Fred-and-Ginger style comedy to New York, Canada and the United Kingdom. Now they bring their entertainingly told story back for a spin at the Guthrie. "Trick Boxing" centers on Danny, a down-on-his-luck apple seller who is hoodwinked into a boxing match. With the aid of beautiful dancer Bella, he wins. Sostek and McClellan -- who met while dancing in Joe Chvala's Flying Foot Forum -- wrote, choreographed and perform all the roles in this 1930s show that includes puppetry and striking dance.

7:30 p.m. Tue.-Sat., 7 p.m. Sun., with 1 p.m. matinees on select Saturdays and Sundays. Ends Sept. 2. Guthrie Theater, 818 S. 2nd St., Mpls. $18-$30. 612-377-2224 or www.guthrietheater.org

ROHAN PRESTON

'My Mother's Lesbian Jewish Wiccan Wedding'

Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company revives this show, which was a hit last February. Playwright David Hein wrote the story of his mother's journey from Nebraska to Canada -- and from men to women. Matt Rein portrays the playwright and Laura B. Adams is the mother. The rest of the original cast is back, including Tinia Moulder, David Coral, Jane Froiland and Bonni Allen. Michael Kissin staged the work with musical direction from Kevin Dutcher.

Two elements made it nearly irresistible for MJTC to bring the show back for a limited run. First, it nearly sold out the entire run last February. Second, the production turns into a political rally on the issue of same-sex marriage, which is on the ballot in Minnesota this fall.

8 p.m. Sat., 1 & 7 p.m. Sun. Ends Aug. 26; Hillcrest Ford Theater, 1978 Ford Pkwy., St. Paul; $18-$26, 651-647-4315 or www.mnjewishtheatre.org

G.R.

groyce@startribune.com • 612-673-7299

rpreston@startribune.com • 612-673-4390

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