Answered Prayers

A successful conclusion to Nautilus Music-Theater's trio of operas based on Sherwood Anderson's "Winesburg, Ohio." Jim Payne's evocative libretto conveys the thwarted aspirations of Anderson's characters. Robert Elhai's vivid score references show tunes, art songs and opera, all rooted in hymn tunes. JP Fitzgibbons and Norah Long are heartbreaking as a lustful, tortured pastor and an independent spirit struggling against the strictures of society. Joshua Hinck is equally strong as the aspiring writer. Keyboardist Jerry Rubino and violinist Elizabeth Bell provide crisp accompaniment. (8:30 p.m. Wed., 10 p.m. Thu., 4 p.m. Aug. 11, Rarig Xperimental, 330 21st Av. S.)


Ms. Luisa Eats

Personality and charm can take you pretty far. Ms. Luisa (Parker Genn) is a loopy gal who has come out under the Big Sky to search for a man -- preferably "a man with the tight pants and the strong hands." Between snacking on a banana, cupcakes and spaghetti, Genn's alter ego narrates the sad/funny stories of her recent bad luck in romance. And all the time, the quizzical Guitar Dude (Ty Otis) waits quietly for the moment she might invite him to be her magical man. The show is dumb like a fox and very enjoyable. (5:30 p.m. Sat., 7 p.m. Tue. & Thu., 2:30 p.m. Aug. 11, Patrick's Cabaret, 3010 Minnehaha Av.)


Pretentious Conversations

This lighter-than-air sendup of television talk shows offers a parade of preening artists hosted by Laura Buchholz. Carolyn Blomberg turns in a delightfully wide-eyed performance as a 9-year-old memoirist, while Lori Crever and Nick Sahli are hilarious as a self-promoting helicopter mother and a bemused production assistant. There's a wealth of material here, including an over-wrought aria by Momoko Tanno and a name-dropping duel between Buchholz and a guest musician (Mahmoud Hakima), but the pace could use tightening. (7 p.m. Sat., 8:30 p.m. Sun., 5:30 p.m. Thu., 4 p.m. Aug. 12, Brave New Workshop Student Union, 2605 Hennepin Av. S.)



This infectious dance revue from Blue Umbrella Productions imagines a world where Nancy Sinatra and Janelle Monae are spiritual sisters, Jerome Robbins choreographed "West Side Story" to MC Hammer, and Beyonc has a five-o-clock shadow. Director/choreographer Windy Bowlsby and her exuberant troupe borrow from Broadway, Bollywood, vaudeville and opera (classical and the Jerry Springer variety) for 14 numbers infused with energy and humor that will have audiences boogieing in the aisles. (8:30 p.m. Sat., 2:30 p.m. Sun., 10 p.m. Wed. & Aug. 11, Patrick's Cabaret, 3010 Minnehaha Av.)


Carol and Cotton: Minnesota's Crime of the Century

Never mind the names in the title: Carol and T. Eugene (Cotton) Thompson take a back seat in this two-person drama to Norman Mastrian, the hired gun who himself subcontracted out the murder of a St. Paul lawyer's wife in 1963. Steve Sweere gives us the anguish of this two-bit criminal in over his head, then switches masterfully to the unpenitent and haughty Thompson. Catherine Johnson Justice has less to do, but she offers a touching (if a bit too glamorous) portrait of the trusting Carol. (5:30 p.m. Sat., 8:30 p.m. Fri., 5:30 p.m. Aug. 11, Rarig Arena, 330 21st Av. S.)


Mary Mack's Anti-One Woman Show

A self-effacing attitude pervades Mary Mack's solo riff on her anxieties and dysfunctional family issues. She says she tried to be an alcoholic but kept getting full. She points out how she has the voice of a 5-year-old, yet has the body of a fourth grader. A dazed and haunted facial expression is matched with quirky comments about New Age mysticism, repressed emotions of Minnesotans and her mother's pet raccoon. Though she rambles far too much, Mack is strangely effective and likable. (7 p.m. Sat., 10 p.m. Mon., 7 p.m. Aug. 11, HUGE Improv, 3037 Lyndale Av. S.)


Not Dead Yet! The Return of Mr. Elk and Mr. Seal

Rob Elk and Dean J. Seal are like a couple of old Vaudevillians, gamely bringing out the old shtick to uneven laughs. They perform a couple of dozen mostly original, densely written songs in a doo-wop a cappella style that begins to sound like a broken record (the archaic reference is appropriate). Their musical style demands tight performance, and they mostly deliver, though they make a joke out of having to negotiate a mutually agreeable pitch at the start of every song. They're not at their best, but they're good. (8:30 p.m. Sat. & Sun., 10 p.m. Aug. 11, Mixed Blood, 1501 S. 4th St.)